As we get closer and closer to spring training – pitchers and catchers report in ONE WEEK – we are starting to see some outlets come up with their predictions for how the 2020 season will play out. Earlier this week USA Today had their 6-person panel come up with the record for every team in baseball.

Unfortunately for Cincinnati Reds fans, they didn’t have the organization at the top of the division. USA Today’s crew had the St. Louis Cardinals at the top of the National League Central division. In the East it’s the Atlanta Braves, and out on the west coast, the Dodgers lead the way. Fortunately for the Reds, there’s a wild card or two. And it’s that second wild card that could see Cincinnati land according to this one.

The Nationals would grab that first one with an 88-74 record. But sitting there in a 3-way tie for the next best record in the National League is the Cincinnati Reds at 85-77. That would tie them with both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Mets for the final wild card spot. That would certainly make the two days after the regular season a wild ride, wouldn’t it? Surgeon Generals Warning: Don’t reminisce about the last time Cincinnati had to play additional games to reach the postseason. Or the last time they had to play in a wild card game.

Here’s how the USA Today staff broke down the National League Central division for the 2020 season.

Team Wins Losses
St. Louis Cardinals 88 74
Cincinnati Reds 85 77
Milwaukee Brewers 84 78
Chicago Cubs 82 80
Pittsburgh Pirates 60 102

The division, with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who currently have a payroll of $50,000,000, looks competitive and close. What is interesting here is that despite the division being rather close in the 1-4 spots, each of the six members of the staff who made predictions all had the exact same order of finish, though with some having different records for the teams.

Between now and the start of the season, plenty can change. There could be some acquisitions that could be made for any of the teams in the division. And injuries can always pop up that alter how things could play out, too. And then, of course, there’s also the way that rosters could play out – which at the back end of the roster, both on the bench and in the bullpen, could go in about three hundred different directions.

After years of low expectations during “The Rebuild (TM)”, the Cincinnati Reds are actually being expected to compete in 2020. Hope springs eternal every February, and while there’s a lot of baseball to be played between now and the end of the season, but it’s not just the Reds and their fans that seem to think that Cincinnati has a shot this year.

33 Responses

  1. Klugo

    Avoid those 8,9,10 game losing streaks and we should be fine. Those streaks just crush.

  2. Hotto4Votto

    I mentioned the other day that there will be a lot of competition in the NL for a playoff spot. For the Reds to gain at least a wild card they’ll have to beat out at least two of the four competitors in the division, and at least three of the Nats/Braves, Mets, Phillies, and Dbacks.

    May be a tall task, but one I think they’re capable of doing. This is also why incremental improvements are so important in such a close race.

    • CI3J

      The thing to keep in mind is, divisions tend to cannabalize themselves, even if they have 4 strong teams. You may think the NL East is stacked, but the Nats, Braves, Mets, and Phillies are not all going to finish with a winning record. Very likely, 2 of them will, 1 will be about .500, and the other will have a losing record, made worse when they throw in the towel and trade away pieces at the deadline. That’s just the way it tends to shake out.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Yes, that’s true. I think the same can be said of our division as well. I personally think we’ll be in the mix of teams after the also rans drop off. But even still we’ll either have to win the division or be better than at least one of the other second place teams. At this point I’m thinking LA, AZ, Nats, Braves, and Cardinals are set up well for good seasons. We’ve got to hope we’ve done enough to be better than one of them. I think we can. And obviously a lot can change as the season plays out.

      • JayTheRed

        So I am hoping that the Indians who play in the same place as us for spring training will have lots of conversations about maybe still getting Lindor. Honestly if we could just get a better SS it would help us out so much. I Love Galvis as a backup but I think he probably would be part of any trade to get a better SS.

        Here is to hoping something happens still even though both Williams and Krall said nothing is close at this time for major additions.

  3. FreeHouse

    I think the Reds need to start the season hot in order to succeed this season. If they have a good April I believe it will carry on through the season. They are the most talented club in the Central top to bottom.

