After putting out one of the worst offenses in baseball and finishing under 90 wins for the first time since 2011, the Reds needed a big time off-season. Instead, they failed to improve their offense in any tangible way while actually ruining a solid pitching staff.
It was an inexplicable off-season and while some of the players who let them down last year should get healthy or rebound this year, it’s not going to be pretty. Not when one of your “big time” off-season additions was Jason Marquis.
Batting Average: 29th
1B: Joey Votto
Votto missed 100 games last season and failed to bat at least .297 for the first time in his career (.255) but did hit six homers and 16 doubles in 62 games. A healthy Votto is as good as they get, batting .300+ in every full season since 2008 while averaging 26 HR, 86 RBI, 90 R, and 38 2B per season over that stretch. He led the NL in OBP for four straight seasons until 2014 and is perhaps the best at drawing walks in the league. With a solid glove and everything you want in a hitter, a healthy Votto should return to MVP contention once again, even on an otherwise unimpressive team.
Phillips missed 40 games last season and struggled when he was on the field, hitting just eight home runs (he had hit 18 or more every season since 2006) while driving in 51 RBI (lowest ever in a full season) and scoring just 44 runs. It was Phillips’ worst season with the Reds in just about every respect and, at 33, it’s not unfair to ask if the veteran infielder is on a steep decline. He’s healthy now but still struggling, going just 6-for-31 in spring training.
Schumaker isn’t a great fielder and batted just .235 with 14 extra-base hits in 271 plate appearances last season. He’s a veteran who can play anywhere in the infield and outfield but the Reds would be better off letting one of their developing prospects have this spot, it’s not hard to replicate a .595 OPS and negative defensive WAR.
While almost everyone around him had a down season, Frazier posted his best year yet in 2014, batting .273 with a .795 OPS, and career highs in home runs (29), RBI (80), runs (88), steals (20), and walks (52). His doubles did drop from 29 to 22, suggesting Frazier is trying to hit it out of the park more, but it worked. The speed is an interesting addition we haven’t seen much from him in three seasons and his glove is very strong at third. Look for Frazier to post another All-Star season if he stays healthy this year.
Negron was solid in limited time last season, batting .271 with a .810 OPS, six homers, 10 doubles, 19 runs, and five steals in 158 plate appearances. He’s not much of a power hitter but he hits for extra bases and steals a lot. He struggles to hit for average but is a solid on-base guy with a good glove and an ability to play anywhere in the infield and outfield.
SS: Zack Cozart
After two seasons of solid production, Cozart’s bat went dead last season as he batted a career-low .221 and hit just four home runs (hit 15 in 2012, 12 in 2013), 18 doubles (had 30+ in 2012 and 2013), and scored just 48 runs (after scoring 70+ in back-to-back seasons). His glove remains among the best in the league but the huge drop off in offensive production is worrisome and makes his job less safe.
Like Frazier, Mesoraco completely broke out in a season where almost everyone around him struggled. Though he played just 11 more games than he did in 2013, Mesoraco hit 16 more home runs, drove in 38 more runs, and hit 12 more doubles. His .273 BA, .893 OPS, 25 HR, 80 RBI, 54 R, and 25 2B is as good as you’ll get out of any catcher in the league, especially given his strong glovework behind the plate. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a perennial All-Star for years to come.
Pena plays catcher and first and is solid at both positions but is very mediocre at the plate, save for the occasional double.
Billy Hamilton had a strong rookie campaign as the 23-year-old batted a passable .250 while hitting 39 extra-base hits, 48 RBI, 72 R, and stealing 56 bases. The former top-15 prospect has always struggled to hit for a high average consistently in the minors but stole 100+ bases twice and 75+ bases three times. He strikes out a lot but he’s developing a better knack for getting on base where he’s lethal. More importantly, regardless of his offensive, he is already one of the best defensive outfielders in the league, covering more ground than just about anyone.
Jay Bruce spent some time nursing injuries after four very healthy seasons and, as a result, saw his numbers slide to career-lows across the board. He posted career lows in batting average (.217), OPS (.654), and home runs (18) while driving in just 66 runs and hitting just 21 doubles. A healthy Bruce is still good for a .250+ BA, 30+ HR, 90+ RBI, and ~30 2B but he’ll need the lineup around him to perform a lot better than they did last season.
