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Cincinnati Reds Fantasy Superlatives: Joey Votto on the Comeback Trail

The Cincinnati Reds have a breakout ace in Luis Castillo and you should be looking forward to a big comeback season from Joey Votto according to SI Fantasy high-stakes guru Shawn Childs.

Breakout: SP Luis Castillo

Even with a big push forward in wins (15), ERA (3.40), and strikeouts (226), Castillo left some stats on the table in 2019.

His walk rate (3.7) was a disaster when considering his success (2.6) in this area in 2018 with the Reds. He did have a significant spike in his strikeout rate (10.7 – 8.8 in 2018).

Over his first 24 starts, Castillo went 11-4 with a 2.69 ERA, .192 BAA, and 172 strikeouts over 143.2 innings. He allowed two runs or fewer in 19 of his starts over this stretch.

His fade in ERA came from three disaster games (18 runs and 27 baserunners over 15.1 innings) over his final eight starts (5.55 ERA), but batters only hit .230 against him over his step back in value.

Most of the damage in home runs (13 over 358 at-bats) came against left-handed hitters. Castillo had an edge against righties (.194) and lefties (.209).

His AVB (96.5) fell in line with 2018. His growth and success came via his electric changeup (.129 BAA and 153 Ks over 295 at-bats) and his plus slider (.195 BAA). He works off a four-seam (.272 BAA) and sinker (.289 BA) combination with his fastball with both pitches needing better location in the strike zone.

His failure in command came from a step back in his first-pitch strike rate (56). On the verge of greatness if he can throw 65 percent strikes and improve the command of his fastball in the strike zone, which he did in 2018. Castillo is a ground ball pitcher (55.2 percent – 52.0 in his career), but his HR/FB rate (17.9) remains too high.

A tempting cheat ace with an ADP of 42 in the early draft season. Next step: sub 2.50 ERA and 250-plus strikeouts.

Breakout: OF Nick Castellanos

After playing for the first two-thirds of the season for the lowly Tigers, Castellanos turned his first-half doubles (37 over 403 at-bats) into a massive run with the Cubs (.321 with 43 runs, 16 home runs, and 36 RBI over 212 at-bats).

His low RBI total (73) was created by a sharp decline in RBI chances (332 – 400 in 2018) and a step back in his RBI rate (14 – 17 in 2018). Castellanos finished with a league-average strikeout rate (21.5) and a below-par walk rate (6.2).

His best value came against lefties (.370 with eight home runs and 19 RBI over 108 at-bats). Most of his power came in August (.348 with 24 runs, 11 HRs, and 20 RBI over 115 at-bats).

His hard-hit rate (41.4) ranked 128th with minimal change in his HR/FB rate (14.4 – 13.6 in 2018 and 12.2 in his career). With an ADP of 96 and a better supporting cast, Castellanos could be on the verge of a breakout season in power.

His underlying stats suggest more of the same or a .280/80/25/80 player. The gambler in me wants to predict 40-plus home runs with a career-high in runs and RBI.

Value: OF Nick Senzel

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Senzel ended spring training with a right ankle issue, pushing him to AAA in April, where he worked on playing in centerfield.

The Reds called him up on May 1st. Senzel played well over the first three months in the majors (.285 with 40 runs, eight HRs, 30 RBI, and nine SBs over 263 at-bats) while battling another right ankle issue and a hamstring injury in July.

His season ended on a down note (.188 with four HRs, 12 RBI, and five SBs over 112 at-bats) tied to a torn labrum in his right shoulder that required in September.

His strikeout rate (24.4) and walk rate (7.3) needs work. Senzel played well against lefties (.316 with three HRs and 16 RBI over 95 at-bats).

Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .313 with 28 home runs, 132 RBI, and 40 stolen bases over 904 at-bats.

Senzel struggled in two straight seasons with injuries, and his shoulder surgery has to have an impact on his power this year. I believe he is the best developing bat on Cinci with a chance to hit third in the lineup down the road. His RBI rate (17) was an asset out of the gate.

Senzel should be ready for opening day with an ADP (219) that looks favorable if he played a full season. A chance at hitting .300 with a 20/20 skill set. I’d plan on less power, but he should be in the starting lineup on most days. I’d like to see him driving the ball over the fence in spring training.

Deep Sleeper: SP Tyler Mahle

Over seven seasons in the minors, Mahle has a 46-31 record with a 2.87 ERA and 548 strikeouts over 596.2 innings with success at AAA (2.85 ERA and 84 Ks over 98 innings).

In 2018, he struggled with walks (4.3 per nine) and home runs (1.8) in the majors. Last year Mahle showed growth in his foundation skill-set (walk rate – 2.4 and strikeout rate – 9.0), but he still allowed too many home runs (1.7 per nine) while being too easy to hit (.266).

Over three seasons with Reds, Mahle went 11-23 with a 4.88 ERA and 253 strikeouts over 261.2 innings. He looked viable over his first nine starts (3.51 ERA and 54 K over 51.1 innings) while crushing fantasy teams over his next ten starts (6.35 ERA, .288 BAA, and 11 HRs over 51 innings).

A hamstring injury led to a trip on the injured list and back to AAA.

There was no excitement in his arm in September (5.93 ERA and seven HRs over 27.1 innings). His AFB (93.7) was a career-best in his limited time in the majors.

Mahle showed life with his curveball (.214 BAA) while developing more confidence in split-finger (.230 BAA).

His change in approach to batters did lead to a higher ground ball rate (47.0), but his HR/FB rate (20.8) remains a disaster. Only a backend flier (ADP – 456) that may come quickly in 2020. Bet on his improved command while understanding the risk/reward here.

Comeback: 1B Joey Votto

Votto killed fantasy teams over the past two seasons.

His RBI rate (11) in 2019 was utterly embarrassing, while both his contact batting average (.341) and average hit rate (1.577) fell off a cliff.

He only had one home run and ten RBI over 152 at-bats against left-handed pitching.

Votto still has a high walk rate (12.5), but it came in well below his career average (16.0). He also set a career-high in his strikeout rate (20.0).

Votto had 12 RBI or fewer in every month last year while never hitting over four home runs in a month. His hard-hit rate (37.7) was league average at best. He had a similar swing path as his career resume while posting a Judy-like HR/FB rate (9.8) for the second straight year (9.5 in 2018), which came after success in 2015 (21.6), 2016 (22.0), and 2017 (19.7).

Votto did battle a back issue in April, June, and a trip to the injured list in August. Pretty much a fading player with lost confidence. His ADP (271) seems high for his career resume, but his play of late screams avoid. Bet on his resume if Votto has a spark in his game in spring training while respecting the improvement of the Reds’ starting lineup.

READ MORE: 2020 Cincinnati Reds Fantasy Team Preview

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