Eye on the Enemy: Scouting the next Cubs’ opponent, the Cincinnati Reds
75-87, 4th in NL Central, 16 games back of Cardinals
1-2, 3rd place in NL Central
Monday: Wade Miley (14-6, 3.98 ERA in 2019) vs. Jon Lester
Tuesday: Tyler Mahle (3-12, 5.14 ERA in 2019) vs. Alec Mills
Wednesday: Sonny Gray (1-0, 1.50 ERA in 2020; 11-8, 2.87 ERA in 2019) vs. Kyle Hendricks
Thursday: Luis Castillo (0-0, 1.50 ERA in 2020; 15-8, 3.40 ERA in 2019) vs. Yu Darvish
The Reds went big in their pursuit of the NL Central title, spending over $165 million in guaranteed contracts in the offseason. They added former Cubs Nicholas Castellanos and Pedro Strop. They also signed big bat Mike Moustakas from Milwaukee on a 4-year, $64 million deal and signed Shogo Akyama from the Saitama Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.
They added Miley on a 2-year, $15 million deal from Houston. The veteran lefty is familiar with the NL Central too – he pitched to a 2.57 ERA in 2018 with the Brewers.
The Reds offseason consisted of more addition than subtraction.
But, they did lose lefty starter Alex Wood, who signed with the Dodgers in the offseason. José Iglesias, who clubbed a career-high 11 home runs in 2019, signed with the Orioles.
They’ll be without new signing Moustakas for a period of time, though. Moustakas was placed on the injured list on Sunday and is out indefinitely. Teammate Matt Davidson tested positive for coronavirus and Moustakas awoke Sunday feeling ill and stayed home as a precaution. Nick Senzel also missed Sunday’s game after feeling ill.
In the last two seasons, only Mike Trout (84) has more home runs than Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez. Cubs fans are familiar with Aristides Aquino, who hit 3 home runs against the Cubs on August 10, 2019, becoming the first rookie in MLB history hit a homer in 3 consecutive innings. He clubbed 11 homers in his first 17 games.
The potent offense only got stronger with the additions of Moustakas (35 HR in 2019) and Castellanos (27 HR in 2019).
The Reds might have the deepest starting rotation in the NL Central. Castillo emerged as a potential ace-in-the-making for the Reds, racking up 226 strikeouts in 190.2 innings and earning his first All-Star Game appearance. They traded for Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer at the July 31 deadline last season, but he struggled in 10 starts with the Reds, going 2-5 with a 6.39 ERA. If Bauer can return to his 2018 self (12-6, 2.21 ERA) where he finished 6th in the AL Cy Young Award voting, he can be a strong ace for the Reds.
Gray was stellar in 2019, pitching to a 2.87 ERA, earning an All-Star nod and finishing in 7th in NL Cy Young Award voting.
All three starters showed their strength in their debuts. Gray struck out 9 in 6 innings of work, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks. Bauer struck out 13, allowing just 3 baserunners in 6.1 innings and Castillo struck out 11 in 6 innings of work.
As stellar as the three starters were, the big question mark for the Reds going into this season was their bullpen. Raisel Iglesias, who has racked up 64 saves the last two seasons, seemed like a rock at the back end of the bullpen. The question was whether the rest of the bullpen could get the ball to Iglesias with the lead.
Through three games, those concerns have only been heightened. In Saturday’s game against the Tigers, the Reds bullpen allowed 5 runs on 6 hits in 3 innings of work. Their usually dependent closer, Iglesias allowed 2 runs on 3 hits in the 9th to allow the Tigers to rally for the win.
On Sunday, Michael Lorenzen allowed a pair of runs in the 9th giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead, as they went on to win the series with a 3-2 win.
There’s no doubt that the Reds starters have the potential to shut down offenses day in and day out for 5 to 7 innings. But can the bullpen preserve enough leads for them to compete in the ultra-competitive NL Central?