The Cincinnati Reds will be entering the second half of the 2015 season at 4th place in the National League Central with a record of 39 – 47. After starting their season off with bang by sweeping the Pirates in their opening series and winning their first four games, things quickly turned south as they went on to lose seven of their next eight games. They have been below .500 since May 15.
Much of Cincinnati’s struggles can be attributed to the loss of three key players to season ending injury. Homer Bailey only pitched two games before an MRI revealed a torn ligament in his right elbow. He underwent Tommy John Surgery in May and should be back on the mound by the beginning of the 2016 season.
Devin Mesoraco will also miss the rest of the season after having surgery to repair his left hip impingement. Mesoraco came into the 2015 season with high expectations after a breakthrough year in 2014, where he slugged 25 home runs and earned his first all-star honor. He was replaced by 24 year old rookie Tucker Barnhart who has been splitting the duties as catcher with veteran Brayan Pena.
Shortstop Zack Cozart had a solid start to the season, but that was cut short after suffering a torn ligament in his right knee during a game against the Phillies on June 10. He too underwent season ending surgery in June.
The bright side to all these injuries is that young players, such as Eugenio Suarez, and Michael Lorenzen, have been given the opportunity to show what they can do. Since taking over at shortstop in replace of Cozart, Suarez has proven that he can compete at the major league level, batting .311 with 4 homeruns in 26 games. Lorenzen has been a solid replacement for Baily in the starting rotation with an ERA of 3.53 in 12 starts.
Graphic via dispatch
Home run derby champion and all-star Todd Frazier has been one of the few positive stories to come out of Cincinnati this season. He has proven himself as one of the top power hitters in the National League with a .284 batting average, 25 home runs, and 57 RBIs. Veteran first baseman Joey Votto has had a relatively quiet season thus far, batting only .277 with 15 home runs. The good news is that he has stayed healthy after missing most of the 2014 season with a knee injury.
Center fielder Billy Hamilton may be the most exciting player to watch in the game right now as he wreaks havoc to pitchers every time he gets on base. He currently leads the majors with 44 stolen bases. He will, however need to bring up his on base percentage up over .300 if he ever wants to be a dominant force in this league.
Their bullpen (with the exception of J.J. Hoover, and All-Star Aroldis Chapman) has been a disaster all season long. They currently have the third worst bullpen ERA in the National League at 4.23. They should be looking to fix some of these holes as the trade deadline approaches.
The Reds will be one of the most important teams to watch as the July 31st trade deadline quickly approaches. Although they will likely not be contenders for a playoff this season, you can guarantee that they will be making some big trades as they aim to repair their struggling bullpen and bring in some top prospects and turn their focus to 2016. Most of the focus will be on ace Johnny Cueto, whose contract is up at the end of this year will most likely go to an American League contender like Houston, Kansas City, Baltimore, or Toronto.
Closer Aroldis Chapman, whose contract is also up at the end of the season, will also likely be gone by July 31st trade deadline. Other players, including Mike Leake, Marlon Byrd, and Jay Bruce are also candidates for late season trades as the Reds look to rebuild for next season.
Although the Reds may not be making a push for the playoffs this season, this young team will be making plenty of big moves and gaining valuable experience. Their first series back after the break they will host their American League rival Cleveland Indians in a three game series starting July 17. Perhaps all of the excitement and fanfare from the All-Star Game will give them some momentum going into the second half.
Graphic via bleacherreport.com