CINCINNATI -- The Reds had a lot of questions going into the 2016 season. And, obviously, they didn’t get the answers they wanted in the first half.
That makes the second half important for the future of the franchise. The Reds aren’t going to play their way back into contention barring a miracle or getting Mike Trout for some low-level prospects - well, that would be a miracle. But it’s important for the Reds to answer some questions to go forward with the long rebuild.
Here are 9 of them:
1) Will Billy hit?
This question comes up every time we run one of these lists. Billy Hamilton has shown signs this year of figuring it out at the plate. But as the first half ended, he was struggling again.
He’s great defensively. He’s the world’s most dangerous base-runner. But, if he’s going to be a career .240 hitter with an on-base percentage under .300, the Reds have to decide if he’s an everyday player. If he hits, say, .270 in the second half, they probably have to give him 2017 to build on it.
2) Can Votto have another monster second half?
One of the stunning things about the first half was the fact that Joey Votto was hitting .213 on May 31. He hit .319 in June and showed signs of the vintage Votto.
After the All-Star Game last year, he hit .362/.535/.617. Numbers in that realm would sure be reassuring to Reds fans.
3) Will they stay or will they go?
The Reds will certainly look at trading Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart. Both are under team control for only one more year.
Bruce’s big first half increased his trade value and made him one expensive free agent. Ditto for Cozart, although to a considerably less degree as far as a free agent.
The guess here is both get moved. The big question: How do the Reds line up after the trades? Adam Duvall in right? Jose Peraza at shortstop? Who plays left? Jesse Winker?
4) ETA for Bailey?
Homer Bailey’s setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery has made the Reds much more cautious with his rehab.
Bailey has made two rehab starts. He’ll make at least three more. That would mean a July 27 return at the earliest. This is a lost year for Bailey, but it would make the Reds’ braintrust very happy to see him pitch well over the last two months of the season.
5) Bullpen of the future?
Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias have been very good in set-up roles since coming off the disabled list. If they continue at that, will the Reds have decided their futures are in the bullpen?
Starting pitching is so much more valuable than relief pitching, it’s a tough call to make. Remember the lesson of Aroldis Chapman.
6) Finnegan’s future?
Left-hander Brandon Finnegan has shown flashes of dominance as a starter. But he finished the first half 4-7 with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP.
Would he be better suited for the bullpen?
7) The Suarez question
Eugenio Suarez has mixed good with bad in the first half. You’ve got to like the 14 home runs and 40 RBI. But you’ve got to hate the .230 average and 14 errors.
The Reds have to decide if third base is the best place for Suarez, especially since they drafted Nick Senzel with the No. 2 pick overall. And they and he have to decide what’s his best approach. He’s gone all or nothing this year: 88 strikeouts in 304 at-bats after striking out 94 times in 372 at-bats last year.
8) Are the top prospects ready?
The Reds chose to bring up left-hander Cody Reed over Robert Stephenson. Reed has been awful in his four starts (9.00 ERA, eight home runs in 20 innings).
Stephenson has not dominated at Triple-A (5-5, 3.89 ERA). But he was effective in his two starts in the big leagues. You could argue he’s more ready than Reed.
And, if Reed and Stephenson are in the rotation plans for 2017, the Reds should try to answer questions about them in the second half.
9) Peraza’s position?
If Cozart is traded, the Reds are likely to give Jose Peraza a trial at shortstop. But he’s also played in left field, center field and second base.
The second half would be a good time to figure out where his future is in the field, because it looks like his bat and speed play in the majors.