USATSI_16590787
USATSI_16590787

With MLB's regular season ending this weekend, Bally Sports is reviewing the performance of each club with a look at what happened in 2021 and what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the Cincinnati Reds.

What went right

• At 37 years old, Joey Votto turned back time and produced his best offensive season in four years, hitting .270/.379/.568 with 35 home runs, 96 RBIs and 75 walks in 126 games going into the final weekend. He also set a club record with home runs in seven straight games in late July, falling one short of tying the MLB record. Votto had other highlights too, kind of off-the-field stuff with fans like the little girl in San Diego who got upset because Votto was ejected by an umpire for arguing a call. Well, Votto made up for it and then some. He had quite a season.

• Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos were 1-2 in batting average in the National League for a number of weeks and are both still in the top 10. Winker twice hit three home runs in a game. Castellanos drove in seven runs against the Phillies in June.

• Wade Miley threw a no-hitter in May, finished the season with a 3.37 ERA and is still in the top 10 in WAR at Baseball-Reference.

• The Reds went a combined 47-34 in June, July and August, putting themselves in position to return to the postseason for a second straight year.

What went wrong

• Eugenio Suárez ended up with 30 homers after a strong finish. He’s hitting .355/.446/.790 with seven homers in September/October, but he was a missing person for five months. He’s signed through 2025, so presumably he will get another shot. But he’s batting.195/.289/.432 with 236 strikeouts in his past 199 games.

• The Reds bullpen gave them trouble all season, especially in the first half (5.15 ERA), blowing lead after lead.

• The Reds went 24-28 in April/May and are 11-15 in September, digging themselves a big hole and tuckering out at the end.

Top players

• Winker, Votto and Castellanos are in the top eight in the NL in wOBA going into the final weekend. Jonathan India gives them four in the league’s top 30 offensive players.

Top rookie

After not necessarily being the first choice to play everyday, India became one of the premier second basemen in the NL. He’s batting .270/.377/.461 with 21 homers and 12 steals.

Reasons for optimism

• Right-hander Luís Castilo got off to a miserable start in April and May — his ERA was 7.22 — but posted a 2.77 ERA in his final 21 starts.

• It took all season, but the Reds finished with a collection of relief pitchers who might make for a strong bullpen in 2022. If a group of Lucas Sims, Tejay Antone, Tony Santillan, Michael Lorenzen, Luis Cessa and Art Warren can hold up, that’s a strong beginning. And if Amir Garrett can pivot on a brutal year and start fresh, the Reds might really have something.

• The starting rotation lacks depth, but Castillo, Miley, Tyler Mahle and Sonny Gray are a better group than a lot of other teams can say. It could use a strong free-agent addition, but we said the same thing the previous offseason and the Reds didn’t go shopping for one.

• Tyler Stephenson looks like a good young hitter who can play catcher or first base, with Votto sitting against lefties.

• The Reds have a strong farm system, perhaps top-10, with right-hander Hunter Greene the top dog.

What needs work

• Castellanos might opt out of his contract, and that would leave a huge hole in right field. Tyler Naquin filled in well in center at least as a platoon player, but the Reds don’t want to have two spots to fill in the starting outfield.

• Kyle Farmer performed well on defense and squeezed every ounce from his hitting abilities, but if any team could use one of the top free-agent shortstops on the market this winter, it’s the Reds. They might give José Barréro another shot. He has hit well in the minors but not yet with the Reds in brief trials.

Check out earlier MLB Exit Interviews

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