The 2016 MLB season will be difficult to stomach for fans of the Cincinnati Reds. It will be one in which there will be absolutely no expectations for the team to win. In fact, the team’s president, Walt Jocketty, even expressed as much during the team’s Winter Caravan. Much of the team’s core and fan favorite players have been traded away recently. Third baseman and 2015 Home Run Derby champion Todd Frazier, starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, in addition to flame throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, have all been dealt.
Stalwart second baseman Brandon Phillips rejected, due to his status as a “10/5 Player” (ten years in the majors and five with the same team), not one but two potential trades to Arizona and Washington, which puts into question his thirst for winning as opposed to just collecting a hefty payday. Right fielder Jay Bruce is still the subject of trade rumors, but his poor stats the past two years, due to injury in 2014 (.217 batting average, eighteen home runs, and sixty-six RBI) and a horrible season in 2015 (.226, twenty-six, eighty-seven) hurts any trade value he may have. Star first baseman Joey Votto remains, mainly because of a huge contract that most MLB teams would not want and because the Reds seem to envision him being part of a supposed resurgence in 2018.
2016 Cincinnati Reds Expectations: Permission To Lose?
The rest though, is “potential”. Can new third baseman Eugenio Suarez fill the hole Todd Frazier left behind? Suarez showed potential in ninety-seven games for the Reds last year (.280, thirteen, forty-eight), but can he do it over a full season? If so, will fans warm to him as they did to Frazier? Billy Hamilton is on his last chance at being the Reds’ starting center fielder and lead-off hitter. Billy is a demon on the basepaths, with fifty-seven total stolen bases, but showed no progress at the plate. (.226 batting average in 114 games).
The old adage rings true: “You can’t steal first base.” Billy must learn how to bunt, IMMEDIATELY.
Left field is a gaping hole that may take many games to fill. Journeyman outfielder Adam Duvall will get a shot at the job, as will top prospect Jesse Winker. In five minor league seasons, Jesse hit for a .292 average with forty-nine home runs and 223 RBI.
The pitching staff will be led by right-hander Homer Bailey, but due to injury he won’t return until mid-May. The rest of the rotation will be filled by “Young Guns” Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, John Lamb, Raisel Inglesias, and John Moscot.
Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, Jonathan Sanchez, and Robert Stephenson could also be in the mix and should find roles either starting or relieving. JJ Hoover, who rebounded from a horrendous 2014 last season (2.94 ERA over 64.1 innings in a set-up role), will take over the closer spot. Hoover doesn’t have the 103 mile-per-hour fastball of Chapman, but he can bring it and is a tough competitor.
Reds fans must be patient in 2016, and probably 2017 as well. The farm system, while not stellar, is solid and should provide hope in a few years. Hopefully Reds fans will stick around.