With the return of Major League Baseball less than two weeks away, we need to start looking at teams that may surprise people this year. This season will be like no other, as teams will only be playing 60 games against two of the six divisions.
For the first time in baseball history, the designated hitter will be used in the National League. This will hurt teams that have a lack of offensive depth, while benefiting a few teams in the league more than others.
A team that will be very exciting to watch this season is the Cincinnati Reds. The organization has spent most of the last decade near the bottom of the National League. After a very entertaining offseason, the team will have a great opportunity to win their division.
Potential To Be A Very Potent Offense:
One of those teams that will gain a lot from the extra bat in the lineup will be the Reds. After finishing last season at 75-87 and 14 games behind the second Wild Card, the team will be looking to do some damage in the NL Central.
In the offseason, the Reds offense was strengthened significantly with the signings of both Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos. Both players will look to produce in the middle of the lineup alongside Eugenio Suarez, who finished the 2019 season with 49 homers.
Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino, and Castellanos will serve as the Reds outfielders in the shortened season. The additional hitter provides the opportunity for one of these outfielders to remain in the lineup on a regular basis.
Manager David Bell can also use the designated hitter spot to give some key players a day off in the field. 36-year-old Joey Votto is coming off one of his least productive seasons at the plate, and the extra spot will allow him to get a day off in the field when he needs it.
If Votto has a bounce back season while his surrounding players produce, expect the Reds lineup to be much improved in 2020.
Easy Schedule Jolt is Vital:
Another important thing teams will need to do is get off to a good start in the shortened season. Last season, we saw the World Series Champion Washington Nationals start the season 19-31, but it will be far less likely that a team recovers from a poor start like that in a shortened season.
To begin the season, the Reds play the rebuilding Detroit Tigers in six of their first ten games. This will give the NL Central team a great opportunity to gain some early confidence, which can go a long way in the team winning their first division title since 2012.
In this unique formatted season, a fast start will be ideal for teams with postseason aspirations. The Reds will be competing in a tough division including the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers who will all be looking to clinch a playoff spot.
Elite Starting Rotation:
The strongest part of the Reds roster going into this season is their starting rotation. The team traded for former All-Star Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline last season and will expect him to pitch well in his first full season with the club.
Last season, we saw 27-year-old Luis Castillo have a breakout year with the team. He had a 15-8 record last season with a solid 3.40 ERA; giving the Reds another legitimate starter to rely on moving forward.
One of the bigger reasons for why the team’s rotation was so solid last season was due to the production of Sonny Gray. After struggling to perform well with the New York Yankees in the last few seasons, the starter went 11-8 and had a 2.87 ERA in 2019.
When the team opened up against the Tigers on July 24th, the Reds will send out Gray as their opening day starter. If he can replicate what he did last season, it can go a long way for the team making the playoffs.
The team also has very competent fourth and fifth starters in the back of the rotation: Wade Miley went 14-6 with the Houston Astros last season, while Anthony DeSclafani went 9-9 with the Reds last season.
If these five pitchers can continue to perform well for the team this season, they have the ability to be one of the best rotations in baseball.
Going into this season, the Cincinnati Reds are going to be one of the interesting teams to watch. They have the potential to make the postseason in a very tight NL Central; especially after such a busy offseason.
If the likes of Moustakas and Castellanos can come in and produce, and the rotation stays strong throughout 2020, the Reds will not only make the postseason, but could possibly even make some noise in the playoffs.