  4. SteveLV

    Outside of health, I think the season pivots on Votto and Bauer. If Votto is a solid contributor – .400 OBP/.830 OPS – and Bauer is in the conversation with Castillo and Gray, I think they win the division. If Votto declines further and plays anyway and we wonder which Bauer we get with each start, could be a disappointing season. Maybe it’s being a life-long fan, but I think both come through.

  5. Tom Reeves

    If this team fires on most cylinders and is within striking distance in August, it has a real chance to win the division.

    Some bets have to go very well.

    The bets on Miley and Bauer have to pay off. Basically, the pitching staff has to pitch like it has 2-3 number one pitchers and 2-3 number 3 pitchers.

    Akiyama must transition well to MLB and remain on on-base machine.

    Votto needs to retain some Votto-Raquel form – even if it’s Votto against RHP and he’s platooning with Moose or Castellanos against LHP.

    The Winker/Ervin platoon has to play at .850+ OPS or Aquino has to turn into the second coming of Eric Davis.

    And the minor league bullpen signings and the existing bullpen has to respond to Derek Johnson and Co. If Iglesias, Lorenzen, and Garrett can emerge as the slightly ill-tempered sea bass boys with laser beams, that will be a huge plus.

    • Tom Reeves

      Not sure why spell check changed -esque to Raquel. I don’t think I’ve ever typed Raquel in my digital life.

    • KDJ

      Instead of the “Nasty Boys” of 1990, 2020 will have the “Slightly Ill-tempered Boys” . . . cracked me up.

  6. Matt WI

    Is it too late to request a schedule change so that they don’t have start out against the Cards? They need to get to work on that particular mental block. 7-12 won’t cut it this year.

  7. gusnwally

    Only problem that I really find disturbing is that we had all those lost 1 run games last year. And I think our current manager had a whole lot to do with that. I am ecstatic with the players.

    • Jack

      I think a poor offense combined with a good pitching staff leads to a lot of 1 run games and eventual losses. The pitching keeps it close but offense rarely comes through. Better offense should lead to fewer one run games and a better record in the ones they are given equal pitching.

      • Mike

        I think a lot of the poor offense came from bell double switching the starting eight out by the sixth inning and only having the bench players left to hit when crunch time came around. Very disappointed in Mr. Bell.

        Come on, man, you know we don’t allow personal insults of people in the comments.

  8. Linkster

    Sorry to be negative but, the USA Today crew seems like some homers. How can a team (Cardinals) who barely made the playoffs and made no real changes be ranked first. The Reds have the best pitching staff in the NL Central and have added some big time bats. I guess the Reds will just have to prove them wrong.

    • Jefferson Green

      The Cards are not expected to be a better team than last year, but they won the division while their nearest competitor, Milwaukee, got worse. I think a lot of folks will have them at the top of their central rankings.

    • Doc

      Especially since the Cards subtracted a big bat. Should be at Busch in August when the Reds get there. I hope I’m still excited enough to seek tickets!

  9. AirborneJayJay

    Well GM Nick Krall came out and said there is nothing on the horizon regarding the roster. Of course it was also accompanied with the usual we are always looking to improve. I guess interest in Brock Holt waned quickly after getting Castellanos and then Strop.
    I was hoping they weren’t finished. But it has been an eventful off season.

    • HoF-13

      I think and hope some money is being held out for stretch-run pickups. 6 – 8 million in reserve for a late season rental would be fine with me.

  10. RedsFan11

    “Surgeon Generals Warning: Don’t reminisce about the last time Cincinnati had to play additional games to reach the postseason. Or the last time they had to play in a wild card game.”

    Or play in the playoffs for that matter. lol

    • magi210

      I choose to remember the 1990 Series as the last trip to the playoffs.

      • Colorado Red

        The last GOOD trip to the playoffs.

