2013 Cincinnati Reds Preview
One of baseball’s hottest ball clubs in 2012 got even better this offseason and looks to break the 90 win mark again on their way to another playoff berth in 2013.
2012 was a special season for the Cincinnati Reds and their fans. The ball club finished with their best record in decades, winning 97 games despite being without All-Star Joey Votto for a large chunk of the season. The ball club lost to the Giants in the NLDS, but their appearance in the playoffs was enough for celebration as the team managed to do something that had not been done in quite some time. The team was not satisfied with their early playoff exit though, and this offseason they have made moves to bolster their offense and strengthen their pitching and look poised to make a run for the World Series this season.
The Reds pulled off a big trade this offseason to upgrade their outfield by acquiring Shin-Soo Choo from the Cleveland Indians for Drew Stubbs. The Reds are hoping that Choo will be a dominant lead-off hitter for the ball club, something that he showed he could do while a member of the Indians last season. They want him to play center field, but he may not have the range to pull it off. Stubbs was a threat on the base paths, and while Choo can steal bases, it will not be as many as Stubbs. The Reds also received infielder and utility man Jason Donald in the trade and he will compete for a spot on the ball club as a non-roster invitee this spring. Donald can play all four infield positions as well as left field, but the Reds are looking at Cesar Izturis to fill their utility role already, so Donald will have to fight to win a spot on the club this Spring.
The Reds will return Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier to their infield along with Votto. If the team gets full seasons out of all four, they will easily get to 90 wins again this season. Even with a shortened season, Votto hit .337 with 14 homers and 56 RBIs last season. Having him for at least 150 games will add another 12 to 14 homers on top of that. If left fielder Ryan Ludwick can repeat his .275, 26 homer, 80 RBI performance from last season and the club gets good numbers out of Choo and right fielder Jay Bruce, the ball club will be pretty tough to beat. The lone area that looks weak offensively is catcher Ryan Hannigan and his back-up Devin Mesoraco. Neither man hits for power, but the club will need more consistent singles and RBIs from the two of them if they want to have a true 1 through 9 powerhouse line-up.
Free agent acquisition Jack Hannahan will likely win a spot on the ball club as their fourth infielder. Hannahan has had two solid seasons with the Cleveland Indians in 2011 and 2012, and is a threat at the plate when he is healthy. He’s a solid third baseman who can also play first and a little second, so he looks to be a good pick-up for the ball club and an upgrade from last season. Outfielders Xavier Paul and Chris Heisey will battle it out with Donald for the other two bench spots on the roster.
Pitching-wise, the Reds once again look extremely solid returning four starters with 12 wins or better from last season. Johnny Cuento will lead the bunch following his 19-9, 2.78 ERA 2012 performance which saw him leave game one of the NLDS with an injury, but was dominating for the bulk of the season. Cuento logged in 217 innings and walked just 49 batters last season, impressive numbers for a player who turned just turned 27-years old. If he relies on the solid defense he has around him and not rely solely on strike-outs, Cuento could easily win 20 games this season and finish in the top vote getters for the Cy Young award. A full offseason of rehabbing should have healed his oblique strain that he suffered last postseason, but if he happens to have a setback, the ball club will certainly shut him down to avoid him missing significant time this season.
The second spot in the Reds’ rotation belongs to Mat Latos who got off to a slow start last April, then went 14-2 the rest of the way, keeping his opponents to a .236 average. Latos is an innings eater, and tossed back-to-back complete games last season on June 25 and June 30. If that wasn’t enough, he went seven shutout innings in the following start. He logged at least seven innings in 11 of his final 13 starts which shows that he was still strong at the end of the season. If he can keep being the workhorse the ball club needs in their number two slot, the ball club will be tough to compete with this season.
Bronson Arroyo will pitch third in what is likely to be his final season in Cincinnati. Arroyo will turn 36 this year, and he showed last season that he still has what it takes to be a dominant starting pitcher in the big leagues. He logged over 200 innings on his way to a 12-10 record with a 3.74 ERA. Arroyo stepped up big time in game two of the ALDS where he gave the ball club seven solid innings of one-hit baseball. He will be followed up by 2012 surprise Homer Bailey, who pitched a no-hitter against Pittsburgh on September 28 th and had a solid 13-10, 3.68 season giving the ball club 208 innings of work. Expect to see Bailey continue to improve and impress this year as he works towards becoming the ball club’s number 2 guy of the future.
If young fire-ball pitcher Arolids Chapman is able to keep consistent this spring, he will win the fifth spot in the Reds rotation. Chapman saw some signs of brilliance last season, making over 24 appearances for the ball club before he allowed an earned run. The youngster looked hot in August as well, but started to fatigue as the month of September drew to a close. Chapman will have to hold up for an entire season if he wants to be a starting pitcher for the Reds, and it looks as though he is a lock to get his chance this season. If something goes awry, or if Chapman appears to still be suffering from fatigue this spring, look for Mike Leake to step up and fill the void.
The Reds bullpen was the best in all of baseball last season, and it will return intact for 2013. They led the league in saves (56) and finished the season with a 2.65 ERA. Their seventh, eighth and ninth inning combination of Chapman, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton proved to be a winning combination last season, but if Chapman moves into the starting rotation, the ball club will rely on righty Sam LeCure to step in and fill the void. Free agent acquisition lefty Manny Parra will join right-handers Logan Ondrusek, Alfredo Simon and Jose Arrendondo to fill out the bullpen for the ball club. There is no reason to believe that they will not be lights-out again this season and give their ball club a legitimate chance to win every single night.
The Reds made moves to bolster an already great team that lost very little over the offseason. They will be a very competitive ball club this season and will compete for the NL Central Division crown with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. All the pieces look to be in place for them to have another 90 plus win season, but I believe that St. Louis may get the best of them in the division race and the Reds offense may miss the speed of Drew Stubbs on the bases before the end of the season. Look for them to finish 90-72, a game behind the Cardinals in the division, but they will definitely make the playoffs as a Wild Card team and will make things interesting for their NLDS opponent.
By Robert Gonzalez