Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: The Year in Review

I opened the year 2019 rocking out to 'Man it's so Loud in Here' at the Theatre of Living Arts, as Flans and Linnell rocked it like it was 2001. I am ending the year 2019 having several beverages in my house, eating unhealthy food and collapsing shortly after midnight.

I'm only 24 but I'm embracing middle age.

Anyway. It's New Years Eve, and it's been 365 days since I did the last one, so I'm gonna do another post documenting a bunch of things that happened this year in some ironic fashion. Given the amount of beverages consumed, this might not be as coherent as usual.

Okay, lemme...compose my thoughts. Usually I prep and figure out an order, but I'm just gonna go for it.

This was the year that I made more customs I've ever made for the blog, after a February and March where it became apparent that my usual photo source would be letting me down and I had to rush to find a new one. This is how you recover from defeat. I found a more complex but rewarding process to find photos and make customs, and I'm gonna keep it going for 2020.

This was the year that Beck Hansen put out the best album of the year, and said album was produced by Pharrell Williams, and it was still technically a rock album.

This was the year that Topps brought back Topps Total...as a mishandled online exclusive set. Hashtag thanks Topps.

This was the year that Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Jay Bruce, Corey Dickerson, Jake Arrieta, Jean Segura and Jared Hughes all played for my hometown team...and they still couldn't get past 4th.

This was the year that I found my first card show nickel bins, and they were glorious.

This was the year that The Big Bang Theory had its best episode in like 7 years, and it was the finale, because they didn't wanna decide to be good before then.

This was the year that I went to my therapist and he handed me a bunch of 1972 Topps When they were Young subset cards, and I asked if HE was the one that was crazy.

This was the year that my company moved into an office with the world's single best chicken sandwich on the floor below us. Move over Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes, this place is ten fathoms of legit.

This was the year that I made a serious run at collecting 2019 Topps Archives because every retail story seemed to carry it late in the year instead of carrying anything I wanted [read: Topps Holiday set]. Still working on that set.

This was the year that Rian Johnson made the best movie of the year. Anyone who hasn't seen Knives Out yet needs to.

This was the year that Edwin Encarnacion got to play for the Yankees, and it was pretty cool. Very excited for Gerrit Cole next year.

This was the year that the Washington Nationals won the World Series about a year after my girlfriend moved to the DC metropolitan area. Am now trying to convince her to move back to NYC so the Yanks can get another ring.

This was the year that Game of Thrones and Star Wars suffered a debilitating case of writer incongruity. You can't hand off your saga to another writer and expect things to feel like one unified idea.

This was the year that Panini brought back Leather & Lumber as a 2 packs-for-20-bucks retail set. It was, uh, alright.

This was the year that Mike Trout won his 3rd MVP, Jacob deGrom won his 2nd Cy Young, and Rob Manfred won the right to keep altering the baseballs until the game's completely ruined.

This was the year that I took my dad to his first Old Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium, and we saw Mariano Rivera hit an inside-the-parker. Justin Verlander pitched a gem that day.

This was the year that I saw Hozier in concert, and the dude killed it. One of the best shows I've been to.

This was the year that I got to witness Atlanta decking itself for the Super Bowl. That is one awesome city. Great food, great attitude. Super Bowl was a little half-baked, but the city was shining for it.

This was the year that Topps put out one of its best flagship sets since 2015. There, I said it.

Not a bad year. A little spotty, a little dormant, but not terrible. I'm interested to see where we go in the next decade. The 2020s look to be a pretty exciting one, not just for baseball or the world, but for me. I hope we get to where we wanna go, in general.

Happy New Year to all of you. Enjoy yourselves, but not too much.

Uncustomed Heroes of 2019: Yankees

 The 2019 Yankees was the kind of Cinderella team that you just can't write.

Everyone knew the Yankees would have a big year, but nobody could have predicted that it would be these Yankees. Giancarlo Stanton was sidelined due to injury for most of the year, and the team had to win games without him, trading for DH options and trying a different outfield approach. Stanton when he was healthy fared okay, hitting .288 in the regular season before tanking in the playoffs.
Why Him in 2019?: Opened the door for Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin to start games.
2020 Prediction: A more classic Stanton year- 40 homers, .270 average, the king returns.

