The 2016 NL Central looks like it's going to one of the strongest divisions in the league yet again, featuring three of the league's best teams in the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. Another team that is in the NL Central is the Cincinnati Reds. They are a baseball team in the same way that Donald Trump is a person -- there exists the basic anatomy of everything we need to recognize the thing for what it is, but when you put it all together and let it move around and do stuff, the whole thing sort of turns into a disgusting mess that one is probably better off ignoring for reasons of mental health.
My mental health is, as I'm sure you have guessed if you've been following along with me since October, already shot to hell. I am therefore at no risk of further injuring my already fractured psyche by taking a good, long look at the Reds. I looked into the abyss and saw the destruction awaiting all those who entered, and I came back to you with everything you need to know so that you need not subject yourself to the torture. My Reds season preview:
Fifteen: As in, that's the projected fWAR (precisely, it's 14.9) from the combined Steamer projections for the Reds 2016 projected starting lineup, which is as follows:
CF Billy Hamilton
3B Eugenio Suarez
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
C Devin Mesoraco
SS Zack Cozart
LF Scott Schebler
Wick Terrell, editor at Red Reporter, agreed that this is a fairly accurate prediction for the Reds lineup this season, with left field likely to be a platoon between the lefty-swinging Schebler and Adam Duvall. Gone from the lineup is Home Run Derby champion Todd Frazier, who was shipped to the White Sox this offseason. Also gone from the lineup are Joey Votto's old, baggier pants, which he has traded in for a slimmer fit. This is apparently a very big deal in Cincinnati. For anyone that would like to know, my pants are just your regular old straight leg fit. I wear a size 34/32, and I prefer Lucky Brand jeans because they are soft and comfortable.
22: Add the Steamer numbers for the Reds projected starting rotation to begin the year to the hitters' numbers, and we find ourselves here in projected fWAR (22.3 to be exact) (I swear on everything holy it actually worked out this way). Here's how the Reds pitching rotation lines up:
RHP Anthony DeSclafani
LHP Brandon Finnegan
RHP Rasiel Iglesias
RHP Jon Moscot
RHP Alfredo Simon
Simon, who was literally signed last week to bolster the Reds staff, will likely get bumped out of the rotation once Homer Bailey, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is ready to come back. The Reds have set a target of May for Bailey to return to active duty. Outside of those two, the Reds rotation is very young and inexperienced, with DeSclafani the only other starter with over 100 MLB innings under his belt. Finnegan and Iglesias were both 55 FV prospects coming into last season according to FanGraphs.
Begin Again: It wasn't that long ago that Cincinnati was considered among the league's best teams. Coming off a 90-win season in 2013, many pundits had them pegged as contenders for their second division championship in three years. It would turn out to be the beginning of the end for this group however, as the Reds dropped 86 games that year and 98 last season. The Reds are now slowly transitioning into a rebuild phase, and perhaps not as quickly as they should as veterans Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce remain with the team providing no real value to the franchise given their trajectory. However the Reds still have a healthy stable of prospects headlined by RHP Robert Stephenson, a consensus top-50 prospect. The Reds have five players in the Baseball Prospectus 101.
Bad Blood: You are likely aware of my feelings toward Jay Bruce. If you have ever watched the Brewers play the Reds, you probably share them. Bruce's production over the past few seasons has taken a nose dive when he faces anyone other than the Brewers, and the Reds have been active in trying to move him. He was very nearly out of our lives last month, but a medical issue with one of Toronto's prospects nixed a trade that would have sent Bruce out of the division, league and country. Milwaukee first faces the Reds in early May, and I remain hopeful they'll be able to move him before then. It is nice to want things.
Welcome To New York: One player that actually did leave whom Brewers fans will surely not miss is fireballing relief ace Aroldis Chapman. The 28-year-old was originally heading to the Dodgers in a deal that was nixed when reports surfaced that Chapman had choked his girlfriend and fired gunshots in an altercation in October. The Yankees, however, were more interested in the triple digits Chapman regularly touches on the radar gun than the eight slugs he unloaded out of his handgun in a very successful attempt to terrorize his girlfriend. They swapped four prospects for Chapman in December. His absence leaves the Reds bullpen significantly less terrifying to deal with: J.J. Hoover (average fastball velocity: 93.4) will likely take over the closing duties, with RHP Jumbo Diaz and LHP Tony Cingrani installed as his set-up men.
Safe and Sound: Brace yourself, for I am about to shock you: Joey Votto leads the league in OBP since his debut in 2007, reaching base safely at a .423 clip. Only three other players during that time span have an OBP over .400 (min. 1000 PA): Manny Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones. That's ratified company. Or course, none of that matters to the sports radio-listening segment of Cincinatti's fan base, who hate Votto because walks are actually bad.
Red: This is the name of the baseball team. Cincinnati's baseball team is nicknamed the Reds. In case you didn't know about that. I wanted to make sure you were understanding the joke here. Do you get it? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you don't get it. Please put "I didn't get the joke about Red" in the subject line. Thanks.
Shake It Off: The Reds have a pair of players returning to the lineup after suffering season ending injuries last June. Devin Mesoraco was an All Star catcher that received MVP votes in a 2014 campaign in which he hit .273 /359/.534, but missed the majority of the 2015 season after undergoing surgery on his left hip. The 27-year-old signed a 4 year, $28 million extension before last season which bought out all of his arbitration eligible years. Zack Cozart was on pace for his best season in 2015 before he slipped on first base on June 10th, tearing ligaments in his right knee and ending his season. Cozart, 30, is in his second year of arbitration and signed for $2.95 million in January.
You Belong With Me: It seems the fates of the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds, at least for the 2016 season, are inexorably linked. Trapped in a division that features three of the best teams in all of baseball, the Brewers and Reds are bad teams whose records are going to look a lot worse than they probably deserve because of the level of competition they'll face. An absolute best case scenario for the Reds is one in which they flirt with a .500 record during the first half before fading to something around 70 wins, but this is absolutely a team that could lose 100 games. Perhaps a more realistic "best case scenario" is one in which the team finishes with a bottom five record -- and a top five draft pick -- and Cincinnati's young players continue to develop while the front office is able to move veterans like Bruce, Brandon Phillips and perhaps even Votto for a prospect or six.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference