Cincinnati Reds 2022 Season Preview

Cincinnati Reds 2022 Season Preview

by March 31, 2022 0 comments

The Cincinnati Reds are now in full rebuild mode despite finishing the 2021 season at 83-79 and third place in the NL Central. At the same time, it seems as though they are halfway selling off, as they added a couple of veteran pieces in free agency and trades. But with that, they could also be holding some of those pieces to move at the trade deadline if they perform well. It may not have seemed like a great strategy from a distance, but only time will tell. Despite the NL Central being anyone’s division to take, the Reds feel as though they needed to get value for their key pieces now rather than later. Who knows, maybe they will still be in the mix. 

Make sure to check out all of our other Season Previews.

Additions

The Reds swung a couple of trades and minor free-agent signings this offseason as they prepare for a rebuild. Their farm system is already pretty strong and they made it stronger with some of the pieces they got in return. In the case of the additions, we will only be talking about the players currently in the majors.

Mike Minor, LHP

In mid-March, the Reds sent Amir Garrett to the Kansas City Royals for Minor and cash. The veteran southpaw has struggled to find consistency throughout his career, making this a head-scratching move from the Reds’ viewpoint. Garrett was probably on his way out anyway, but trading a younger reliever for a declining veteran starter doesn’t make much sense. Minor does bring experience and perhaps a change of scenery could help him turn things around. Also, he is going to provide a majority of the workload for the very young rotation. The Reds are basically going to use him as an innings eater. However, Minor, along with Luis Castillo, will begin the season on the injured list. If he can return and pitch well, perhaps he is one of the pieces the Reds flip at the deadline. That probably also includes Castillo. 

Jake Fraley, OF

In another post-lockout trade, the Reds sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to the Seattle Mariners for Fraley, Justin Dunn, southpaw Brandon Williamson, and a player to be named later. Fraley was a rookie last season after getting a cup of coffee with the Mariners in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The 26-year-old played 78 games for Seattle, appearing at every position in the outfield. His .352 on-base percentage was tied for the fifth-highest ever by a Mariners rookie. He also averaged a walk every 5.76 plate appearances, fourth-best in the majors behind Yasmani Grandal (4.31), Juan Soto (4.51), and Joey Gallo (5.55). Fraley is a solid addition to the roster as they begin to turn it over. He will have a number of opportunities for the Reds with his versatility.

Justin Dunn, RHP

The other major piece to the Winker/Suarez trade, Dunn made starts for the Mariners in each of the last three seasons. The right-hander has a lot of intriguing traits and was once a top 100 prospect. However, Dunn has not pitched since June 17 while dealing with shoulder issues. While the Reds hoped he would be able to get healthy and pitch as soon as possible, that won’t be the case. The former first-round pick has continued to suffer shoulder woes and will be out for at least a couple of months. While there is still a lot of promise for the future with Dunn, the injury concerns are worrisome. The Reds knew about the shoulder at the time of the trade, so they have no one to blame but themselves. This is another trade that got a somewhat underwhelming return and forces the Reds to play the long game. It could work out in the future but right now it is head-scratching.

Hunter Strickland, RHP, One Year/$1.8 Million

Moving onto the free-agent signings, the Reds added Strickland as they said goodbye to Garrett. The right-hander was very solid between three teams in 2021. With the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, and Milwaukee Brewers, Strickland posted a 1.73 ERA, 0.908 WHIP, and 9.4 strikeouts per nine in 36 1/3 innings. He will be an important piece to the Cincinnati bullpen that is lacking proven arms. Even with that said, don’t be surprised if he is a guy that is flipped at the deadline, even for a bag of peanuts.

Tommy Pham, OF, One Year/$7.5 Million (Mutual 2023 Option)

With the money they freed up with the trades, the Reds were able to add more outfield depth. Their outfield group will now consist of Pham, Nick Senzel, Tyler Naquin, and Fraley. The group certainly won’t hit as well as last year without Winker in the mix. But the train of thought for the Reds was to add extra depth and have guys who can platoon. Essentially, they added two new outfielders to replace Winker, with Pham looking to turn things around. He will get plenty of playing time, with a team far out of contention, but he posted just a 97 wRC+ the last two seasons. This move is another one that sets up Cincinnati flipping him at the deadline. So they hope he can turn it around to get the most value out of him that they can.

