Cincinnati Reds 2021 Season Preview


       The Reds were an unbalanced mess in 2020. On one half, the rotation was amazing, and the bullpen had some decent pieces. But on the other side, the offense was abysmal, with only two hitters having an OPS over .800. Now, the team has lost their Cy Young winner and their closer, while adding little to replace them. Their offseason feels like a massive loss in every aspect for the team, putting a whole lot of jobs in jeopardy. 

Offseason additions: LHP Sean Doolittle, RHP Noe Ramirez, RHP Jeff Hoffman, RHP Cam Bedrosian, OF Tyler Naquin, LHP Josh Osich, RHP Brandon Bailey.

Offseason subtractions: RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Raisel Iglesias, RHP Archie Bradley, IF Freddy Galvis, C Curt Casali, IF Freddy Galvis, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, RHP Robert Stephenson, RHP Nate Jones, OF Brian Goodwin. 

Trade Deadline 2020 summary

Acquired: OF Brian Goodwin, RHP Archie Bradley

Traded: OF Josh VanMeter, LHP Packy Naughton, OF Stuart Fairchild.

2020 record: 31-29

2020 finish: 2nd

2020 WAR leader (batter): Jesse Winker

2020 WAR leader (pitcher): Trevor Bauer

Starting Pitchers

Trevor Bauer will be missed in Cincinnati. The team still has a pretty good rotation, but he can\’t replace a Cy Young winner who dragged the team into the postseason. Bauer had 100 strikeouts in 11 starts, but the Reds still have three starters with a K/9 over 11.0. The best of them is Luis Castillo, who is reportedly potentially on the trade block. Castillo struck out 89 batters over 70 innings, with a 3.21 ERA and a 2.65 FIP. He throws a high-90s fastball that had a 37.2% whiff rate. Another pitcher who could be next to go is Sonny Gray, who only threw 56 innings over 11 starts. Still, Gray had a 3.70 ERA with 72 strikeouts and a 3.05 FIP. Gray\’s biggest issue was an 11.1% BB rate. His walk rate has slowly increased over the years. The third high strikeout starter is Tyler Mahle, a former high-end prospect who had a career season. Mahle had a 3.59 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 47.2 innings, although his BB% rose up by more than four percent, up to 10.4%. Mahle was in the top ten percent in xBA at .188. Resident lefty Wade Miley only appeared in six games in 2020, and in those six games he was limited to 14.1 innings. For Houston in 2019, Miley had a 3.98 ERA over 33 starts, which is fine for the end of the rotation. His change-up that season had a .193 xBA against and a 37.8% whiff rate. Michael Lorenzen made two starts at the tail end of the season, allowing three runs in 9.2 innings. He could move to the fifth starter spot. Lorenzen had a 4.28 ERA in 33.2 innings, but he had great underlying numbers, with an average exit velocity of 84.4 mph and a 3.31 xERA. Moving to the rotation also gives Lorenzen more chances to hit; his .716 career OPS is practically a Mike Trout number compared to other pitchers. His main competition is Jeff Hoffman, the former 9th overall pick who really did not have a fun time at Coors Field. In 2020, Hoffman had a 9.28 ERA with a 92.3 mph average exit velocity, a .300 xBA, a .406 wOBA and a 53.4% hard hit percentage. The Reds could give him a chance to adjust out of the bullpen.

