Never judge a book by its cover, especially if it was written by the Cincinnati Reds.
Yes, the Reds have contested the playoffs for the first time since 2013. However, the playoffs have been expanded due to the 2020 pandemic season in which the teams only played 60 games and the Reds were only 31-29 years old and the last weekend of the season.
So what should be a positive outlook for 2021 is just another season of lots of questions and not many answers.
The first answer that is needed is the $ 25,000 question asked by a 37-year-old first baseman per year and whether he can do well enough to be a factor or deal with retirement homes.
Future Hall of Fame candidate Joey Votto has to improve on last season’s numbers averaging 0.226 with 11 home runs and 22 runs beaten. It is the third season in a row with falling numbers for the former National League Most Valuable Player 2010.
Votto says he will change his approach this season again and will be very concerned about getting the ball into play and becoming a power hitter again.
In 2017, Votto was runner-up for the National League MVP with a batting average of 0.320, 36 HRs and 100 RBIs with one point. However, it was followed by .284, 12 and 67 in 2018 and .261, 15 HRs and 47 RBIs in 2019.
Votto started spring camp strong but had to pause when he tested positive for COVID-19 and was on the IL for 10 days.
The biggest bat in the line-up is Eugenio Suarez, who struggled with an injury that required surgery last season. Suarez scored 49 home races last season but hit 15 HRs with 38 HRs while beating .202 in the shortened season.
Suarez has lost some weight and will hopefully be the answer to the shortstop position. Suarez has played third base in the past but his original position was shortstop.
Last season’s acquisitions of Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama didn’t shed a lot of light on the scorecard, which was part of why the Reds team’s 0.212 batting average was the worst in the big leagues.
Known for attack rather than defense, Moustakas scored just 0.230 last season with 8 home runs and 27 runs beaten. He will move from the second base to his original third base position.
Akiyama was supposed to put a big bat on the lineup but only hit .245 with no HRs and 9 RBI. He is expected to share midfield responsibilities with Nick Senzel, who has struggled with injuries for the past two seasons.
Last season, Senzel battled an anemic .186 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs while continuing to battle injuries.
Nick Castellanos – a free agent acquisition last season – was successful. .230 with 14 homers and 34 RBI and will be back in right field. The left field goes to Jesse Winker, who scored .255 with 12 HRs and 23 RBI.
The appearance of non-squad newbie Jonathan India has allowed Moustakas to return to third base. India had a very strong spring and will start on the second base.
Utility man Kyle Farmer can play catcher, outfield and infield and expressed a desire to have the chance to play shortstop this season. He did well in the field last season and has a better bat (.266 BA) than any other option. He took some weight off to be more mobile and was impressive during the Reds training camp, making him the leading candidate in Shortstop.
Two sleepers for the team are Max Schrock and Jonathan India, who hit the ball in the spring. Schrock can play second base while India can play third and second base.
The Reds decided not to sign Curt Casali again and left the fishing duties to former Gold Glove Prize winner Tucker Barnhart (.204, 5 HR, 13 RBI). But the Reds are high on Tyler Stephenson, who only played eight games last season but scored .294 with 2 HRs and 6 RBI.
And there are always farmers who can be part of the mix.
The versatile Alex Blandino, the outfielder Aristedis Aquino and Tyler Naquin as well as the infielder Max Schrock come from the bench.
The loss of Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to the free hand leaves a hole in the rotation, but the Reds shouldn’t be devastated by the loss.
The starting rotation is expected to be Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Wade Miley and Jeff Hoffman, who were acquired in a trade. Jose De Leon is another option but will start in the bullpen.
Michael Lorenzen was expected to take a rotation point, but he accumulated in the off-season and lost some speed from his fastball at a speed of 98 mph. When he started to loosen up and regain some of his speed, he suffered a minor injury and will start the season in the bullpen.
Another option for the starter mug could be the budding star Tejay Antone, who will start the season in the bullpen.
“He looked very locked up. He had the best fastball I’ve ever seen – that says a lot because it was so good last year – he threw. He throws it right where he wanted it in the upper 90s. We get used to the fact that he is very focused and determined, ”said Bell.
Former first-round draft pick Hunter Greene is another contestant, but he’s got Tommy John’s surgery behind him but will start the season in the minors.
Gray was 5-3 last season with a earned run average of 3.70. Bauer – who won the first Cy Young Award from a Reds pitcher – had an ERA of 1.73. Castillo was 4-6 and had a 3.21 ERA.
Offensively, the Reds averaged 5.5 runs per game for Gray, but only 2.8 for Castillo, which was the third lowest total in the league for 69 pitchers with at least seven starts.
The Reds’ pitchers led the National League with pitchers who pitched 100 in 20 games, including six games of 110 or more pitches. With younger arms in rotation, the Reds may be more likely to repeat that trend this season, and the totals will rise considering there will be 162 games instead of 60.
Lorenzen is still an option in midfield and to pinch on his days off when he’s back in rotation. Two years ago he became the first player since Babe Ruth to have a game where he was the winner, played the outfield and did a home run.
Last season, Lornezen only played four innings in midfield and was a pinch runner four times while getting only one record appearance, and it ended up being hit by a pitch.
The Reds traded closer to Raisel Iglesias, who had more parades than parades. The main candidate for the narrower role is Amir Garrett, but Lucas Sims was strong in the spring and could ever get closer to a two-headed monster.
The Reds signed free agent Sean Doolittle but the left-hander wasn’t as keen as the Reds hoped to have an injury that sidelined him for most of last season.
In the bullpen, too, Cionel Perez, Sal Romano and Cam Bedrosian will make up the rest of the bullpen.
There has been a lot of talk about whether to allow or forbid the infield shift against Batters, and the Reds would likely be on the side of a ban.
Last season, the Reds lost 74 hits through the shift while scoring 40 hits. The net loss of 30 hits was the largest in the major leagues. This loss of hits cost the team 16 points less than the team’s batting average.
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