For just the second time in its storied history, the Cincinnati Reds lost 100 games in 2022. It was a long, frustrating year for all who enjoy baseball’s first team, but could there be light at the end of the tunnel? The current 2023 Cincinnati Reds O/U is set at 65.5 wins, according to FanDuel. There are four reasons why this year’s edition will smash the OVER.
Now, that’s not to say that the Reds are going to go from 100 losses to fight for a World Series, but you’re telling me that this team can’t win just four more games than last year?
The 2023 Cincinnati Reds Will Win OVER 65.5 Wins
Can’t Replicate the 3-22 start
The first reason is about as plain as day: the Reds simply cannot lose 22 of its first 25 games in 2023…can it?
This starts with David Bell. The manager has to make sure his guys are ready to go out of Spring Training. The team was (relatively) healthy but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. That first 25 featured four against the Braves, two against the Guardians, four against the Dodgers, six against the Padres, three against the Cardinals, three against the Rockies, and three against the Brewers. That’s a tough stretch (outside of Colorado…) no matter who you are.
This year, the Reds kick off the year against the Pirates and Cubs, two series that they can compete in because neither is exactly killing it. Then, they get a nine-game stretch against the Phillies and Braves, so that will be tough. But this team SHOULD be able to compete and not lie down.
“Eliminate the peaks and valleys” as Nick Krall put it. The Reds were too streaky in 2022 and most of those streaks were in the red. Getting off to an even slightly better start would do wonders for the 2023 Cincinnati Reds O/U bettors.
Great, Young Starting Pitching
The Reds threw a combined no-hitter last year, don’t you remember? Don’t ask if they won, however…Regardless, there are at least three starting pitchers worth being excited about: Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft.
Greene is a special, special talent. As a rookie, Greene finished with a 4.44 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 164 strikeouts. His ERA+ was 101, meaning he was already about league-average and was a 2.3 WAR player. His Whiff% was in the 88th percentile, leading with a 38.0% on his cutter.
While he racked up 11.7 K/9, which is ridiculous for a rookie, he was rocked a few times, as evident by his 1.7 HR/9. Hitters didn’t hit off of him often, but when they did, it was a rocket (89.7 exit velo; 18th percentile, 9.4% barrel%;16th percentile). Greene’s ceiling is sky-high and he’s only getting better.
Nick Lodolo could very well be the Reds Opening Day starter and it’s no question why. The left-hander was dominant. Across 103.1 IP, Lodolo logged 131 strikeouts, 3.66 ERA, and 1.25 WHIP. He’s second-best on the team in terms of returning players with 2.8 WAR as well.
As with Greene, Lodolo has a great Whiff% but gets barreled at a high rate. He struck out 11.4 batters per nine but also had a 1.1 HR/9. Where he will need to improve is his ability to plunk batters. He led MLB with 19 in 2022. Where he doesn’t need to improve is against left-handed batters. Lodolo allowed just five hits in 53 plate appearances and a .109 BA.
Finally, Graham Ashcraft is a lesser-known commodity, at least nationally. Where Greene and Lodolo struggled with exit velo% and barrel%, it’s where Ashcraft excels. He finished 2022 in the 83rd and 88th percentile, respectively. His whiff% is dreadful, but he still managed 6.1 K/9 and 1.42 WHIP.
Ashcraft will be one to watch, of course. While pitching at Great American Ballpark as a ground-ball pitcher, MLB is getting rid of the shift, so he’s going to need to adjust.
Regardless, this trio of starters (plus the newcomers like Brandon Williamson, Levi Stoudt, or Andrew Abbott) is reason enough to tune in. Even if the bats take a while to wake up, these pitchers should keep the Reds in plenty of games.
The Appearance of Elly De La Cruz
There hasn’t been hype like this in a long, long time. Starting out as a lesser-known prospect via the international market, Elly De La Cruz has catapulted himself as the Reds top prospect who could be ready to contribute tomorrow.
De La Cruz is a big dude and plays even bigger. In both of his stops in Dayton and Chattanooga in the Reds farm system, he started off slow. Then, once he figured it out, he lit the league on fire. At 6’5″, it is wondered if he can play the shortstop position. Yes, yes he can.
As a defender, De La Cruz has the range to cover everything a shortstop has to cover and it goes well with a high baseball IQ and instincts. His arm is phenomenal and has even resulted in some speculating if he will take over in center field once the Nick Senzel experiment is over.
At the plate, De La Cruz can absolutely mash. He destroyed a home run about 491 feet in AA and the ball just sounds right off of his bat. De La Cruz has the kind of power that pitchers have to constantly worry about. His speed is elite. Imagine a Billy Hamilton who isn’t a liability at the plate. De La Cruz is that guy and even if the Reds don’t make a run for the division, he will provide a spark into 2024.
The largest reason the 2023 Cincinnati Reds O/U is going to hit is that they can’t be as unlucky as they were in 2022, can they? Each of their biggest contributors missed time due to injury and they never really got anything going.
Let’s start with Joey Votto. His career has been on the decline for a few years, save for a few on-base streaks here and there. As it turns out, Votto has been playing with a torn labrum since 2015! He nearly (should have) won MVP in 2017! Even if Votto is on the back end of his career, a fully-healthy Votto is just different. The future Hall of Famer, once back, will provide another spark.
Jonathan India was hurt seemingly all year. It all started with the hamstring injury early on that he never really healed from. If you’re someone who has had a hamstring injury, you know how much they nag and just don’t feel right. The 2021 Rookie of the Year has a lot of great baseball to be played. If he takes a minimal step forward in terms of defense, he’s poised for a big year.
Pitchers like Greene, Lodolo, Tejay Antone, and Lucas Sims missed time last year, but the most important piece was Tyler Stephenson. A concussion, broken thumb, and broken clavicle later, Stephenson should be back with a vengeance. He slashed .319/.372/.482 and hit six home runs and 35 RBI. The team went 22-28 with him in the lineup. While that’s not monumental, it’s a whole lot better than the 40-72 the team went without him.
The 2023 Cincinnati Reds O/U is low and plenty of pessimistic Reds fans are already bemoaning another 100+ loss season. Let’s pump the brakes. Are they about to win 100 and challenge for the NL pennant? Likely not. But with the help of young contributors and getting on the right side of the injury bug, this Reds team will be, at the very least, league-average. While that’s not a good answer to “where you gonna go?”, it’s a whole lot better than the product they’ve provided because at least there’s a little hope.
Main Image: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer – USA TODAY