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
Let me be clear: I think the Reds are still away from being a solid year-long contender in the NL Central and in the playoffs. However, the Reds are very much improved, and Walt Jocketty has done a very good jobs of filling holes for the Reds.
Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Bruce, Cueto, Volquez, and even Chris Dickerson comprise one of the best young corp of players in major league baseball.
The Reds have found their leadoff hitter in Willie Taveras, who was non-tendered by the Rockies in the offseason. Taveras can keep constant pressure on the opposing defense by getting on base and using his blazing speed. He will most likely be followed by Chris Dickerson or possible Jerry Hairston Jr. if he wins the left field job. Both of those men have good speed and skills on the basepaths. Taveras and Dickerson would comprise a solid top of the order if and only if they can consistently get on base. Votto will bat third. He is the Reds best hitter and I fully expect him to hit .300 with 25 HR’s and around 100 RBI’s. Phillips will bat fourth and I maintain that he is not an ideal clean-up hitter. However, he is everything else you want in a baseball player: a great teammate, a 30-30 guy, and a defensive juggernaut. Bruce will bat 5th and needs to continue to improve his plate discipline to decrease his strikeouts.
Next will follow Edwin Encarnacion (All I will say is that I’m still hoping he can put it all together). Then in the bottom third of the order will be recently aquired Ramon Hernandez then Alex Gonzalez and the pitchers spot.
For the pitching rotation, Harang’s resurgeance is key as Volquez and Cueto will continue to develop into stars. Arroyo is also steady and will pitch 200 innings with 12-15 wins. I hope Bailey wins the 5th spot. He seems to be now more willing to accept coaching and he has been keeping the ball down in Spring, thanks to improved control on his fastball and curveball. In the bullpen, Fransisco Cordero has had a less than impressive spring. I think he will turn in another steady year though. Bray, Burton, and Arthur Rhodes will comprise the other three main options in the pen.
Cincinnati’s team has moved from one known for tremendous power and lackluster pitching to one with solid pitching and great team speed and defense up the middle. Taveras, Gonzalez, and Phillips definitely help pitchers breath a little more easily this year.
I hope the Reds compete this year, but honestly I think its going to take one more season, and next year the Reds will be a force in the NL Central. Go Reds!