The Cincinnati Reds finished last in the NL Central for the second straight season, finishing at 68-94. Their lineup had some bright spots with breakout seasons from Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez as well as another great season from Joey Votto, but it wasn’t enough to lift them from the cellar.
They’ll open 2017 with a very similar lineup to last season, but the Reds will hope for better results this time around. Here’s what Bryan Price’s lineup is looking like as we approach Opening Day.
- Billy Hamilton CF: No surprise here, as the speedster will slot at the top of the order once again this season. He stole over 55 bases in each of the last three seasons, and in 2016 he added a .260 average to his resume. He missed some time last season, playing in 119 games, but he saw improvements in nearly every part of his game. He was stealing bases at a higher success rate, stealing a career-high 58 bags and being caught just eight. Hamilton posted a career high .321 OBP last season, and if he can keep it up there’s no reason why he won’t spend the season at the leadoff spot in 2017.
- Zack Cozart SS: Cozart blasted 16 homers in 2016, a career high, and showed he could perform at the top of the order. The shortstop has shown he has some speed as well with 18 stolen bases and has been caught just four times in his career. The 31-year-old dealt with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee, and played in just 121 games in 2016. However, his glove and decent pop for a shortstop should keep him at the top of the lineup if he can stay healthy.
- Joey Votto 1B: The on-base machine that has always been Joey Votto was an irreplaceable piece of the lineup once again in 2016. His first half was underwhelming, but his incredible post All-Star break performance made him a top four player in average, .326, on-base percentage, .484, and on-base plus slugging, .985. Votto has everything a manager can want from the number three hitter, with solid power to go along with his on-base abilities. The 33-year-old hit 29 homers for the second straight season and should have no problem doing it again in 2017.
- Adam Duvall LF: The 28-year-old saw regular playing time for the first time in his career, and played his way onto the NL All-Star team. Duvall led the team in both homers and RBI with 33 and 103, hitting from the cleanup spot. Despite his lack of contact skills and patience, his power and ability to hit with runners in scoring position should be more than enough to keep him in the heart of the Reds’ order.
- Eugenio Suarez 3B: Another beneficiary of regular playing time, Suarez showed that he should be in the lineup on an everyday basis. His underwhelming .317 OBP keeps him away from the top of the order, but his combination of power and speed makes him a valuable bat at the five spot. He was one of just three third baseman to hit at least 20 homers and steal ten bases in 2016. The 25-year-old still has plenty of time to work on his approach at the plate and improve his average and on-base marks, but expect to see more of the same in the power department.
- Scott Schebler RF: The 26-year-old is expected to play a platoon role in 2017, but I think his performance at the end of last season will be enough to secure him a starting job. After being called up again on August 2nd, Schebler hit .290 with eight homers. He hit righties exceptionally well, posting an OPS of .806, and could see his numbers against lefties improve with some regular playing time. I see 15 to 20 homer power in Schebler, and he will get a chance to put it on display with a full season from the sixth spot in the order.
- Brandon Phillips 2B: We’ve spent the last few seasons anticipating his decline, yet the 35-year-old proved once again that he’s still an everyday starter. For the second straight season, Phillips batted above .290, .291, and reached double digits in both homers, 11, and stolen bases, 14. We won’t see 20 plus homers from Phillips in 2017, but his consistency at the plate and Gold Glove caliber defense at second is more than enough to keep him in the lineup.
- Devin Mesoraco C: The 28-year-old looked to be emerging as one of the top catchers in the game after hitting .273 with 25 homers and 80 RBI in just 114 games in 2014. However, he’s only seen 39 games since that All-Star campaign. He’s had three surgeries, one on each hip and one on a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and has made five trips to the DL throughout his career. There’s no doubt that the upside is there, but Mesoraco needs to prove he can stay healthy or he won’t even get the chance to repeat his 2014 numbers.
Two straight years in the cellar doesn’t leave much hope for fans heading into the new season, but the Reds’ offense can hold their own in the NL Central. The Reds’ season begins on Monday, April 3rd against the Philadelphia Phillies at home.