This season has not gone as well as Reds fans would have liked, but the hometown club is once again giving us a little reason to hope for better things to come. Dating back to the last day of July, the Reds are 25-21. In the 74 previous games, the Reds were a miserable 25-49. So things are getting better, slowly but surely.
With just twelve games remaining on the Reds schedule, it is time to reflect on the 2017 season while also looking forward to next year’s roster. Which means it’s time for an update to our comprehensive Reds Player Power Rankings. As will be reflected below, the Reds late surge has been fueled by rookie pitchers, and that caused some interesting rumblings at the top of the rankings, including two names in the top ten who had never before appeared on this unimpeachably correct list.
Let’s count ‘em down! And remember: This is only an exhibition. This is not a competition. Please, no wagering.
Dropped out of rankings:
Arismendy Alcantara (Previous Rank: 24)
Barrett Astin (31)
Lisalverto Bonilla (32)
Jake Buchanan (35)
Tony Cingrani (23)
Anthony DeSclafani (29th in original rankings)
Blake Wood (20)
41. Bronson Arroyo, P (Previous Rank: 36): It’s been a fabulous career—one that will land him in the Reds Hall of Fame—and we’ll be happy to celebrate it with Arroyo’s post-game concert and retirement party in a couple of weeks. But this last time around the carousel hasn’t exactly been spectacular.
40. Alejandro Chacin, P (Not Ranked): Chacin has been pretty good the last couple of seasons in the minors, but he hasn’t enjoyed his first taste of major league life: a 10.80 ERA in five appearances. There are better things ahead for this 24-year-old.
39. Chad Wallach, C (NR): Appeared in three games for the Reds, thanks to the fact that Stuart Turner and Tucker Barnhart didn’t consult each other about paternity leave prior to all the late-August baby shenanigans. Posted a slash line of .000/.000/.000. His dad was a good player.
38. Keury Mella, P (NR): The 23-year-old Mella—who had struggled a bit this year in his first exposure to Double-A—was called up to the Reds one week ago, and he is wearing Mario Soto’s old #36 in the Cincinnati dugout/bullpen. He has not, however, appeared in a game yet this season.
37. Ariel Hernandez, P (17): Dropped twenty spots in these rankings, the largest drop of any Reds player. Lots of people have been raving over Hernandez, but the results at the big league level haven’t lived up to the hype. He’s appeared in 14 games with a 7.13 ERA. It’s all about the walks; Hernandez has handed out free passes to 17 hitters in 17.2 innings pitched.
36. Luke Farrell, P (NR): He’s been fine in his four appearances since the Reds picked him up off the waiver wire in early August. Not sure he has a future in the Reds bullpen, but at least he’ll get to hang out with his dad—Red Sox manager John Farrell—this weekend when Boston comes to town.
35. Zach Vincej, IF (NR): This is a kid who has a real chance to stick in the big leagues as a backup. I love his current batting line: .000/.429/.000.
34. Asher Wojciechowski, P (29): Say this for Wojo: when the Reds needed an arm, he was always available. There’s no way to sugarcoat things—it has been a bad season (6.29 ERA)—but perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope for the future. In 13 appearances out of the bullpen, Wojciechowski is 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA. Also, note that I spelled “Wojciechowski” correctly three times in this paragraph. Three cheers for me!
33. Deck McGuire, P (NR): McGuire was brilliant with Double-A Pensacola this year, and he has been almost perfect in his first two big league appearances. Unfortunately, he is 28, so not sure what the long-term prospects are for ol’ Deck. If baseball doesn’t work out, I think he has a future in a 1940s radio serial: Deck McGuire, PI For Hire.
32. Kevin Shackelford, P (NR): Another 28 year-old reliever who made his big league debut for the Reds this season. At times, Shack has been effective, and he’s been an extremely effective pitcher in the minors. I think he’ll get a shot to make next year’s bullpen, but if not, I’m sure Deck McGuire will need a comic foil.
31. Amir Garrett, P (25): Garrett was #2 in the initial rankings after beginning his MLB career with 12 shutout innings, the first Red to accomplish that feat since Wayne Simpson in 1970. It has been a precipitous fall since then, as his Triple-A stats (5.72 ERA) don’t look appreciably better than his MLB ones (7.49). The good news? Garrett has gotten healthy and his last two starts for Louisville were good. Keep an eye on him the rest of the season to see if there are positive signs.
30. Austin Brice, P (18): Brice had been somewhat effective before straining his right lat and going on the disabled list. He’s just 25, and will likely be in the conversation for the Reds bullpen next year.
29. Stuart Turner, C (33): Looks like the Reds are going to pull it off. Cincinnati selected Stuart Turner in the Rule 5 draft, which means they had to keep him on the big league roster all year or return him to the Twins. Though he has been here all year, Turner has only appeared in 33 games, thanks to injury, the aforementioned paternity leave, and poor performance (.141/.184/.268). Turner will be starting catcher for the 2018 Louisville Bats, but his glove is good enough that he could find a spot as a backup on the big league roster at some point.
28. Scott Feldman, P (19): Feldman had season-ending surgery on his knee back in August. Before that, he had been kinda Scott Feldmanny all year long. He Feldmanned to a 4.77 ERA in 21 starts, a typical Feldmanesque slightly below-average season. In a bout of Feldmania, the Reds may try to bring him back on a low-dollar contract next year, but he’s likely to be providing his particular brand of Feldmanicity for other locales in 2018 and beyond.
27. Rookie Davis, P (28): No comment. Too exhausted by the inanity (Feldmanity?) of the previous paragraph.
26. Tim Adleman, P (21): Hey, did you know that Adleman led all Reds pitchers in innings pitched in 2017? Well, it’s true! (This has been the latest installment of everyone’s favorite series: Why the Cincinnati Reds are in Last Place!)
25. Brandon Finnegan, P (14): Finnegan is smarter than the rest of us. He strained a muscle in his left shoulder. While on the disabled list—in a brilliant bid to ensure that he would not have to return to the lousy 2017 Reds—Finnegan fell off a boat and injured his other shoulder. Pretty sneaky, Finny!
24. Cody Reed, P (26): Here’s a stat that will tell you everything you need to know about former star prospect Cody Reed: in 15.1 innings pitched for the Reds this season, Reed has struck out 16 and walked 16. That ratio won’t get it done, friends. On the other hand, in 8 appearances as a reliever, Reed has a 2.03 ERA (though is still walking too many people). He may end up in the bullpen full-time.
23. Drew Storen, P (12): Storen grew up a Reds fan, and he was a league-average pitcher for his childhood team. Nothing spectacular, but he didn’t hurt the club either. Unfortunately, he couldn’t escape the always-painful Curse of the Reds Pitchers. He’ll undergo Tommy John surgery soon.
22. Devin Mesoraco, C (10): This guy. You know what I mean? Don’t walk across the street with Mesoraco, because no one on earth has worse luck. This year’s injury: fractured foot after being hit by a pitch. Sheesh. Someone tell him to stay away from ladders and black cats.
21. Patrick Kivlehan, OF (22): I can’t think of a single reason Patrick Kivlehan is ranked this high. Probably because he has a cool name.
20. Jackson Stephens, P (NR): Stephens makes his Power Rankings debut in the top 20, which seems great until you see that there are two more debutantes still to come. Stephens is just 23, so he was young at Triple-A, but he wasn’t particularly impressive (7-10, 4.92 ERA). His major league debut on July 1 was a nice five-inning outing in which he picked up a win. Since returning this month, he’s been very effective in all three relief outings, each one lasting more than one inning (including one three-inning stint). I’m still not sure what Stephens’ ceiling is, but he’s definitely in the mix. Expect him to be a starter at Louisville next year with a chance to return to the bigs when the Reds need a starting pitcher.
19. Phillip Ervin, OF (30): Ervin has impressed in his first taste of the big leagues (.300/.364/.500 in 20 games), enough so that some are wondering whether he should get the center field job over Billy Hamilton. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves—Ervin is probably destined to be a good fourth outfielder—but he’s certainly making a case for himself.
18. Homer Bailey, P (30th in original rankings; NR in last update): This was the toughest guy to rank. Bailey’s stats since returning from injury (5-8, 6.86 ERA) do not look good, I concede. But he has pitched at least six innings in 8 of his last 14 starts (and went 5.2 innings in two more), and he’s give up three runs or less in 9 of those 14. Yes, he’s had some stinkers in between—and much like cheese, when Homer stinks, he really stinks—but you can slowly see Bailey rounding back into form. I’m pretty optimistic about what Bailey can provide next year, though I think he’s likely going to be a #4 starter, at best.
17. Billy Hamilton, OF (9): Billy has disappointed me more than any other Red this season; after his brilliant second half of 2016, I expected more improvement at the plate. It hasn’t happened. He’s still a brilliant defender, a great baserunner—58 stolen bases—and at his best, he can be the most exciting player in baseball. Unfortunately, the chances that he’ll ever hit enough to justify batting him leadoff are very slim, indeed. He’s ever so fast, though.
16. Jose Peraza, IF (13): His overall stats aren’t good at all: .258/.298/.326. But since the beginning of July (57 games), Peraza’s on-base percentage is .333, and he’s walked 15 times. In the 75 games before that: .280 OBP, 5 walks. This improved performance coincides with a change in his swing that he has been working on with Reds hitting coach Don Long. He’s just 23, and I’m starting to get a little bullish on Peraza’s future. I look forward to seeing if this new approach sticks.
15. Robert Stephenson, P (34): If you told me earlier in the season that Bob Steve would jump up into the top 15 in these highly-scientific rankings…well, I don’t know what I would have done, because that’s kind of a strange thing for you to say to me. I mean, I don’t even know you. Stephenson since August 1: 8 games, 7 starts, 5-1, 2.52 ERA. He’s still walking too many, but this is the first real progress we’ve seen from Stephenson in a long time.
14. Adam Duvall, OF (5): Yes, he hit 30 home runs for the second straight season, but I fear Duvall’s trade value has dropped as precipitously as his batting average. He’s hitting .248/.295/.487 for the season (.204/.258/.387 in the second half), and he has stranded 292 runners on base this season (as of September 15), a figure that leads the majors by 40! Sure, he’s good defensively, but it’s getting hard to argue that Duvall should be starting over Scott Schebler or Jesse Winker
13. Michael Lorenzen, P (7): Another tale of two halves. Lorenzen had a 2.93 ERA with a 42/19 K/BB rate before the All-Star break; in the second half, those numbers dipped to a 5.63 ERA and 33/12. He’s still an above-average reliever. One wonders whether he could be an above-average starter
12. Wandy Peralta, P (8): He looks a lot like a left-handed Michael Lorenzen. He doesn’t strike out as many batters or bench press as many pounds, but he walks fewer and surrenders fewer hits. In the end, they’re both solid, 25-year-old relievers who should improve somewhat. If those two guys combine with Raisel Iglesias at the back of the bullpen, I think it can be a good relief corp in 2018.
11. Scott Schebler, OF (6): Sure, he kinda looks like a 37-year-old gym teacher, but if you look at it the right way, Schebler has secretly had a pretty good season. You know about the 27 home runs, but when he has been healthy, Schebler has mashed the ball. He’s hitting .258/.346/.539 since returning from the disabled list. Before getting hurt, Schebler put up similar numbers, posting a 876 OPS. Unfortunately, it was the two months that he tried to play through an injured shoulder that dropped his overall numbers. He’s a good candidate for a real breakout season in 2018, if he can find a spot in the lineup.
10. Tyler Mahle, P (NR): Mahle is the first of four rookies in the top ten, and the most surprising. Not because of his talent—he has a career minor league ERA of 2.85 over five seasons since being drafted in the seventh round in 2013. Rather, it’s surprising because no one was sure the Reds would call up the 23-year-old right-hander. Since making his debut on August 27, Mahle has pitched well in four starts, posting a 2.70 ERA and displaying an uncommon maturity for a rookie pitcher. Do not be surprised if Mahle is firmly ensconced in the Reds rotation for the next five years.
9. Jesse Winker, OF (15): He’s been exactly what everyone expected (.277/.370/.500), with one big exception: He’s also hitting for power, with six home runs after hitting only two in Triple-A this season. Winker should be the starting right fielder and leadoff hitter for the 2018 Reds. Are you listening, Bryan Price?
8. Sal Romano, P (27): 14 starts, 4.07 ERA (better than league average), 23 years old, and seems to improve every single time he takes the mound. Really, you can’t realistically ask for a better rookie season than that.
6. Tucker Barnhart, C (11): Now this is a surprise. Did you know that Tucker’s 3.1 bWAR is the fourth-best on the team? He’s turned into a roughly league-average hitter who understands the strike zone. Meanwhile, his defense continues to improve, as he leads the entire majors in defensive runs above average and has thrown out more would-be base stealers than any catcher in either league. He’s like Ryan Hanigan with a better arm and a better beard.
5. Raisel Iglesias, P (3): Probably the best relief pitcher in the history of baseball.
4. Eugenio Suarez, IF (4): This kid just hit .267/.376/.480 with 26 homers and 81 RBI in his age-25 season while playing elite defense at third base. And the Reds acquired him for the bloated corpse of Alfredo Simon. My fondest wish is for Eugenio Suarez to be a Cincinnati Red for the next 700 years.
3. Luis Castillo, P (NR): How do you go from not being ranked in the first two editions of this project, because you’re toiling in Double-A, to shooting all the way up to number three? By being a very special player, that’s how. The 24-year-old Castillo made his debut on June 23, and he finishes the season with a 3.12 ERA and a 141 ERA+, while striking out almost 10 batters per nine. He posted 2.5 bWAR in 15 starts in his first taste of the big leagues. With a little luck, the Reds might have a legitimate ace on their hands.
2. Zack Cozart, IF (1): For the first time this season, Cozart has dropped out of the top spot in our rankings. It has been a career year for the shortstop, hitting .302/.391/.559 with 22 home runs and 4.9 bWAR. I don’t know what the Reds will do with Cozart, who is a free agent at season’s end. What I do know is this: Cozart has had a really good Reds career, and we’re going to miss him when he’s gone.
1. Joey Votto, IF (2): Master of his craft, taker of walks, sprayer of line drives, masher of home runs, hurler of foul balls, gifter of donkeys, summoner of tears, first of his name. We’re watching a future Hall of Famer, friends and neighbors. Enjoy him while you can.
Chad Dotson is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, ESPN’s SweetSpot blog, and the founder of Redleg Nation. You can follow him on Twitter at @dotsonc.