Luis Castillo will take the mound in GABP and unfurl the first pitch of the 2019 Cincinnati Reds season and that’s close enough to happening now that you can count it in a matter of hours, not days.
The Reds have embarked on quite the odd journey since their last official game, swinging major roster-quaking trades that will hopefully, mercifully help them climb out of the NL Central cellar for the first time in years. The new faces don’t stop with the players brought in, either, as manager David Bell and his newly assembled staff will be bringing a new leadership angle to the dugout, one that we haven’t yet been able to see play out on the real stage.
Opening Day, though, begins our six month journey through the Major League Baseball season once again, and it’s basically here. With that in mind, I lobbed a few questions at my fellow Red Reporters to get their insights into where the Reds are, where they might be at season’s end, and how the team has been put together.
Yesterday, we dove into Part 1 of the Q & A, which you can catch up on here. Part 2 is listed below with responses from luminaries like Charlie Scrabbles (CS), Tony Wolfe (TW), Derek Grimes (DG), Aaron Michael (AM), Cy Schourek (CY), Brandon Kraeling (BK), and Mitchell Clark (MC).
Of all the new faces in camp, which player do you think has the most immediate impact?
CS: I’mma go with Tanner “Bananner” Roark. He will win April pitcher of the month in the NL.
TW: It’s Yasiel Puig. I initially leaned toward Sonny Gray here, because if you go off who they’ll be replacing, Puig replacing Scott Schebler is less of an upgrade than Gray replacing Tyler Mahle in the rotation. But I’m taking “impact” to be all-encompassing, and not just performance, and that’s where I give the nod to Puig. There has been some bold predicting around the industry that Puig could be in line for MVP votes with a GABP boost to his offensive numbers this season, and considering the fact that he’ll be far-and-away the team’s best defensive outfielder for all of 2019, I think a 5-WAR season from him is very much in play. Couple those things with the fact that the Reds haven’t really had a rambunctious weirdo like him in a very long time, and there becomes little doubt that Puig makes the Reds both better and more fun this season.
DG: I want to say Alex Wood, but that can’t be true because he’s going to start the season on the injured list. So the only answer is Yasiel Puig. He’s probably already had the most immediate impact, because he’s Yasiel Puig.
AM: Yasiel Puig. He’s going to knock 35 dingers. A close second is Tanner Roark. I think he’s going to be a tremendously stabilizing presence in the rotation and I think he’s a extension candidate going forward in 2020.
CY: Well, Sonny Gray is starting Game 2, so probably him. But in all honesty, I think Puig’s going to start out electric. He gets to be the star he always thought himself to be, and has a nice mix of “gunning for a $150M contract” and “if he falters, Senzel’s right there to take his PAs” that really ought to keep the bees firmly lodged in his pants all spring.
BK: It’s gotta be Sonny Gray. The Reds took a huge chance by getting him and extending him before Spring Training started, and if that acquisition ends up being successful, it could end up setting the tone for a special season. If he comes out of the gate and flounders, it could mean a couple of close losses early in the year and a deficit that the team won’t be able to come back from. Especially if you take into account the new trade deadline, if Gray ends up being a bust, it could contribute to the team having to sell at the deadline and being stuck with another underperforming starting pitcher on a multi-year deal. Of all the moves that the Reds made, it’s the most important that they get Sonny Gray right.
MC: Sonny Gray. He is out of New York, where he obviously struggled, and has shown that he can be a very good pitcher as recently as 2017. If he can return to that form, he will have the biggest impact.
Be honest...what do you expect from Joey Votto in this, the year he will turn 36 years old?
CS: For years now I have predicted that Joey will post an on-base percentage better than .500. He will do it this season. He will play 146 games and post a slash of .362/.504/.517 #boldprediction.
TW: I expect another year in which he flirts with a .300 batting average and .430 on-base percentage, but with a slugging percentage that still doesn’t reach the .500 mark. If anyone can yank back his power numbers from the depths of hell in one season, it’s Votto, but that’s still not something I’m necessarily willing to bet on. His contact abilities and walk rates ought to remain consistent, but I’d say 20 bombs is probably about all I anticipate from him this season. In 2013 — the only other full season of his career besides 2018 in which he slugged under .500 — he hit .305/.435/.491 with 30 doubles, three triples and 24 homers, and was still worth better than 6 bWAR. I’ll say he hovers around there this season, and slashes precisely .301/.432/.476.
