The key to the Cincinnati Reds winning a World Series lies with Nick Senzel. Whether Senzel is in a Reds uniform or not when it happens is still the key to their success. He could easily be the player of the decade for this team or the key trading chip in acquiring the player that brings a championship back to Cincinnati for the first time in over 30 years.
By all accounts almost anyone will tell you the future of this team revolves around Nick Senzel. It’s not hard to believe. On pure athletic ability alone I feel like I haven’t seen a talent like his in a Reds uniform since Barry Larkin. A natural third basemen, through college at Tennessee, he did everything he could to get on this roster as quick as possible.
When the Reds noticed they had a star in Suarez, they asked Senzel to move to second base. In 2018, while Scooter Gennett played an All Star season at second base, Senzel failed to make it to the majors due to an April injury that ended his season. Knowing that second base wasn’t going to be an option in 2019, Senzel learned to play center field at the major league level in just a few months. Not the easiest position to learn overnight let alone be the everyday starter.
Rather than be up front with what they were trying to do with Senzel, the Reds manipulated his service time by not having him on the 2019 Opening Day roster. While we were subjected to a month of Schebler struggling to hit .125, the Reds gained another year of contract control. The Reds would have Nick Senzel under team control through 2026. Senzel was born to hit a baseball. He did it throughout college and all levels of minor leagues. Nick looked, at worst, average at his newest position when he was finally called up May. Let’s not forget he only played 52 games in AAA.
He looked like a pro from his first game. Excellent plate discipline, underrated speed, and passed the eye test for anyone who questioned his hype. While his rookie season was cut short, he had a slash line of .285/.346/.475 entering August. Quickly after they (by they” I mean a hitting coach that is no longer here) asked him to switch his stance and he began dealing with injury and fell off quickly in August before having his season cut short due to injury. Nick Senzel has shown amazing athleticism, grit, and determination to succeed at every level.
The big glaring weak spot on the 2020 Cincinnati Reds roster is without a doubt shortstop. If the Reds do nothing else between now and Opening Day I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for Senzel to be the Cincinnati Reds starting shortstop for the season. Senzel has knocked down any barrier the organization has put in his path. For a natural third basemen I think shortstop would be much more comfortable than an overcrowded outfield. Anyone who knows anything about him has called him the future of this franchise and who this team will be built around this decade. Sports Illustrated just recently published an article predicting the Reds as the 2023 World Series champions led by Nick Senzel. If he’s with this team come Opening Day I’ll still be excited for what he has to offer this franchise. I have little doubt he won’t live up to his hype.
The Reds have been one of the most aggressive teams in baseball, this offseason. Signing Mike Moustakas, Wade Miley, and Shogo Akiyama to shore up their weak spots. Everyone knows that the biggest below-average position on the current roster is shortstop, with Freddy Galvis as the current starter. This offseason hot stove has been a four alarm house fire of rumors. The Reds are still attached to rumors with Marvell Ozuna which would add another person in an outfield of Senzel, Winker, Shogo, Aquino, and Ervin. The writing is on the wall for Senzel. The team has been attached to trade rumors with Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa. Fans have added Corey Seager and Trevor Story to that potential wishlist. The Lindor rumor listed Nick Senzel specifically as a trade target for the Indians. All of these players on the wishlist are projected for at least a 3.9 fWAR or greater by Fangraphs for the 2020 season.
In order for the Reds to become a clear cut favorite in the NL Central and for a serious run deep in the playoffs they MUST get one of these superstars. However, all of these superstars I just listed come with one issue. They are ALL free agents come 2022. Trading Senzel would not mortgage the future as much as a larger package of prospects, in lieu of him, would cause.
Senzel however comes with his own baggage. Senzel’s last two seasons have been cut short by season ending injuries. One was to the index finger on his throwing hand and to repair a torn labrum. This doesn’t include his continued battle with vertigo which has sidelined him in the past. More recently he signed with Scott Boras Corporation to be his new agent. I think this signals that when he becomes a free agent he intends to get paid like all of the other big fish. The Reds have already muddied that water by messing with his service time in 2019. Will they be willing to write a big check to have him be the face of the franchise for the rest of the decade when the time comes if he lives up to his hype? Do the Reds continue to base their future on hope or proven talent by trading for a current superstar. If, by a miracle, there might be a way for the Reds to trade for one of these players without giving up Senzel that would be epic too. The Indians did just give up Kluber for next to nothing in return so who knows.
I personally would prefer to keep Senzel. I’d be more inclined to trade Winker, prospects, and major league ready talent. However if need be I would do it in a heartbeat if it meant our best shot at a World Series. We as Reds fans are in desperate need of October baseball.
