3 Keys to Reds Earning Wild Card Berth

Hunter Greene's ascension is a big reason why Cincinnati could turn into contenders sooner than people think.
Hunter Greene's ascension is a big reason why Cincinnati could turn into contenders sooner than people think.

Last season wasn’t pretty for Reds fans as Cincinnati fell to the bottom of the division with a 100-loss season. 

There’s reason to believe that the worst days of this rebuild are now behind the Reds, and there could even be hope for a Wild Card berth. 

I’ve circled the three most important factors that have to break Cincinnati’s way to make the postseason, and I’ll detail those in a minute. But before we get to that, you’re going to want to learn about the highest-valued promotion in sports betting at Caesars Sportsbook: A fully insured bet worth up to $1,250!

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You could use this opportunity on anything, even an NBA and NHL game tonight. But if you’re a hardcore Reds fan, why not take this chance to wager on your team? 

Let me tell you three reasons why that might not be such a bad idea.

Three reasons the Reds can be a Wild Card team

Cincinnati lost 100 games last season, but that doesn’t mean you should count them out of this season, too. 

There have been plenty of teams who have gone from worst to first, and the Reds don’t even need to have that drastic of a turnaround to make the postseason. 

The best part is: If the Reds stun expectations, you’ll win BIG. Cincinnati is +1800 to make the playoffs and +6500 to win the NL Central! That’s a huge pay day if you spend all $1,250 of your bet insurance! 

Here are three reasons why that could happen: 

1. Young SPs take the next step

The Reds have one of MLB’s youngest pitching staffs and at least three of those starters have the potential to have the best season of their young careers. 

Chief among those breakout candidates is Hunter Greene, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 MLB Draft. Greene has become well known for his power pitching – no starting pitcher threw more pitches at or above 100 mph last season – and he could have more talent to tap into. Greene’s 5-13 record and 4.44 ERA last season weren’t pretty, but his underlying numbers were very encouraging. The rookie struck out 164 batters in 125 ⅔ innings along with a 1.21 WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched). 

Fellow starting pitcher Nick Lodolo had similar numbers, going 4-7 with a 3.66 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 131 strikeouts in 101 ⅓ innings. If he can provide an additional 50 innings this season, that would go a long way. 

Graham Ashcraft’s numbers – 4.89 ERA with a 1.42 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 105 innings – aren’t at that same level as Greene's and Lodolo's, but there’s no reason to think he can’t improve on his rookie numbers too.

2. Stephenson and Fraley have breakout seasons 

Even if Cincinnati winds up with one of the better starting rotations in the NL Central, the Reds still have to score runs to win games. That doesn’t look like an easy feat with their current lineup. 

Aside from 17-year veteran Joey Votto and third-year second baseman Jonathan India, you’d be excused for confusing Cincinnati’s lineup with that of a Triple A squad. However, just because you don’t recognize some of the names, it doesn’t mean they won’t produce. 

Tyler Stephenson was off to the best start of his young career last season, hitting .319 with a .854 OPS before injuries derailed his season. If he can have a season even close to those numbers, that would give the Reds another bat they can count on. 

In that same vein, outfielder/DH Jake Fraley could be poised for the best season of his young career. The longtime Rays and Mariners prospect was traded to the Reds in the Jesse Winker trade and now it’s time for him to help replace Winker’s numbers. Injuries limited Fraley to just 68 games last season, but he still hit 12 home runs with a .344 on-base percentage. 

If Stephenson and Fraley can stay healthy and continue on their upward trajectory, Cincinnati’s offense could surprise some teams this year. 

3. The rest of the division flounders in mediocrity 

This factor is outside of Cincinnati’s control, but it could end up playing a HUGE factor in the Reds’ chances this year. The NL Central is far from a bad division, but it also lacks a juggernaut team. St. Louis won the division with 93 wins last season – the second-worst record of any division winner last year – and other teams behind them (Brewers, Cubs, Pirates) aren’t expected to be cream-of-the-crop teams. 

The bulk of Cincinnati’s games will come against the other four teams in its division, and if those teams wind up having middle-of-the-road seasons, the Reds could take advantage in a big way. 

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