Knowing this season wasn't going to be a very good one, can it be considered a successful one?
No team that endures a 90-plus-loss season -- such as the Reds have in 2017 -- can pat itself on the back and say it was a successful one. Cincinnati had hoped this might be the year it turned the corner and put rebuilding in the past to focus on competing.
That doesn't mean there weren't highlights. From Joey Votto to Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez to Scooter Gennett, the Reds' lineup showed it was deep and capable of scoring runs and hitting for power. Six players had at least 20 homers this season. The team defense was strong -- in the infield and outfield, as well as behind the plate with Tucker Barnhart.
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However, Cincinnati's pitching staff -- namely the rotation -- fell very short and underperformed. There were too many injuries and not enough young guys able to step up and show they were ready. There were some bright spots, though, in the second half -- namely Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson.
Use your crystal ball and pick the 2018 starting rotation. I'll give you a list of likely candidates: Homer Bailey, Scott Feldman, Castillo, Stephenson, Brandon Finnegan, Anthony DeSclafani, Tim Adleman, Rookie Davis, Romano, Asher Wojciechowski, Amir Garrett, Tyler Mahle. Did I forget anybody?
-- Rick D., Vevay, Ind.
There's no guarantee Feldman will be back since he's a potential free agent. Among the rest, I will surmise the team opens 2018 with Bailey, DeSclafani, Castillo, Romano and Stephenson in the rotation. I'm not even including any mystery veteran free-agent starting pitcher that could be signed in the offseason, if the price is right.
If there are pitchers who deserve to make the rotation in spring and don't for whatever reason, that's a good problem for manager Bryan Price and the club to have. Rotation-predicting crystal balls are unreliable, though -- the Reds' starting pitching has been decimated each of the past couple of Spring Trainings by injuries.
Do the Reds have enough starting pitching to be in postseason contention next year?
If everyone pitches to their potential, that would seem possible to me. But it's rarely that simple. One thing missing from the current crop of pitchers is a guy that you can lock in for 30 starts and 200 innings. It can't be assumed with Bailey and DeSclafani because of their injury history, and none of the younger pitchers have come close to hitting that key plateau. Signing or trading for a veteran pitcher who can be counted on for consistent deep outings would be pivotal for anyone to believe Cincinnati can contend in 2018.
With the Barnhart extension, is it safe to say the starting catcher position is his over Devin Mesoraco's in 2018?
It's safe to say Barnhart has the inside track at being the Reds' regular starter. If both are healthy, I can see some sort of tandem situation, like what was planned before this season. For that to happen, Mesoraco has to show he can stay healthy and on the field and produce. He's more or less conceded that Barnhart has earned being the main guy, and that does seem where the future is headed. Mesoraco has one year and $13 million left on his four-year, $28 million contract. Barnhart will be starting his new four-year, $16 million deal next season.