Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hot Stove:  A rundown of each team in the offseason and what they are looking to improve in 2012. 

Cincinnati Reds:            The next team in the NL Central (alphabetically) is the Cincinnati Reds.

Projected Starting Lineup:

1B:            Joey Votto
2B:            Brandon Phillips
SS:            Zach Cozart
3B:            Scott Rolen
LF:            Chris Heisey
CF:            Drew Stubbs
RF:            Jay Bruce
C:              Ryan Hannigan

Projected Starting Rotation:

Bronson Arroyo
Mat Latos
Johnny Cueto
Mike Leake
Homer Bailey

Projected Batting Order:

2B            Brandon Phillips
3B            Scott Rolen
1B            Joey Votto
RF            Jay Bruce
CF            Drew Stubbs
LF            Chris Heisey
C              Ryan Hannigan
SS            Zach Cosart

The Reds of 2011 took a big step back from the NL Central champs of 2010.  They ended up finishing at 79-83, which was good enough for third in the NL Central, 17 games back of first.  Their hitters weren’t to blame.  The Reds ranked second in the NL homeruns and runs scored.  2010’s MVP Joey Votto had another good year hitting 309 with 29 HR and 103 RBI.  His partner on the right side of the infield, Brandon Phillips, also turned in a great year hitting 300 with 18 HR, 82 RBI and chipping in 14 SBs.  They also led the team in R, with 101 and 94 respectively.  Along those lines, Drew Stubbs scored 92 R and stole 40 bases.  They’d like that AVG to improve (243) and the Ks to come down (205) but as long as he’s got that speed to go with good power (15 HRs) they like what they have in Stubbs.  The other major factor in the Reds offense last season was Jay Bruce.  He led the team with 32 HR and drove in 97 runs.  His speed didn’t translate on the bases well (8 SBs in 15 attempts) but with that power, any SBs are a bonus.  If he can raise that 256 AVG, we may be looking at another Cincinnati MVP candidate.  After those 4 studs, things drop off a bit, but this is still an offensive minded team with plenty of stars and great depth.  Chris Heisey hit 18 HRs in 120 games last season.  Ryan Hannigan had 6 HR and 31 RBI in only 91 Games.  And a full season of Scott Rolen should give them another strong veteran presence in the lineup.  The above players should be able to guide the youngster Zach Cosart, who is the shortstop of the future.  For depth, they added Wilson Valdez to back up Cosart and Willie Harris as another utility man.  The other big offensive acquisition was Ryan Ludwick.  Ludwick had an incredible season in 2008, hitting 37 HR and 113 RBI.  He had another strong season in 2009 with 22 HR and 97 RBI.  However a down 2010 saw the Cardinals trade him to San Diego.  His bat was wasted in the vastness of Petco, and he was eventually traded to the Pirates at the end of the season.  However his final tally for last season wasn’t great at 237 with 13 HR and 75 RBI.  He was brought in to push Heisey for playing time in left, and they hope his big bat can be re-invigorated in Great American Ballpark.  If so, then he may get more playing time than expected.  But at the very least, he’s a great bat off the bench.  The Reds are great hitters in a great hitters park.  The offense was tremendous last year, and will continue to impress in 2012.

The Reds pitching is what failed them last season.  The ace of the staff, Bronson Arroyo, really struggled going 9-12.  That is actually a decent record when you consider his ERA was 5.07 and his BAA was 286.  The Reds staff is really young, and Arroyo is needed to lead them.  They are desperately hoping for him to bounce back strong this season.  The big surprise of the Reds staff last season was Mike Leake.  The second year starter built on his strong rookie campaign going 12-9, leading the teams in Wins, ERA (3.86), and Ks (118).  All great numbers for a young pitcher, especially in a hitters park like the Great American Ballpark.  But if a 3.86 ERA is the best your team can do then you have plenty of space to improve.  And 118 Ks to lead a team is an embarrassment.  The Reds have to strike hitters out, especially at home because half the fly balls hit in Cincinnati end up going over the fence (don’t look that up…I might have fudged those numbers slightly).  Their number 3 starter, Johnny Cueto, had a strong year in limited duty.  In 24 starts, he went 9-5 with a very impressive 2.31 ERA.  But he has to stay healthy.  It looks like he won’t be the strikeout pitcher we imagined he would be after his rookie season, striking out only 104 batters in over 150 IP.  But his WHIP and BAA also looked strong and he’s if he can stay healthy he should have a strong season.  Homer Bailey projects to be the 5th starter this year.  His 2011 was subpar, seeing 9 Wins in 22 starts.  His 4.43 ERA is okay, as are his WHIP and BAA numbers.  But if he can improve some this year, and keep the Reds in games, then they should be able to win some games with that dynamite offense.  Edinson Volquez is now gone from the rotation.  He was replaced with former Padre Mat Latos who turned in a pretty strong 2011.  His 9-14 record belies his effectiveness.  He threw almost 200 innings striking out 185 batters and turning in a 3.47 ERA.  His WHIP was strong (1.15) and his BAA looked even better (.233).  Better run support could see 15 Wins from him, and the Reds are a team that can do that.  There’s a lot to like in this starting rotation for Cincinnati.  Their bullpen was also improved with the signing of Ryan Madson who had a good year for the Phillies last season.  He is probably going to be their closer as they declined the $12 million option on former closer Franisco Cordero.  And with new Aroldis Chapman, Nick Masset and former Cub Sean Marshall in the bullpen leading to him, the Reds like their chances to contend for the Central crown.

2012 Prediction…The Reds won the division two years ago.  They have a dynamite offense with stars at 1B, 2B and RF, young up and comers at SS, LF and C, a power/speed demon in CF and a seasoned veteran at 3B.  Their offense immediately makes them contenders.  A strong bullpen and an improved starting rotation should be enough to help them contend in an NL Central that saw the two teams in front of them lose major parts of their offense.  The Cardinals lost Pujols and the Brewers not only lost Prince Fielder, but also possibly lost Ryan Braun for 50 games.  That has the Reds looking good not only for this season, but if those young pitchers can pan out to be even a little above average, the Reds could be a power of the Central for years to come.  I think they have a very strong shot at the Central crown this season, and certainly will be a team playing for the wildcard at the very least.

Up next….Houston Astros.

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