The 2018 season was tough for the Cincinnati Reds. Major League Baseball’s toughest division may be the National League Central. In 2019, Cincinnati will have to go a lot better than they did in 2018 if they want to make noise in the division.

We are one month out from the first game of spring training in the Cactus League, which will be on Saturday, February 23rd. The Reds will host the Cleveland Indians at the Goodyear, Arizona facility that the two teams share and we’ll get our first peek at the teams on the field in spring training. There’s still time this offseason for Cincinnati to make moves, and it seems like they are still trying to do just that. The Reds have been listed with a season wins total of 77 games and we are rapidly approaching days when we can bet on our favorite teams, so don’t forget to check out this review and other shops to make sure you have the best advantage possible.

77 Wins

In 2018 the Cincinnati Reds won just 67 games. In short, that means that the odds-makers see the team getting a lot better. The new additions to the team have added 10 wins to their projected win total over the previous year.

Sonny Gray was just added to the roster, and extended into the future, too. He adds depth to the Reds rotation that has also added left-handed pitcher Alex Wood, and right-hander Tanner Roark to help stabilize the rotation. Luis Castillo will be returning to join them, with Anthony DeSclafani likely taking the final spot. While it probably won’t be confused with the 1995 Atlanta Braves staff, it should be a massive improvement from the past few seasons.

Gray, as was written about the other day, signed a long-term extension with the Reds through 2022 for $30.5M. That also includes a club option at $12M for the 2023 season. The contract has plenty of upside in it if he can return to any sort of form like his old self prior to what he was in the 2018 season in New York. The Reds front office, and new pitching coach Derek Johnson seem confident that it can happen for the righty and he will perform well in Cincinnati.

Alex Wood, who posted a 3.68 ERA last season with Los Angeles, may be the opening day starter. Among the group he’s coming off of the best season. Tanner Roark profiles more towards the back of the Reds rotation, but his 4.34 ERA from 2018, if repeated, is a massive upgrade from what was there last season. The rotation not only improved, but bringing in the improvements also provided depth in both the rotation and bullpen. Some of the starters from 2018 will find themselves in Triple-A waiting for their shot, while others could slide into the big league bullpen. This should lead not only to improved starting pitching, but improved pitching everywhere.

Matt Kemp & Yasiel Puig

It’s not just the pitching that improved, though. The Cincinnati Reds were able to improve their offense by adding sluggers Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to the lineup. It seems like Puig will play every day. Whether that’s going to be in right field, or in center, or a mix of both is unclear. But he certainly looks like he’ll be in the lineup nearly every day. His .820 OPS in Los Angeles probably improves a bit moving to a hitter friendly ballpark in Cincinnati. Likewise, the same can be said for Kemp, who posted an .818 OPS for the Dodgers in 2018. He, though, could see less playing time in a crowded outfield. As the lesser valuable defender, he could see more of a platoon situation.

No matter how the outfield shakes out with the new additions, the offense for the Reds will likely be improved. Not as much as the pitching staff, but the offense was already roughly league-average for the National League last season. It should be even better in 2019. Cincinnati won’t be playoff favorites, but the team should be playing better baseball. They should be playing competitive baseball. And if things go just right, who knows where they could wind up?

23 Responses

  1. Doug Gray

    That’s the plan. Personally, I’m hoping for something like 176 and it ends with a victory.

  2. Doug Gray

    My take is that they are probably about a .500 team right now, but it’s a .500 team with upside. Would it surprise anyone is Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Anthony DeSclafani all saw their ERA drop by half a run or more in 2019 versus 2018? Would it surprise anyone if Joey Votto rebounded a little bit in the power department? I don’t think so. And if those things happen, this team is going to make real noise.

    It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I certainly don’t think I’d bet the farm on the team making the playoffs as the roster sits today, but I feel good enough about the team to think there’s a real chance they go out and at least make a run at the wild card spot, too.

    • Steve L

      Maybe I’m an optimist, but with a good hitting lineup with much more depth, a solid bullpen, and the key component, a solid rotation, the Reds could win anywhere from 80 to 90 games with an outside shot at the playoffs.