Cincinnati Reds Bounce Back & Break Out: Infield
Who will bounce back in the Cincinnati Reds infield, and who will break out?
As it stands today, 1/11/2021, the Reds infield situation looks very similar to their 2020 situation. Galvis and Casali are gone, but most everyone else is back. Votto is a year older while Stephenson and Garcia headline the youth movement. Veterans Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas look to rebound after average seasons. Although I think another MLB caliber middle infielder will be added, we will work with what is currently on the roster.
Bounce Back: Eugenio Suarez (.202/.312/.470 15 HR 102 OPS+)
The Alfredo Simon trade (lol), the HR record, the team friendly deal, the huge smile and big bubble gum bubbles are a few of the many reasons we all love Suarez. With HR numbers increasing year after year big things were in store for Geno in 2020. Sadly, I think the offseason shoulder injury played into his slow 2020.
The batting average and on base % took a dive. Around .270 avg and .360 OBP was the standard in previous years but an absolutely terrible start to the season really set things back. However, he improved his average and OBP and Slugging every month of the season.
An entire offseason to get healthy and get right should lead to more of what we expect from the star third baseman. Getting his shoulder back to where it needs to be is crucial. He’s still only 29 years old and is in his prime. Strikeout numbers are something we’ll probably just have to live with (the case for many HR hitters). A bounce back year would help this Reds team add to what was a lackluster offense at times.
Honorable Mention: Every other starter
Just look at the stats
Breakout: Tyler Stephenson (.294/.400/.647 2 HR 17 AB 170 OPS+)
We all know the Tyler Stephenson story. His big homerun on his debut was a moment we will not forget. A 2015 first round selection, the fans have been waiting patiently for Stephenson to contribute. It always takes catchers longer and his injuries did not help. The glimpse that we saw in 2020 has us excited for what the future holds.
The Reds moving on from Curt Casali leaves the door open for Stephenson to be on the roster. Tucker is back after adding his second gold glove to the collection, but I don’t think that holds Stephenson to a reserve role. Tyler will get plenty of chances to start. His bat is something that Tucker simply cannot match and this Reds team needs more offense from the catching position. Prepare yourself for some growing pains. Not necessarily like what we saw from Jose Garcia, but Stephenson has very little experience and will take some time to adjust. We haven’t seen enough of his defense to make too strong of judgement but working with Tucker daily should help immensely.
Honorable Mention: Jose Garcia
The talent is there, but his youth and lack of experience showed. Hopefully, another offseason under his belt will help. The Reds likely will add a veteran to help ease him along.
Several Reds infielders had a down 2020. Hell, most of us had a down 2020. This team is better than what they showed in the shortened season. If a few of them can get back to the numbers on the back of their baseball cards, I think the Reds will be fine.
Cincinnati Reds Bounce Back and Break Out: Starters
Who will impress us on the mound this year for the Reds that we don’t necessarily expect?
I started this series, “A Bounce Back and a Breakout”, last season. It will be a four part series including outfielders, infielders (with catchers), starters, and bullpen. It is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. I will pick a player to break out and a player who had a down year to bounce back.
Let’s get things started with, well, the starters.
Bounce Back: Wade Miley ( 0-3 5.65 EERA 14.1 innings 86 ERA+ )
For most of his career, Miley was a *fine* pitcher. About league average. Then in 2018, at 31, he had a breakout year with Milwaukee and pitching coach Derek Johnson. This caught the eyes of many and landed him a deal with Houston in 2019 where he pitched pretty well, but nowhere near is 2018 form. Last season (his first with the Reds) was injury plagued but even when he did pitch it wasn’t very pretty. A veteran lefty could really help the rotation. His fastball velocity in 2020 was atrocious, while his fastball spin and curve spin where around average.
The hope is being reunited with Derek Johnson could help him get back to his 2018 numbers. While that didn’t happen in 2020, a healthy 2021 still leaves a glimmer of hope. At 34 years old and more mediocre baseball than good baseball shown in his career, I am not expecting Miley to fill a hole Bauer left or anything close to it. I expect him to battle for the fifth starter spot, or even a bullpen spot. Regardless of his role, he is a better pitcher than 2020 showed.
Honorable Mention: Jose De Leon (0-0 18.00 ERA 6 innings)
Once a top prospect, De Leon has struggled with injuries and consistency leading to a lackluster career so far. He wasn’t given much of an opportunity last season, but his winter ball performances this year are showing promise. 3.18 ERA in 17 innings 31 K’s and 10 BB. Walk numbers are still high, but De Leon is a long shot but someone who qualifies as a bounce back due to his poor numbers in the past.
