Cincinnati Reds: Vegas predicts 77.5 wins for the team this season

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17: Scooter Gennett #3 of the Cincinnati Reds and National League celebrates after a two-run home run in the ninth inning to tie the game against the American League during the 89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park on July 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17: Scooter Gennett #3 of the Cincinnati Reds and National League celebrates after a two-run home run in the ninth inning to tie the game against the American League during the 89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park on July 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

According to Las Vegas, the Cincinnati Reds will show improvement next season in the win column. However, 77.5 wins seems a bit low, don’t you think?

The Cincinnati Reds won 67 games in 2018. According to Odds Shark, the team is projected to win 77.5 games in the upcoming season. While it’s nice to see Vegas predict the Reds will see an increase in the win column, I think they’re underselling this team’s potential. I’ll take the over.

Let’s face it Reds fans, 77 wins would be a decent year for our beloved Redlegs. Heck, anything better than another 90-plus loss season will seem like we’ve won the lottery, right? If the Reds won 77 games, that’d be the most wins the team had seen since they went to the postseason in 2013. However, call me crazy, but I think 77 is a bit low.

I know it could be fool’s gold, but this year’s Reds roster appears much improved over the one that lost 95 games the past two years. The starting pitching, while not elite, is much improved. The additions of Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, and Sonny Gray have essentially bumped three of last year’s starters to the bullpen.

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Homer Bailey crashed and burned hard last season. The veteran pitcher won just one game and had an ERA above 6.00. He was last year’s Opening Day starter. I know that Bailey’s suffered through injuries and he didn’t receive a lot of run support, but you can’t get that kind of production out of your No. 1 starter and be successful.

The Cincinnati Reds could pick any pitcher in the running for this year’s rotation and they’re likely to give a better performance than Bailey did in 2018. Look for Wood and Gray to battle it out for the No. 1 starter role with Luis Castillo having an outside shot.

Speaking of Castillo, he had an up and down year in 2018. He struggled keeping the ball in the ballpark, but also showed off a wicked changeup that proved to be virtually unhittable at times. If Castillo plays at the same level he closed the 2018 season (1.09 ERA and 34 strikeouts in his final 5 games), then the Reds may have found their ace.

Matt Harvey may have been the most consistent pitcher for the Reds last season. He headed to Los Angeles in the offseason, signing a one-year deal with the Angels. However, Cincinnati replaced his production with a pitcher in Tanner Roark who has very similar career numbers. Harvey is 41-44 with a career-ERA of 3.80. Roark is 64-54 with a career-ERA of 3.59.

So, I think we can all agree that a starting rotation of Gray, Wood, Roark, Castillo, and Anthony DeSclafani is much improved over last year’s rotation of Bailey, Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano, and Cody Reed to start the season. The trio of Romano, Mahle and Reed look destined for either Triple-A Louisville or the bullpen to start the 2019 season.

The Cincinnati Reds bullpen was, perhaps, its biggest strength last season. Jared Hughes, David Hernández, Raisel Iglesias, and Michael Lorenzen helped locked down opponents once the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings rolled around. All four of those player are retuning in 2019, so we should expect similar results.

Amir Garrett had his ups and down in 2018, but his role appeared undefined, possibly leading to some struggles. This season, the Reds signed veteran left-handed specialist Zach Duke to get those key outs against lefties, which should free up the team to utilize Garrett for longer stretches and allow him to use his entire repertoire rather than just focus on being able to get outs versus left-handed hitters.

Kevin Quackenbush is gone, Brandon Finnegan is likely to struggle to make the squad, Austin Brice is not with the team, and Wandy Peralta will have to show off a lot during Spring Training just to make the team out of camp. As mentioned earlier, the trio of Reed, Mahle, and Romano will be a battle for one of the last spots on the roster. The competition amongst the pitching staff this spring is going to be fierce.

Now, onto the lineup. There was no shortage of power in the Cincinnati Reds batting order last season, with Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suárez belting homers over the fence on a routine basis. Yes, Joey Votto‘s power numbers were down, but a refocused Votto is likely to remedy that very quickly. Even players like José Peraza, with a career-high 14 home runs, displayed power in 2018.

Related Story. Joey Votto is set for a bounce-back season

Fast forward to this spring, and a few new faces give the Reds even more pop at the plate. Cincinnati added slugging outfielders Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to this year’s roster in a trade with Los Angeles Dodgers that sent Homer Bailey out of the Queen City. Kemp and Puig will bring a combined 388 career home runs to Great American Ball Park this coming season.

Throw in a healthy Jesse Winker, along with No. 1 prospect Nick Senzel, and the Cincinnati Reds have one of the most dangerous lineups in the National League, and perhaps, all of baseball. Bring your baseball mitt to the ballpark folks, because balls are going to be flying out of GABP.

There’s reason for critics and those who don’t follow the Cincinnati Reds closely to think that the team is still rebuilding and are confused as to why the front office has taken on a lot of one-year deals. However, the fans who follow the team know exactly what the Reds are doing.

This team isn’t looking to win big this season, but they’re making savvy moves that will help develop confidence in their young players, so when 2020 and 2021 come around, this team will be in prime position to go after division titles, league championships, and perhaps, a World Championship.

Next. Predicting the Reds Opening Day roster before Spring Training

I don’t expect the Cincinnati Reds to be world-beaters next season, however, I do feel that 77.5 wins is selling this team a little short. Most Reds fans are realistically expecting the 2019 version of the Reds to be competitive and possibly finish above .500 for the first time since 2013. If Reds fans are lucky, the team will surprise everyone and be a year or two ahead of schedule.