Posted on February 28, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s not a stretch to say that the Cincinnati Reds will be one of the most fascinating teams to watch during the 2020 season. Last year’s 75-87 record was actually progress for the club, as it snapped a stretch of four straight seasons with at least 90 losses. More importantly, Cincy wasn’t shy about opening the checkbook and making moves this winter. Of course, spending money doesn’t always lead to success. Are the Reds a serious contender this season or will they fall flat after building up expectations?
Pitching wasn’t an issue for Cincinnati last year and the Reds should be even better on the mound in 2020. The team’s ace for this season is a tossup between 15-game winner Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, who posted a 2.87 ERA in 2019. Another option could be Anthony DeSclafani, who managed to stay healthy long enough in 2019 to give the Reds 31 starts and pitch to an ERA of 3.89.
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In addition to that trio, the Reds have two more potential aces in Trevor Bauer and Wade Miley. Bauer posted a 6.39 ERA in his 10 starts after being traded from the Indians to the Reds. But he also had a 2.21 ERA in 2018 and nobody questions whether he’s capable of pitching like a frontline starter. Miley won 14 games in Houston last year while posting a 3.98 ERA while making almost half his starts in a hitter-friendly park. If he’s the fifth-best starter on the staff, the Reds will be in great shape.
The Cincinnati bullpen doesn’t look too shabby either. Closer Raisel Iglesias lost 12 games and had a 4.16 ERA last season, but the Reds know he can do better after doing no worse than a 2.53 ERA over the previous three seasons. There’s also no shortage of capable setup men with the trio of Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, and Amir Garrett. All three have high-level stuff and can be trusted late in games. Just for good measure, the Reds signed Pedro Strop away from the Cubs in hopes that he can bounce back from a down year and give them another trusty arm at the back end of the bullpen.
Even beyond that group, the Reds could have considerable depth in their bullpen. Tyler Thornburg and Jessie Biddle, two more veterans who have late-game stuff, have been brought in as icing on the cake. Matt Bowman, Justin Shafer, Lucas Sims, and Jose De Leon are also good enough to carve out a role in the Cincinnati bullpen and give the Reds incredible depth on that part of their roster.
Scoring runs was Cincy’s biggest problem last season, but they’ve addressed that issue over the winter. Joey Votto is no longer the elite slugger he once was, but Eugenio Suarez took over that role with 49 home runs last season. The Reds have also brought in Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas this offseason to provide additional power. Instead of carrying the team, Votto is now one of four sluggers in the Cincinnati lineup who are capable of doing damage.
In fairness, the rest of the lineup is a bit of a mystery. The Reds have half a dozen outfielders who will fight for playing time in left and center field. The team is high on Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama, who should see plenty of time. The likes of Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Phillip Ervin, and Aristides Aquino all have talent, but David Bell will have to figure out how to divide playing time. Also, the Reds may not be able to count on much offensively from Tucker Barnhart at catcher and Freddy Galvis at shortstop.
From 75 wins last season, the Reds are now projected to win 84.5 games in 2020. Improving by 10 wins is no easy task, but it’s more than reasonable for Cincinnati. If the rotation stays healthy, it’ll be one of the best in baseball with no discernible weaknesses. The bullpen should be at least middle of the pack, perhaps top-5 in the National League. Finally, the additions of Moustakas and Castellanos, as well as the incredible outfield depth, should make the Reds a decent offensive team, which is all they need to be given their pitching. Look for the Reds to exceed 84.5 wins this season while making a serious push for 90 wins and a spot in the postseason.