Cincinnati Reds: Predicting where the team will finish in the NL Central

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 16: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts after hitting a solo home run in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 16, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 16: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts after hitting a solo home run in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 16, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds
GOODYEAR, AZ – FEBRUARY 19: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds poses for a portrait at the Cincinnati Reds Player Development Complex on February 19, 2019 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images) /

“The Reds have all the pieces in place to make a run at the pennant.” – Drew Koch

Really, am I the only one who thinks that this year’s Cincinnati Reds team is primed to win the National League Central division? I’ll stop short of saying that I’m willing to die on this hill, but the Reds have all the pieces in place to make a serious run at the NL Central pennant this season.

The Reds offense does not have any deficiencies from where I’m sitting. If Tucker Barnhart, a switch hitting catcher who you can count on for 40-plus RBIs and a career batting average of .254 is your worst hitter, sign me up right now. Billy Hamilton is gone and the outfield additions of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Nick Senzel are certainly an upgrade over a player who had a career on-base percentage below .300.

It’s been discussed ad nauseam, but the team’s depth this season is a big plus. Derek Dietrich and José Iglesias are major upgrades off the bench and two of the club’s best hitters this spring (Nick Senzel and Phillip Ervin) are starting the season in Triple-A Louisville. When, not if, injures occur, this team has the depth to withstand it.

The starting rotation will make or break whether or not this team can make the climb from worst to first. Homer Bailey is gone and had it not been for an injury to Alex Wood to begin the season, one of the Reds’ best young pitchers, Tyler Mahle, would’ve began the season in the minor leagues. This again speaks to the depth of this year’s team.

Cody Reed, Sal Romano, and Brandon Finnegan were all reassigned before camp ended and all will be part of the Cincinnati bullpen this season if they hope to make an impact on this year’s team. Last season, each of those players had multiple starts for the Reds.

Finally, it appears that the Cincinnati Reds have found their voice in the clubhouse. Of course it’s premature to anoint David Bell as the savior of the Reds franchise, but thus far he and the other coaches have said all the right things and appear to amicable to an analytical approach. This has not been the case in years past.

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Go ahead and buy your playoff tickets Reds fans because this year’s team is going to do something special. Yes, the NL Central is the most difficult and tightly bunched division in baseball, but that just means a couple wins over .500 will win the pennant. Get excited folks, baseball is almost here.

Prediction: 87-75 (1st place finish in the NL Central, playoff berth)