MLB

Five MLB Teams Who Will Surprise in 2020: Part One

Givanni Damico | March 8th, 2020

It is finally baseball season! This is the best time of the year for me because we’ve got nonstop baseball from now till late October. Everybody knows that the Yankees, Dodgers, Braves, and Twins will have success this year, but who are some teams that fly under the radar? That’s what I will get into right now.

1. Cincinnati Reds

I was all aboard the Reds hype train LAST SEASON only to be colossally let down. To be fair, their team was nowhere as talented as it is this year, so I was kind of the lone conductor of that hype train, but now everyone seems to be aboard. The NL Central is a winnable division for any of the teams besides the Pirates. The Cubs did nothing to get better this offseason, the Cardinals lost some talent without getting much in return, and the Brewers made some additions while also losing Mike Moustakas. The problem with the Brewers is their atrocious pitching staff. Brandon Woodruff is more than serviceable as the ace, but after that, it all falls off. The Reds have arguably the best pitching staff in the NL Central, led by Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, and Sonny Gray, with Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafani rounding it out. That’s a top-10 rotation in baseball especially after the emergence of Castillo and Gray last year. Miley had back-to-back solid campaigns in 2018 and 2019, maintaining sub-4.00 ERAs. For a fourth or fifth starter, Miley is solid.

The lineup is very good. The outfield has fantastic depth, so much so that I was struggling to find spots for guys. I was disappointed when I saw that Aristides Aquino may end up being a bench bat or in the minors to start the season. I came up with my 2020 lineup for the Reds as if I were the manager. Here’s what I got:

CF Nick Senzel
1B Joey Votto
3B Eugenio Suarez
2B Mike Moustakas
RF Nick Castellanos
LF Jesse Winker
SS Freddy Galvis
C Tucker Barnhart
Pitcher Spot

Senzel played pretty well in his rookie season last year, but I expect an uptick in his batting average this year. Hitting .256 as a rookie is solid but I expected a little better. I think he can be that standard leadoff guy who gets on base and is a threat to steal. Joey Votto is still an excellent first baseman despite a down season last year where he actually hit a pop up to the first baseman! Hopefully, he’ll be back on track and looking like a whole new ballplayer compared to last season. Suarez had a monster year in 2019, hitting 49 home runs while sustaining a .271 batting average. He will probably face some regression in the power department this season, but even a 35 home run season would be incredible for the Reds. The addition of Moustakas was monumental for Cincinnati. The guy could hit 50 home runs in Great American Ball Park. Or he could hit 40 and nobody would complain. But we’re not done when it comes to power because Nick Castellanos is batting fifth. Another great signing by the Reds, Castellanos turned it on the second half of the season with the Cubs last year. The Reds hope he can do the same this year. The 2-3-4-5 punch in this lineup should be enough to strike fear into any pitcher in baseball. Finish off the lineup with a couple good contact hitters in Winker and Galvis with Barnhart being the weakest link batting eighth. Let’s not forget that this leaves Aristides Aquino and Japanese rookie Shogo Akiyama on the bench. This lineup is nasty.

Finally, the bullpen is certainly the weakest link of this team, but it is no slouch. Raisel Iglesias had a bad season last year, but he still has a career ERA of 3.17 with 488 strikeouts in 388.2 innings pitched. I expect a much better year from him this year. Pedro Strop was an absolutely fantastic addition to the pen. The former Cubs’ reliever is also coming off of an awful year in which his ERA was 4.97 and he just couldn’t keep opposing batters off base. Despite his poor campaign last year, Strop has a career ERA of 3.21 with 548 strikeouts in 501.1 innings pitched. He’s another guy who should definitely play better this year than he did for the Cubs last year. Michael Lorenzen played well last year, pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA with around nine K/9. The haymaker himself, Amir Garrett, is also coming off a career year where he pitched to a 3.12 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched. Garrett lowered his line-drive rate and his hard-hit percentages which allowed him to do a better job keeping the ball in the ballpark. The rest of the bullpen is a bit scrappy, but the Reds still have a middle-of-the-pack pen that shouldn’t cost them many games.

I think the Reds win the NL Central with an 89-73 record. No other team in the division has anywhere near as much talent as Cincinnati. I’m very interested in watching Cubs-Reds and Brewers-Reds games this year to see if the Reds can live up to my high expectations. Their window to win is right now.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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