 In his place, the Yankees enlisted another veteran power-hitter, Edwin Encarnacion, to take some reps at DH, and Edwin came through, hitting .250 with 13 homers in 44 games.
Why Him in 2019?: Came through as a clutch staple for us.
2020 Prediction: Will have his last 30-homer year with Chicago

 Mike Tauchman was one of the biggest surprises of the year, coming in for Stanton and Hicks early in April and figuring out how to hit, hitting .277 in 87 games, and notching 47 RBIs before getting injured.
Why Him in 2019?: Became the starting option for a team that didn't know they needed him.
2020 Prediction: Will play 110 games amid the crowded outfield and will have 25 homers.

 After a strong second half in the Bronx last year, J.A. Happ had the kind of pedestrian season I was fearing when we traded for him. Happ still had 12 wins and 140 strikeouts, but had a 4.91 ERA and a 1.3 WHIP.
Why Him in 2019?: Stepped down so Sevvy could start games late.
2020 Prediction: Will win 10 games, but not sure if they'll be for the Yankees.

 After missing most of the season due to injury, the great Luis Severino did make 3 starts in September, and had a 1.50 ERA with 8 Ks. He also averaged a 2.07 ERA in the playoffs, with 39 strikeouts.
Why Him in 2019?: Ensured that the Yankees would be alright in starting pitching for the playoffs.
2020 Prediction: 17 wins, 300 Ks, and some major Cy Young support.

 After Luke Voit, Greg Bird and Edwin Encarnacion all got injured, the next 1st baseman in line was Mike Ford, a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lifer who quickly became a favorite in the Bronx, hitting 12 homers in 50 games. His exclusion from the playoff roster sent cries of 'WHY HIM AND NOT VOIT' across NY.
Why Him in 2019?: Took hold of 1st for the Yankees for 2 glorious months
2020 Prediction: Back to Scranton for a bit, but will definitely be called upon throughout the year.

 The bullpen was once again a major threat, as Tommy Kahnle returned to his consistency and posted a 3.67 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 61 innings.
Why Him in 2019?: The most unassuming, yet deadly, bullpen asset for NY
2020 Prediction: Slightly higher ERA, but same amount of playing time

 After poaching him from Baltimore, the Yankees continued to utilize Zack Britton like the 8th-inning-man you never wanna meet. Britton gladly continued his set-up work from 2018, with a 1.91 ERA and a shockingly low 53 strikeouts.
Why Him in 2019?: Continued his reign as one of the most impressive relievers in baseball.
2020 Prediction: Will have to close games at some point, and will do so handsomely.

 Speaking of closing games, how's about Aroldis Chapman having his best season yet as Yankee closer? Chapman had 37 saves this year, his highest in the Bronx, and his highest since his twin 38-save years in Cincinnati. Chapman also made his 6th ASG team this year, well-deservedly.
Why Him in 2019?: 37 saves for the biggest team in the game
2020 Prediction: His first 40-save year is coming. Get ready.

Sadly, after 19 glorious seasons (and 11 in the Bronx), CC Sabathia decided to retire this year, but what a career he head. The dude's likely heading to Cooperstown next decade, as he cemented the 250 win marker this year, after already getting his 3000th strikeout. His overall numbers weren't TOO bad either, with 107 strikeouts this year, despite a 4.95 ERA.
Why Him in 2019?: Even in his last season in the majors, and at 38, he was still striking people out like a pro. And will be missed.

That was the last custom of 2019, and these were the last customs til February or March. Hope you can wait til then.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Uncustomed Heroes of 2019: White Sox

It's weird talking about the 2019 White Sox knowing that they're going to look a lot different in 2020. We already know that Yasmani Grandal, Cheslor Cuthbert, Edwin Encarnacion, Nomar Mazara, Tayron Guerrero, Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez and several more years of Jose Abreu will be at Guaranteed Rate Field next year. Also, at least one of the players in this post won't be with the team in 2020.

