- The Reds closed out their Cactus League schedule with an MLB-worst 8-19 record
- Cincinnati has failed to reach 70 wins in each of the past four seasons
- Upgrades to the rotation, and the emergence of prospects is key to a change in the Reds’ fortunes
It has been a brutal spring for the Cincinnati Reds, who closed out their 2019 Cactus League schedule on Tuesday with an MLB-worst 8-19 record. However, the Reds’ preseason struggles have failed to dampen their prospects on the odds to win the NL Central divisional crown this season, where the club has improved to +750 at Bovada.
2019 National League Central Odds
|Team||2019 NL Central Odds at Bovada|
|St. Louis Cardinals||+215|
Reds a Familiar Presence at Bottom of NL Central Standings
The Reds have become a familiar presence at or near the bottom of the standings in recent seasons. Cincinnati is coming off a dismal 67-95 campaign in 2018, marking the fourth straight year that the club has failed to reach the 70-win mark. However, there is plenty to like about the Reds, who lagged as a +950 bet on the NL Central odds just two weeks ago.
— Red Reporter (@redreporter) September 24, 2018
While wins were rare last season, Cincinnati hitters held their own at the plate. The Reds ranked fourth in the National League in hits and on-base percentage, and fifth in team batting average, while also tallying a respectable 4.3 runs per game, good for eighth overall in the NL.
Votto, Suarez Key to Reds Offense
With the meat of the batting order returning this season, the Reds remain a threat to score a lot of runs. First baseman Joey Votto is coming off a down season in 2018, hitting just .284 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI after recording a .320 betting average with 36 long balls and 100 RBIs in 2017.
Shaky Spring Training numbers are nothing new for Votto, who has topped .250 at the plate in just two of the past six Cactus League campaigns.
Votto struggled with a leg injury in the second half of last season, and his woes have continued in current Cactus League action. Votto has recorded just six hits over 16 game appearances, raising concerns that the 35-year-old Canadian is entering a steep decline. However, shaky Spring Training numbers are nothing new for Votto, who has topped .250 at the plate in just two of the past six Cactus League campaigns.
With Nolan Arenado’s $260M deal, the #Reds deal w/ Suárez is the most team-friendly contract in all of baseball. Suárez is the most indispensable piece on the Reds (via @DrewKoch714) https://t.co/sHwGuprpL0
— Blog Red Machine (@blogredmachine) February 27, 2019
The Reds will also be looking for third baseman Eugenio Suarez to build on a career season in 2018. The 27-year-old Venezuelan led the squad with 34 home runs and 104 RBI in his third season as a Reds regular, and has emerged as an intriguing +2000 wager on the NL MVP odds at Bovada.
Injuries to Gennett, Senzel Cause for Concern
Jose Peraza is also coming off a solid campaign at the plate, tallying a career-high 14 home runs and 58 RBI, and will likely see plenty of action at second base while Scooter Gennett recovers from a groin injury that is expected to sideline him for eight to 12 weeks.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) March 26, 2019
The Reds had hoped that top prospect Nick Senzel could take over in the outfield following the offseason departure of Billy Hamilton. The 23-year-old could miss several weeks after suffering a sprained ankle in a Minor League game earlier this week, but remains pegged as a +1500 bet on the NL Rookie-of-the-Year odds at Bovada.
Reds Showing Improvement on the Mound
Question marks also remain on the mound after the Reds staff finished near the bottom of most team pitching stats, including a bloated 4.63 team ERA and MLB-worst 67 quality starts. The offseason additions of Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, and Alex Wood should provide the rotation with a much-needed lift, while Raisel Iglesias looks set to handle a full workload as the club’s closer.
— Cincy Fan Zone (@CincyFanZone) March 25, 2019
But even with the positive outlook, is it realistic to expect the Reds to compete in the highly competitive NL Central? The short answer is no.
Cubs, Cardinals Lead the Way on NL Central Odds
It is expected to be a tight three-way race in the NL Central between the defending division champion Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, and much improved St. Louis Cardinals.
— Cardinals Report (@stlcards_fanly) March 23, 2019
After enduring an injury-plagued campaign in 2018, the Cubs return as narrow +210 favorites to claim a third divisional pennant in four years, just ahead of the Cardinals at +215, while the Brewers lag at +245.
Value Found on Odds to Make Postseason
While the Cubs are pegged as a -130 bet to win under 87.5 games after recording 95 wins a year ago, and the Brewers’ projected win total has dipped to 86.5 after the club won 96 games in 2018, too many things would have to go right for the Reds to claim their first divisional crown since 2012.
— Cincinnati Magazine (@CincinnatiMag) March 21, 2019
With the club already without Gennett and Senzel to start the season, Reds fans may be forced to temper expectations. However, the Reds have shown clear improvement over recent years, and despite their spring adversity could warrant betting consideration as a +375 bet to make the playoffs in 2019.