MLB Team Roundup: Cincinnati Reds

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Cincinnati Reds

2021 Record: 83-79
Third Place, NL Central
Team ERA: 4.40 (20th in MLB)
Team OPS: .759 (5th in MLB)

What Went Right

Not to spoil the ending, but the Reds were 12 games above .500 on August 27 and in position to make the postseason. They recovered from somewhat sluggish stretches in April and May to put up a 31-22 record between June and July, and a 14-7 record across the first three weeks of August. Wade Miley threw a no-hitter on May 7 at Cleveland, the 17th no-no in Reds franchise history and the first since Homer Bailey no-hit the Giants in July 2013. Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker were among the most lethal offensive corner-outfield tandems in the bigs when healthy, and Joey Votto turned back the clock to deliver a four-year-high .938 OPS with 36 home runs and 99 RBI in 129 games played. Jonathan India is a shoo-in for 2021 National League Rookie of the Year after registering an .835 OPS with 21 home runs, 69 RBI, 12 stolen bases, and 98 runs scored over his first 150 major league games. David Bell, in his third season as manager, was signed to a two-year contract extension on September 22.

What Went Wrong

The second-half collapse of the Padres opened up such a promising path for the Reds to claim the second National League Wild Card spot. They had perhaps the easiest down-the-stretch schedule of any contending team but completely failed to capitalize, going 12-17 between September 1 and October 3 while then having to watch the division-rival Cardinals take the stage against the Dodgers on October 6. Remember in December when Raisel Iglesias was moved in a salary dump trade to the Angels? He had a 2.57 ERA, 0.929 WHIP, 13.24 K/9, and 1.54 BB/9 in 70 innings this season with Anaheim. Cincinnati’s combined team bullpen numbers: 4.99 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 10.48 K/9, and 4.45 BB/9. Amir Garrett, positioned to take over the closer role, allowed 34 runs -- 32 earned -- in 47 2/3 innings and finished with only seven saves. Luis Castillo managed to get his ERA under 4.00 when all was said and done, but that number sat all the way up at 7.61 as of May 23, through his first 10 starts of the year.

Fantasy Slants

** There was talk of Winker possibly commanding down-ballot MVP votes when he suffered an intercostal strain in mid-August. He tried to return to action in September but lasted only three at-bats before again reaggravating the injury. Still, it was a breakout summer for the 28-year-old, who slashed .305/.394/.556 with 24 home runs, 71 RBI, and 77 runs scored in 110 games when he wasn’t on the injured list. Winker may be a value pick in more casual leagues next spring because of the way he faded from the collective fantasy conscious down the stretch. Don’t forget the pre-injury production.

** Castellanos is expected to exercise the opt-out in is contract in November, leaving behind the remaining two years, $34 million on his deal with Cincinnati to likely gain far more guaranteed cash this winter. It’ll be a shame to see him move out of Great American Ball Park -- if that’s indeed what happens -- given his .313/.371/.642 career slash line in GABP’s power-friendly environment. The 29-year-old has tallied 48 home runs, 49 doubles, and 134 RBI in 198 games since signing that opt-out-laden four-year, $64 million free agent pact with the Reds in January 2020.

** Castillo was selected as a top-12 starting pitcher in most fantasy drafts this past spring and will probably to drop from that perch in 2022 after generating underwhelming overall numbers in 2021. But peel back the curtain on his game logs and you’ll find that the 28-year-old right-hander did rebound in elite-level fashion from his early stumbles, pitching to a 2.73 ERA and 144 strikeouts along his final 135 1/3 innings (22 starts) from the beginning of June to his final outing of the year in October. He’s a bounceback candidate who already kind of bounced back. Tyler Mahle should be an attractive mid-round consideration too.

** There may be an emerging star at fantasy baseball’s shallowest position in Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson. Since making his major league debut in July 2020, the 25-year-old former first-round pick has posted a .286/.367/.441 batting line (.809 OPS) with 12 home runs, 21 doubles, and 51 RBI in 140 games. And there should be more power upside to tap into as he settles into an everyday role behind the plate for Cincinnati. He went as the 11th backstop off the board in our early mock draft for 2022 -- updated results to be posted this week.

** Eugenio Suarez finished with career lows in batting average (.198) and on-base percentage (.286) in 2021, but he did still reach 31 home runs and also added shortstop eligibility to his fantasy profile from his 34 appearances (32 starts) at the position. The 30-year-old has been undervalued in drafts most years and probably will be again in 2022 because of the disappointing rate stats. But there’s obvious late-around appeal in a 3B/SS power-hitting threat.

** Is it time to give up on Nick Senzel? He’s carried considerable fantasy hype in the past, but the oft-injured 26-year-old has played in only 59 major league games since the beginning of the 2020 season while slashing .227/.294/.331 with three home runs and four stolen bases in 202 plate appearances. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft might have to fight his way into an Opening Day roster spot next spring.

Key Free Agents: Nick Castellanos, Michael Lorenzen, Mychal Givens … and maybe Tucker Barnhart ($7.5 million club option, $500,000 buyout).

Team Needs: A finishing move? But seriously, the Reds haven’t won a postseason game since 2012 and could be in for another significant offseason shakeup. Bullpen help is a must, and replacing Castellanos will be a tall but necessary task.