The Reds are a rare case of a team who won 90 games, made the playoffs, outscored their opponents by over 100 runs, and still fired their manager. Dusty Baker, who oversaw the reemergence of the Reds from relative anonymity, is now out of work, and has been replaced by his pitching coach, Bryan Price.
Projected Record: 89-73, 3rd Place in NL Central
Even though Shin-Soo Choo, last season’s on-base machine at the top of the line-up is gone, this is still a very formidable offense with more than capable pitching. There is no good reason to think they will not be right back in the thick of it for a playoff appearance in 2014.
Tony Cingrani pitched well in his time in the majors last season when filling in for injured starters. This season, he should be the guy to fill the hole left by the departed Bronson Arroyo. Latos, Cueto, and Bailey form what is one of the strongest top three in the NL, with all of them possessing the ability to dominate a game any time they take the mound. After being limited to just over 60 innings last season, Cueto is looking to rebound, in spite of having sub 3.00 ERAs each of the last three seasons. Health is a factor for him after missing some time in two of the last three seasons.
It appears that Logan Ondrusek is going to be an odd man out in the bullpen with the Reds after a rough 2013. This has been one of the deepest and most effective ‘pens in the NL over the last few years and there is no reason to think this season is going to be any different. With Chapman and his massive heater holding down the back end, the Reds can effectively shorten games to six innings. And with the starting rotation they feature, that’s not a whole lot better to work with.
If there is a position of weakness to be found on the roster, this is it. Mesoraco was a replacement level player last season, breaking for an even 0.0 bWAR. He doesn’t provide a great value with either the bat or the glove. At 25, though, he does have some room to grow and improve. He’s probably not a finished product, but even with some pretty significant improvement this season, there’s not a whole lot to fear when comparing him to the rest of the line-up. Pena is a veteran who spent last season with the Tigers and will fill in with no real noticeable drop from Mesoraco.
One has to wonder if those who criticize Joey Votto have actually ever seen a baseball game before. 26 teams would give just about anything to have the guy (Cubs included), and some fans and “analysts” give him a hard time because his approach at the plate is too good? Incomprehensible. Regardless of what he says, the soon to be 33 year old Brandon Phillips is regressing. Father Time is undefeated and is catching the Reds’ outspoken second baseman. That said, he’s still a good player. Just not as good as he thinks he still is. Todd Frazier struggled with a .234/.314/.407 2013 season, but his 19 HRs fit this line-up nicely. Zack Cozart is almost completely a defensive player, which continues to make it a mystery why anyone thought it was ever a good idea to bat him second.
The speedy Billy Hamilton is set to take over in center field and the top of the line-up for the departed Choo. He adds what was a missing element to this (and every) line-up…speed capable of reversing the Earth’s rotation. When he came up last year, he had 13 stolen bases in 13 games (22 plate appearances). For his minor league career, he had 395 steals and two seasons where he stole over 100. Jay Bruce is nothing if not consistent. He will not hit for a high average, but he will get around 30 HRs and drive in nearly 100 runs. With the high on-base players in front of him, there’s not reason to expect a drop off this season.
In spite of the changes around the Reds this season, there is no reason to think that there is going to be a drop off in performance. This is still a really good baseball team, with very good pitching, an excellent line-up, and a solid mixture of veterans and young players who have come through their system. There is no reason to think the Reds cannot and will not compete in the division. A third place finish for the Reds is not an indictment on the make-up of their roster, but a compliment to the quality at the top of the division they’re in.