Here are three reasons the Reds can do just that and not only advance to the playoffs but claim their first title since 1990:
1. The starting pitching: Reds starters ranked fifth in the National League last season with a 4.12 ERA. That was a major improvement over 2018 when they ranked 14th out of 15 teams with a 5.02 ERA.
The addition of Sonny Gray, who led the staff with a 2.87 ERA last season and will start the opening Friday, made the biggest difference. The new addition this season is Wade Miley, who was 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 2019 with the Houston Astros.
Gray, Miley, Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani give the Reds the third-best rotation in baseball, according to Anthony Castrovince, of MLB.com.
“It starts with the pitching,” said Bauer, who the Reds acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Indians last July. “I think everyone’s aware of how good the pitching that we have is from top to bottom.”
Staying healthy during the short season will be key, and the rotation took its first hit Thursday when the Reds placed DeSclafani on the 10-day injured list with a mild right teres major (upper arm muscle) strain.
2. Rule change: With the National League adopting the designated hitter for 2020, manager David Bell won’t have to make as many tough decisions about playing time in the outfield. A deep group that includes newcomers Shogo Akiyama and Nick Castellanos and returners Phillip Ervin, Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker can split time between the field and DH spot.
“I think the DH is probably a very helpful option for us,” Votto said.
3. Powerful lineup: The Reds ranked seventh in the league with 227 home runs last season. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez hit 49. Castellanos hit 27 last season between Detroit and the Chicago Cubs, while Mike Moustakas, another offseason free-agent acquisition, hit 35 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Reds provided a glimpse of their potential Tuesday in a 9-7 exhibition victory against the Tigers. Akiyama, catcher Tucker Barnhart, shortstop Freddy Galvis, Suarez and Winker all homered.
“We’ve got depth in the lineup,” Moustakas said. “We’ve got guys that are going to be able to come off the bench with some pop. It’s just going to be a lot of fun. The sprint’s going to be tough, but we’re going to have a good time.”
Projected Opening Day lineup
1. Shogo Akiyama, LF.
2. Joey Votto, 1B.
3. Eugenio Suarez, 3B.
4. Mike Moustakas, 2B.
5. Nick Castellanos, RF.
6. Jesse Winker, DH.
7. Freddy Galvis, SS.
8. Nick Senzel, CF.
9. Tucker Barnhart, C.
SP: Sonny Gray
Opening Day roster as of Thursday
Starting pitchers: Sonny Gray; Trevor Bauer; Luis Castillo; and Wade Miley.
Relief pitchers: Amir Garrett; Raisel Iglesias; Nate Jones; Michael Lorenzen; Tyler Mahle; Lucas Sims; Robert Stephenson; Pedro Strop; Cody Reed; and Brooks Raley.
Catchers: Tucker Barnhart; and Curt Casali.
Catcher/infielder: Kyle Farmer.
Infielders: Freddy Galvis; Mike Moustakas; Eugenio Suárez; Josh VanMeter; and Joey Votto.
Outfielders: Shogo Akiyama; Nick Castellanos; Phillip Ervin; Nick Senzel; Jesse Winker; and Travis Jankowski.
Note: The Reds anounced this 28-man roster Thursday and plan to add two position players to the roster Friday. Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani was placed on the 10-day injured list and is expected to miss one start.
Tigers at Reds, 6:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410
2020 60-game schedule
July 24, vs. Detroit, 6:10 p.m.
July 25, vs. Detroit, 5:10 p.m.
July 26, vs. Detroit, 1:10 p.m.
July 27, vs. Chicago, 6:40 p.m.
July 28, vs. Chicago, 6:40 p.m.
July 29, vs. Chicago, 6:40 p.m.
July 30, vs. Chicago, 6:10 p.m.
July 31, at Detroit, 7:10 p.m.
Aug 1, at Detroit, 6:10 p.m.
Aug 2, at Detroit, 1:10 p.m.
Aug 3, vs. Cleveland, 6:40 p.m.
Aug 4, vs. Cleveland, 6:10 p.m.
Aug 5, at Cleveland, 7:10 p.m.
Aug 6, at Cleveland, 6:10 p.m.
Aug 7, at Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m.
Aug 8, at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m.
Aug 9, at Milwaukee, 2:10 p.m.
Aug 11, vs. Kansas City, 6:40 p.m.
Aug 12, vs. Kansas City, 6:40 p.m.
Aug 13, vs. Pittsburgh, 5:10 p.m.
Aug 14, vs. Pittsburgh, 7:10 p.m.
Aug 15, vs. Pittsburgh, 6:10 p.m.
Aug 16, vs. Pittsburgh, 1:10 p.m.
Aug 18, at Kansas City, 8:05 p.m.
Aug 19, at Kansas City, 8:05 p.m.
Aug 20, at St. Louis, 8:00 p.m.
Aug 21, at St. Louis, 8:15 p.m.
Aug 22, at St. Louis, 8:15 p.m.
Aug 23, at St. Louis, 2:15 p.m.
Aug 24, at Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m.
Aug 25, at Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m.
Aug 26, at Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m.
Aug 27, at Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m.
Aug 28, vs. Chicago, 7:10 p.m.
Aug 29, vs. Chicago, 6:10 p.m.
Aug 30, vs. Chicago, 1:10 p.m.
Aug 31, vs. St. Louis, 7:10 p.m.
Sep 1, vs. St. Louis, 6:40 p.m.
Sep 2, vs. St. Louis, 6:40 p.m.
Sep 4, at Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m.
Sep 5, at Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m.
Sep 6, at Pittsburgh, 1:35 p.m.
Sep 8, at Chicago, 8:15 p.m.
Sep 9, at Chicago, 8:15 p.m.
Sep 10, at Chicago, 8:15 p.m.
Sep 11, at St. Louis, 8:15 p.m.
Sep 12, at St. Louis, 8:15 p.m.
Sep 13, at St. Louis, 2:15 p.m.
Sep 14, vs. Pittsburgh, 6:40 p.m.
Sep 15, vs. Pittsburgh, 6:40 p.m.
Sep 16, vs. Pittsburgh, 6:40 p.m.
Sep 18, vs. Chicago, 7:10 p.m.
Sep 19, vs. Chicago, 6:10 p.m.
Sep 20, vs. Chicago, 1:10 p.m.
Sep 21, vs. Milwaukee, 6:40 p.m.
Sep 22, vs. Milwaukee, 6:40 p.m.
Sep 23, vs. Milwaukee, 6:40 p.m.
Sep 25, at Minnesota, 8:10 p.m.
Sep 26, at Minnesota, 7:10 p.m.
Sep 27, at Minnesota, 3:10 p.m.
All games televised by Fox Sports Ohio