Since homering twice in the finale of the series in Pittsburgh, Jay Bruce had been mired in a slump similar to what he experienced last year. The has been batting in the .100’s nearly the whole season. However, I have seen him hit several balls hard that were hit right at fielders and several times in the Cubs series, Ryan Theriot, and Derrek Lee made several great plays on hard hit balls. Hopefully he will bounce back, because let me be clear, if Bruce does not hit well this year, the Reds offense will not be good enough to win consistently. The starting pitching has been struggling mightily, so the hitting needs to start finding some consistency.
The Reds also miss Edinson Volquez a lot. With their starting pitching ranked 11th in the national league in ERA, the starters have lacked any sort of consistency. Harang has been extremely average. Arroyo seems to have one inning bite him each year. Cueto has been erratic and had no consistency thus far. Homer Bailey has been bad with his breaking pitches and has simply had poor control even if it didnt mean walking guys. His pitches have not been where he wants them. They have missed Volquez’s ace-like mentality and his consistency. When Volquez ran out there, the Reds could count on a solid start. Mike Leake has done fine thus far, but he is still young and frankly is overachieving by just being in the majors already.
Aroldis Chapman has been burning it up in AAA. He has turned in two solid starts and would no doubt sell some serious tickets if he came up to the big leagues. He’ll get there before the season is out. It’s only a matter of time.
The Reds have lost 5 in a row, but lets not panic yet. The starting pitching has got to be more effective. But its early a 5-8 record is no reason to be alarmed. Lets wait another month.
The NL Central has no sure fire winner in 2010. However, the Cardinals appear to be the most talented team followed by the Brewers. The Reds though have potential to play themselves into contention as well.
Here is how I see the division shaking out.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Let’s be honest. The Pirates are the consensus pick for last. Yes they have a budding all star in Andrew McCutchen who had a great rookie season last year, but they have a rotation that features Ross Ohenlendorf and Cub reject Kevin Hart.
That is simply not good enough to contend. Pedro Alvarez, the team’s top prospect, will probably get some time to play at third this season, so the two interesting things for this team will be monitoring the development of future studs Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.
5. Houston Astros
The Astros sill have some very good players on their team. Having been perennial contendors over the last 5-6 years, the team still has the likes of ace Roy Oswalt, sweet-swinging Lance Berkman, and Carlos Lee. Hunter Pence will also look to take another step forward in 2010. The ‘Stros will be able to hit but in looking at their roster from top to bottom, they simply have too many holes to compete.
Roy Oswalt could be a blue chip summer trading piece if the team is out of contention and he could bring back good prospects in return.
4. Chicago Cubs
Cubs fans think that the departure of Milton Bradley will be a form of addition by subtraction, and it will. However that will not simply return there team to 2008 form.
They have not adjusted to the loss of Rich Harden, and with Ted Lilly out atleast a month, there rotation is set to start out Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Gorzelanny, and who knows who else.
The back end of that rotation is simply not up to standards and Lou Piniella will have his work cut out for him closing out games as well. Carlos Marmol was atrocious last year with his control. Too many holes=not enough wins.
3. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have perhaps the most potential in the division, but I believe they will still be a year away from putting everything together. However, I do think this is a year where the Reds will hang around and make some noise in the division. The signing of Cuban-phenom has energized the Reds base and at Spring Training all eyes will be glued on the Cuban lefty. Whether he starts in the majors or not, the Reds just may not be able to click totally this year. The loss of Edinson Volquez until mid-summer at the earliest hurts, but the Reds have plenty of young pitchers waiting in the wings. Contending or not, I think the Reds will unload Harang before 2011 so this is his last hoorah in a Reds uniform. That will allow the Reds to unload 12 million of payroll and make room for them to make key additions to what should be a solid team down the road. The Reds front office is unified in the direction is wants to go, and Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Cueto, Bailey, and Chapman give them the horses to get there.
2. Milwaukee Brewers
Braun and Fielder. Braun and Fielder. Braun and Fielder. Alcides Escobar and Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers have a great mix of established stars and young athletes coming up through the system. They get the nod for the two spot because they just simply have fewer noticable holes than the Reds or Cubs. Casey McGeehee another Cub reject will look to build on his strong rookie season, and Ricky Weeks is still looking to breakout. I think he will, and Gallardo will be a star, leading to a 2nd place National League Central finish.
1. Champion-St. Louis Cardinals
A full year with Matt Holliday and another year with one of the best hitters ever will equal a NL Central title for the Cards in 2010. Also the Cards have one of the best one two punches on the mound in baseball if both Wainwright and Carpenter stay healthy. They were both stellar last year down the stretch. Expect youngster Colby Rasmus to hit lefties better than he did last season and be a strong complement in the lineup to the power of Holliday and Pujols. Too much offense and a great rotation with the best pitching coach in the game will help the Cards overpower the rest of the NL Central.
The Reds have some pretty good fantasy players this year, headlined by Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and then Jay Bruce.
Also can guys like Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs emerge to be strong fantasy players? I think so.
