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Cincinnati Reds links - Sonny Gray and the NL Cy Young Award

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Cincinnati Reds v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Let’s get this out of the way first: Sonny Gray is not going to win the 2019 National League Cy Young Award. He just isn’t.

Despite an overall brilliant campaign by Gray in 2019, the reality is that there are a pair of star pitchers in the senior circuit who have also boasted brilliant numbers this season, the kinds of numbers that modern CYA voters cherish. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets ace and reigning NL CYA winner, has poured in yet another fantastic season, leading all NL pitchers in both strikeouts and WHIP while also topping the charts in bWAR (6.3). Hot on his heels in the bWAR list comes Washington Nationals superstar Max Scherzer (6.0), and that comes despite him missing a handful of starts due to injury. True to peak-Scherzer form, however, he tops all NL pitchers in K/9 while also leading all of MLB in both FIP (2.37) and K/BB.

Those two will likely finish 1-2 in this year’s voting, and that’s a perfectly fine result. What’s important to note here, however, is that the Cincinnati Reds have a guy in Gray who’s going to finish right on their heels. And while that won’t do anything to end the hilarious streak of the Reds never once having a Cy Young winner, it’s important to note that, in Gray, they’ve again got a guy who is capable of ace-level performance, something he tapped into back in 2015 when he finished 3rd in the AL CYA voting while with Oakland.

As FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards broke down in great detail earlier today, the cream of the NL crop this year does appear to get pretty muddied even close to the top when looking at advanced metrics beyond just those surface stats, and Gray is right in the thick of that mix. And while the success of the club around Gray has certainly not done him many favors in the eyes of select BBWAA voters who still consider those things, there’s still a pretty great chance he’ll finish in the Top 5 this season, marking the first time a Reds pitcher will have done so since Johnny Cueto’s brilliant runner-up finish in 2014.

As it stands today, Gray’s ranks tied for 4th in the NL in bWAR by pitchers (5.7), 4th in ERA, 8th in WHIP, 1st in H/9 (6.28), 10th in K/9, 3rd in HR/9, 4th in ERA+, and 7th in FIP against his NL peers, all marks that detail just how rock-solid his initial campaign with the Reds has been this year.

So far, he’s already set a career-best single-season mark in bWAR, and if he can manage to finish the season strong in his final start, he might well see another 3rd place finish in CYA voting. That could end up quite lucrative for Gray, too, considering he’s got escalator clauses in his current contract that would raise his 2020-2023 salaries by a full million bucks each season with a 2nd or 3rd place finish in CYA voting, according to Cot’s Contracts, meaning a 3rd place finish this year would effectively guarantee him $3 million (or $4 million, should his 2023 option get picked up).

It’s hard not to say that’s incredibly well earned by Sonny, and frankly I hope he keeps adding top-tier finishes and the extra cash it will cost the Reds, too.

In other news, MLB.com’s Chris Haft took a look back at the run made 20 years ago by the 1999 Reds, who fell to the Mets and Al Leiter in a 163rd game to keep them from actually making the playoffs. That was one of my absolute favorite Reds clubs in my lifetime, and frankly it’s hard at the moment for me to fathom that it’s been a full 20 years since that run took place.

Out in the Land of the Endless Strip Mall, the Arizona Fall League began play earlier this week featuring a cadre of Reds prospects of note. The group is headlined by the likes of former 1st round picks Jonathan India and Tyler Stephenson, both of whom topped out at AA in 2019, as well as top international signee Jose Garcia, among others. MLB.com has daily updates of their performances, and while there hasn’t been much to read about of yet, they’ve got weeks left to put in some promising outings, so keep tabs on this page for continual updates.

Over at Redleg Nation, Doug Gray explores the use of Michael Lorenzen by the Reds in 2019, wondering if they’ve just missed out on expanding his role for 2020 due to the specific legalese of the new roster rules that will be implemented prior to next season. It sure does look like the Reds have messed around with the idea of Lorenzen as a true two-way player on the cusp of MLB giving roster advantages for having such rare birds, but having not done a thorough-enough job of getting him technically qualified as such to actually reap the rewards of that opportunity. That’s so, so Reds.

Finally, The Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale detailed just how special it was to Eugenio Suarez to break the record for most single-season homers by a Venezuelan-born player. It’s a great recount of the chase, the actual breaking of the record, and exactly how much it meant not just to Suarez, but to the likes of the multiple other Venezuelan players currently on the Reds roster - including the likes of Freddy Galvis and Juan Graterol. Congrats on such an important milestone, Geno!