MLB Betting Preview - Bullish on the New-Look Cincinnati Reds
Welcome to our MLB preseason series in which we'll highlight some season-long win/loss prop bets on a number of different teams. With Opening Day breathing down our neck (less than a month away. Look for these coming out over the course of the next few weeks, with 6-8 teams highlighted as potentially strong bets on projected win totals going into the season. We'll start with the Reds who put together plenty of offseason moves.
2018 Record: 67-95
2018 Pythagorean Record: 69-93
2019 Over/Under Wins: 77.5
Projected Starting Rotation
Perhaps no other team has addressed their core weakness quite like the Reds. Last season, the pitching staff was an unmitigated disaster with one of the worst team ERAs in the game. That is to be expected with a pitching staff whose games-started leaders were Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Matt Harvey, Tyler Mahle, Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey. Only Castillo (easily the best of the bunch) and DeSclafani remain in the projected rotation. They are now joined by Alex Wood, Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark. No other team sees this kind of overhaul/ upgrade.
In fact, the Reds jettisoned 518 IP (Harvey, Romano, Mahle and Bailey) of 2.0 WAR and get back 461 IP (Wood, Gray, Roark) of 6.2 WAR. That is just such a massive upgrade (and likely even better considering some of Harvey’s innings were on the Mets.
Wood hasn’t had an xFIP over 3.90 for the last five seasons and brings a 49% groundball rate to a park that can get out of hand with the power numbers. He should have a longer leash as well, moving away from a Dodgers’ organization that was extremely cautious with its starters.
Similarly, Sonny Gray brings a 50% groundball rate and was better than his 2018 4.90 ERA would suggest considering he had a 4.10 xFIP. He’ll need to get the walks back in check after struggling with control last season, but I do like him for a bounce-back campaign.
And finally, Roark isn’t a world-beater, but he’s still a clear upgrade to the back end of the rotation. A 3:1 K:BB ratio is nothing to scoff at from a fourth starter and he averaged exactly six innings per start last season.
The Reds should also improve on offense as well. They added Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in the Alex Wood trade and rate to be much (much) better than the Billy Hamilton (0.0 WAR) and Adam Duvall, poo-poo platter the Reds served up last season. I’m particularly bullish on Puig who’s coming off an .821 OPS season (1.8 WAR) and could be entering his prime in an age-28 season.
Kemp is getting old (34) but did post an .800+ OPS last year and actually his best walks’ season (7.1%) in three years. Now they’ll both get significant park upgrades in terms of power.
Finally, a full season out of Jesse Winker should also help in the run-scoring department. Winker showed elite on-base stuff last season (.405 OBP with a 15% walk rate). He took more free passes than strikeouts, a trend that followed his teammate Joey Votto (we’ll get to him in a second).
An issue Cincy will have is on the defensive end, especially in the outfield. The lose a lot in that respect with the exit of Billy Hamilton who was among the best defensive center fielders in the game. But dude was so far below replacement level on offense that it’s almost a wash. That is to say, the Kemp/ Puig/ Winker OF could be among the worst defensive groups in the league. It will be interesting to see how this group plays out.
And finally, let’s talk about Joey Votto. The power fell off a cliff last season, posting only 12 home runs in more than 600 plate appearances. The flyball rate dipped while the line drive rate spiked. He had a career-high hard contact rate and still walked more than he struck out. He’s entering an age-35 year so there’s some concern age is catching up to the dude, but it sure stands to reason we see at least a moderate regression towards his previous power numbers.
All in all, this spells a higher win total for the Reds this season and considering the Brewers ran a bit over their heads last season, combined with an aging Chicago Cubs’ pitching staff and we could see a slightly weakened NL Central.
Accounting for underperforming their Pythagorean last season, plus the offseason additions have them making up the 10 wins to cover the wins' total over this year.
Recommended bet - Reds over 77.5 wins