Here’s a quick look at what I think the numbers of the currents Reds would look like if the team’s roster remains the same. I’m using the 5 statistical categories for most fantasy leagues (AVG, RUN, HR, RBI, SB)
C- Ramon Hernandez 130 games .267 BA 16 HRs 44 runs 63 RBI 1 steal
C- Ryan Hanigan 45 games .271 BA 4 HRs 15 runs 15 RBI 0 steals
1B- Joey Votto 145 games .317 BA 28 HRs 81 runs 108 RBI 9 steals
2B- Brandon Phillips 155 games .276 BA 23 HRs 84 runs 96 RBI 25 steals
3B- Scott Rolen 130 games .288 BA 15 HRs 63 runs 67 RBI 4 steals
SS-Orlando Cabrera- 154 games .281 BA 14 HR 78 Runs 60 RBI 16 steals
SS- Paul Janish 125 games .240 BA 9 HRs 50 runs 38 RBI 4 steals
RF- Jay Bruce 155 games .282 BA 31 HRs 72 runs 88 RBI 8 steals
CF- Drew Stubbs 141 games .260 BA 9 HRs 85 runs 41 RBI 33 steals
LF- Chris Heisey 120 games .278 BA 14 HRs 58 runs 48 RBI 15 steals
LF- Chris Dickerson- 70 games .262 BA 7 HRs 38 runs 31 RBI 10 steals
The left field spot can be hard to predict. I honestly like Chris Heisey to beat out Chris Dickerson and Laynce Nix who I see as the other two primary contendors. Heisey has great potential and has hit at every level in the minors and could be a nice pickup mid season off the waiver wire for some owners in deep leagues.
Less than a week until Spring Training!! Go Reds
Vote for Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips for the All-Star game. All Reds fans must vote and vote often. Let’s get out guys in the All-Star game!!!!
VOTE VOTTO and PHILLIPS. Both are very deserving. The play speaks for itself.
VOTE VOTTO and PHILLIPS
There are few pitching staffs in baseball better top to bottom than the Cincinnati Reds. As a 12 man pitching staff, there is no doubt in my mind that the Reds have one of the best staffs in the NL. Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker both share the belief that teams may have a better one or two than the Reds top men, but few teams are better from one to twelve.
The Reds starting rotation has depth like the Reds haven’t had in years. I will bet anyone Aaron Harang will return to the Harang of 2, 3 and 4 years ago. The sky is the limit for Volquez and Cueto and Arroyo is one of the more underappreciated pitchers in the league. And Micah Owings, having won the 5th starters spot has great talent and just has to find consistency for a whole season which is easier said than done.
The Reds have depth as well in the bullpen. Two good lefties are down there for Dusty Baker: Arthur Rhodes and Bill Bray. Rhodes was a nice signing by the Reds this offseason to give the Reds plenty of options. Also in the pen is bright young star, Jared Burton and David Weathers. Burton is the guy who will get the ball in the eighth inning to get the ball to Fransisco Cordero to lock it down in the ninth. Burton finished last year with a 3.22 ERA after bursting on to the scene the year before with a 2.51 ERA. An interesting stat is that when Burton came in in the 8th inning last year and the Reds had the lead, the Reds lost only once. Cordero saved all but 2 games last year when Burton came in before him.
The wild card of the staff is Cueto though. He showed flairs of greatness last year like when he started the season off with a 10 K performance. Keeping pitch counts down and attacking the hitters when he gets ahead will be keys to his success. Go Reds! Its Skyline time! Feel free to comment
As Spring Training continues to progress and now near its conclusion, most roster spots for the Reds have been determined with the exception of a couple of backup roles. The most pressing question remaining is who will be the fifth starter in the Reds rotation: Homer Bailey or Micah Owings.
Owings was aquired from Arizona in the Adam Dunn deal. He was shut down at the end of last season due to a minor shoulder ailment. The Reds were out of the playoff race when Owings arrived and did not want to risk further injury just to have Owings pitch a couple of games. This spring Owings has been impressive, posting a 1.52 ERA and having a 2.5:1 K/BB ratio. Owings is also one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball and Dusty Baker has said that he would not hesitate to have Owings pinch hit at any time (let me be clear though: I dont think Owings should be converted to an outfielder like some Reds fans have suggested).
However, Owings has some stiff competition for the fifth spot. New confidence, and a willingness to accept coaching has led to Homer Bailey’s putting together a great spring as well. Most Reds fans thought Bailey would be etched in stone in the Reds rotation at this point but he has had many struggles. This Spring however has been a good one. Bailey has posted a 2.61 ERA while striking out 20 and only walking four. Poor control had been Bailey’s nemesis in his first two broken seasons in the majors.
Bailey made what will probably be his final spring start April 1st and was good allowing only 2 earned runs and striking out 8 in 6 innings.
So Dusty Baker’s options are this:
1-Owings gets the spot and Bailey goes to the bullpen for long relief and is the replacement for anyone in the rotation who might get hurt.
2-Owings gets the spot and Bailey gets sent down yet again (I do not want this to happen)
3-Bailey wins the spot and Owings is either sent down or possibly (but I doubt it) sent to long relief.
While I would love to see Bailey in the rotation. I would opt for option one if I was the Reds. Bailey gets major league experience and Owings has his chance to continue to strive to reach his potential and both pitchers are put to good use. What will Dusty do? I think he will give the spot to Owings. It should be interesting to see. Please comment because I would love to know what other Reds fans are hoping for and when the decision is made, I would love to hear your reactions.
Go Reds! Its Skyline Time!
The Reds of 2009 will look a lot different than the Reds of 2008. The team is faster, better defensively and fundamentally, and better overall I believe.
REDS PLAYER TO WATCH: Johnny Cueto. The 22 year old hurler has devastating stuff. Last year in his first full year with the Major League club. He started off brilliantly but as a whole the season was one of highs and lows. He is not far away from being a dominant pitcher every time he takes the hill. Cueto needs to cut down on his pitch count in order to become more efficient, enabling himself to go deeper into the ballgames.
As I watched the Reds play this Spring, it was obvious that the most important key to their offense will be that Willie Taveras and Chris Dickerson will need to get on consistantly at the top of the order so they can use their speed.
2009 should be a very exciting year to watch the Reds find their identity and hopefully in turn win a lot of ballgames. Go Reds