Either way, the White Sox had moments of the spark hitting, and for a good month in May, they were doing pretty well in mid-standings. But...it didn't last too long, and though they ended up in third, it was in front of two 100-loss teams. So in any other division, they might be in at least fourth with their  89 losses.

Yolmer Sanchez, a charter member of these middling Sox teams, had another decent year in 2019, getting his first gold-glove at 2nd, and cleaned up in the field despite his subpar batting numbers.
Why Him in 2019?: ...he got a gold glove! And I should have done him during the season.
2020 Prediction: Will suit up for another team, but maaaay not be a starting option.

 Dylan Cease was the big rotation rookie call-up this year, making his debut in July and hedging some meh starts in order to have a 3 ERA and a positive W/L ratio in September. 81 Ks in 14 starts isn't a bad start at all.
Why Him in 2019?: Filled in for Michael Kopech as the rookie arm standout
2020 Prediction: Will have to fight for a spot in the rotation, and may not be a factor until midseason.

 In terms of bullpen assets, you had Aaron Bummer, who...went by Bum during Players Weekend, and if Madison Bumgarner is MadBum, d'you think that makes Aaron 'HappyBum'? I dunno. Anyway, Aaron Bummer was the relief specialist for the Sox this year, with 60 strikeouts in 58 appearances, a 2.13 ERA, and the best bullpen WHIP for guys with over 30 games notched.
Why Him in 2019?: Top-tier bullpen guy for a dire team.
2020 Prediction: His numbers will take a dip, but I still think he's gonna chase 100 strikeouts with his usage.

After splitting 2018 between Kansas City and Phoenix, Jon Jay stayed in Chicago for the 2019 season, despite missing some time due to injury. Once he made it onto the roster, he hit .267 off the bench with 44 hits in 47 games.
Why Him in 2019?: Veteran feel-good bench guy of the team
2020 Prediction: Not sure who has a place for him, but I expect a minor league deal to lead to some playing time eventually.

Coming Tomorrow- The last new customs of 2019, some members of my beloved, World-Series-less-for-the-decade Yankees.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Uncustomed Heroes of 2019: Twins

The Minnesota Twins hit more home runs than any other team in baseball this year. And were subsequently swept in 3 games by the Yankees. Baseball's fickle like that.

I was still very impressed with how the Twins bounced back by taking low-rent free agents and making them soar under circumstances. CJ Cron, with a photo taken after Tyler Skaggs' death, had a season very similar to his 2018 in Tampa, with a 25-homer year with a .253 average. Not bad, but not the best 1B numbers coming from this team (that'd be Marwin Gonzalez)
Why Him in 2019?: 25 homers on a one-year deal.
2020 Prediction: Will hit 30 in Detroit and double Brandon Dixon's team-leading total from this year.

 The other 2019 Twins starter headed to Detroit is Jonathan Schoop. Despite losing playing time to Luis Arraez late, Schoop bounced back from a down second half of 2018 with a .256 average and 23 homers.
Why Him in 2019?: Stumbled in July to let Luis Arraez conquer the position for 2020.
2020 Prediction: Will slowly lose playing time to Harold Castro.

 Speaking of Castros and lost playing time, Jason Castro struggled with an injury in 2018 and had to battle this year with Mitch Garver for that starting spot. Garver hit .272, Castro hit .233. So Castro became the backup very quickly.
Why Him in 2019?: Conceded to Garver, and his lessened playing time led to Garver hitting 31 homers.
2020 Prediction: Will be signed somewhere as a backup.

 Kyle Gibson's stock rose slightly in 2019, as a very steady third-starter in a rising team. Gibson had a 13-7 record with 160 strikeouts, which is a sharp enough year for a guy who's never really been a standout.
Why Him in 2019?: Probably the most consistent, non-showy arm in Minneapolis this year.
2020 Prediction: Will win 15 games in Arlington.