DG: I expect Joey Votto to be fine. The days of him winning NL MVPs or being runner up (still bullshit) are probably over. But I think he was limited by several different maladies last season (Ryan Madson still bullshit, for many reasons), and I expect him to not only realize that, but also allow some of that to be managed this season. And for the first time in forever, the entire offense doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around what he’s able to do. Hopefully Suarez, Schebler, and Winker can continue to grow into offensive roles, but the team also added legitimate, proven bats for the first time in forever in Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. Votto will want to play in every game, to be sure. But he doesn’t have to anymore. That makes a difference. Over the course of 162 games, that’ll matter. His OBP is always going to impress. I don’t know that I expect another 2017-esque 36 HR season from him again, but I don’t think he’s reached the point of falling off that power-cliff forever.
Joey Votto will crack 4 bWAR easily, turn 36 in September, and continue to be awesome forever.
AM: I expect .300/.400/.500 from Joey Votto like I expect every year. No one else should expect anything different. I won’t lower my expectations of Joey until he decides to hang it up. His OBP will always be there but I don’t think his power drop off in 2018 was legit. I think he was hurt most of the season and just played through it.
CY: .310/.430/.520. I think he’s going to hit an obscene number of doubles to make up for the lack of dingers, and just be a cruel person all year.
BK: A wiser Joey Votto who’s more in tune with his capabilities. I think even if the slugging numbers never resurface to pre-2018 levels, they’ll bounce back a bit because he’s smarter about his approach and what he’s trying to do with the ball. We know the type of player Votto is by now; he’ll find ways to contribute. I think, even in his age 36 season, he’ll continue to lead the NL in OBP, he’ll be a valuable cog in the lineup batting 2nd, and with a better leadoff hitter in front of him (sorry, Billy), he’ll drive in more runs than he did last season as well.
MC: I would say somewhere between his 2017 and 2018 seasons. Because aging sucks, I don’t think he will hit for the power that he hit for in 2017. But I also believe that he is too good of a hitter to have another season like he did last year.
What’s your boldest prediction for the 2019 Reds?
CS: Jeez, probably that Votto one. I guess I should have read through the whole thing before I started writing. Here’s something even bolder, though: Jose Peraza will lead the NL in hits.
TW: The Reds acquire Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith from the San Francisco Giants after the All-Star break in exchange for Jose Siri and another lower-tier prospect. They’ll do so because they will be within a couple of games in both the division and wild card races, and even though they could theoretically punt their own contract year players for prospects, the price of the return they’d be getting for Puig, Roark, Wood, Gennett, Hughes and Hernandez won’t be very exciting. Instead, they’ll take advantage of a buyers’ market to add Bumgarner, a bounce-back pitcher also in the final year of his contract, and a world-beating lefty reliever also facing free agency. In doing so, they’ll part with Siri, a high-ceiling player whose defense alone makes him attractive to San Francisco, with their enormous outfield, but whose limited offensive progress over the first half of 2019 will make Cincinnati feel comfortable cashing him in on known quantities.
DG: I don’t have anything here that’s particularly interesting, and most of the above could probably be it’s own thing/will be cut down, so let the rest of the wastoids answer this one.
I trust you to correct/edit/cut down on any and all of this as necessary.
Editor’s note: I couldn’t not include that. Sorry, Grimey!
AM: Scooter Gennett isn’t the starting 2B by July. Trammell will be in CF and Senzel will be at 2B. Second boldest prediction? The Reds extend Yasiel Puig.
CY: Silver Slugger Jesse Winker. The top 3 outfielders by Offensive Fangraphs Ratings in the NL were Yelich (sure), Nimmo (ah, if only the Reds got him instead of Dilson) and Rhys Hoskins. Both Nimmo and Hoskins aren’t fundamentally different players than Winker. I could see Winker putting up a similar season to Votto and walking (heh) away with the Silver Slugger, an All-Star Game appearance, and all the lauditudes we thought were going Senzel’s way.
BK: 102 wins and winning the NL Central running away. Fuck it.
MC: Boldest prediction? The Reds grind out a slugfest of a division race and make the playoffs.
And with that, we turn to baseball. Real, live, Cincinnati Reds baseball. Happy Opening Day, folks, and Go Reds. Go, go, go.