Relief Pitchers

With Raisel Iglesias off to Los Angeles, the Reds will have to find a replacement closer. The favorites are two lefties, Sean Doolittle and Amir Garrett. I\’d give the advantage to Doolittle right now, as he has more closing experience in the past. He was elite in 2018, but struggled in 2019 and 2020. Doolittle appeared in 11 games last year, but pitched just 7.2 innings, allowing five earned runs. His above average walk rate of 5.8% in 2019 rose up to 11.1% in 2020. Another big concern with Doolittle is his plummeting fastball velocity, which was down three mph in 2020. After a breakout 2019, Garrett followed it up with an even better season. Garrett struck out 26 batters in 18.1 innings with a 2.45 ERA. Garrett had a .188 xBA with a 3.28 xERA. His 10.1 BB% wasn\’t great but it was an improvement on his 2019 numbers. Another potential closing option is Lucas Sims, who after striking out 54 batters in 68 innings as a Brave, has punched out 97 in 74 innings since moving to Cincinnati. Sims had a 2.45 ERA with a 0.935 WHIP, a 2.25 xERA, a .134 xBA and great spin rates. His curveball had an average rpm of 3334, and his fastball was at 2771, which is great for a curveball, let alone a fastball. 27 year old Tejay Antone went under-the-radar as a rookie last year, striking out 45 batters in 35.1 innings with a 2.80 ERA, while only allowing 20 hits. Antone throws a high-90s sinker with a wipe-out slider and curveball. His .169 xBA was in the 97th percentile among pitchers. Longtime Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian comes into camp on a minor league deal. Bedrosian had a 2.45 ERA through 11 appearances in 2020, with a 3.92 xERA. One issue for Bedrosian has been allowing hard contact, as he has a 90.1 mph average exit velocity since 2015. In exchange for Iglesias, the Reds got Noe Ramirez, who in past years was a strikeout pitcher but did not do much striking out in 2020. He K\’d 14 batters in 21 innings with a 3.00 ERA. Since 2018, Ramirez\’s fastball velocity has slowly decreased, down to 88.7 mph in 2020. That didn\’t stop the pitch from being dominant, as batters hit just .071 against it. A former top prospect of the Dodgers and Rays, Jose De Leon is now 28, and while he struck out 10 batters in six innings last year, he averaged two runs allowed per inning. His 95 mph sinker got lit up, but his change-up was effective, with batters going 0-for-11 with five strikeouts against it. Acquired in November for cash, Brandon Bailey allowed two runs in 7.1 innings for the Astros last year, striking out four. His slow curveball and change-up showed potential, although the sample size was too small. Also in the mix is Sal Romano, a 27 year old who was apart of the Reds\’ rotation in 2017 and 2018. He allowed 14 runs in 16.1 innings in 2019, and only appeared in two games in 2020, getting out all four batters he faced. Lefty Cionel Perez comes over after allowing two runs in 6.1 innings with eight strikeouts for the Astros in 2020. Perez throws a mid-90s fastball, but he has walked 15 batters in 26.2 career innings.


Light-hitting left-handed batter Tucker Barnhart won his Gold Glove in just 38 games in 2020. He has never finished with an OPS+ over 95, and he hit .204 with a .679 OPS last year. Barnhart has some power, but nothing special. He split time with Curt Casali in 2020, who left after a career high .866 OPS. This year, he will split time with Tyler Stephenson, MLB Pipeline\’s 95th best prospect in baseball. Stephenson debuted in 2020, going 5-for-17 with two home runs. Drafted 11th overall in 2015, Stephenson has a .740 OPS over five minor league seasons. He could take over for Barnhart as soon as this year.


He will probably be a Hall of Famer, and he can still walk a ton, but Joey Votto just is not a great player anymore, not since 2017. Now, he is just good. Votto\’s power diminished in 2018 and 2019, but at least it did come back in 2020, as he mashed out 11 homers in 54 games. Votto walked 37 times for a 16.6 BB%, which carried his OBP up to .354. He had an .800 OPS, with -3 outs above average at first base. Mike Moustakas can play first, second and third base, but he will start at second. He walked 11% of the time in 2020, with a 22.1 K%, which was surprisingly high for him. Moustakas finished with a 108 OPS+, his sixth consecutive season over 100. The Reds lost Freddy Galvis in free agency, and did not do anything to replace him. This leaves an open competition at shortstop, and a lot of it is dependent on the Reds\’ gameplan with Jose Garcia. One of the organization\’s top prospects, Garcia was rushed to the majors in 2020, without every playing above High-A. The results showed, as Garcia struck out 26 times in 68 Plate Appearances, walking just once and finishing with a .400 OPS. The 22 year old could start in AAA for conditioning. If the Reds don\’t want to start Garcia at the MLB level, then Kyle Farmer will likely start. Farmer can play all over the infield, but his OPS has been between 70 and 75 in all four of his seasons. 2020 was the lowest, at 71. Farmer went 12-for-32 against fastballs in 2020, but he also went 4-for-27 against breaking balls. At third base is Eugenio Suarez, who was reportedly shopped in the offseason. Suarez has great power, hitting 49 homers in 2019, and 15 in 2020. However, he had a .218 xBA and a 29% K rate as well. Back to the good side, Suarez had a 14.4 barrel percentage with a 13 BB%. In camp on a minor league deal is Dee Strange-Gordon, formerly Dee Gordon. Strange-Gordon is still fast, with a 28.3 ft/s sprint speed, and he stole three bases in 33 games in 2020. However, he is an awful hitter, with an 83.1 mph average exit velocity and a .324 xSLG since 2015. 