 Speaking of Arlington, they slung Martin Perez to Minnesota, and Perez responded with decent numbers, 10 wins, and the highest rotation WHIP.
Why Him in 2019?: Hung onto the fourth spot even when rookies came in late.
2020 Prediction: Will be a mediocre fifth man in Boston

 And then you have Michael Pineda. His numbers were fine [11-5 with a 4 ERA], but he once again got busted for illegal drugs, and you're left thinking what this guy has when you take away all the cheating. What is Pineda without the pine tar on his cap, or the PEDs or drugs or anything?
Why Him in 2019?: Fell so Smeltzer and Dobnak could rise
2020 Prediction: Will pitch a similar season for the Twins after coming back from the suspension.

 Randy Dobnak was one of the feel-good stories of 2019. A former Uber driver, he jumped through the minors to start some games late down the stretch, and held a 1.59 ERA in 9 starts. Dobnak became one of the more inexperienced starters to be trusted with a playoff start, and...he tried. I felt bad for him, because the Yankees fans heckled him, but he's still a solid arm.
Why Him in 2019?: Started Game 2 of the ALDS.
2020 Prediction: A full season of similar production.

 And the other big starter rookie in 2019 was Devin Smeltzer, a guy who's from the town next to mine, was a hometown hero, and had a 3.86 ERA over 11 appearances, with 32 Ks.
Why Him in 2019?: A good preview of an arm to come for the Twins
2020 Prediction: Will start 25 games, win 10 of them and nobody will question him again.

 After a scorching rookie start in 2018, Willians Astudillo, affectionately referred to as La Torguga, had some similar numbers right out the gate. Astudillo played some infield spots, caught a bit, and was a wonderful lineup presence. Then he got injured, missed some time, and the Twins got by anyway.
Why Him in 2019?: Twins mascot in April
2020 Prediction: Hopefully more playing time. This guy's a gem.

 The other infield utility guy was Ehire Adrianza, and he was a bit more present for the Twins, appearing in 83 games and hitting .272 with 55 hits. Not bad at all.
Why Him in 2019?: With the exception of Luis Arraez who was starting by the end, most valuable utility/bench guy.

 After Blake Parker fouled up, the closing spot went to relief specialist Taylor Rogers, and to say he rocked it was an understatement. Rogers had 30 saves, 90 strikeouts, a 2.61 ERA and a 1 WHIP.
Why Him in 2019?: Closed 30 games for the AL Central champs.
2020 Prediction: Will close THIRTY-FIVE games for the AL Central champs.

Rogers was perfectly steady in the ninth...cause from August on he had SERGIO ROMO in the eighth. Not just Sergio Romo, but the Sergio Romo of yore, the untouchable relief specialist who got rings with SF, was back in FULL FORCE. Romo, after coming over from Miami, had 27 strikeouts and 3 saves in 27 appearances.
Why Him in 2019?: Fueled the bullpen renaissance in August.
2020 Prediction: Another season of solid work in Minneapolis.

Coming Tomorrow- Just a few White Sox. Consider it the calm before the storm.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Uncustomed Heroes of 2019: Tigers

I didn't think the Detroit Tigers could get worse than they did in 2018, but with 114 losses compared to 98, I guess my expectations took a hit this year.

This year was so bad that one of the leading candidates for a post-season custom from the Tigers was Spencer Turnbull. Turnbull had seventeen losses, and a 1.436 WHIP. This is our marquee guy, folks.
Why Him in 2019?: Started 30 games in his rookie year.
2020 Prediction: Similar K numbers, but better W/L ratio. So...the team has to be better.

 And for the team to be better, the Tigers need to put trust on durable homegrown people, and not...a backup second baseman from the 2018 Reds who they shoved to first base. In response, Brandon Dixon hit .248 with 136 strikeouts.
Why Him in 2019?: Led the Tigers in home runs with FIFTEEN. LORD.
2020 Prediction: Won't have to start many games cause the Tigers will be better? Please?

 Making me a little more optimistic about future Tigers teams are two mid-year call-ups. Harold Castro was the first, and he was a middle infielder who hit .291 in 97 games, and was one of 4 Tigers to hit more than 100 hits.
Why Him in 2019?: Hit .310 and .318 in July and September respectively
2020 Prediction: Will be a utility man after losing a starting spot to Jonathan Schoop

The other amusing rookie was utility outfielder Victor Reyes, who was phased in around May and hit .326 over the course of the last two months of gameplay. He did finish the season with a .304 average and 25 RBIs, which isn't bad.
Why Him in 2019?: His numbers in September saved the team from being completely eradicated from relevance.
2020 Prediction: Will usurp JaCoby Jones' outfield spot and become a new team hero.

