The Cincinnati Reds won’t be winning much of anything in 2023. But could they bring home a Cy Young award? Their young pitchers are just about the only thing worth getting excited about. Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft all have legitimate potential, both to ascend as individual talents and to accelerate the Reds’ (seemingly) perpetual rebuild.
Cincinnati making the playoffs is a long shot. While not necessarily profitable, betting the long shot can be fun! If you’re willing to bet for entertainment purposes, the Reds starters beg one question: which one can bring home some hardware?
My favorite of the bunch is Greene. Yes, his 4.44 ERA is below average, and the adjacent ERA estimators don’t scream regression. He’s not Vegas’ preferred option either. I’m not concerned much with 2022, though. The breakout is coming.
We’ve seen high-velocity, high-VAA (Vertical Approach Angle–the angle at which a pitch crosses home plate) fastballs take over the game. Spencer Strider, Zack Wheeler, and the rest of your favorite fastballs likely play well up in the zone. Greene epitomizes this. It’s unhittable up in the zone; now it’s just a matter of putting it there consistently.
Greene’s slider is even better. It generates strikes, it fields weak contact, and it’s the perfect complement to his heater. The fireballer fits the blueprint, is only 23, and is in line for lots of innings if he can stay healthy. Last season’s 30.9% K% ranked ninth in baseball, and his hard contact rate was in the 81st percentile. The dude can pitch.
At +6000, via Caesars and PointsBet, there actually is some value here as a sleeper. The upside is prevalent, and a winning bet would turn $100 into $6000. Offering two plus pitches and signs of growth, I’m ready to lift off. I like his odds better than Kyle Wright, Kodai Senga, and Tony Gonsolin, who share those odds.
Best Odds: +6000 (Caesars, PointsBet)
The preseason leader in the clubhouse for the Cy Young is Lodolo, and I understand why. As a prospect, he was compared similarly to Greene. His ERA was nearly a full run better than Greene last season (3.66). He too generates both strikeouts and weak contact.
Simply put, he’s good! The question for me comes down to his upside. His curveball is his best pitch, and while his sinker is great at striking guys out, its contact profile isn’t emblematic of a true top-line starter. Its wOBA (,354) and hard contact rate (31.8%) both were 50th percentile marks. Is that enough to elevate him? I’m not so sure.
Thanks to last year’s performance, the books and the projections prefer Lodolo. ZIPS, Steamer, and THE BAT each project Lodolo’s ERA and FIP to be better than Greene’s. That shouldn’t be surprising, given how projections are made.
Still, I trust Greene to throw more innings and accumulate gaudier strikeout numbers that are more likely to catch the attention of voters. If you disagree, feel free to place a unit on his line, but be sure to use FanDuel’s promotion for Bet Basics readers: UP TO $1,000 BACK IN BONUS BETS.
Best Odds: +4000 (FanDuel, BetMGM)
Why include Ashcraft? He is the super long shot for the award at +20000. He isn’t going to win it. However, he is the wild card of this rotation and deserves a conversation.
Ashcraft looks like Corbin Burnes. He pitches like Burnes. He just doesn’t succeed like him.
The cutter/sinker archetype at his velocity is exciting, but far from a finished product. His cutter is great, but tunneling it with his sinker is key. That sinker, unfortunately, has struggled to establish itself as a plus pitch. I think this comes down to a release point that is visually below his cutter, which limits the potential of his repertoire’s ability to tunnel and sequence effectively.
If it isn’t mechanical, it may be a pitch movement one. His sinker’s vertical movement is incredible, but doesn’t mesh particularly well with his cutter–at least less than it should. But when he throws his cutter twice as often, which pitch demands fixing.
A plus slider to pair with his cutter is nice, but without a quality sinker to match, he’s going to continue to struggle against right-handed hitters. I’ll be watching to see which improvements he makes, but will stay far away from betting on his season-long success.
Best Odds: +20000 (FanDuel)