Subtractions

Jesse Winker, OF, Seattle Mariners

Winker was a first-time All-Star last season and finished the season with a .305/.394/.556 slash line with 24 home runs, 32 doubles, and 140 OPS+. It is certainly a big bat to lose but the Reds made it obvious they are burning it all down. The other piece they received in the trade, in Williamson, is now ranked by MLB Pipeline as their fifth-ranked prospect. The left-hander split 2021 between High-A and Double-A while posting a 37.4 percent strikeout rate. He could move up quickly and make his major league debut at some point this season.

Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Seattle Mariners

Suarez was an All-Star in 2018 but has fallen off a bit the last two seasons. He hit below the Mendoza line in 2021 (.198) and recorded a career-low 80 OPS+. His bWAR was negative 0.7 and he struck out nearly 30 percent of the time. Getting something for him, even if it meant throwing him in another deal, was a good move. The player to be named later in the trade turned out to be Connor Phillips, a right-hander who was a second-round pick in 2020. He is a nice addition to the farm system and it makes the trade package a little more intriguing.

Amir Garrett, LHP, Kansas City Royals

Garrett had a down 2021 season and his value was at its lowest point. Perhaps if they waited until the trade deadline, Cincinnati could have gotten a better return if he turned things around. Nonetheless, they are now without one of the top high-leverage relievers from the 2019 and 2020 seasons, when he was at his best. 

Sonny Gray, RHP, Minnesota Twins

The Reds traded Gray and relief prospect, Francis Peguero, to the Twins for 2021 first-rounder Chase Petty. The right-hander lands at number seven on the Reds’ top prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Cincinnati loses an ace in Gray, but the return is very solid, as Petty is a flamethrower who can reach triple digits. He also flashes a plus slider that can get whiffs. The New Jersey native made his brief pro debut at the Florida Complex League, where he struck out six and walked just one in five innings. If he can fine-tune his mechanics and control, Petty has the stuff to be a starter.

Nick Castellanos, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Another big loss in the lineup, Castellanos signed with the Phillies after the lockout ended. He was an All-Star for the first time last year in his second season with the Reds. The 2010 first-round pick smacked 34 homers while driving in 100 runs and posting a 136 OPS+. After the season he received MVP votes, finishing 12th in the voting. He was never going to return to the Reds, as he opted out of the final two years of his contract and declined the qualifying offer. I pride myself and think of myself as a man of faith, as there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos and that’ll be a home run. And so that’ll make it a 4-0 ballgame.

2022 Outlook 

Frankly speaking, Joey Votto deserves so much better. As the 38-year-old approaches the end of his career, the front office is showing no desire to win right now, even in a weak division. It is going to be a season of valleys with barely any peaks. The only peaks will be when the Reds get a look at their young prospects, such as top prospect Hunter Greene. It was announced on Wednesday that the right-hander will begin the season in the big league rotation. The second overall pick in 2017 out of high school, Greene is a flamethrowing righty who has been clocked at 104 mph with his fastball. Between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville last season, the 22-year-old went 10-8 with a 3.30 ERA and 139 strikeouts over 106 1/3 innings. He missed the previous two and a half years due to undergoing Tommy John surgery and the pandemic wiping out the 2020 minor league season. Greene will make his debut on April 10 against the Atlanta Braves.

Another young pitcher to watch for is southpaw Nick Lodolo, who could make his debut on April 13, although he isn’t officially in the rotation yet. The 24-year-old was Cincinnati’s first-round pick in 2019 and was actually a teammate of Williamson at TCU. Other than those two and Williamson, the other top prospects are at least a year or two away. Right now it’s about building for the future, and that will mean trading veteran pieces at the deadline for more prospects. Building around 2021 NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India will be the main thing the Reds should focus on.

Prediction: 70-92

As previously mentioned, the Reds are focused on the future and won’t be very good this year. They have a couple of bright spots, but this is a team that might barely avoid the dungeon. The Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be better than they have been over the last few years, and the Reds are going to fall. Either way, Cincinnati doesn’t have the makings of a team that will finish higher than fourth in the division. Even after the Chicago Cubs sold off their core last season, they still went out and made improvements in the offseason. The St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers will be the teams to beat in the division. 


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