Coming Tomorrow- The best-hitting AL team of the year, those Minnesota Twins.

Uncustomed Heroes of 2019: Royals

 Four years after the title run, the Royals parted ways with Ned Yost, and finished with only 59 wins. Baseball is a fickle, revolving door of a sport. Dominance is too fleeting.

Just look at Billy Hamilton: The guy was signed in an effort to bring speed and star power back to Kansas City, and by August he's playing for the Braves. Even the temporary solutions aren't permanent.

 Nicky Lopez was brought in around April to be a speedy 2nd-baseman rookie, and he hit .240 with 30 RBIs in 105 games. I equate him to Cole Tucker from the Pirates in the category of 'minors mainstay who underwhelmed'.
Why Him in 2019?: Brought in as a major piece for the rebuilding era of the Royals
2020 Prediction: Will start the whole season at 2nd and do marginally better than this year, but when the big guns get traded (and they will), no one will exactly look to Lopez as a figure of leadership or authority.

 Speaking of leadership and authority, Danny Duffy rounded out his decade of pitching for the Royals with his usual consistency to a point, with a 4.34 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 23 starts. The Royals have him locked up for 2 more years, and I equate him to someone like Kevin Appier who becomes a pitching mainstay solely because he stays in one place and doesn't have many bad seasons.
Why Him in 2019?: Rare veteran starter in KC who had a positive W/L ratio and stayed until September.
2020 Prediction: Will start 30 games, get 10 wins, and not really get much credit for it

 In the place of former rotation giants like Edinson Volquez, Jason Vargas and James Shields, the Royals settled on homegrown guys like Jakob Junis, Brad Keller and Glenn Sparkman, the latter of whom had some amusing starts late in the season but finished with a 6.02 ERA
Why Him in 2019?: His May/June starting numbers gave the team hope.
2020 Prediction: A slightly lower ERA, but a lot of the same mediocrity

After a mid-season trade, Mike Montgomery, the guy who threw the final out of the 2016 World Series for Chicago, found himself in Kansas City, with something he didn't have on the Cubs- an opportunity to start games. In 13 starts he had a 4.64 ERA with 51 strikeouts.
Why Him in 2019?: 31 of those strikeouts came in his scorching August, where he posted a 2.43 ERA.
2020 Prediction: A full season in Kansas City will lead him to an eventual Mike-Minor-esque career reformation post-trade.

Coming Tonight: An equally meek AL Central team, those...hard-to-write-about Detroit Tigers

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Uncustomed Heroes of 2019: Rockies

A year after making the playoffs and becoming a sleeper hit basically overnight, the Colorado Rockies followed things up by winning 70 games and acting like nothing ever happened. Lovely.

Ian Desmond is still a lineup presence, because the Rockies are trying to fulfill as much as his overdone contract as possible before cutting him. Desmond had a 20-home-run year, but hit .255 with 119 strikeouts.
Why Him in 2019?: Made it back to the outfield after David Dahl got injured.
2020 Prediction: Back to underwhelming bench numbers

 The slow fall of Antonio Senzatela continues. After Freeland, Gray and Marquez all went down in July, Senzatela was one of the few trusted starters the Rockies had left, and Senzatela rewarded them by having ERAs over 10 in July and August. He finished the season with a 6.71, and an 11-11 record.
Why Him in 2019?: Was fighting as a lone competent starter for a lot of the year.
2020 Prediction: Hopefully the Rox get enough good pitchers so they can finally pitch this guy in the bullpen. He's the Vince Velasquez of the west.

 At least the bullpen was good in Denver. In the absence of Adam Ottavino, Scott Oberg became the scary setup man, with 58 strikeouts in 49 appearances and a 2.25 ERA. Sadly, an injury cut his year short, but his 2.4 WAR was the highest in the pen.
Why Him in 2019?: Best bullpen performer hands down on the team.
2020 Prediction: Does more of the same, gets traded in July.

