While pitchers and catchers will not report until mid-February, it’s never too early to look ahead at the upcoming season for the Cincinnati Reds and what lies ahead for them in 2016.
Houston Astros (86-76, 2nd in AL West)
Key Additions: Doug Fister, Ken Giles
Key Departures: Chris Carter, Scott Kazmir, Brett Oberholtzer, Oliver Perez, Jed Lowrie, LJ Hoes,Chad Qualls, Hank Conger
Reds Dates: @Hou June 17-19
Last year the Chicago Cubs weren’t the only team whose rebuilding plans developed earlier than expected, as the Houston Astros stunned many with their surprising postseason run. In his first season as the Astros skipped A.J. Hinch had Houston in first place for a good portion of the season and finished with an 86-76 record which was good for second behind the surging Texas Rangers. The Astros also toppled the Yankees in the Wild Card before being ousted in the ALDS by the eventual World Series champs, the Kansas City Royals, 3-2.
One of the big reasons the Astros were successful was a much improved pitching staff anchored by AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48 ERA, 216 Ks). Collin McHugh also contributed 19 wins and the Astro acquired Scott Kazmir and Mike Fiers at the trade deadline. Kazmir is gone, but don’t feel sorry for Houston as they added Doug Fister (5-7, 4.19 ERA) who struggled with the Nationals last season, but had double figure wins in his four previous seasons.
The offense was led by second basemen Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis who benefited greatly from his move to AL. Altuve led Houston in average (.313), OBP (.353), hits (200), and steals (38). Gattis took the power categories smashing 27 homers and 88 RBI. Luis Valbuena also had a career high 25 homers in 2015. The Astros got a boost from Carlos Correa in early June when he was promoted to the Majors. He didn’t disappoint as he won Rookie of the Year thanks to his .279 average, 22 homers and 68 RBI.
The Reds can learn a lot from their former NL Central rivals on how to build a team up. While it took longer than any Astros fan would have liked, there is no doubt that they are happy with the results in 2015. The teams will meet for the first time since 2013 when the Reds swept three games at Minute Maid Park. That year the Astros had just made the transition to the American League. The Reds are 13-5 against Houston since the start of 2012.
Here’s a look at the potential lineup the Astros could have when the host the Reds midway through the season. (As of 2/3/16)
1. Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48 ERA, 216 Ks, Cy Young, All-Star Starter, Gold Glove)
2.Collin McHugh (19-7, 3.89 ERA, 171 Ks)
3. Lance McCullers (6-7, 3.22 ERA, 129 Ks)
4. Doug Fister (5-7, 4.19 ERA, 63 Ks w/Nationals)
5. Scott Feldman (5-5, 3.90 ERA, 61 Ks)
Notables candidates: Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock
Closer: Ken Giles (69 GP, 1.80 ERA, 15 Saves, 87 Ks w/Phillies)
Set-up man: Luke Gregerson (64 GP, 3.10 ERA, 31 saves, 59 Ks)
C. Jason Castro (104 GP, .211 avg, 11 HR, 31 RBI)
1B. Jon Singleton (19 GP, .191 avg, HR, 6 RBI)
2B. Jose Altuve (154 GP, .313 avg, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 38 SB, Gold Glove, All-Star Starter)
3B. Luis Valbuena (132 GP, .224 avg, 25 HR, 56 RBI)
SS. Carlos Correa (99 GP, .279 avg, 22 HR, 68 RBI, Rookie of the Year)
LF. Colby Rasmus (137 GP, .238 avg, 25 HR, 61 RBI)
CF. Carlos Gomez (115 GP, .255 avg, 12 HR, 56 RBI, 17 SB w/Brewers & Astros)
RF. George Springer (102 GP, .276 avg, 16 HR, 41 RBI)
DH. Evan Gattis (153 GP, .246 avg, 27 HR, 88 RBI)
C. Max Stassi
IF. Marwin Gonzalez
OF. Preston Tucker
OF. Jake Marisnick