    • Scott Benhase

      This is where past stats while helpful can guarantee nothing. Too many variables and chances play in. And some luck. As Crash Davis said about the difference between hitting 250 and 300: It’s just one Texas leaguer or seeing-eye ground ball that gets through each week. So the question is: how much luck will we have this year?

  3. sixpack2

    My vote is higher as they vastly improved the pitching and now have more power and platoon capable OF that sets all up for better pitcher matchups.

  4. Steven Duncan

    So your telling me we have to sign Machado to make the playoffs. Somebody please let Dick Williams know!

  5. habesjn

    77 just seems too low.

    When you consider we dumped Homer, which is probably worth about 5 wins right there. He went 1-14 in his 20 starts. We only won 1 of his 20 games. I can’t say definitively that all 19 losses were his fault, but he definitely contributed to them significantly.

    We also upgraded the entire pitching staff and added even more offense than we already had last season, with Winker and his .405 OBP coming back, Hamilton being replaced by Puig, Senzel set to make his debut and, ideally, hitting around .260 or .270. And then a power bat on the bench in Matt Kemp…

    We lost some defensive capability with Hamilton leaving, but losing his bat will likely be a net zero, when all is considered.

    The other thing to note is that the Reds were 10-29 in 1 run games. Worst in MLB in 2018. That is an insanely unlucky statistic, as 1 run games are generally not determined by skill due to the close margin. They were also 7-12 in extra inning games and were tied for the 3rd hardest strength of schedule. All these stats are here:

    I just think there was a lot of tough luck in 2018 that is bound to change at least slightly (and perhaps significantly) in 2019.

    And, perhaps most notably, we went from a terrible manager and then a mediocre manager to a young innovative manager and a vastly improved coaching staff.

    I find it hard to believe all these changes will only result in 10 more wins.

    I think we’re a little better than a .500 team. My (potentially optimistic) estimate is 82-80. Net gain of 15 wins. If we do that well or better, I think this will have been an incredibly successful off season with high hopes for 2020.

    • CFD3000

      Agree. You’ve covered most of the bases I was planning to identify. I don’t think you can just assess the roster in a vacuum – last year is a relevant starting point. Swap Homer Bailey for Alex Wood and that may be +10 wins all on its own. Replace the league’s worst hitter (BHam) with an all star (Puig), insert a healthy Jesse Winker, add a young phenom (Senzel), upgrade two rotation spots with Gray and Roark, toss in a bit of Votto rebound and stir with upgrades to the manager and pitching coach and I have a hard time seeing the 2019 Reds losing more than they win. Add a little luck in 1 run and extra inning games, and I honestly won’t be surprised is this is a playoff contending team.

      As it stands right now, if the 2018 Reds won 67 games I’ll predict the 2019 team is 86-76 and in the hunt for at least a wildcard slot. Can’t wait to see how it shakes out.

  6. Michael P

    Reds have arguably been the most active team this off season. Understandably they have not rolled the dice on any major long term assets but I find it interesting that they are still projected a .500 team.. Here’s what Bleacher Reports graded them on the off season after the Sonny Grey Trade:

    Cincinnati Reds

    The Cincinnati Reds entered the offseason as presumed sellers. To the contrary, they added veteran outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp along with lefty Alex Wood in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Then, they acquired right-hander Sonny Gray from the New York Yankees and signed him to a three-year, $30.5 million extension on top of the $7.5 million he’s owed in 2019 with a $12 million club option for 2023, per’s Jeff Passan.

    Add the trade earlier in the winter that brought right-hander Tanner Roark over from Washington, and Cincinnati intends to compete in the only MLB division that doesn’t feature any blatantly tanking teams. It’s a bold strategy for a franchise that’s lost 94 games or more every season since 2015.

    Grade: C+ (with extra credit for chutzpah)

  7. Amarillo

    I actually think we were pretty unlucky last year. We started 3-15 under Bryan Price. Riggleman then went 64-80. If we played to Riggleman’s win percentage with Price there is an extra 5 wins right there. We also had a high number of injuries over the year. When everyone was healthy in July we played really good baseball. We were 10-29 in one run games and the Pythagorean win percentage was 2 wins higher.

