The American League kicked off the 2020 Major League Baseball playoffs yesterday with a bang as there were four action-packed games on the schedule. The road teams dominated yesterday, as the Yankees, Astros, and White Sox all picked up road wins, leaving only the Tampa Bay Rays protecting their home field.

Today, the National League gets to join the party, with four games of their own. The National League Central Division champion Chicago Cubs host the wild card winning Miami Marlins. The San Diego Padres, the second-place finisher from the National League West Division, host the second-place team from the central, the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, many peoples pick as the favorites to take home the NL pennant, as they finished with the best record in all of baseball, start their march toward the Fall Classic as they host the final NL wild card qualifier, the Milwaukee Brewers. And in what I see as the most competitive first-round series in the National League, the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds square off in Atlanta, with the NL East champion Braves trying to hold off the upstart wild-card Reds.

While the day should be an exciting one, as we have a whopping eight games on the slate, something we have never seen in the postseason, I am going to zero in on just one team, the Cincinnati Reds, and tell you why I think that they are sleeper World Series contenders. The Reds barely snuck into the playoffs during the final week of the regular season, but now that they are in the postseason, they can absolutely win and advance. In this article, I am going to give you five reasons why the Cincinnati Reds are sleeper World Series contenders. Let’s get started!

Starting Pitching

Coming into this season, we knew that the Cincinnati Reds were going to be hard to hit on the mound. The trio of Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray gave the Reds one of the best rotations in the game on paper, and in a shortened season, that was going to be tough to beat. The Reds weren’t a runaway favorite in their division by any means, but I had them pegged as a potential division champ and a sleeper World Series candidate before a single pitch was thrown this season.

The season started out slow for the Reds, and at the midway point, they looked like a team that just wasn’t going to be able to stay consistent enough to break through to the postseason. And some of those early-season struggles could be blamed on the starters, as guys like Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle just weren’t performing at a level that we all expected.

Castillo was particularly concerning as he was a 15-game winner last year with an ERA in the low three-run range, and through August, he was 0-5 with an ERA north of four runs. The Reds lost six out of his first seven starts of the year. Mahle was a similar case, as the Reds lost his first four starts of the season as well, and his ERA ballooned up to nearly five runs. Bauer and Gray were great, but those two guys alone, weren’t enough to keep the Reds in contention and wins were hard to come by.

But as the calendar turned from August to September, the Reds starting rotation has really turned it on, and they are finally starting to look like the wrecking crew we thought they would be in July. Castillo was 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five September starts. That included a huge complete game gem against the St. Louis Cardinals, a game that the Reds had to have, where he allowed just one run on only two hits in nine innings.

Bauer has been a stud all season long and will get his fair share of NL Cy Young Award votes as he finished his season with a 5-4 record and a 1.73 ERA with 100 Ks in just 73 innings of work. He, too, was particularly filthy in September as he posted a 1.29 ERA in five starts where he averaged seven innings an outing and over nine punchouts per game.

Mahle was much better this month as the Reds went 4-1 in his five starts, and his ERA of 3.28 was more than respectable. And while Sonny Gray had a couple of really rough outings to start off the month, after coming off of the IL, he has been mostly great this season, and in his last two starts of the year, he was strong, pitching a combined 10.1 innings and allowing three earned runs on only four hits.

If the Reds rotation can continue pitching like they have recently, Cincinnati is going to be a very tough out in the postseason. Particularly in a three-game series where the Reds can start Bauer, Gray, and Castillo, and have Mahle as long relief, this Reds team could pull off the big first-round upset.


The Reds spent most of the first half of the regular season struggling to win ball games. But as they hit the final two weeks of the regular season, they knew they needed to essentially run the table to sneak into the playoffs, and that is just what they did. The Reds were in a position where they had to win a lot of games in a short period of time, and when they finished the regular season by winning eleven out of their last fourteen games, it was just enough to get them into the dance.

And when you look at who the Reds had to play in September, it makes those wins that much more impressive. Cincy had late-season wins over the Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, and Twins, all teams that made the playoffs this year. This wasn’t a case where a team caught a break on the schedule and got hot. The Reds had their backs against the wall, needed to win against quality opposition, and got the job done.

You always want to be playing your best baseball when you hit the postseason, and that is where the Reds are at right now. The Braves are going to be a tough matchup in round one, but when you look at the fact that Atlanta coasted to the finish line of the regular season, losing three out of their last four games, and going just 7-6 in their last thirteen, you have to wonder if Atlanta is going to be a bit rusty in round one, as they try and turn things back on against a red-hot Reds team.

Mike Moustakas Is Heating Up

The Reds gave Mike Moustakas the largest free-agent contract in team history in the offseason, and they did it for one main reason, this guy is a winner. Moustakas was a proven postseason winner in his stints with the Kansas City Royals and the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Reds knew that if they were going to take the leap from a fringe contender to a legit World Series favorite, that they needed a guy that knew how to win in the postseason.

