Play ball! Those two words are ingrained in our culture, but unfortunately haven’t been heard yet in this crazy year of 2020. Baseball may not be the true pastime of our country anymore, but there is still something innately American about the crack of the bat and the pop of the glove on a summer afternoon or evening. That will return this evening with a double-dip on ESPN at 7:00 p.m. and then the night cap at 10:00 p.m. out West.
For introductions sake, I’m Brandon Ramsey and will be essentially serving as the #KSReds Beat Writer this season. You’ve seen my byline before with the “5 Things You Need to Know” about our opponent during Football season, the Opponent Scouting Reports during basketball season, and my ongoing Player Breakdowns on Sundays currently, but I will be a much more regular contributor now during this baseball season. I promise (I think) that this will be by far my most wordy post of the entire baseball season. I realize I probably care more about the Reds than most of you so I won’t make this anything we all can’t handle and enjoy together. Beyond this in-depth preview I will bring you nightly game recaps after each Reds titanic struggle (I already miss hearing Marty Brenneman on the call for 700 WLW). With 60 games being played in 66 days, that means you’ll be hearing from me a lot. Also, anytime there is a major injury, trade, or an especially big game to preview I’ll jump in to provide that news. If you haven’t followed the Reds in the past, now is your time to jump on board!
The 2020 Major League Baseball season will begin this evening with the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals playing host to the New York Yankees, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, this season’s World Series favorite, taking on the San Francisco Giants. These will be two excellent pitching matchups to watch with Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole followed by Clayton Kershaw vs. Johnny Cueto.
The Cincinnati Reds season will begin tomorrow evening with a 6:10 p.m. first pitch at Great American Ball Park against the Detroit Tigers. Sonny Gray, an All-Star last season, will take the ball as the Opening Day starter for the Reds across from Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers. The series will run throughout the weekend with Luis Castillo on the mound Saturday night at 5:10 p.m. and then Trevor Bauer finishing off the 3-game series on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 p.m.
Expectations are high this season in Cincinnati. The season will be a 60-game sprint to the finish line and the Reds have a very talented roster capable to winning a lot of ballgames. There will be plenty of differences about this shortened season, both in terms of the schedule but also with some of the rules of the game. Luckily for the Reds, a lot of the national baseball writers seem to think that the changes will actually benefit Cincinnati.
Over at The Ringer, they expect the Reds to benefit as much as any team from the addition of the Designated Hitter in the National League. As we will get to in the full preview below, the roster has a lot of corner outfielders and infielders that may be better served with the bat in their hands full-time without having to take the field. In addition to having an additional valuable hitter in the lineup, Cincy also benefits from the “regionalized” schedule. Instead of having tougher games matched up against the National League East and National League West opponents, they get to play teams like the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals out of the American League Central. When you include the Pittsburgh Pirates from their own division, one-third (20 games) of the Reds schedule are now against teams three teams that went a combined 175-310 last season. That is a significant scheduling boost that will pay even greater dividends in a shortened season.
The Reds make out the best with the updated schedule. Like the rest of the NLC, they get to skip tough teams in NLE and NLW but …
… now, 33% of their slate (20 games) is against the Tigers, Pirates, Royals. Those teams went 175-310 last year.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) July 6, 2020
? MOOSE HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED ?
Three-time All-Star Mike Moustakas is officially a Cincinnati Red after signing a four-year, $64-million deal through the 2023 season! It is the largest free-agent contract in club history. pic.twitter.com/SYyUpoaG4Q
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) December 5, 2019
The Reds made several big off-season moves as well to bolster their lineup for a shot to compete for the National League Pennant in 2020. Back in December, they signed power hitting 2nd/3rd Baseman, and 2019 All-Star for the Milwaukee Brewers, Mike Moustakas. In the Outfield, the Reds landed Japanese baseball star Shogo Akiyama who has a career batting average of .304 over 9 seasons for the Saitama Seibu Lions. Then, in January, the club signed Outfielder Nick Castellanos who was traded to the Cubs during last season after spending 7 years with the Detroit Tigers. Castellanos is an excellent hitter with a lot of power potential, especially inside Great American Ball Park.
