If you’ve been a Reds’ fan for the past five years, it’s been a tough go. Four straight last place finishes leaves very little for fans to be excited about going forward.
However, through their misfortunes, the Reds have positioned themselves to be ready to turn a corner very soon, and are on the cusp of becoming a rising powerhouse in the NL Central for years to come.
The Reds’ record is deceiving this year. Sure, they haven’t played great, but once they changed managers after Bryan Price’s atrocious 3-15 start, they are 60-69 under Jim Riggleman. It’s not great, but it’s somewhat competitive.
Almost all of the Reds’ success is on the back of its offense. The Reds have quietly, through trades from seasons past, have built a formidable, young group of capable major league hitters. The leader of this group is undoubtedly Eugenio Suarez. The 26-year-old third baseman was acquired back in the 2015 offseason in exchange for Alfredo Simon and has gone on to become one of the best run producers in the National League. His batting average and RBI totals have increased each year, and he currently leads the league in RBIs with 101, has 32 home runs, and is hitting .290. He has been a better hitter than Joey Votto this season.
Two more valuable cogs in the new machine are Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler, who were both acquired in a three-team trade with the Dodgers and White Sox that resulted in Todd Frazier going to the South Siders in the 2016 offseason. Reds GM Dick Williams is an absolute wizard.
However, Williams greatest move is picking up cast-off second baseman Scooter Gennett from the Brewers.
Gennett always showed flashes of being great in Milwaukee, but never quite figured it out. Once he went to the Reds, Gennett “leveled up” and became one of the best second basemen in baseball. In his first year in Cincinnati, Scooter hit .297 with 27 bombs and almost 100 RBI’s. This year, Gennett went crazy. He earned his first All-Star Game nod and is in line to win the NL Batting title, as he sports a .321 batting average.
The offense isn’t the issue for the Reds, as they rank fourth in the MLB in team batting average and third in team OBP. Where the problem lies for the Reds is the pitching. Cincinnati ranks 24th in team ERA and 27th in Batting average against. No one in the starting rotation has an ERA under 4.25.
The only solid pitching prospect they have in the pipeline is Hunter Greene, the former 2nd overall pick, who is ranked 18th on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list. Even Greene has question marks though, as he has a 4.48 ERA at Single-A ball and has had trouble with a UCL strain this year.
My point is that the Reds are oh-so-close to being for real, but they need an ace. This year is light on free agent pitchers, with David Price saying he wants to stay in Boston and Clayton Kershaw likely being out of their price range. Cincy will either need to buy high on fringe guys like Gio Gonzalez, Drew Smyly, and Garrett Richards, or they could use their abundance of prospects to go after some potential trade candidates. The Reds have four prospects in the top 100 list, and they aren’t getting any younger.
Top prospect Nick Senzel doesn’t have anywhere to play with Suarez and Gennett at 3rd and 2nd, respectively. Use Senzel, another high prospect, and Homer Bailey, who’s making over $20 million per year *cringes*, to go and get a true number one starter.
The Reds are on the cusp of being a truly special team, they just need to make a few key moves, and the NL Central will run through Cincinnati once again. They have the potential to be the next Astros or Cubs. Make it happen.
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