The best hitter for the Reds in 2020 was Jesse Winker, who was their DH, but will have to move back to left field, where he is not a good hitter. Winker hit 12 home runs with a .932 OPS, but he did slump considerably after he had a 1.167 OPS on August 29. He walked 15.3 percent of the time with a 92.1 mph average exit velocity. In right field is Nick Castellanos, who is a pretty good hitter as there\’s a deep drive into left field by Castellanos, that will be a home run and so that\’ll make it a 4-0 ballgame. Please tell me you understood that. Anyways, Castellanos didn\’t miss a game, and hit 14 home runs with a 16% barrel percentage, and a .542 xSLG. But, he struck out 28.5% of the time, and he had -5 outs above average in right field. With the designated hitter leaving the National League, the Reds will have to platoon Nick Senzel and Shogo Akiyama in center field. In his first MLB season at age 32, Akiyama stole seven bases with a .654 OPS. That could have been a lot worse if not for an above-average 13.7 BB%. Out of 121 batted balls, Akiyama had just one barrel, for an awful 0.8 barrel percentage. Drafted 2nd overall in 2016, Senzel was limited to 23 games, and he hit two home runs with two stolen bases and a .604 OPS. He is very fast, with an average sprint speed of 29.3 ft/s. Senzel is the better player, but Akiyama\’s lefty bat could get him more playing time. I don\’t want to give up on Aristedes Aquino, but his weak 23 game 2020 season could mean that he doesn\’t make the team. Aquino only had an 80.4 mph average exit velocity against fastballs, which is pretty weak. He struck out over 32% of the time, but he is a sneaky good defender who could replace Castellanos or Winker if they get hurt. He is also fast, with a 27.9 ft/s sprint speed. 

Projected Rotation
Luis Castillo (R)
Sonny Gray (R)
Tyler Mahle (R)
Wade Miley (L)
Michael Lorenzen (R)
Projected Bullpen
Sean Doolittle (L)
Amir Garrett (L)
Lucas Sims (R)
Tejay Antone (R)
Cam Bedrosian (R)
Noe Ramirez (R)
Jeff Hoffman (R)
Jose De Leon (R)
Cionel Perez (L)
Projected Lineup
CF Nick Senzel (R)
1B Joey Votto (L)
3B Eugenio Suarez (R)
LF Jesse Winker (L)
RF Nicholas Castellanos (R)
2B Mike Moustakas (L)
SS Kyle Farmer (R)
C Tucker Barnhart (L)
Projected Bench
C Tyler Stephenson (R)
OF Shogo Akiyama (L)
OF Aristedes Aquino (R)
IF Dee Strange-Gordon (L)


The Reds offseason just wasn\’t great. There were multiple key subtractions, and the team didn\’t do much to replace the departed players. This leaves the team with a bunch of holes, included shortstop, the end of the rotation and the end of the bullpen. The NL Central as a whole got worse, but the Reds weren\’t the best in 2020, and they won\’t be in 2021. They will finish in 4th place, and miss the playoffs. 

Published by carterhud SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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