I have spent countless microseconds crunching numbers, evaluating scouting reports, staring mindlessly into space while listening to “You and I” by Rick James, and developing these Five Dumb Predictions for the 2023 Cincinnati Reds.
File these away so you can scream at me about them later. Here we go!
Jonathan India swats 30 homers, starts MLB All Star Game
Jonathan India played in a grand total of 40 games prior to the All Star break last season, at which point he had socked 4 total homers and owned a putrid .636 OPS. As it turns out, you kind of need two functioning hamstrings to play the game of baseball, and India did not have those.
While I’m not sure the return to healthy hammies is going to prompt India to run more often this season than he did in 2022, I do think he’s primed for a return to an influential campaign with the bat on the back of healthier legs. His hard-hit rate plummeted from 36% in 2021 to just 5% last season, per Statcast, with his barrel rate showing a similar precipitous decline (61% to just 20%).
I’m banking on a return to something closer to 2021, and with the leadoff role giving him an outside shot at 650 PA, 30 homers are in his wheelhouse. I’ll even go out on a limb and say he gets a lot of them early in 2023, and given the dearth of elite 2B options out there, that production will earn him a start in the 2023 MLB All Star Game like the subtitle detailing this prediction already spelled out.
Graham Ashcraft leads the Reds in IP, WAR
Wins Above Replacement is absolutely something that tracks quality. It’s absolutely something that tracks quantity, too, and that’s a place where I think Ashcraft’s going to have a chance to truly shine for the Reds this year.
Someone’s going to have eat innings for this club, after all, as it’s rolling out a rotation with a trio of sophomores who were all injured at times in 2022, Connor Overton (who was injured even worse), and converted reliever Luis Cessa. There’s not even a mid-year return of a veteran like Mike Minor to soak up IP, and a quick glance at the bullpen makes you hope it’s not them being tasked with the job.
Enter Ashcraft, whose quality deserves applause as-is. His 100 mph cutter and devastating new slider grip could make him miss more bats than ever before, but he’s still going to butter his biscuits with his ability to induce grounders. And what do grounders do? They finish PAs quicker than making hitter swing and miss three times, as well as induce double plays with proclivity.
While Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo should both have very strong years, I wonder if the Reds will cap their IP around 150 if all things go to plan. With Ashcraft, though, I can see them letting his workhorse reputation grow, with a 175-180 IP year of expected success powering him to a 4.5-5.0 WAR season of keeping balls inside the Great American Ball Park despite its ugly, ugly park factor.
Alexis Díaz is traded by the Trade Deadline
There was buzz on Díaz being desired long before his brother’s devastating knee injury, as the have-it-all New York Mets were reportedly interested in Cincinnati’s breakout reliever last year. They should have been - the entire baseball world should have been - as Díaz has shown an electric ability to retire batters early in his career.
Thing is, the Reds don’t really need a closer right now. They’re obviously not trying to put up as many wins as possible, and that quick glance at the rest of the bullpen I suggested one Dumb Prediction ago should have already confirmed that for you. Why hold on to a coveted closer on a team that’s not trying to win games?
When hype begins to exceed production, it’s a good time to start seriously fielding offers. Even if Díaz comes at all close to replicating his elite 2022 season, it’s hard not to think the hype’s beginning to reach that point. Given my existing druthers on his ability to do that - I wrote about it more extensively earlier in the offseason, but that .178 BABIP against him last year is comically low - I think the time to move him for other, longer-term pieces of the rebuild will come in July.
Joey Votto steals 15 bags to move past Deion Sanders on Reds all-time leaderboard
Heck, Joey needs 20 to make it an even 100 for his Reds career. Maybe he’ll read this and say 15, ha! I’ll swip 20 then!
Deion’s sitting at 94 for his career. Joey’s sitting at 80, and we’re all well aware of the new rules in place that will encourage more activity on the basepaths.
Maybe he won’t. But maybe, maybe he will.
The Cincinnati Reds finish 3rd in the National League Central
Folks, the Chicago Cubs really aren’t that good this year.
Folks, the Pittsburgh Pirates really, really aren’t that good this year.
I previously went out on a limb and suggested that these Reds will win 73 games this season, but what if I’m underselling them by even 2? What if they play out of their minds, get mid-year boosts from Elly De La Cruz and Andrew Abbott and Tejay Antone, and make it to 75 wins?
How about this - the Reds win 75 games, the Cubs 74, and the Pirates 67.