 After Oberg got injured, it became Carlos Estevez' pen, and he definitely delivered, with 81 strikeouts in 72 innings, and a 3.75 ERA. Not bad at all.
Why Him in 2019?: Only gave up 1 earned run in 11 September appearances.
2020 Prediction: They give him the closing gig after Davis blows it once more, he gets huge in the ninth.

 One of the few rookie pitching experiments to work for the Rox this year was Peter Lambert, even though it took a while. He was still an innings eater, although his ERA rose over the year. He's 22, so hopefully he can get it together, but his rookie year was slightly disappointing.
Why Him in 2019?: Pitched 89 innings in his rookie year.
2020 Prediction: A 4 ERA, but won't be entirely spent as a starter.

After being cut by the Sox, Yonder Alonso wound up signing with the Rockies on a whim, and somehow managed to find his bat again, hitting .260 with 10 RBIs in 54 games.
Why Him in 2019?: Potentially extended his career longevity by not sucking in the second half.
2020 Prediction: Will DH somewhere.

Coming Tomorrow- The Royals lost 100 games this year, and we'll figure out why.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Uncustomed Heroes of 2019: Reds (Part Two)

In addition to the Reds from earlier who began the season with the team, you also have to account for call-ups and trades and everything, which made the team even more interesting as we went on.

For instance, Nick Senzel, the big rookie prospect who was blocked at third by Eugenio Suarez, so spent the season in the outfield with Jesse Winker. Senzel did fairly well, hitting .256 in 105 games, with 42 RBIs...despite being one of the 3 Reds to strike out more than 100 times.
Why Him in 2019?: Big rookie prospect debut.
2020 Prediction: Will up his production to about a .280, and will reach 25 homers.

 Casali technically did start the year on the roster, but didn't really make an impact til around May, where he hit .304 with 11 RBI. Casali also was a major asset as a backup, and is arguably a better hitter than Barnhart.
Why Him in 2019?: Started some games in Barnhart's absence, which helps.
2020 Prediction: Will be starting by September.

 The other amusing Reds OF rookie was Josh Van Meter, though he was overshadowed in the long run. Van Meter hit .237 in 95 games, with 23 RBIs. Not bad, but there were other options.
Why Him in 2019?: In 15 July games he hit .417 with 4 homers- not bad for pre-Aquino rookie hitting.
2020 Prediction: Due to Winker, Senzel, Aquino and Phil Ervin, might not get much starting time.
 And speaking of Ervin, after a refreshing rookie campaign in 2018, he came back for the stretch run and hit .271, with 11 doubles and 64 hits in 94 games.
Why Him in 2019?: Hit .432 in July- again, the whole outfield must have been scorching that month
2020 Prediction: Will be given a full season and will become a fan favorite, and hit .300

 The big midseason move the Reds made was giving up Yasiel Puig and Taylor Trammell for Trevor Bauer, who was off to a nice start on the other side of Ohio. It took a little bit for Bauer to get acclimated to Cincinnati though, as he had a 8.40 ERA in August. He did a little better in Sept (4.10), but he'd definitely diluted his 2019 totals by then.
Why Him in 2019?: One of the biggest arms in baseball finished disappointingly, and not making a custom is just humanity erasure.
2020 Prediction: 15 wins, 250 strikeouts, like the 2nd half never happened

 The other pitching piece that came up in the second half was Alex Wood, who'd been injured since Spring Training. Once he did come up, he averaged a 5.80 ERA in 7 starts, despite 30 strikeouts.
Why Him in 2019?: Finally made starts after an injury, which is more than the Reds could have asked for given the circumstances.
2020 Prediction: Someone'll sign him, and he'll be a modest 4th starter somewhere.

And after all of this, the Reds decided to pick up Freddy Galvis from Toronto to help the infield, and that was an insanely smart move. Not only was Galvis still riding high off his Jays numbers (16 RBIs in 32 games), but he was a defensive upgrade from Dietrich and Peraza, and he fit right into the infield.
Why Him in 2019?: Saved the Reds from scrounging an unsavory outfield
2020 Prediction: Will become a Cincinnati mainstay, and will likely see more time at SS.