Moustakas had his season cut a bit short as he missed some time with injury in August, and he never really did get his bat going much until the end of the regular season. But just like the rest of this Reds team, Moustakas was able to get his act together late, and he finished the season hammering the baseball.

Moustakas hit safely in seven out of the Reds last eight games, racking up ten total hits, with eight of them being for extra bases. Moose drove in nine runs during that span and helped carry his team to the wins that they needed. In his long career, Moustakas has 42 playoff games under his belt, with a whopping 29 of those coming in either a league championship series or the World Series.

That experience is going to be invaluable to Cincinnati, as much of this team has never been to the postseason, as the Reds hadn’t made the playoffs since 2013, before finally breaking through this year. If the game is close late, there is no guy on this Reds roster that they are going to want in the batter’s box more than Mike Moustakas, and he is swinging a hot bat at the right time for Cincinnati.

They Have Surprising Power

The Reds don’t have a ton of established power hitters on the roster. Eugenio Suarez was a monster last year, and Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas have both shown ample power in the past, but this Reds team wasn’t expected to be one that was going to be able to club their way to a lot of wins this year. But somewhat surprisingly, the Reds finished fourth in the National League in home runs, with 90 on the year.

Most of those homers came in the second half, with Suarez leading the charge. Suarez led the team with 49 homers last year, but it took him a while to get his bat going in 2020. One full month into the season, Suarez was hitting an abysmal .118 and had just 2 home runs. But since then, he has really started to barrel up the baseball, as he has hit 13 home runs and finished tied for 9th in the National League in dingers with 15.

The Reds also got double-digit home runs from Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winkler, and Joey Votto. Aristides Aquino, a kid that if you remember back to last season, took the game by storm with his powerful exploits, when he hit eleven home runs in the first seventeen games of his career, got a late start to the season as he was sent to the team’s alternate training site in early August after a slow start.

Aquino rejoined the team for this September stretch run and has yet to find his groove, but we saw last year that if he gets hot, he can do some special things at the plate. He was being used very sparingly when he first rejoined the team but seems to be locked in as a regular in the lineup now, and his bat is a major X factor for the Reds. Not many teams have a guy on the bench with this type of power, and if he can get it going, the National League better be on notice.

The Reds Pitchers Can Sit You Down

We already talked about how strong the Reds starting pitching staff has been, particularly recently, but the bullpen has some talent as well. One thing that nearly all of these Reds pitchers pride themselves on, is their ability to strike guys out. The Reeds led the National League in strikeouts this year, with an average of over 10 Ks a game.

The Milwaukee Brewers finished just behind the Reds in team Ks, but the third-place New York Mets were a distant third, 46 strikeouts behind Cincy. The K/9 ratio for this team is a completely absurd 11.0. That is an elite number for any pitcher, let alone your entire staff. Bauer leads the way at a 12.3 K/9 rate, but each of the Reds top four starters, Gray, Bauer, Castillo, and Mahle, all have K rates above 11 on the year.

The bullpen has a bunch of flame throwers as well, as eleven different guys have K/9 ratios in the double-digits. Closer Raisel Iglesias has 31 Ks in 23 innings, and Amir Garrett has 26 Ks in 18.1 innings. Just about every reliever that the Reds use regularly has elite strikeout ability, and it makes it very hard for teams to score runs when they can’t make contact.

Late in a close game, being able to call on your bullpen in a tough spot with runners on base and know that you can count on a strikeout, is a huge ace up their sleeve, that is going to allow them to get out of jams, and win games that maybe they shouldn’t. Of the Reds sixteen September wins, they held opposing teams to three runs or fewer in fourteen of them, and their ability to sit guys down was a major reason why they were able to hold teams back at the plate.

Wrap Up

This Reds team is made for the playoffs. They have elite starting pitching, they strikeout more hitters than any other team in the league, and they have ample power to score enough runs to win games. They have a tough matchup in the first round with the Atlanta Braves, but if they can emerge from that series victorious, the Reds must be considered a World Series threat.

The Reds are currently +3000 to win it all, which is a laughably overpriced number considering that they will likely never be a big underdog in any single game with their strong starting pitching. They got hot at the right time, and in the playoffs, the teams that get hot and stay healthy, are the ones that take home the title.

It is a high risk, high reward play for sure, but it is also outrageously high value, and you should make a play on the Reds to win the 2020 World Series now, before they steal game one against Atlanta and the price drops a couple of hundred points. Thanks for reading and make sure that you stay tuned to TheSportsGeek all October long, where we bring you all the sharp MLB betting advice you need to make money betting on playoff baseball!