30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cincinnati Reds

Posted: March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

reds1Back-to-back playoff appearances weren’t enough to save Dusty Baker’s job with the Cincinnati Reds. The longtime MLB skipper was fired shortly after last season despite his team’s second consecutive 90+ win season. Cincinnati’s failure to close out a 2-0 series lead against eventual World Series champion San Francisco in 2012 was followed by their 1-0 N.L. Wild Card Game loss to Pittsburgh last October. Baker finished 509-463 (.524) in six years with the club. Those are lofty shoes for former pitching coach (and first time manager) Bryan Price to fill. But, he’ll certainly have a talented roster with which to set forth this new venture in his baseball career.

The Reds return much of their potent offense from the last two years. Joey Votto (.305-24-73) and Jay Bruce (.262-30-109), the two left handed mashers in the middle, are back. They’ll be joined by Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick, and Todd Frazier, who struggled to mimic his outstanding rookie campaign of 2012. This is a very skilled and deep Cincinnati offense. They’ll now have speedy OF Billy Hamilton at the top of their order from the get go. Hamilton shattered minor league base stealing records in 2012. Cincinnati will have to hope that he can prove his ability to get on base at the major league level.

The pitching staff was going to be deep before injuries took their toll on the club. Johnny Cueto has been battling nagging injuries this spring (what else is new). But, it looks like the right hander will be making the team’s opening day start. Fresh off signing his new contract, Homer Bailey went down with an injury early this year. The good news is that he is scheduled to be back in time for the start of the season. The bad news is that groin injuries often have a way of recurring during the course of a long season. Finally, Mat Latos, who missed most of the spring, is scheduled to return by the third week of the season.

These additions to their rotation are key, as Cincinnati doesn’t have much experience at the other spots with the departure of Bronson Arroyo to Arizona. Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani are expected to round out the rotation. The latter pitched brilliantly as a rookie last year when he was called upon to spell Cueto.

Finally, the team’s bullpen took a major blow last week when LHP Aroldis Chapman was struck in the head by a line drive. He’s expected to up to two months. Setup men J.J. Hoover and Sean Marshall will shoulder the load until the flamethrowing Cuban lefty is set to return.

Key Arrivals

C Brayan Pena (Royals)
OF Skip Schumaker (Dodgers)
OF Roger Bernadina (Phillies)

Key Departures

OF Shin-Soo Choo (Rangers)
RHP Bronson Arroyo (Diamondbacks)

Projected Lineup and Rotation (with Projected Stats)

OF Billy Hamilton – .242-3-41
2B Brandon Phillips – .277-16-67
1B Joey Votto – .292-22-91
OF Jay Bruce – .265-30-104
OF Ryan Ludwick – .249-12-47
3B Todd Frazier – .256-20-74
C Devin Mesoraco – .268-10-42
SS Zack Cozart – .270-12-67

RHP Johnny Cueto – 9-6, 3.60
RHP Homer Bailey – 13-8, 3.47
RHP Mat Latos – 11-7, 3.39
RHP Mike Leake – 11-10, 3.99
LHP Tony Cingrani – 11-8, 3.60

LHP Aroldis Chapman – 2-2, 2.31, 21 Sv

Outlook

Even with the injuries to their pitching staff, Cincinnati should be confident reds2enough in their offense that they shouldn’t take too hard a blow in the standings. If the Reds can keep pace with St. Louis and Pittsburgh until June, the addition of Chapman at the back end along with the continued progression from their rotation should be enough to keep them in the division race until the end.

Make no mistake, this isn’t an easy division to capture. Cincinnati has to deal with the defending NL Champion Cardinals and the same Pirates team that doused them in last fall’s Wild Card Game. But, the Reds have the superstars on offense and the depth in their rotation to overcome a few early season injury woes. Keep an eye on Hamilton, who brings his exciting style of play to Great American Ballpark for a full season.

I foresee the Reds winning between 90-96 games to make the postseason in Bryan Price’s first year at the helm.

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