Break Out: Tyler Mahle (2-2 3.59 ERA 47.2 innings 60 K’s 133 ERA+)
I know Mahle might not be thought of as a candidate for a breakout considering his success. However, I think there is an even higher level for Tyler to reach. Bauer most likely being gone hurts. Anytime you have a Cy Young walk out the door there will be big shoes to fill. Mahle has all of the talent and finally will have a chance to be a top 3 guy.
Some good numbers, and some elite numbers. I think so many people, myself included, wrote Mahle off at times. He was still so young when he was brought up and then his usage was kind of funky. He is 26 now and ready to take over a bigger role and I cannot wait to see what 2021 has in store for him.
Honorable Mention: Tejay Antone
To be honest, I would have had Antone has the breakout player for 2021, but I am not 100% sure what his role would be. I want him to be in the rotion, but we will wait and see. Either way, what we all saw in 2020 left our jaws on the floor. Antone’s spin rates are off the charts. The former 5th round pick from 2014 will have a big role with the Reds team, but what exactly that role will be is unknown.
In conclusion, the Reds are still looking like they will have a good rotation even without Bauer. If they keep Gray and Castillo that leaves Mahle, Miley, Antone, De Leon, Hoffman, Greene, Lodolo, Lorenzen (?) and others to fill out the 5 spots. These things always work their way out, but I like the options this team has.
Jose Garcia and the 2021 Cincinnati Reds SS Plan
What is going on at shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds?
Take us back to March. You know, before the world ended. An aggressive offseason of adding in free agency, the excitement of spring training with legit playoff hopes, and the breakout of the big-time prospect Jose Garcia. Oh man did he come on the scene with a BOOM. He contributed four spring training bombs, 7 hits, a double, and sky-high Barry Larkin like expectations.
Many were high on the Cuban shortstop, but they understood where his development was. He needed more time. He needed AA and AAA adjustments. Without minor league baseball, the small glimpse of spring training excellence was used by many (myself included at times) as a cry for help. A hero to save the lifeless Reds. Well, on August 27th fans got their wish. And Garcia delivered with a hit, walk, and a stolen base. He had a 3 game hitting streak to start his career. However, Garcia did not save the Reds. In fact, his .194/.206/.194 and 7 OPS+ (100 in MLB average) left many fans asking “What happened?” “ Is this really the guy going forward?” Let’s dive in.
At 22 years old, the jury is still out on Garcia. No one has ever doubted his talent, but I think he was just not ready for MLB baseball. I get the move at the time. The Reds needed something and two headed monster of Galvis and Farmer at short was in need of an upgrade. Bring up your SS of the future and let him learn on the fly. You’ll never know what will happen until you try it. And I tip my cap to the Reds for actually doing it. It did not turn out how we all wanted it, but they did something to try to spark the team.
In terms of development, I am not sure how it will change Garcia. MLB talent was overwhelming for him, but maybe it was better than just playing in Prasco all year. If there was a minor league season, obviously Garcia would have been playing in it. That would have been best case scenario for 2020. But there wasn’t a season so plan B happened. Now we just wait and see how he develops. But what’s the plan for SS in 2021?
As it stands today, Garcia, Blandino, and Farmer are the only rostered players with SS experience. I can tell you right now, that will not be the case come Opening Day. The direction that most, including myself, think the Reds go is adding a veteran to fill in for a year or two. This allows Garcia to develop and not have all the pressure on him while also having a proven (and hopefully above average) veteran to hold down the position. The consensus top 3 available FA are : Semien, Didi, and Simmons. Of the three, I want the Reds to go Semien here. Semien had a monster year in 2019 (3rd in MVP) while putting up a 139 OPS+, his only season over 100 OPS+. He came back down to earth in 2020, but at 29 years old he can do a one year prove it deal to still land one last big contract, or take a 2-3 year deal for good money and eventually give up the starting spot in a year or two and be a solid back up infielder. With Didi taking the prove it deal last year, and performing well, I think he is looking to get longer term at 30 years old. Simmons is the oldest of the 3 at 31, but he is still productive. He seems to have a good offensive season every once in a while, but his glove carries him most years. I am not sold on any of these 3 being high level players, but I think Didi has the best shot at that. I just don’t think the Reds are a fit with what he will want/get.
Bottom line, I still think Garcia is the future. The Reds have struggled to lock down the SS spot since Larkin, and Garcia seems like the most talented of the bunch to get a shot. We know the Reds cannot go into 2021 with the Freddy Galvis’ of the world and expect this team to improve. Let’s hope Garcia explodes onto the scene in 2021, and SS becomes the least of our worries.