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Votto's influence strong on Reds' 2018 lineup

Suarez, Winker poised for more production next season
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- For all the shortcomings the Reds had in 2017, the lineup's ability to produce power was not one of them. Cincinnati had a deep lineup that could clear the fences.

Although the club was middle-of-the-road in batting average, ranking eighth in the National League at .253, its 219 home runs were third-most in club history. A club-record six players hit at least 20 homers, five had at least 25 and three hitters -- Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler -- had at least 30.

CINCINNATI -- For all the shortcomings the Reds had in 2017, the lineup's ability to produce power was not one of them. Cincinnati had a deep lineup that could clear the fences.

Although the club was middle-of-the-road in batting average, ranking eighth in the National League at .253, its 219 home runs were third-most in club history. A club-record six players hit at least 20 homers, five had at least 25 and three hitters -- Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler -- had at least 30.

Subtract free agent shortstop Zack Cozart -- departed to the Angels -- and insert Jose Peraza and most of the Reds lineup is returning for 2018.

Video: Peraza looks ready to replace Cozart at shortstop

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineup of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Reds might stack up:

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Billy Hamilton, CF
Eugenio Suarez, 3B
Joey Votto, 1B
Adam Duvall, LF
Scott Schebler, RF
Scooter Gennett, 2B
Jose Peraza, SS
Tucker Barnhart, C

STRENGTH

Votto is possibly the best hitter in baseball, and he's coming off a season in which he was the runner-up for the NL Most Valuable Player Award. His influence and approach to hitting has spread to others, including Suarez, who seems poised to have a breakout year after huge improvements on both sides of his game last season.

Video: Hamilton turns in dynamic season for Reds in '17

QUESTION MARK

Hamilton has a sub-.300 on-base percentage for his career, and he must fulfill his potential to get on base more and set up opportunities for the hitters behind him, namely Votto. Duvall has been a poor second-half hitter with big fades in each of the past two seasons. Peraza has to fill Cozart's shoes after his All-Star season. Can the young shortstop, who struggled in the first half as the everyday second baseman and lost his job, carry his second-half improvements into 2018?

If prospect Jesse Winker gets into the lineup more often, it becomes very left-handed-heavy.

Video: Sheldon discusses Winker, Reds' outfield

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

The Reds want Winker to play more regularly, and they are prepared to go with a four-outfielder rotation. However, the club was willing to listen this offseason to trade proposals for both Hamilton and Duvall, and it's always possible they find a match. If Hamilton were dealt, there wouldn't be a natural replacement to both play center field and lead off. Winker could do the job, but he lacks speed. Schebler could play center field, but it's not the preferred option for manager Bryan Price.

Another X-factor is the team's top prospect, Nick Senzel. The third baseman will be at his first big league camp, and he will be given a shot to play up to five positions -- including the outfield for the first time. If Senzel forces the team's hand with a strong Spring Training, it might find him a place to play.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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