      • RedsFan11

        Cant remember that because I was 18months old, and now im 30+….

        COME ON REDS LET THIS YEAR BE THE YEAR!

  11. Sliotar

    Should be a fun season and a dogfight for the NL Central crown.

    The Brewers being projected ahead of the Cubs …. don’t know about that.
    Milwaukee lost Grandal, Moustakas, Thames.

    The team promoted “Craigtember” last year, as their manager being some sort of difference-maker … but I think most of us here would prefer to retain good MLB players.

    Besides, in the NL Central, the Cardinals have the trademark of mysteriously conjuring up winning seasons.

  12. Stock

    Exactly how are the Cards supposed to be better than the Reds? Linkster hit the nail on the head with his post.

    The Cards have Flaherty who is slightly better than Castillo but not a lot. They have Carlos Martinez but for how many starts and the quality of these starts will be questionable. Mikolas and Hudson are border line #4/#5 and Wainwright is a borderline #5/Back of the pen arm. The Reds have 5 SP better than the Cards #2 SP. The Reds pitching is clearly better.

    C: Molina is 100 years old and a shell of his former self. OPS+ last year was 85. Barnhart’s was 82 and Casali was 90. Catcher is a push.

    Right side of IF: Goldschmidt is better than Votto but Moustakas is much better than Wong. I think Votto will be better than 2019. I think Goldschmidt and Wong will be worse. 2019 OPS+ (Cards 219/Reds 202).

    Left side of IF Carpenter is done DeJong is below average. Galvis sucks but Suarez is so far ahead of these other 3. 2019. Carpenter is projected to start at 3B but I think Edman will. This evens things out quite a bit per OPS+ because of Edman’s 120 OPS+ OPS+ (Cards 188/217, Reds 210)

    Total IF (Cards 407/436, Reds 412)

    But now comes the Cards weak OF:

    O’Neill, Bader and Fowler have a cumulative OPS+ of 264. Winker, Senzel and Castellanos had a cumulative OPS+ last year of 321.

    I think Fowler is getting old and will revert back to 2018 stats. I think Senzel will be much better. I think Winker will be better. I think Castellanos will be better in Cincinnati (His OPS+ was 105 in Detroit and 151 in Chicago)

    Offense OPS+ Cards (671/700, Reds 733). I think they will be better in 2020 than in 2019. I think Cards hitters will be under 700 in 2020 and the Reds hitters will be above 750 in 2020.

    Better offense and better pitching. Division champs.

    • Sliotar

      @Stock

      You may be right in that the Reds can win the NL Central this season … Cardinals are transitioning their OF, Cubs are toeing the line on the luxury tax. 2020 is the year.

      But … you are underrating some of St. Louis’s players.

      Carpenter is projected at 2.0 WAR, just like Votto. IMO, feels a like an over-estimaton on both … both guys could be a big anchor to their teams offenses.

      “Moustakas is much better than Wong.” WAR, speed, especially defense, age … all favor Wong.

      And Dejong is far from below average … 3.5 projected WAR, steady above-average player. The kind of SS that would really add to the Reds post-season chances, IMO.

      It is a measure of how well-run the Cardinals are … that with their weak spots, they are still favored (for now) ahead of the “all-in” Reds.

    • Matt WI

      As much as I hate Yadi (and enjoy hating him), the guy still manages to show up. I’d rather he retire than consider him a liability.

      • TBD

        Matt WI
        Yadi – agreed, I’d never consider him a liability. He’s a true leader.

      • Earmbrister

        I normally agree with you WI, but I think Molina is done as an offensive force. He’ll still be a leader and help his pitching staff, but the wheels have come off offensively.

  13. Stoney

    Important to get off to a good start this year. The last 2 years were just brutal. It’s there for the taking this year. Division is not that strong and the pitching staff is as good as any team. Plus we picked up a leader in Moose. Should be an exciting year for a change.