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2020 Fantasy Baseball: Cincinnati Reds Team Preview

Enjoy this preview of the 2020 Cincinnati Reds brought to you by the folks over at FullTime Fantasy. Subscribe there for the full article with every need-to-know player!

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds finished with a losing record for the sixth straight season. Their last trip to the playoffs came in 2013. Over the previous 24 years, Cincinnati made the postseason three times. They have five World Series titles (1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, and 1990) and 15 playoff appearances in the team’s 138-year history.

Last season their offense remained flat in runs (701 – 24th), home runs (227 – 14th), and RBI (679 – 24th). The Reds allowed 108 runs fewer than 2018 (819), pushing them to eighth in ERA (4.18). Cinci ended last year with the seventh most saves (46).

Cincinnati invested in Japan import Shogo Akiyama to take over in centerfield. They signed a pair of power bats (OF Nick Castellanos and 2B Mike Moustakas) to beef up the middle of their starting lineup. The only two additions to the pitching staff were SP Wade Miley and RP Pedro Strop.

The starting rotation has three intriguing arms (Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Trevor Bauer) plus SP Tyler Mahle and SP Anthony DeSclafani offer upside in the back of the rotation. The ninth inning should be in good hands with RP Raisel Iglesias, and the Reds have a couple developing arms in the bullpen.

Their offense should be much improved with growth expected in runs and power. The Reds also have more depth on their bench to help cover some in-season injuries.

Cincinnati looks on the verge of a playoff berth if they stay healthy and perform up to expectations.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF Shogo Akiyama

The Reds found a lead-off bat in the off-season who offers a high walk rate (10.8). Akiyama only missed five total games over the past five seasons in Japan, where he hit .321 with 531 runs, 94 home runs, 350 RBI, and 78 stolen bases over 2,948 at-bats. Both his CTBA (.371) and his AVH (1.553) are trending down while having a low strikeout rate (14.3). He projects to have mid-teen speed, but Akiyama isn’t a great base stealer (63.3 percent success rate).

His best overall year came in 2017 (.322 with 106 runs, 24 home runs, 89 RBI, and 16 steals over 575 at-bats). He has a left-handed bailout swing that will lead to plenty of ground balls and line drives. Akiyama may struggle to drive fastballs on the inner half of the plate in the majors, but he can sit on pitches that lead to pull power. His at-bats should rise by a minimum of ten percent, pointing to over 110 runs. 

My early projections see him as a .280 hitter with a 15/75/15 skill set. In the early draft season in the high stake’s market, Akiyama has an ADP of 275. Worth a flier based on his price point with the right team structure. Last November, he broke his right foot while expecting to be ready for spring training.  

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2. 1B Joey Votto

Votto killed fantasy teams over the past two seasons. His RBI rate (11) in 2019 was utterly embarrassing, while both his CTBA (.341) and AVH (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 (270) 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.  

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3. 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). 

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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 115 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 gamble in me wants to predict 40-plus home runs with a career-high in runs and RBI.  

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4. 2B Mike Moustakas

Over the last three years, Moustakas turned into an excellent source of power (101 HRs and 267 RBI over 1,651 at-bats). Even with success, his batting average (.259) over this span offers no upside due to a low CTBA (.313). His strikeout rate (16.8) remains favorable while showing growth in his walk rate (9.1). 

Moustakas continues to have an elite average hit rate (2.030). His lefty bat had success against left-handed pitching (.276 with 11 HRs and 27 RBI over 163 at-bats). He started the year with a productive first half (.263 with 25 HRs and 53 RBI over 323 at-bats), but Moustakas looked rather mediocre after the All-Star break (.240 with ten HRs and 34 RBI over 200 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (40.7) came in 144th. Some of his batting average risk comes from a high fly-ball rate (45.3 – 44.5 in his career). In three of the previous four seasons, he had strength in his HR/FB rate (19.4 in 2016, 17.8 in 2017, and 18.2 in 2019). Moustakas gains some advantage by qualifying at second base. 

His ADP (108) places him as the 11th at the second base. Last year he struggled with his RBI rate (14). A nice bat with a decent floor in home runs (30) and RBI (85), but his runs tend to fall short of the league average with no sign of growth in batting average.

Fantasy Baseball, Eugenio Suarez Cincinnati Reds
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5. 3B Eugenio Suarez

Over the last four seasons, Suarez turned himself from an afterthought in potential power to a pure basher. His AVH (2.109) and CTBA (.404) were career-highs while improving in each of the past three years. He did trade power for strikeouts (28.6 percent – 23.4 in 2018) while repeating the value of his walk rate (10.6). Suarez had similar success against righties (.270 with 38 HRs and 79 RBI over 452 at-bats) and lefties (.276 with 11 HRs and 24 RBI over 123 at-bats). 

After a poor June (.185 with three HRs and eight RBI over 92 at-bats), his bat exploded over the second half of the year (.296 with 49 runs, 32 HRs, and 55 RBI over 277 at-bats). He finished 141st in hard-hit rate (40.8). Suarez had a career-high in his fly-ball rate (42.3) and HR/FB rate (29.5). Late in the year, Suarez battled a left-hand injury after getting hit with a pitch while also having surgery in late January to repair an issue with his right shoulder. 

