By Scott Bordow
There’s no other way to put it: It was a horrific 2016 season for Cincinnati, which finished 35 ½ games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central. Only the San Diego Padres lost as many games as Cincinnati in the NL.
The pitching staff gave up 258 home runs, a major league record that shattered the mark of 241 set by the Detroit Tigers in 1996.
The ugly numbers weren’t an accident. With the exception of second baseman Brandon Phillips and first baseman Joey Votto, the Reds stripped their club of proven major league players to go young and try to win two to four years down the line.
That may be the prudent thing to do but it also means sacrificing the 2017 season for the future. Another 90-loss season wouldn’t surprise anyone.
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Well, there’s always Votto, who is 33 years old but can still hit. He hardly fits into the organization’s rebuilding, however, so all Reds fans can do for now is focus on the kids, like 22-year-old Jose Peraza, who likely will start at second base now that Phillips has been traded to the Atlanta Braves. Fans can also watch for the continued development of center fielder Billy Hamilton, who not only stole 58 bases last year but improved his batting average from .226 in 2015 to .260 and his on-base percentage from .274 to .321. Other than that … 2018 better get here in a hurry.
Given they lost 94 games last year, it’s amazing that the Reds don’t have a lot of position battles looming this spring. There will be a battle for the backup catcher spot and a reserve outfielder but most of the 25-man roster is set. The key question: Will one of the Reds’ young pitching prospects wind up as the No. 5 starter?
The Reds are loaded with prospects, including third baseman Nick Senzel, the second overall pick in the 2016 draft. But the player who could make the biggest impact this season is left-handed pitcher Amir Garrett, considered the organization’s No. 2 prospect. Garrett had a 3.46 ERA and 1.17 WHIP at Triple-A Louisville last season. Cincinnati has an opening – or two – in its rotation for one of its young starters and the 24-year-old Garrett will get every opportunity to prove he can pitch every fifth day in the major leagues.
Manager: Bryan Price.
Last season’s record: 68-94.
Big changes: The Reds didn’t do much of anything noteworthy in the off-season, another sign that the organization will continue its youth movement and be patient as the team tries to improve on last year’s 94-loss season. The hope is that some of the young players acquired in deals for players like Johnny Cueto, Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman will start to make an impact this season.