It isn’t often a 75-87 team has a bright outlook the following year. However, the Reds’ prudent offseason shopping and returning talent has been enough to place their probability of a division crown higher than an 89-win, 2019 playoff team in the Brewers. Cincinnati’s prize offseason acquisition notably came from Milwaukee, with Mike Moustakas, who slugged over 30 homers for the second time in the last three campaigns last season. Then, Nicholas Castellanos is arguably close to a 1-A to Moustakas in terms of new arrivals. The veteran particularly thrived with the Cubs after a mid-season trade from the Tigers and could be a prime candidate to fill the designated hitter role that’s been universally implemented for 2020.
Those two potent bats are being integrated into a lineup built around Eugenio Suarez, who’s now been deemed fully recovered from January shoulder surgery. The 28-year-old has slugged a whopping 83 homers over the last two seasons, including a career-best 49 last year. Another key incumbent component is Joey Votto. Long one of the best pure hitters in the game, Votto uncharacteristically scuffled at the plate for long stretches last season and has seen a notable decrease in power over the last pair of campaigns overall. Nevertheless, earlier this spring, the veteran identified his issues as related to mechanics. If he’s accurate in his assessment, a Votto resurgence would take what already looks like a potent Cincy lineup to another level.
Japanese import Shogo Akiyama is another potential source of prolific offense. The outfielder is coming off three consecutive 20-homer seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, campaigns that each featured double-digit stolen-base tallies as well. With on-base percentages of between .347 and .360 overseas during that span, he makes for a versatile leadoff hitter that could both create runs with his power and set the table for the Votto-Suarez-Moustakas-Castellanos quartet projected to hit behind him.
Cincy complements the impressive array of bats with a pitching staff that features five legitimate quality starters. Opening Day starter Sonny Gray has yet to win more than 14 games in a season and still has occasional trouble keeping the ball in the park, but he took very well to the National League and Cincinnati in particular during his 2019 Reds debut campaign. The right-hander’s 11-8 record doesn’t necessarily jump off the page; however, his 2.87 ERA and 1.08 WHIP are much more eye-catching. Fireballing Luis Castillo had a breakout of sorts last season (15-8) and could be about to hit his prime, while Trevor Bauer, despite his overall struggles in ’19, boasts top-of-rotation stuff. No. 4 and 5 starters Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafani aren’t as sure of propositions as the top three. Nevertheless, each brings some veteran guile to the table and both have multiple quality starts in their arms, even in a short season.
The bullpen has two highly effective end-of-game options in Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias. The setup/closer combo could often make a late deficit against the Reds a bleak scenario for the opposition this season.
Any team with as strong a combination of offense and pitching as the Reds can’t be discounted in a 60-game season. If Gray, Castillo and Bauer all deliver on their talent, Cincy will be able to withstand a couple of hiccups apiece from Miley and DeSclafani and still thrive. The one caveat for Cincy heading into the season is what looks to be a fairly steep drop-off in the latter portion of the order, one that, on paper, makes their lineup more top-heavy than that of division rivals like the Cardinals and Cubs.
An example of how a wager on the Reds winning the NL Central would pay out at the current odds listed above is as follows:
Wager amount: $10.00
Division winner odds: (DraftKings Sportsbook): +265
Payout: $36.50: ($26.50 + original $10.00 bet amount)
Reds odds: Futures
Cincinnati Reds betting breakdown
2019 Record: 75-87
Key losses: RHP Kevin Gausman, SS Jose Iglesias, OF Matt Kemp, IF Jose Peraza, LHP Alex Wood
Key additions: OF Nicholas Castellanos, RHP Nate Jones, 2B Mike Moustakas, RHP Pedro Strop, LHP Wade Miley
- LF Shogo Akiyama (R)
- 1B Joey Votto (L)
- 3B Eugenio Suarez (R)
- 2B Mike Moustakas (L)
- DH Nick Castellanos (R)
- RF Jesse Winker (L)
- F Nick Senzel (R)
- C Tucker Barnhart (S)
- SS Freddy Galvis (S)
Projected rotation: RHP Luis Castillo, RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, LHP Wade Miley
Projected closer: RHP Raisel Iglesias
Bullpen strengths: Closer Raisel Iglesias led the NL with 55 games finished to go along with a 4.16 ERA, 34 Saves and 89 SO in 68 games. Lefty Amir Garrett is locked into a bullpen spot after a solid 2019 with a 3.21 ERA and 78 SO in 69 Games. Michael Lorenzen also showed out in 2019 with a 2.92 ERA, seven saves and 85 SO in 83.1 IP (73 Games).
Bullpen weaknesses: Pedro Strop will look to rebound after a bit of a step back in 2019, when he produced his highest ERA since 2010 (4.97 in 50 Games). RHP Nate Jones may claim one of the last roster spots in the bullpen, but he has suffered multiple arm injuries, including a torn flexor mass tendon last May.
Key stats from 2019
- The Reds were -10 in run differential in 2019.
- Joey Votto’s .768 OPS was below league average (.776) for position players (Athlon).
- The Reds allowed the third-fewest runs in the NL and scored the fourth fewest in the NL.
- Cincinnati had the third-fewest fans in attendance in the NL (1.8 Million) despite an increase from 2018.
- The Reds lost 59% of their replay reviews, the fifth-worst ratio in MLB (Athlon).
- Tyler Mahle was the only starting pitcher for the Reds that was drafted by Cincinnati. Mahle went 3-12 with a 5.14 ERA in ‘19.
- P Michael Lorenzen was the first player since Babe Ruth to hit a home run, play in the outfield and record a win in a game (Athlon).
- UT Derek Dietrich hit 18 of his 19 home runs before the All-Star break.
- Four of the five pitchers in the Reds 2020 rotation had sub-4.00 ERAs in 2019.