The Cincinnati Reds had one of the most interesting offseasons in baseball. Yes, the Reds. Not only did they bring on David Bell as their new manager, they brought in a whole slew of new players that will make them a better team right away.
This isn’t a rebuild reaching its pinnacle. Rather, it’s something different, a team making moves to get better even when modern baseball philosophy says they should probably still be in the tanking category.
But the Reds have finished in last place in the NL Central the last four years, and sometimes that just gets tiresome. So the Reds went out and traded for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood from the Dodgers, Sonny Gray from the Yankees and Tanner Roark from the Nationals.
Combine these guys with the Reds’ centerpiece, the dependable Joey Votto, and some of their young talent like Jose Peraza and Nick Senzel, and you’ve got a team that will be fascinating to watch.
You’ve also got a number of intriguing fantasy options, whether you’re wondering whether Gray can recapture some of his Oakland glory or Puig can be the Puig of old with more playing time in Cincy. - Mike Oz
Reds offseason grade
Let’s give the Reds some credit for trying. In an offseason where there’s a pronounced difference between the teams trying to win and the teams trudging through another losing season, the Reds could have easily been in the other category. But they went out and made some notable deals to improve their chances in the competitive NL Central.
Those deals may still not, in reality, make them better than the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers, but at least they’re not just sitting around waiting for their youngsters to get better without improving the team right away.
Our grade: B+ — can’t fault a team for going for it, especially in 2019. - Mike Oz
Reds projected lineup and pitching staff
Who will be the Reds’ fantasy breakout?
Cincinnati’s outfield is awfully cluttered following the team’s offseason deal with the Dodgers, a trade that brought both Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to town. But if 25-year-old Jesse Winker can find enough at-bats, he has a chance to be fun. Winker was slashing .299/.405/.431 through 89 games last season before a shoulder injury cut his season short. His home run upside could be limited by his line-drive/ground-ball tendencies, but it’s tough to fault his plate discipline and contact ability. Again, playing time is clearly the key to his value. Here’s hoping Cincinnati finds a way to clear the outfield logjam. -Andy Behrens
What is Cincinnati’s biggest fantasy question?
Nick Senzel has raked when healthy throughout his minor league career (.314/.390/.513), but injuries have prevented his MLB debut. The team has tried him at a variety of positions in an effort to get his bat to Cincinnati, and it sounds like center field could be his eventual home. Senzel will offer double-digit power/speed potential whenever he arrives, along with a respectable average. We can only hope he remains healthy and productive this spring; he remains a prospect of interest, with an uncertain role.
Fantasy owners also need to keep an eye on the usage of Raisel Iglesias, because his new manager has refreshingly modern ideas about using his best reliever ...
Bell also said Iglesias won’t be used strictly in the traditional closer role: “He’ll be used in the most important spots in the game. We don’t want to limit him.” #reds— John Fay (@johnfayman) February 15, 2019
At a minimum, we have to reduce the saves projection for Iglesias. He clearly still carries plenty of fantasy value, but vets like Jared Hughes and David Hernandez could poach a few ninth inning opportunities. -Andy Behrens
Cincinnati’s Prospect to watch
There’s a good chance this will be the last time you see Nick Senzel mentioned as a prospect. Despite being close to the majors the past couple of years, Senzel had injuries put his debut on hold. No more! The Reds want to get Senzel involved badly enough that they are playing him in the outfield. That should give him a shot at playing time in 2019. After that, Senzel could shift over to second base if Scooter Gennett leaves. Senzel has always hit. If he stays healthy, he could be a rookie of the year candidate in the NL. - Chris Cwik
Things that MUST go right for the Reds
1. Yasiel Puig stays healthy and engaged: When he's healthy and on his game, Yasiel Puig is among the most dynamic players in MLB. Unfortunately, staying on the field was a problem for him in Los Angeles, whether it be because of injury or simply not showing the level of commitment required by his club. The Dodgers were deep enough to survive Puig's unpredictability, but they obviously grew tired of it. The Reds are less equipped to deal with a Puig roller coaster.
2. Nick Senzel makes an impact: With Billy Hamilton gone, the Reds are counting on top prospect Nick Senzel taking over in center field sooner than later. It will be a tall task for a guy who's never played the position in a real game. On top of that, Senzel is coming off a season plagued by injuries, and will be facing MLB pitching for the first time when he debuts. Senzel's talent is unquestioned, but his ability to make a difference this season is highly questionable.
3. New pitching trio produces: If the Reds hope to avoid a sixth straight losing season, they're going to need strong seasons from their new starting pitching trio: Tanner Roark, Alex Wood and Sonny Gray. Last season, they combined to win just 29 games while posting a 4.67 ERA. The Reds will need the win total to go up and the ERA to come down if they're to make noise in the NL Central. - Mark Townsend
If this team had a walk-up song, what would it be?
Did you know there’s a heavy metal/punk band out there that’s a tribute to Yasiel Puig? Let me tell you, friends, the Internet is a place full of surprises. Puig Destroyer isn’t new — it’s been around since Puig burst onto the scene in 2013.
Nonetheless, we can’t have a feature like this and in our season previews and not give Puig Destroyer a shout-out. The Reds’ walk-up song should be “Batflip.” As a plus, it might scare the rest of the NL Central. - Mike Oz