Mar 24, 2013, 9:43 PM EDT
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.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT
The host Royals have the visiting Giants right where they want them in Game 2 of the World Series.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT
Game 2 of the World Series has been a back-and-forth affair thus far, with the visiting Giants scoring single runs in the first and fourth innings and the Royals scoring in the first and second. It’s all square at 2-2 as the action shifts to the top of the sixth.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT
Major League Baseball announced in April that two new regular-season awards would be handed out every year, going to the top reliever in each league. The NL’s award was named after Trevor Hoffman and the AL’s was named after Mariano Rivera. Here, via MLB’s Twitter account, are the first recipients …
Oct 22, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT
The Giants jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning Tuesday before eventually winning Game 1 of the World Series in a 7-1 rout. And they got off to another fast start in Game 2 on Wednesday night, but the Royals were able to answer right back.
Oct 22, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
Statcast, the new 3D tracking technology from MLB Advanced Media, gives us this unique look at Brandon Crawford’s rangy catch to rob Omar Infante of a hit Tuesday in Game 1 of the World Series …
Oct 22, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Johnson was acquired from the Pirates last year.
Oct 22, 2014, 7:19 PM EDT
Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Phillies have signed catcher John Hester to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Oct 22, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT
Dan Haren underwent arthroscopic surgery Wednesday on his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He’s expected to be ready for spring training.
Oct 22, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT
“I was doing some stuff in the training room.”
Oct 22, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Not so long ago that option looked like it might be a bargain, as Burton went from scrap-heap pickup to one of the league’s best setup men, but he showed major signs of decline this season while throwing 64 innings with a 4.36 ERA.
Oct 22, 2014, 4:06 PM EDT
In other news: Homeland Security agents now conduct raids over things like minor copyright violations.
Oct 22, 2014, 3:50 PM EDT
Jake Peavy vs. Yordano Ventura.
Oct 22, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT
Great Moments in the Uncanny Valley
Oct 22, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
He’s owed $23 million in 2015, $25 million in 2016, and $25 million or a $5 million buyout for 2017.
Oct 22, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
“No one ever complained” is not a particularly compelling argument against change, in baseball or in life.
Oct 22, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
How and why baseball makes its political donations
Oct 22, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT
This year the Padres scored the fewest runs in baseball, by far, as they totaled 535 runs and the second-to-last Braves scored 573.
Oct 22, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
I think that constitutes more than 15%.
Oct 22, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Long was the Yankees’ hitting coach from 2007-2014 and during that time they scored the second-most runs in baseball, but aging and injuries turned the lineup into one of the league’s worst for the past two seasons and he took the fall.
Oct 22, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT
In other news, this answers the age-old question: are there Marlins fans?
- Craig Kimbrel wins Trevor Hoffman Award; Greg Holland gets Mariano Rivera Award 3
- World Series, Game 2: Giants vs. Royals lineups 8
- HBT Daily: Are the Royals doomed, doomed, doomed? 10
- Giants inhaling the air of superiority after Game 1 7
- What’s in a name? “Big Game” James did not come up big for Kansas City 22
- World Series Reset: The Royals look to pick themselves up off the mat 8
- Royals’ World Series hopes in Yordano Ventura’s hands 7
- Giants stomp Royals 7-1 in World Series Game 1 rout 35
- Erroneous Narrative Alert: no, the Giants are not a “gritty,” anti-stats organization (121)
- So, if you’re not a fan of the Royals or Giants, who ya got? (120)
- Pedro Martinez has some opinions about who the new “face of baseball” is (112)
- PANTY RAID! Homeland Security agents confiscate unlicensed Kansas City Royals underwear (95)
- “The Kansas City Royals Are the Future of Baseball” — someone actually said that. (93)