On the pitcher’s mound, the Reds added veteran left-hander Wade Miley to anchor an already strong rotation. Miley was outstanding for the American League champion Houston Astros last season. Potentially the the most important signing of all though was landing former Chicago Cub Pedro Strop. The Reds bullpen was a sore spot at times last season and the hard throwing right-hander should help improve that area.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 14, 2020
A main reason why so many people around baseball are bullish on the Reds this season is due to their starting rotation. Sonny Gray has the ball for Opening Day tomorrow night after a bounce back All-Star season last year. His 11-8 record doesn’t jump off the page, but he had a 2.87 Earned Run Average and a Strikeout to Walk ratio of over 3-to-1. Luis Castillo, and his filthy changeup, is next in the rotation and is even being picked by some as a Cy Young candidate. In his third season as a big leaguer, Castillo went 15-8 with a 3.40 ERA while also earning a spot on the All-Star roster. Trevor Bauer is in the middle of the rotation. He struggled after arriving in Cincinnati mid-season, but has a track record of being a consistent starter and is over qualified as a 3rd starter. Though he will miss the beginning of the season after a pec strain, Anthony DeScalfani is expected to return soon. “Disco” has battled injuries off-and-on during his four seasons with the Reds but definitely has the talent, when healthy, to be great at the back of the rotation. Last but not least, off-season accusation Wade Miley is expected to anchor the rotation. The veteran left-hander is coming off a 14-6 season, with a sub-4.00 ERA, for the Houston Astros.
We will touch more on them in the next section, but both Tyler Mahle and Lucas Sims are currently in the Reds bullpen and have started games in Cincinnati. Both will be looked upon for spot-start opportunities, especially to begin the season without DeScalfani. Left-hander Cody Reed could fill this role some as well as he has started several games for the Reds in the past.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 23, 2020
Despite struggling for the Chicago Cubs last season, right-hander Pedro Strop is a highly anticipated addition to the Reds bullpen. Strop will likely serve as the “setup” man pitching the 8th inning before Closer Raisel Iglesias enters the game. Iglesias saved a career high 34 games last season, but also blew a career high 6 saves and had an overall record of 3-12 with a less than stellar 4.16 ERA. For the Reds to be a playoff team this season Iglesias will need to return to his 2017 and 2018 form of being a lights out closer.
In middle relief the Reds will rely on the righty/lefty duo of Michael Lorenzen and Amir Garrett. Lorenzen was very good last season striking out 85 batters in 83 1/3 innings and sporting a 2.92 ERA in 73 appearances. Garrett, a 6’5” 230-pound lefty, went 5-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 2019 and struck out an impressive 78 batters in just 56 innings. After struggling for his first few seasons in Cincy, right-hander Robert Stephenson improved last season as a relatively reliable arm out of the bullpen and will provide additional depth.
As mentioned above, Tyler Mahle and Lucas Sims are also right-handed options in the bullpen, especially in long-relief duty. Rounding out the pitching staff, the Reds have three more arms to call open. Coming over from the Chicago White Sox is veteran reliever Nate Jones (a former member of the Northern Kentucky baseball team). Jones is a tall righty who will help bridge the gap between the starters and the Strop/Iglesias duo. The final two pitchers are left-handers Cody Reed and Brooks Raley. Reed has bounced between Louisville and the majors the past several seasons and also has experience as a starter in Cincinnati. Lastly, 6’3” lefty Brooks Raley spent the last five seasons as a stater in the Korean Baseball Organization playing for the Lotte Giants. An 11 year veteran of professional basebvall, Raley will look to latch on to the big leagues after only ever having two cups of coffee with the Chicago Cubs in 2012 and 2013.