I don't believe he belongs in the cleanup slot in the batting order based on his RBI rate (14). His ADP (61) is high after his breakout in power. He is settling into a .260 hitter with a 90/30/90 skill set.

To view the full starting lineup, which also includes player analysis for Nick Senzel, Tucker Barnhart, Freddy Galvis, Aristides Aquino, Jesse Winker, Curt Casali, Kyle Farmer, Phillip Ervin and Mark Payton, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Cincinnati Reds Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 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. Part of 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 47 in the early draft season. Next step: sub 2.50 ERA and 250-plus strikeouts.  

Fantasy Baseball, Trevor Bauer Cincinnati Reds
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SP2 Trevor Bauer

Bauer failed to repeat his growth in walk rate (2.9) in 2019 (3.5) while also serving up 1.4 home runs per nine innings. His ERA (4.48) more than doubled (2.21) from 2018 while remaining tough to hit .230. Over 24 starts with the Indians, he had a 3.79 ERA over 156.2 innings with 185 strikeouts and better success in BAA (.218). Bauer allowed four runs or more in nine of his starts with Cleveland. His arm was up and down with the Reds over ten starts (6.39 ERA) with his four bad days (27 runs and 36 baserunners over 18.1 innings) outweighing his limited shining moments. 

He allowed 20 of his 34 home runs to left-handed batters over 364 at-bats. His AVB (94.8) dropped slightly with more of the damage in lost velocity coming from his slider (82.7 MPH – 84.6 in 2018) and his cutter (84.8 – 87.4 in 2018). Bauer had the most success with his curveball (.168 BAA), slider (.186 BAA), and sinker (.169 BAA). The battle here starts with his four-seam fastball (.276 BAA with 49 walks over 294 at-bats). His fly-ball rate (40.4) rose the third straight season while also having a sharp decline in his ground ball rate (37.6 – 44.5 in 2018). 

Only a bipolar pitching option that fantasy owners will try to justify in 2020. Can his success in 2018 (2.21 ERA and 221 Ks) translate higher if he repeats his growth in innings in 2019 (213)? His ADP (82) does paint an inviting picture. I'll shoot for the middle here – 3.50 ERA with 240 strikeouts, while Bauer’s WHIP has a wide range of outcomes.  

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SP3 Sonny Gray

The escape from New York played well for Gray in 2019. He had a massive jump in his strikeout rate (10.5 – 8.5 in 2018 and 8.3 in his career) despite minimal improvement in his walk rate (3.5). Batters only hit .196 against him, which led to his best season since 2015 (2.73 ERA). Gray didn’t have any disaster games (four runs or fewer allowed in all 31 starts) while allowing two runs or less in 20 contests. 

His best success came from August 4th to September 5th (0.84 ERA and 15 Ks over 42.2 innings). He had the same exact value against righties (.196) and lefties (.196). His AFB (93.7) fell in line with his previous three seasons. Both his slider (.121 BAA) and curveball (.128 BAA) created a winning edge while chipping in with an uptick in his sinker (.208 BAA) and show-me changeup (.231 BAA). Any downside comes from his four-seamer (.331 BBA). Gray missed his final start in 2019 due to a right elbow issue that required surgery in late September to remove loose fragments. He remains a ground ball pitcher (50.8 percent) with some risk in his HR/FB rate (13.0). Over seven seasons in the majors, Gray went 70-60 with a 3.53 ERA and 994 strikeouts over 1,076 innings. 

I don’t believe last year was a fluke, but his ERA will drift back to the 3.50 ERA unless he cleans up his command. Fantasy owners price him as an SP3 in 2020 based on his ADP (103). With an injury history since 2015 and under 180 innings pitched in each of his previous four years, I would be careful to overprice him this year.  

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CL/RP Raisel Iglesias

There was plenty of frustration for Iglesias and fantasy owners in 2019. The Reds tried to extend his arm earlier in the year with the idea of creating a Josh Hader impact in innings. Over his first 16.2 innings, Iglesias posted a 4.86 ERA and 1.440 WHIP over 16.2 innings while serving up four home runs. He settled down over the next month (no runs over 12.1 innings with 14 Ks and seven successful saves). From June 11th to August 31st, Iglesias converted 14 of 17 save chances with a ton of bad innings (6.59 ERA, 1.463 WHIP, and seven HRs over 27.1 innings). 

His season ended with a 1.69 ERA, one walk, 15 strikeouts, and seven saves over his final 10.2 innings. He struggled on the road (1-10 with a 5.79 ERA and 48 Ks over 32.2 innings) while having the same value against right-handed (.240) and left-handed (.241) batters. His AFB (95.7) faded slighted over the past two seasons. Iglesias offers three pitches of value (four-seam – .226 BAA, slider – .191 BAA, and changeup – .227 BAA). Most of his failures came from home runs (1.6 per nine), which was the same problem in 2018 (1.5 per nine). He did have growth in his walk rate (2.8) and strikeout rate (12.0). 

Look from a bounce-back in 2020 with a push toward a 2.50 ERA, a run at 40 saves, and an edge in strikeouts. Iglesias can be found with pick 149 in the early 2020 draft season.  

To view the full pitching staff, which also includes player analysis for Anthony DeSclafani, Tyler Mahle, Wade Miley, Jose De Leon, Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Cincinnati Reds Team Outlook