Cincinnati Reds rank first among dark horse contenders for playoffs

GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24: Mike Moustakas #9 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24: Mike Moustakas #9 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The Reds beat out the White Sox for the top spot. writers Will Leitch and Mike Periello put together a list of teams who they expect to be sleepers for the 2020 season. To qualify, a team must’ve finished below .500 the previous season. The Cincinnati Reds topped the list, edging out the vastly improved Chicago White Sox and the talent-laden Toronto Blue Jays.

I don’t think it comes as a shock to many Reds fans that their team is among the dark horse candidates to make a run at the postseason, but I was a bit surprised that Cincinnati came in at No. 1. However, Leitch and Periello make some compelling arguments as to why they chose the Reds to be their sleeper pick to make the 2020 postseason.

We all know, based on the $166M the Reds front office spent last winter, that Bob Castellini, Dick Williams and Nick Krall were hoping for something special in 2020. The additions of Shogo Akiyama, Mike Moustakas, Pedro Strop, Wade Miley and Nick Castellanos certainly boost the Reds both in the batter’s box and on the mound.

Akiyama is a high on-base outfielder who can be the team’s leadoff hitter, while relying on the big bats of Moustakas and Castellanos to help bring him to the plate. Strop is a veteran reliever who can counted on late in games, and Miley, while not overpowering, gives the Reds a crafty left-hander in the rotation.

The roster additions were just one of the reasons cited, as the implementation of the designated hitter is sure to help Cincinnati as well. Heading into spring training, the team was overflowing with outfielders, and that was before Castellanos signed. That extra spot in the lineup will give manager David Bell a lot of flexibility.

Something else that Leitch and Petriello pointed to, that I hadn’t thought of, was the Reds bullpen. Not having to fill so many innings over a 60-game season will certainly help Cincinnati’s most vulnerable group. Look for a heavy dose of Strop, Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett and Raisel Iglesias.

The schedule also breaks the Reds way. The Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, both of whom are rebuilding, represent nearly 17% of the Reds 2020 schedule. Throw in another 10 games against the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati plays 33% of their games against teams that went a combined 175-310 in 2019.

Next. Bell made the correct decision

No other team in the NL Central added to their roster the way the Cincinnati Reds did over the offseason. Hopefully, no other team in the NL Central will reach the level of success Cincinnati hopes to achieve in 2020. The season hasn’t started yet, put the pundits and experts are taking notice.