Starting behind the plate, the Reds will carry three catchers to begin the season. The expanded 30-man roster for the short season allows for an extra backstop and each Red has MLB experience in Cincinnati. Tucker Barnhart, a former Gold Glove winner, returns as the starter behind the plate. Barnhart, a switch-hitter at the plate, batted .231 last season in 114 games. Curt Casali will be the primary backup for Barnhart after appearing in 84 games last season and hitting .251. Lastly, Kyle Farmer, a utility guy with the ability to play second base and at the corners, will serve as a third catcher and pinch-hitter off the bench.
Around the infield, the Reds will still feature former National League MVP Joey Votto at First Base. Votto will be looking to bounce back off of the worst season of his career a year ago. In 2019 the left-handed hitter batted .261 at the plate while driving in only 47 runs. Even at age 36, the Reds will need Votto to be better in order to live up to organizational, and fan, exceptions this season. Free Agent signee Mike Moustakas will take the reigns at Second Base. Signing a 4-year, $64 million dollar deal with the Reds, Moustakas is coming off of an All-Star season for the NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers. Freddy Galvis will play Shortstop on Opening Day and try to return to his pre-Cincinnati form. After hitting .260 in 115 games for the Toronto Blue Jays, the switch-hitting Galvis batted just .234 in 107 at-bats for the Reds. At the hot corner will be 2018 All-Star Eugenio Suarez. Suarez bashed 49 Home Runs last season and drove in over 100 runs for the second consecutive year. If the Reds are a playoff team expect Suarez to at-least be mentioned as a Most Valuable Player candidate.
We already touched on Kyle Farmer and his ability to play second base, and probably at the corners some as well, but Josh VanMeter will serve as the other reserve infielder. VanMeter was pretty good in his time in Cincinnati last year as a Rookie, batting .237 with 8 Home Runs. The lefty will serve as a pinch-hitter and can play some second base, as well as the corner infield positions.
— FOX Sports Cincinnati (@FOXSportsCincy) July 16, 2020
There will be new faces in the outfield in each of the corners to begin the 2020 campaign in Cincinnati. Shogo Akiyama comes over to Major League Baseball after a nine season career in the top Japanese league where he batted over .300 for his career. The left-handed hitter will bat in the leadoff position and play Leftfield. In Centerfield will be Nick Senzel who batted .256 as a Rookie in 2019. Senzel will look to build on a solid Rookie season that was ended abruptly by a shoulder injury. In Right Field the Reds will have Nick Castellanos who, like Moustakas, signed a 4-year, $64 million dollar deal. In just 51 games for the Chicago Cubs last season, Castellanos smacked 16 home runs and 21 doubles while hitting .321.
The Reds will carry three additional outfielders to begin the season. Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin will serve as a platoon at the DH spot, along with playing the corner outfield positions when needed. Winker, a left-handed hitter, batted .269 with 16 Home Runs last season. The right-handed side of the platoon belongs to Ervin who batted an insane .349 against lefties last season. The Reds also have left-handed hitting Travis Jankowski in the outfield. Jankowski was signed after spending the previous five seasons with the San Diego Padres.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
1. CF Nick Senzel
2. 1B Joey Votto
3. 3B Eugenio Suarez
4. 2B Mike Moustakas
5. RF Nick Castellanos
6. LF Shogo Akiyama
7. DH Phillip Ervin
8. SS Freddy Galvis
9. C Tucker Barnhart
Pitcher: Sonny Gray
You have to go back to 2013 since the Cincinnati Reds lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2 in the National League Wild Card game. The year prior, in 2012, the Reds were up 2-0 returning to Cincy before losing three consecutive games to the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants (I was at all three losing games at GABP). Back in 2010 is the last time the Reds won the Central division before being swept by the Philadelphia Phillies, which included a Game 1 no-hitter from Roy Halladay.
The playoffs are an expectation this season for Reds fans and many people who follow baseball around the country. The Reds have an excellent starting rotation, an improved bullpen, and a potent starting lineup that should put up a lot of runs. Anything can happen in a 60-game season that features different rules than normal, but things should work out well for Cincinnati. It won’t be Hall of Famer Marty Brenneman on the call for the first time in 46 seasons, but I’ll still be looking to say “This One Belongs to the Reds” many times this season!
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