The Cincinnati Reds had a dissatisfying season in 2011, after failing to earn a playoff bid. During the offseason, the Reds added plenty of new talent in hopes of fulfilling their aspirations of returning to the playoffs in 2012. With their refurbished roster, here are five things to look for out of the Cincinnati Reds in the coming season.
Jay Bruce will have plenty to celebrate in 2012
Since being drafted 12th overall in the 2005 MLB Draft, the Cincinnati Reds have expected nothing short of greatness out of Jay Bruce. By the 2008 season, he had become the No. 1 prospect in all of America, and over the next four years, would amass 100 home runs. Bruce's power numbers have shown consistent improvement in his short tenure in the MLB, hitting 21 home runs in 2008, 22 in 2009, 25 in 2010 and a career-high 32 home runs in 2011.
At only 24 years old, Bruce is still growing as a player, both physically and mentally. Last May, Bruce put up stupendous numbers, hitting .342 with 12 home runs and 33 RBI and was awarded Player of the Month. In the other five months of 2011, he averaged a modest four home runs. In 2012, Bruce will manage to deliver at least two months comparable to his stellar month of May in 2011. This is the year Bruce puts it all together. Look for 40+ bombs out of Jay Bruce in 2012.
Mike Leake is another young blood on the Red's squad who will make a significant impact in 2012. Leake played three years of college ball at Arizona State University and in his final year put up a ridiculous 16-1 record with a 1.71 ERA. Many argued that he would have won the Golden Spikes Award (given to the best amateur baseball player each year) if not for some guy named Stephen Strasburg. After drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame bound pitcher, Greg Maddux, Leake was drafted eighth overall by the Reds in 2009 and immediately made an impact.
Leake skipped the minor league system and began his first year of pro baseball in the Reds starting rotation. In his first 11 starts, Leake compiled a 5-0 record with a 2.22 ERA. He struggled there for a good portion of the rest of the season and concluded the year, 8-5 with a 4.23 ERA. In 2011, Leake put up some solid sophomore numbers, finishing with a 12 - 9 record and a 3.86 ERA before being shut down for all of September to avoid overworking his young arm. This year, Leake will pitch his first full season in the major leagues and will post some impressive numbers. We may not see Mike Leake put up numbers like he did in college but look for him to mount at least 15 wins with an ERA between 3.00-3.75.
Joey Votto is arguably the best left-handed hitter in all of baseball. His rare combination of contact and power have inaugurated Votto as one of the most feared hitters in the league. After a majestic, MVP-winning season in 2010, Votto didn't let up in 2011, hitting .309 with 29 home runs and 103 RBI. One of biggest challenges for a left-handed hitter is hitting a left-handed pitcher. Not for Joey Votto. Votto hit an astounding .333 in 174 at bats against southpaws in 2011. With better hitters around him in the lineup in 2012, Votto will continue his excellence at the plate and even increase his home run and RBI totals from a year ago. Add it all up, and Joey Votto takes home his second MVP trophy in 2012.
Brandon Phillips has earned 3 Gold Gloves throughout his career.
Over the last two seasons, the Reds have been efficient on the defensive side, tallying a combined five Gold Gloves (Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Phillips (2), Scott Rolen, and Joey Votto). Two players who have the ability to earn their first Gold Glove in 2012 are Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs. Bruce has a cannon for an arm, and despite the fact that he isn't necessarily the fastest guy on the field, he is great at making good reads on the ball which allows him to cover a considerable amount of ground in right field.
Playing alongside Bruce, Stubbs has every skill a team desires out of their center fielder. At 6' 4", his long strides and quick feet allow him to make plays on balls that only a minuscule of the league could make. One attribute that is often overlooked with Stubbs is his strong arm. Stubbs threw out eight runners from the outfield last year and has the arm to get the ball from centerfield to home plate on a line.
The Reds' lineup has an abundance of competent fielders. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto are a lock for another Gold Glove at their respective positions and among the rest of the team, two more will surface. The 2003 St. Louis Cardinals was the last team to produce four Gold Gloves all in one season, and in 2012, the Reds will be the next.
The Reds won the Central in 2010 and they'll do it again in 2012
The 2011 Cincinnati Reds were thought to be a very capable team going into the season after an admirable 2010 season in which they took the NL Central. Unfortunately for the Reds, fate proved to have other plans in store. The Reds finished 2011 with a 79-83 record, and it became clear by seasons' end that the Reds roster had some holes. Holes that GM, Walt Jocketty, made a priority to fill during the offseason. With inconsistencies in the rotation in 2011, Mat Latos was acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres.
Latos is 24 years old but has already shown the ability to dominate a lineup with his mid to high 90s fastball and nasty slider. Left field and shortstop were the other notable areas of weakness in 2011. Shortstop, Zack Cozart and left fielder, Ryan Ludwick, should provide the lineup with steady production in 2012. Ludwick has struggled over the past two seasons, but there's no better place than Cincinnati's hitter-friendly ballpark to revive his career. With the additions of pitchers, Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, the Reds' bullpen possesses a surplus of able arms. The Cincinnati Reds have all the necessary components to win in 2012 and will do exactly that. Cincinnati tops the Central in 2012.