Preview: Cincinnati Reds

The Big Red regressed in 2011, one year removed from a Central Division championship.

2011: 79-83 … 17 games back

Coming: Mat Latos, Ryan Madson, Sean Marshall, Ryan Ludwick

Going: Francisco Cordero, Edgar Renteria, Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Jonny Gomes

The Reds have used 21 shortstops since 2006. Included on that list is 26-year old Zach Cozart, who projects as the opening day starter. Cozart was impressive as a September call-up hitting .307 with two home runs and three RBI’s. They need stability here.

Scott Rolen

Scott Rolen (Image via Wikipedia)

Edgar Renteria and Paul Janish were terrible offensively in 2011.

Jay Bruce signed a 6-year $51 million contract after 2010, and while his numbers were great last year (32 HR, 97 RBI) his average was just .256. If he could hover around .280, he becomes a more dynamic player offensively.

After an All-Star campaign in 2010, injuries limited Scott Rolen to just 65 games last year. Rolen’s shoulder is a chronic issue dating back to his St. Louis days. 2012 marks his 17th year in MLB. Rolen’s health has a huge bearing on the Reds offensively…his vacancy in the lineup creates a crater in the 5th spot.

The Reds have some depth in the outfield. Drew Stubbs is an exciting player with a ton of speed. Chris Heisey will share time with Ludwick in LF. Heisey hit 17 of his 18 HR’s against RHP, but batted .197 against lefties. Aside from 2010, Luddy has hit above .260 against LHP since 2008 (breakout season).

Mat Latos

Pitching was a big concern in 2010. Cueto, Latos, and Mike Leake head the rotation. I think Latos can be really good. The only concern: he gave up 16 HR’s last season, half of which came in spacey Petco Park. Great American Ballpark is known for cheap big fly’s.

Way too inconsistent: Bronson Arroryo has to be better than a 5.07 ERA. Homer Bailey shows flashes signs of greatness, but then pitches like his final showing in 2011 against the Mets: 5 IP, 9 hits, 4 ER

Where does Aldoris Chapman fit in? Cincinatti is conditioning Chapman to start. The problem is the lefty only throws a great fastball (100+ MPH) and a good slider. He’s working on a change-up and splitter, but admitted the lack of control/feel with both.

The biggest improvement: The back-end of the bullpen. Sean Marshall is a legit setup man for new closer Ryan Madson. GM Walt Jocketty handed $8.5 million to Madson for one year.

Conclusion:

Rolen’s health is the X-factor. As I said, without him … there is no good 5th place option. They tried 13 different players in the 5 spot last season. Rolen needs to be in the lineup.

Latos takes some pressure off Arroyo and Bailey. Chapman will play an interesting role in 2012, especially if the starting role never pans out.

Chris Heisey (left), Rolen (C), and Ludwick (right) warm up

I’m a big fan of the Ludwick addition, as I’ve mentioned before, his success at GAB is worth noting.

PREDICTION.

Cincy will win 90 games if the team stays healthy. If not, the pressure is on Walt Jocketty to get creative. Limited resources make off midseason trades less likely. A la no Larry Walkers, Will Clarks, Woody Williams. He misses the DeWitt’s bank account.


Next up is the Milwaukee Brewers.

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