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Editor’s note: We continue our countdown of how MLB’s 30 teams rank in terms of fantasy baseball assets. At No. 19, here’s Andy Behrens’ snapshot of the Cincinnati Reds.
While most of the teams in the NL Central merely tweaked their rosters over the winter, the Reds were throwing money around — more money, in fact, than they’d spent in the 10 previous offseasons. This team is a lock to be fun, and a near-lock to be damn good. No one should be surprised if Cincinnati challenges for the division flag in 2020.
The table-setter for the Reds is likely to be new addition Shogo Akiyama, a player who basically lived on base in Japan. His lowest OBP over his last five seasons in Seibu was .385. He also hit 20 or more homers in each of the past three years while consistently swiping double-digit bags. Akiyama profiles as a terrific top-of-the-order bat, and he’d passed the eye test this spring:
He’s a no-risk flier at the draft table, a player with the potential to help in four of five standard hitting categories.
Joey Votto, now 36, appears to be well into his decline phase, but that doesn’t mean he’s an easy out. The power is gone, but the batting eye remains. He’s best used in OBP leagues these days. The heart of the Reds’ order has an abundance of power, however, as veteran third baseman, Eugenio Suarez, is joined by newcomers Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos. Those three hit a combined 111 homers last season. Cincinnati is a friendly power environment, so don’t fret about the relocation of Moose and Castellanos. Draft ‘em with confidence. Moustakas offers dual-position eligibility (2B/3B) yet he’s often available outside the top-100 picks.
Aristides Aquino was a late-season beast last season (19/7 in 56 games), but we can’t assume he’ll be an everyday outfielder for this team. Longtime fantasy teases Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker are still in the team picture. Senzel should see plenty of playing time, if healthy.
The three starters at the top of Cincy’s rotation — Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Trevor Bauer — all struck out 200-plus batters last season and should be viewed as top-30-ish fantasy arms. Gray is a clear regression candidate (.255 BABIP in ‘19), but his K-rate won’t nosedive and he won’t hurt for run support.
Closer Raisel Iglesias saved 34 games last season, but he also posted the worst ratios of his career while losing 12 games. If he struggles, the Reds have a few quality bullpen arms capable of claiming the ninth, including Michael Lorenzen and Pedro Strop.