Marlon Byrd’s second act (or third?) has been far more impressive than his first. He hit a career-high 24 home runs in 2013 at age 35 before hitting a new career-high 25 home runs with the Phillies last season. Over the last two seasons he’s hit at least 28 doubles, drove in at least 85 runs, and scored at least 71 runs. He strikes out a ton and almost never walks but you’re getting top level run production from a guy whose career was basically done four years ago. You can do a lot worse.
Johnny Cueto has been unbelievably good for four straight seasons but posted the best year of his career in 2014, going 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a league-leading 242 K to 65 BB while allowing the fewest hits per nine innings of any pitcher in the NL. He would have easily taken home the Cy Young if not for a guy named Clayton Kershaw and should compete for the honor once again in 2015 if he can stay healthy.
Mike Leake continues to give up more hits and home runs than you’d like and followed up his 3.37 ERA in 2013 with a decent 3.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 164 K to 50 BB. That’s solid and he’s capable of doing that every season but it’s hardly the stuff of a front-of-rotation starter.
Anthony DeSclafani has now been traded for Jose Reyes and Mat Latos and will finally get a chance to prove himself as a Big League starter. The 24-year-old has posted a 3.23 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 7.7 K/9 to 2.0 BB/9 in 354 minor league innings. He doesn’t strike out a lot of batters and pitches to contact but he almost never gives up a home run and seldom walks anyone. He’s given up just four earned runs through 13.2 spring innings thus far.
Jason Marquis is back and has apparently earned a rotation spot. After missing all of last season and failing to post an ERA under 4.00 since 2004 (!!!), the Reds have inexplicably brought Marquis in. What can we expect from the 36-year-old who hasn’t posted a WHIP under 1.39 since 2005? Injuries and ineffectiveness. C’mon man.
Homer Bailey is working his way back after having surgery on his forearm and is expected to return mid-April. Though occasionally stung by the longball, he’s been very reliable for the last three seasons, putting up a 3.61 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 7.9 K/9 to 2.4 BB/9 over that stretch. A healthy Bailey should put up more of the same.
Raisel Iglesias has never pitched in the minors and just signed a deal after defecting from Cuba but the 25-year-old has earned a shot in the rotation, posting a 2.53 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 10 K/3 BB through 10.2 spring innings thus far. He struggled with his control at times in Cuba but did a great job of limiting home runs and getting out of jams. Despite the fact that he has no MLB experience, or even minor league experience, I’d bet on him before I bet on Marquis.
Aroldis Chapman has quickly become one of the best closers in the game, blowing just two saves in 38 opportunities last season. His 2.00 ERA and 0.83 WHIP are all par for the course for him and his 106 K to 24 BB is downright filthy. He struck out an inhuman 17.7 batters per nine innings last year, look for him to destroy batters once again in 2015.
Tony Cingrani looked stellar in 2013 as he posted a 2.92 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 104.2 innings. He was limited with injuries all of last season and struggled, putting up a 4.55 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. The Reds have moved him to the pen where they hope he can stay healthy and minimize his inconsistency and that should work though for all intents and purposes he should be in the rotation over Marquis. Anyone should. Anyone.
Sam LeCure is a solid middle reliever but fell off last season as he posted a 1.52 WHIP, allowing 9.8 hits, 1.0 home run, and 3.8 walks per nine innings. He’ll need to strike out more batters and give up less hits if he’s going to be serviceable.
Jumbo Diaz posted ERAs below 2.00 pretty consistently in the minors after converting to the pen and made his MLB debut last season at the ripe age of 30. His 3.38 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 9.6 K/9 are all promising and he should be good to go once again this season.
Manny Parra has had one good season in his career since his 2007 debut but continues to get work. He has a 1.61 career WHIP, gives up too many walks, hits, and home runs, and gets hurt often. He’s now been converted from a starter to a middle reliever to a lefty specialist and hasn’t been good in any role.
Burke Badenhop was a solid addition after posting a career year in Boston where he put up a 2.29 ERA and 1.26 WHIP while giving up just one home run in 70.2 innings. If he can keep the ball in the park in Cincy, that’ll be a coup in itself.
Paul Maholm has struggled the last two seasons, putting up a 4.41 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in Atlanta while serving as a starter for most of 2013 and posting a 4.84 ERA and 1.56 WHIP for the Dodgers in 70.2 innings between the rotation and pen last year. Unless Cincy has a magic wand, this pitching staff is doomed to fail.
Offense: C+ to B-
Defense: B- to B
Starting Pitching: C- to C
Bullpen: C- to C