The Cincinnati Reds are heading into the 2012 Major League Baseball playoffs as National League Central champions and Johnny Cueto is poised to take the next step on his way to becoming the league's best pitcher.
The 26-year-old is having the best season of his career, but he is still being overlooked by the national media. He put himself in the Cy Young race for most of the season until a couple shaky starts in September diminished his chances.
With his team in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, the 19-game winner will be expected to carry his teammates deep into October. In 2010, the Reds were swept by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Reds are in better position to make a run this season.
Cueto gives the team what they lacked in 2010: a legitimate No. 1 starter. Mat Latos has also performed well behind Cueto, but the pressure will be on Cueto to lead the way.
Now that the team is older, Cincinnati has the experience to make it out of the National League Division Series.
A strong postseason by Cueto will put him in the driver's seat for the 2013 National League Cy Young race, so he will continue to come through for the team. Postseason baseball features baseball's best players and Cueto will shine in the national spotlight.