2017 Cincinnati Reds Season Preview
2017 might be another painful year for fans of the Queen City. The Cincinnati Reds finished 2016 with an abysmal record of 68-94. Good enough for fifth place in the National League West, and 35.5 games behind the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs. In the past couple of seasons the Reds have had a large amount of turnover, as they’ve traded away many of their former stars. Most recently including fan-favorite second baseman Brandon Phillips.
In addition to Phillips, the Reds have traded away Aroldis Chapman (who went on to win a World Series with the Cubs), Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto, with Joey Votto being the only holdover from the team’s postseason run in 2013. The upcoming season may not be kind to the Reds, with all of their departures and considering the difficult division they play in, but casting away their veteran players presents an opportunity for Reds prospects to gain major league experience and prepare for the future.
The Cincinnati Reds in 2017 will not be anchored by a dominate starting rotation. Anthony DeSclafani was likely going to be the team’s opening day starter, before he suffered UCL strain in his right elbow. DeSclafani, who made 20 starts last year, finished the season with a 9-5 record and a 3.28 ERA. But due to his elbow injury, DeSclafani will be on the shelf for four weeks before being reevaluated. With the injury to DeSclafani, the Reds recently announced that Scott Feldman will take the mound on Opening Day.
The DeSclafani injury is another stroke of bad luck for Cincinnati as long-time Red, Homer Bailey, will also be starting the year on the disabled list. Bailey once gained much notoriety in the baseball world for throwing two no-hitters, but those days seem to be a distant memory. Bailey has only played in a combined eight games in the last two seasons, with a 5.56 ERA in 2015 and a 6.65 ERA in 2016. His reoccurring injuries have fans wondering if Bailey will ever be the pitcher he once was.
The rest of the starting rotation is unlikely to strike fear in the hearts of opposing batters. And will likely be rounded out with some combination of Brandon Finnegan, Tim Adleman, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Amir Garrett, Feldman, Rookie Davis and possibly the returning Bronson Arroyo.
In years past, the Reds could lay claim to having one of the fastest arms in all of baseball, and one of the most dominate relief pitchers. For years, Aroldis Chapman dominated opposing batters with his 105 mph fastball, and his microscopic ERA. But long gone are the days where Cincinnati had the fastest arm to close out games for them. The Reds are now left with a variety of relief pitchers with varied experience and talent.
Their bullpen will likely feature former 2016 starters Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias, as well as Tony Cingrani, Drew Storen, and Blake Wood. The Reds will look to improve upon their disastrous 2016 bullpen, which was ranked as the 29th best bullpen last season.
While the Reds did have the second worst bullpen last year, they did make an effort to bolster their relief pitching this off-season by signing former Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen. Storen had very successful back to back years in Washington as a closer in 2014 and 2015. In those two years, Storen had a combined ERA of 2.26, and 40 saves.
Three years ago, it looked as if the Reds were going to have a breakout star in their catcher Devin Mesoraco. In 2014, Mesoraco was an All-Star who hit .273, with 25 home runs, 80 RBI, with a 4.8 WAR and a .893 OPS. But Mesoraco hasn’t lived up to those lofty expectations, and has barely played in the last two seasons, spending most of his time on the disabled list with hip problems. The Reds were so concerned that Mesoraco’s hip injury would affect his catching abilities that they even attempted to move him to the outfield. In 2015, they had him start a game with the Triple-A Louisville Bats as a left fielder. The experiment didn’t last long, and Mesoraco has returned to his catching duties this spring. But whether or not Mesoraco will return full-time remains to be seen.
Joey Votto will be returning to the Reds for his eleventh season as the Reds first baseman. The former NL MVP is as elite as ever (despite some negative comments from Reds announcer Marty Brennanmen). In 2016, Votto hit an incredible .326, with 29 home runs and a .985 OPS. The man is an absolute on-base machine, and the Reds chances of success likely begins with Votto.
For the first time in years, the Reds will not feature Brandon Phillips at second base, as he was traded to the Atlanta Braves during the off-season. Jose Peraza will be taking over the second base duties for the Reds in 2017. Peraza had a fantastic year last year with the Reds, where he slashed .324/.352/.411 in 72 games.
Zack Cozart will be the Reds everyday shortstop and will continue to showcase one of the most underrated gloves in baseball. Eugenio Suarez will round out the infield, playing the hot corner, and enter his third season with the Reds. In 2015, Suarez had a breakout year, hitting .280 with 13 home runs. While his average did dip considerably in 2016 (.248), he did have more home runs (21), and he was able to drive in 22 more runs.
The Reds outfield in 2017 will feature Arismendy Alcantara, Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton. Alcantara will be a new addition to the Reds this year, and was claimed off waivers back in October. Alcantara had previously played for the Oakland Athletics and the Chicago Cubs, where he struggled at the plate for both teams. In his three years in the majors, Alcantara has a career batting average of .195.
Schebler will be returning for his second season with the Reds, and is coming off of a solid first season. In 82 games last year, Schebler hit a respectable .265, with nine home runs and 40 RBI. Duvall will also see a lot of playing time in the outfield this season, and may be one of the few highlights of Reds offense. While Duvall only had a batting average of .241 last season, the man they call “Long Ball”, lived up to his name and hit 33 home runs in 2016.
The outfield will be rounded out by Hamilton, who had the second most stolen bases last year with 58. Hamilton has always been a terror on the base paths, collecting 171 stolen bases in the past three seasons, but has struggled in the past to get on base. In 2016 however, Hamilton improved his OBP to .321 (up from an embarrassing .274 in 2015). If Hamilton can continue to find ways to get on base, he could wreck havoc on the base paths, and be the leadoff hitter the Reds always thought he could be.