Coming Tomorrow- Nothing, as I usually take off on Xmas. But on Thursday, expect some remnants of a disappointing Rockies team.

Uncustomed Heroes of 2019: Reds (Part One)

 Yes, you've read right. I made so many Reds customs this offseason that I need another post to post them all.

The Reds. The...fourth-place, sub-500 Reds.

And just to make sure, I already posted the following during the season- Derek Dietrich, Luis Castillo, Eugenio Suarez, Sonny Gray, Yasiel Puig, Amir Garrett, Tanner Roark, Aristedes Aquino, Anthony Desclafani and Joey Votto.

That's a large chunk of the Reds' story for this year. And I still had a ton more to make, because this team had so many people contribute to the overall story. And...they just had so many fun players.

For instance, the starting catcher, Tucker Barnhart. After his scorching gold-glove year a few years back, Barnhart has mellowed into a very safe, very okay catcher, with his fielding numbers at a 2, and his batting numbers still below zero. He was also injured for portions of the year, which was fun in itself.
Why Him in 2019?: Gave more time to Curt Casali, who definitely ran with it.
2020 Prediction: The Reds will make their mind up about how much of a liability Barnhart is.

 A guy the Reds definitely made up their mind on is Jose Peraza, an infielder who was supposed to be a glorified backup this year, only to need to start after Derek Dietrich proved to be more of a bench bat. In 141 games, he hit .239 with 33 RBIs, a disappointment for the once-impressive infielder.
Why Him in 2019?: His infield woes got the Reds to trade for Freddy Galvis
2020 Prediction: Will be the new Brock Holt in Boston...in every way that implies.

 The Reds, post-Puig, left their outfield to a trio of younger players who were all kinda in the same boat. Winker was the most experienced, having spent 2018 as a bench bat (I saw him walk-off against Colorado last June). Despite only playing 113 games, he bat .269 with 38 RBIs and 18 homers.
Why Him in 2019?: Proved he could start, especially after Senzel's call-up.
2020 Prediction: Will hit 25 homers, chase an ASG nod and finally come to his full power.

 Meanwhile, Jose Iglesias came to Cincinnati on a one-year deal to play shortstop, and he did pretty dang well, with a 1.5 WAR, a .288 average, 145 hits and 58 RBIs, which is on par with his stuff from Detroit.
Why Him in 2019?: Acted as a bridge from Peraza in 2018 to Galvis next year
2020 Prediction: Someone's gotta sign him, but everyone seems pretty set at SS. My guess is Milwaukee.
 And yeeeeah, let's talk about this. Matt Kemp came to Cincinnati in the trade that also brought Puig and Wood, and...Kemp probably worked out the least for all of them. Everything he did for LA in 2018 he shat away here, only hitting .200 with 19 strikeouts in 20 games. No wonder they released him.
Why Him in 2019?: Fell so the farm system could succeed
2020 Prediction: Preferably retirement, but someone could sign him to a minor league deal

 ...Michael Lorenzen slowly became one of my favorites on the Reds. Not only was he a damn-near-immaculate as a relief specialist, with a 2.92 ERA and 85 strikeouts, but he was pretty good as a bench outfield bat too, hitting .208 with 6 RBIs in 53 plate appearances, which is not bad at all for a two-way guy. You just want someone like him to succeed, and he has been.
Why him in 2019?: Probably the best two-way guy in the MLB, since Ohtani didn't pitch at all this year.
2020 Prediction: More homers, and a higher ERA, but same stuff.

And then there's the closer, Raisel Iglesias, who might be the most standard closer in the leagues. He doesn't light the place on fire, he has human moments, but he still gets a lot of saves- this year he got 34, a career high for him, as well as leading the league in games finished with 55. However, he also finished the year with 12 losses, meaning some non-save appearances didn't go well for him.
Why Him in 2019?: Had more saves than any NL Central closer not named Hader.
2020 Prediction: Another 30 save year with a bit more consistency.

All these guys were in the picture on Opening Day. Tonight, a bunch of guys who were added to the roster over time.