If my math is correct, and if the Cincinnati Reds haven’t altered things since their final swath of decisions from earlier in the week, only 10 members of the Opening Day 28 were actually on the Opening Day roster this time last year. On top of that, not a single member of this year’s bullpen was in last year’s Opening Day bullpen (with the caveat that Jeff Hoffman, in this year’s, was in last year’s rotation, instead).
That’s quite the turnover. Up and down the old roster you’ll find names no longer here, names that were long counted upon to provide a lot of production.
What’s left is a thinned-down (read: cheaper) version of itself, albeit one ripe with a big, big pile of new talent. At some point this year, we’re going to see each of Tyler Stephenson, Jonathan India, Jose Barrero, and Nick Senzel making plays in the field behind Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo on back to back days, and while that may not pay off in the victory column in 2022 so often, it should set the stage for some really cool baseball in the near future.
These, though, are Five Dumb Predictions about what calendar year 2022 will bring, and here goes!
Nick Lodolo FIPs the script
Sonny Gray is off to Minnesota, and he led the Reds group of starters in FIP in 2019 (3.42) while posting a pretty blistering 3.05 in the shortened 2020 season. Gone, too, is Wade Miley, who posted a sub-4.00 mark last year, while Luis Castillo is beginning the season a bit late after a sore shoulder pushed back his spring development.
Someone’s going to have to lead this pack, and I say it’s Nick Lodolo...assuming he qualifies for the IP requirement, something that’ll be potentially a predicament. After all, he threw just 50.2 IP between AA-AAA all last year, and thanks to the lack of a 2020 MiLB season entirely has just 69.0 IP as a professional since the Reds drafted him. How he is ramped up will be a major storyline all year, frankly, especially if - as I’m predicting - he’s good enough to lead the staff in FIP while on the bump.
His ability to pound the strike zone and avoid walks gives him a leg-up on the holdovers in the rotation, and I still anticipate him getting 24-25 starts. I’ll say 125 IP of 3.39 FIP for the big lefty in what’ll hopefully be a great platform year for even more in 2023.
*Nick Senzel goes 20/20 and is a Gold Glove finalist
Offensive prediction? Check!
Defensive prediction? Check!
Base-running prediction? Check!
It’s almost as if I’m predicting a full, complete, healthy, all-around successful season for the best hitting prospect to come through the Reds system in a decade. I am, I am doing just that.
In an incredibly small sample, Senzel was on-pace to do at least the hitting/running aspect of this prediction in 2020 before his mysterious illness/departure during the COVID pandemic. Once he returned, he was awful for the final 25 PA of the season, and that was enough to tank his overall numbers. 2021, though, is gonna be his year. I can feel it.
600 PA should be more than enough for him to cross those two thresholds, and his athleticism will finally have a chance to show how much his outfield instincts have matured defensively, too. A few WAR accrued here, a few more accrued there, and that’s the makings of a 4.5 WAR overall season from the incumbent CF.
If this Dumb Prediction looks familiar, that’s because it is. It’s quite literally exactly what I wrote about Senzel this time last year, and I’m doubling down on it dumbly again this year. It’s gonna happen, folks. It’s just gonna.
Tyler Stephenson whacks 26 homers, drives in 99
With the advent of the DH and Tyler’s ability to play 1B - which will allow Joey Votto to DH, at times - I think we’ll see a 500+ PA season from Stephenson, something that will allow him to step up and sock exactly 26 dingers.
Of course, someone on the Reds is going to have to step into the Sean Casey Joey Votto Honorary Just-Miss-A-Round-Number RBI-Guy role this year, and I’m banking on that guy being Ty Steves.
Joey Votto again owns a .400+ OBP, leads NL
Joey Votto’s .375 OBP during a resurgent 2021 season raised his overall OBP over the last three seasons to .364. For the record, that’s tied for 28th best among the 159 MLB players who have logged at least 1000 PA in that time, tied with the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Max Muncy, and Michael Conforto.
That’s been very good. It just hasn’t been Joey Votto.
With his new approach now further embedded and some new bats giving him even more confidence, I think his eye is going to be in pristine tune again this year - and the fear of pitchers getting their meatballs destroyed by him will return again, too. He’ll swat another 30+ homers and again be a dynamic force in the middle of the lineup, but I think he eeks both his walk rate and BABIP back towards his career norms this season, and that’ll lead to another bit of black type on his BBRef page.
Let’s go with .406. It’s a very Williams-y number.
The Reds win 83 games again
These Cincinnati Reds will win 83 games this year, again.
They’ll do it despite selling off some pieces at the deadline, despite having to shut down some uber-talented young pitchers prior to the end of the season due to innings limits.
They’ll do it on the back of their offense in the second half of the season, even though that aspect might struggle through the season’s opening few months. Jose Barrero will return and claim 3B as his own, socking and swatting to help round out a lineup that, by season’s end, will look as if it’s a plus on which the front office can lean as they try to figure out how to win more than 83 games in 2023.