    Everyone knows how many games we won and lost when Bailey started. Even when Bailey pitched rather well he got awful run support. He had 6 quality starts of 6+ innings and 3 runs or less and we lost all 6 of those games. Now you are replacing Hamilton’s bad with Puig’s.

    77 wins seems like a low end to me.


    Heck, if the bullpen could just cut their blown saves in half (18 in 2018) that’s another 9 or so wins right there!

  9. JoJo

    Roughly averaging baseball prospectus and fangraphs together to get an average of projected wins before last year (while being generous and giving the projections
    the benefit of a couple wins if it was closer to one than the other), they are off as a whole by about 8 wins per team. Take that average however you want, but I’m taking it as the reds are going to the world series

  10. Tom

    What I think is better to predict is an absolute slug fest in the NL Central with no guarantees on who comes out on top. It should make for one fun season, no matter where the Reds finish.

    • Matthew

      I tell you what, I’m at least 10x more excited about this season than I have been about any of the past 4 seasons. I don’t even care if the Reds don’t take the division. As long as they are competitive, it should be a fun year to watch baseball!

  11. citizen54

    On paper, despite all these moves, the Reds did not improve that much. Some projections (PECOTA, ESPN) had the Reds winning 74 games in 2018 so in theory this is a 3 game improvement. I say we go anywhere between 72 and 82 wins.

    • citizen54

      That’s the scenario that scares me. The Reds are a couple of games out of the wild card hunt and decide to give up some valuable prospects for a short term rental. I still think the Reds are a year or two away from competing and I hope they don’t mortgage the future for a one or two year window. I also like the 77 wins number.

  12. Matthew

    Realistically, I say our Redlegs go 83-79 in 2019. I’ll revisit this page once the season is over to see how close my prediction turns out to be.

  13. Will

    Good read. Fangraphs updated its 2019 projections and put us at .500 (good for 3rd in our division). Things can go bad with our division, and the Reds did no favors with prior seasons to project from, but .500 still has a lot of upside. Admittedly, I’m an optimist (I’m a fan, sue me), but a key to me is a rotation giving the offense a shot. Spotting an early 3/4/5 runs seemed to give the opposing staff more room to be aggressive, or pitch around our formidable hitters, and thus limit pitch selection overall. I’m no metrics whiz (so not sure if any of this is measurable), but think it can play huge dividends in W/L totals given the offesne was still average last year and has now improved. Either way, it’ll be far more fun.

  14. Roger Garrett

    You may be right Will but I tend to look at their offense differently then most.We surely did fall behind a lot early in games but our offense was average because of it.Our offense would never had scored as many runs as they did if games had been much closer.We got cookies to hit because we were behind and we won’t get them if we pitch much better.The last 6 weeks of the season we pitched much much better and couldn’t score.Winker and Schebler went down and their replacements did well but the rest of the team went south.Could have been tired or playing with injuries but I tend to believe its because cookie time didn’t happen as often.If we are to break 500 we must be in the top 5 in runs scored and middle of the pack in pitching.My money is on the pitchers.Go Reds.

  15. SteveLV

    Caesars had Reds at 77 just prior to the Gray trade. Line will move based on betting, not prediction, but 77 – 79 seems in the ballpark – pun intended.
    I’ll take the over.

  16. Joe Shmoe

    Reds are projected to be 6 games behind the Cubs according to Fangraphs’ latest projections. That’s within smelling distance and it only takes a little luck here and a few injuries there. I’m not expecting them to make the playoffs but upon further notice it’s not THAT far of a stretch to think they may be close

  17. TurboBuckeye

    I think 77 is too low. I think 80-85 is reasonable. I actually like what the FO did this winter. Happy they didn’t give Keuchel $20-22mm per season. I see the guys we got as around 1 win worse than DK while making half as much and with no long term risk. A very smart strategy.

    In 2020 we clear $50mm in payroll and are coming off a 500 or better record. Then we can really swing for the fences.

  18. Mark Elliott

    Fangraphs says 80 wins and even with Pirates, ahead of Brewers..

    Here is the entire projected NL Central:

    Cubs, 87-75
    Cardinals, 86-76
    Pirates, 80-82
    Reds, 80-82
    Brewers, 79-83