Mar 24, 2013, 9:43 PM EST
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Cincinnati Reds.
The Big Question: Is this the Reds’ year?
It certainly has that feel. The Reds tallied 97 wins in 2012 and made a massive roster upgrade this winter, acquiring outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians as part of a three-team, nine-player trade that also involved the Diamondbacks. Shoo boasts a shiny .289/.381/.465 career batting line and will finally bring some stability to Cincinnati’s leadoff spot. Reds leadoff men hit .208/.254/.327 last season.
First baseman Joey Votto has led the National League in on-base percentage for three straight years, Brandon Phillips is probably the best defensive second baseman in the bigs and has averaged 21 homers per season since 2006. Ryan Ludwick, who was re-signed to a two-year, $15 million free agent contract in December, posted an .877 OPS, 26 home runs and 80 RBI in 125 games last summer. Right fielder Jay Bruce carries MVP upside, Todd Frazier brings the thunder at third base and Zack Cozart has flashed good power potential while playing a fine shortstop. Then there’s catcher Ryan Hanigan, who owns a .370 career OBP and draws rave reviews from those in the know for the way he handles the Cincinnati pitching staff.
The Reds also have decent depth in young backup catcher Devin Mesoraco and outfielder Chris Heisey. Utility infielder Jason Donald came over in the Choo trade and Jack Hannahan was signed as a free agent.
This is a team with ample big bats and a home stadium that caters well to raw power. Boom, suckas.
What Else Is Going On?
- The outfield defense is iffy. Choo has started only 10 games in center field in his eight-year major league career, but that’s where he’ll play the majority of the time in 2013. Ludwick has good instincts, but he turns 35 years old in July and isn’t suddenly going to gain more defensive range. Bruce possesses a big arm but can’t be considered speedy. The group should do fine at Great American Ball Park — where the dimensions are tight — but there might be some unintentional comedy this year on the road.
- The Reds’ top-five starters only missed one total outing in 2012 — and it was the nightcap of a mid-August doubleheader. That crew carries good health into 2013 and should again be one of the better rotations in the National League. Johnny Cueto finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting last year after posting a 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 170/49 K/BB ratio across 217 innings. Mat Latos was also excellent, posting a 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 185/64 K/BB ratio in 209 1/3 frames. Bronson Arroyo continued his inning-eating ways, Homer Bailey took a leap forward and Mike Leake was solid in bringing up the rear.
- Aroldis Chapman was expected to finally make the transition from reliever to starter this spring, but the Reds cut the chord on that plan earlier this month. The flame-throwing lefty expressed a desire to remain in the bullpen and it’s what manager Dusty Baker wanted. Chapman’s value can be better maximized when he’s throwing more innings, but feeling comfortable is important too and he should again excel in the ninth-inning role. Setting him up this year will be Jonathan Broxton, who was signed to a three-year, $21 million contract this winter, and Sean Marshall, one of the steadiest middle relievers in the game.
- Start stocking up on popcorn for the Billy Hamilton show. The 22-year-old speedster is converting from shortstop to center field and is scheduled to make his MLB debut at some point in 2013. He stole a record 155 bases in 132 games last season between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola while managing to hit .311/.410/.420. Baseball America ranks him the 11th-best prospect in the sport.
Prediction: First place in the National League Central, surpassing 100 victories.
Mar 3, 2015, 7:08 AM EST
Twitter does a pretty bad job of policing threats of violence against women. Curt Schilling does a much, much better job.
Mar 2, 2015, 11:05 PM EST
Gwynn will function as insurance with Jayson Werth and Nate McLouth each rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:01 PM EST
Mueller died at the age of 26 last month while in captivity in Syria.
Mar 2, 2015, 8:58 PM EST
The Mets cut back on defensive shifts with Wheeler on the mound last season because of his concerns.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:45 PM EST
Some key players are making some encouraging strides on the health front.
Mar 2, 2015, 6:29 PM EST
After facing a pitching machine during an intrasquad game today, Alex Rodriguez is ready for his first real-live game action since September of 2013.
Mar 2, 2015, 5:12 PM EST
Seems a bit light as far as these things go.
Mar 2, 2015, 4:26 PM EST
Trammell and Whitaker in Detroit? Carter and Hernandez with the Mets?
Mar 2, 2015, 3:45 PM EST
Lester joined the Cubs on a six-year, $155 million deal in December.
Mar 2, 2015, 2:45 PM EST
Don’t. Praise. The. Machine.
Mar 2, 2015, 1:48 PM EST
Hart is attempting to resurrect his career on a one-year deal as a part-timer in Pittsburgh.
Mar 2, 2015, 1:27 PM EST
Shocking, I know.
Mar 2, 2015, 11:50 AM EST
GM says “they’re not going to play him for a little while.”
Mar 2, 2015, 11:33 AM EST
Howard Johnson is right!
Mar 2, 2015, 11:19 AM EST
Detroit owes him $28 million per season through 2019.
Mar 2, 2015, 11:09 AM EST
It happened to Wynton Bernard anyway.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:47 AM EST
Since shifting to the bullpen full time in 2011 the Minnesota native has a 2.74 ERA and 286/63 K/BB ratio in 256 innings.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:15 AM EST
Axford had a 3.92 ERA and 63/36 K/BB ratio in 55 innings for the Indians last season.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:03 AM EST
At least one columnist thinks this is a big problem. Is it?
Mar 2, 2015, 9:15 AM EST
Patrick Dubuque of The Hardball Times mounts an in-depth study of the Peanuts’ Gang’s manager.
- Blue Jays sign Dayan Viciedo to a minor league deal 8
- Chris Sale will be sidelined for three weeks with foot fracture 11
- Aramis Ramirez says 2015 will be his last year 32
- Francisco Rodriguez re-signs with the Brewers 9
- If addiction is an illness — and it is — Josh Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended 305
- Pirates open to massive extension for Andrew McCutchen 18
- Report: Josh Hamilton had a relapse this offseason that “involved at least cocaine” 86
- Yankees don’t plan on having to pay A-Rod’s $30 million in home run milestone bonuses 52
- If addiction is an illness — and it is — Josh Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended (305)
- San Francisco — and all of California — will consider a smokeless tobacco ban that includes MLB parks (131)
- Brian Sabean says that California taxes are a hindrance to the Giants signing free agents (102)
- Ichiro is happy to be away from Joe Girardi (88)
- Report: Josh Hamilton had a relapse this offseason that “involved at least cocaine” (86)