The Cincinnati Reds have had a busy offseason. They were huge players in free agency, adding Mike Moustakas, Japanese star Shogo Akiyama, and Nicholas Castellanos. Cincinnati has been in a rut since their last postseason appearance in 2013 where they lost the Wild Card game to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since that game, the Reds are a dismal 418-554 — a .451 winning percentage. That luck finally looks like it is about to change. Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, they will only play 60 games, but that is exactly what makes this Reds team dangerous. Vegas has the Reds slated to win 31.5 games, along with seven other teams, they will likely be in contention come October.
Free Agency Winners
In 2019 the Cincinnati Reds went 75-87, even though they made a slew of moves to get better. They made a huge trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers to clear Homer Bailey and his horrid contract from the books. They also made a trade with the New York Yankees to bring Sonny Gray to the Queen City, where he had his best major league season. With these additions, Cincinnati added 10 wins to the left-side column, but probably could’ve been a lot better.
Heading into the offseason, the Reds were focused on getting the offense to center around budding superstar Eugenio Suarez and aging superstar Joey Votto. In December, the Reds signed Moustakas away from a division rival, the Milwaukee Brewers. Moose hit .254/.329/.516 with 35 homers and 87 RBI. He will more than likely thrive in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati didn’t cease free agent operations there though, swiftly signing Akiyama, formerly of the Seibu Lions. Akiyama is a prolific on-base machine that could give the Reds a formal table-setter for the big guns in the lineup behind him.
Finally, in January, Cincinnati came to terms with Castellanos, signing him away from the Chicago Cubs. Castellanos is a really good hitter. It is unfortunate he played for the Detroit Tigers, who have a massive ballpark, so a lot of his hits that were doubles would have been homers in Cincinnati. in 2019, he hit .287/.337/.525 with 27 homers and 73 RBI. He also sprinkled in 58 doubles as well.
There are a couple of obvious locks for each position with Cincinnati as they return most of the same guys from last year. Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali are your locks behind the dish. Tyler Stephenson (Reds number-three prospect) may make his case but will likely not be one of the initial 30 players. Kyle Farmer will be on the roster as a super-utility player but spent time behind the plate last year as well. He could serve as the emergency guy, but will likely be the backup shortstop after a strong showing in summer camp.
It is obvious that Votto will be the lock at first base. Votto will be looking to bounce back from two down years in a row and said on a podcast in February that he thinks the Reds could very well win the World Series. He was the first position player seen at Spring camp, something that hasn’t happened in years. The 36-year-old has looked pretty good at Summer Camp. This shortened season will definitely help him out.
Newcomer Moustakas will be a lock for this team at second base. He is a natural third baseman but has spent time at second base with the Brewers. Moustakas is more than serviceable, posting an even 0 OAA, which is the middle ground for fielders. Moose will give the Reds pop from the position and will be a nice addition to the middle of the lineup. Suarez will be a lock at third base and will be looking to build on his 49 homer season.
Nick Senzel will be a lock to play the outfield. He is back from shoulder surgery and is healthy again. Nick Castellanos will also be a lock for one of the three outfield spots.
In the outfield, the Reds had to find homes for Akiyama, Jesse Winker, Phillip Ervin, and Aquino. Now with the DH in the National League, that task became easier. Winker will be your DH against RHP and Ervin or Aquino will DH vs LHP, when not starting in the OF. Akiyama will likely be a starter after a strong showing in Summer Camp.
Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Wade Miley, and Anthony DeSclafani will be the starting rotation. Guys like Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, Pedro Strop, and Raisel Iglesias are bullpen locks for the season. Players to watch include Lucas Sims, Tyler Mahle, and Nick Lodolo. Lodolo has an ETA of 2021 for the majors, but we could see him sooner. He is a tall, left-handed fireballer with a ++ fastball and a ++ slider. We could very well see him make his major league debut this season, with rosters being slightly expanded.
Only playing 60 games is a blessing for this pitching staff. MLB.com ranked them as the third-best rotation in baseball. The bullpen will definitely benefit as well, being able to stay healthy and fresh in this shortened season.
Ranking the Reds
The NL Central will once again be very top-heavy this year. The St. Louis Cardinals won the division in 2019 with 91 wins, closely followed by the Brewers and Cubs with 89 and 84 wins. Due to the 60 games, the Reds will most likely need to win 32 games to take the division this year. Cincinnati has put themselves squarely in a spot to do just that. Multiple analysts have picked the Reds to finish first in the Central this year, especially now that they’re only playing 60 games.
New Rules to Remind You Of
Remember the DH will be present in the National League, presenting the Reds with a bevy of options. It also adds an extra bat to the lineup. The rosters will be expanded to start the season then work their way smaller as the shortened year goes on. This gives the Reds an opportunity to maximize their production. The 10-day COVID-19 list will also be a thing for players who happen to catch it or come into contact with it. No spitting, high diving, and all the fun stuff that regular baseball entails. Look for the Reds to get creative with their celebrations this year.
Every series is important in baseball, but here are some dates to look forward to for Cincinnati:
July 24th-26th, vs Detroit, Opening weekend versus a bad opponent and the Reds can get a leg up.
July 27th-30th vs Chicago Cubs, a huge series since there is only 60 games, and 40 divisional games.
August 3rd-6th, vs Indians, big two-and-two series against an intrastate rival.
August 21st-27th, @ Cardinals and Brewers, a crucial seven-game trip that will most likely separate division leaders.
Aug 28th-Sept 2nd, vs Cubs and Cardinals, this marks 14 games in a row in the division and serves as a crucial time for the Reds in the season. If they can win 10 of these 14 games, they will be in great shape.
September 8th-13th, @ Cubs and Cardinals, crucial road trip, and could possibly be the final dagger for the Reds if they can come out with a winning record on the trip.
The Cincinnati Reds have all the pieces to make a deep postseason run. The division is wide open, and the Reds are hungry. The season is definitely going to be a weird one. This likely benefits the Reds in many ways, though. Look for the Reds to go for broke in this shortened season.
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