The MLB offseason is the shortest of the big four North American sports which is why it feels like just last week the Red Sox took care of the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series.
At the same time, pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training and gearing up for the 2019 campaign, which means of course it’s time to start digging into some 2019 World Series futures.
Some look at futures and see if they can make some money betting on their favorite team(s) while others look and attempt to extract value out of some underdog clubs. I’m here for the latter.
I have my eyes on one club that, while playing in a loaded division, could surprise their way into playoff contention after a productive offseason to this point.
Let’s dive in and take a look at my top super-value pick to win the 2019 World Series, courtesy of 5Dimes.
Cincinnati Reds (+8000)
First things first, I shopped around for these odds.
The Reds are listed as low as +3300 (BetOnline), so we need to make sure we are getting the most value possible when we are going out on a limb this big. 5Dimes give us the opportunity to snag the Reds at valuable +8000 odds.
First, let’s state some very realistic facts. Namely, the Reds are in what is shaping up to be the toughest division in baseball in terms of the number of teams expected to compete for a playoff spot.
Let’s very briefly break down each team in the NL Central, aside from the Reds.
The Brew Crew won the Central in a game 163 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley and came within one game of a World Series appearances as they lost to the Dodgers in Game 7 of the NLCS.
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) October 1, 2018
The Brewers added former Dodger catcher Yasmani Grandal to give them more offense from that position while former ace right-hander Jimmy Nelson returns after missing the entire 2018 season with a shoulder injury.
They had one of the best bullpens in baseball last season, something that was on full display in the postseason. The Brewers will be right there again this time around.
The Cubs slipped in the second half of the season and down the home stretch, but they still had a shot at winning the division despite all of this. They would lose that game 163 to Milwaukee and the subsequent Wild Card showdown against the Rockies, ending the season on a rather sour note.
Congratulations to the @Rockies on their Wild Card win.
Wishing them the best of luck in the NLDS and beyond. pic.twitter.com/ingfj4wjG8
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 3, 2018
While they haven’t done much to inject optimism that this season will finish any better, the Cubs were still a 95-win club and sport all-world talent in their everyday lineup, in the rotation, and in the bullpen. They’ll be tough again this season.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals contend every season, so there’s that.
They fell short of a postseason berth in the final few days of the season in 2018, but followed that up by swinging a blockbuster and grabbing perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Cardinals had the fifth-best rotation in baseball in terms of ERA last season and their offense appears set to rank inside the top 10 after coming in at 11th in the second half of last season.
Never count St. Louis out, and that’s certainly the case again in 2019.
The Pirates would appear to be the lone non-competitive team in the Central, however, they finished three games above .500 last season and still own a quality starting rotation featuring Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, and Trevor Williams as a rock-solid top three with Joe Musgrove a possible breakout candidate at number four.
The lineup is likely to be their downfall, but they own a strong outfield contingent in Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco, so it’s possible they surprise in this area as well.
Add in two big-time arms at the back of their bullpen in Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela and the Pirates are by no means a pushover this season.
Clearly, the Reds could benefit from playing in another division, but they are left to deal with the force that the NL Central will bring their way this season.
Fortunately, they’ve prepared for it.
First, let’s take a look at the notable reinforcements the Reds brought in since game 162 over the 2018 season.
- OF Yasiel Puig (Trade with the Dodgers)
- OF Matt Kemp (Trade with the Dodgers)
- SP Alex Wood (Trade with the Dodgers)
- SP Tanner Roark (Trade with the Nationals)
- SP Sonny Gray (Trade with the Yankees)
All the sudden the Reds’ rotation that looked barren for years has some significant depth to it.
|Projected 2019 Reds Starting Rotation|
|Sonny Gray||4.90||*Career 3.66 ERA & 3.74 FIP|
|Luis Castillo||4.30||*2.44 second half ERA|
|Tanner Roark||4.34||*Career 3.59 ERA & 3.91 FIP|
|Alex Wood||3.68||*Career 3.29 ERA & 3.36 FIP|
|Anthony DeSclafani||4.93||*Career 4.22 ERA & 4.05 FIP|
Gray has largely been an excellent big league starter but never found his groove after going from Oakland to the Yankees. Castillo has the makings up a front-of-the-rotation arm as he dazzled in 66+ innings after the All-Star game last season. Roark has been a rock-solid middle-of-the-rotation arm for much of his big league career. Wood can both start and come out of the bullpen and posted an elite 2.72 ERA in 25 starts and 27 appearances in 2017. DeSclafani pitched only 115 innings last season, but posted a 3.28 ERA in his second-healthiest season (2016) in the big leagues.
The Reds’ starting pitching finished 25th with a 5.02 ERA last season. More often than not, they were out of games before they could get started. That won’t be the case nearly as often this season.
In terms of the bullpen, the Reds will bring back closer Raisel Iglesias who is coming off a stellar campaign where he posted a 2.38 ERA and a 10.00 K/9. He’s actually been dominant for three straight years now.
|Raisel Iglesias Last Three Seasons|
Iglesias has outpitched his peripherals in all three years, but has converted 87.5% of his save opportunities in this span, which is what you want from your closer.
Now, the remainder of the bullpen is more of a wild card. Cincinnati ranked 16th with a 4.14 ERA out of the bullpen last season, so it wasn’t exactly their strong point nor their Achilles heel.
They have some nice pieces in that bullpen including Jared Hughes (1.94 2018 ERA), David Hernandez (2.53) and Michael Lorenzen (3.21). I wouldn’t count Cincinnati out of a late addition or two in the offseason considering the vast amount of relievers that remain on a brutally stagnant free agent market.
The Reds were roughly a middle-of-the-pack offense last season as their .317 wOBA ranked 14th league wide, just sneaking into the top half of the league.
In fact, the Reds did a solid job of getting on base in 2018.
What the Reds lacked was power.
|Isolated Power (ISO)||.148||T-24th|
Now, the Reds addressed some of their power-related issues with the additions of Kemp and Puig.
Puig has posted an ISO of at least .224 in each of the last two seasons and clubbed 23 homers in 2018 after hitting 28 in 2017.
Kemp is most likely to be utilized against left-handed pitching that he clobbered for a .235 ISO and .828 OPS in 2018. He would appear bound for a platoon in left field along with the left-handed hitting Jesse Winker.
I would project the Reds’ 2019 lineup looking something like this:
There aren’t too many holes in that lineup. Even Peraza, with his speed, is a dynamic number eight hitter while catcher Tucker Barnhart hit a career-high 10 home runs last season.
No one is going to mistake the Reds for a legitimate candidate to win the NL Central given they finished last in the division with a 67-95 record. Those 67 wins topped only the Padres (66) and Marlins (63) within the National League last season.
However, this is why they play the games.
How many folks expected the Oakland A’s to win 97 games last season? How about the Tampa Bay Rays winning 90 games despite sharing the AL East with the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees?
Add in the fact the offseason has yet to be completed, allowing time for more additions, and the Reds are bound for much more success than they have enjoyed for a few seasons now.
Can it get them to the playoffs? Inside the NL Central, it’s going to be tough.
At four-digit odds, I am willing to roll the dice on a postseason appearance and a World Series run for my most valuable 2019 World Series pick.