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Projected Lineup: 2B Brandon Phillips, SS Zack Cozart, 1B Joey Votto, RF Jay Bruce, CF Drew Stubbs, 3B Scott Rolen, LF Ryan Ludwick, C Ryan Hanigan
Dusty Baker is a man who is determined to succeed, and he knows this is the year. Another failure to make the playoffs means he probably gets relegated to the role of Baseball Tonight analyst again, and after seeing so many of his peers go that route in recent years, he knows it's a fate he wants to avoid.
As a side note, don't you think managers should have stats recorded for their analyst days, to go in the place of wins and losses for those years they spent out of the game? Maybe something like "insightful segments" versus "times outshone by John Kruk."
The Reds brought in one major piece in Mat Latos, whom they anticipate to be the missing ingredient that will turn around their fortunes.
Latos will grow to be the ace of this staff, but whether he takes that role this season depends on how quickly he can get acclimated to playing in the bandbox that is Great American Ball Park. Hey, you'd be disoriented, too, if what used to be a popup to the shortstop now goes for a homer.
For opening day, though, the Reds will let incumbent ace Johnny Cueto retain his role. Cueto actually had a breakout year last year, and it's a real shame that no one outside of Cincinnati noticed.
He got better at inducing weak contact, and keeping the ball on the ground, and it shows: hitters against him only batted .220, way down from Cueto's career ratio of .261. (And how about his Groundout/Air Out ratio going from a career 0.92 to an insane 1.65! Holla at a playa when you see him on the street!)
As high as hopes are for their pitching staff, one of the backstops who'll be putting down fingers for these guys has been touted even higher. Devin Mesoraco will start the season backing up catcher Ryan Hanigan, but that's just to ease him in. He has been hailed by fairly reputable publications as being "the next Johnny Bench."
I won't go as far as that, but I will say that he'll have the catching position locked down for this team for many years. He has a tremendous arm, will throw behind a runner at first like Yadier Molina, has a good power stroke, and decent speed on the basepaths.
The bullpen, if anything, will be the Reds' Achilles heel. Newly signed closer Ryan Madson will be out for the season following Tommy John surgery, in what was probably the biggest waste of $8 million since the production of Bring It On: Fight to the Finish.
Aside from Sean Marshall, who should perform admirably in his role as fill-in closer, the bullpen lacks any real anchor. Aroldis Chapman will soon get bumped up to the rotation, which means the best piece left for the middle innings is Jose Arredondo, and he hasn't been good since...wow, it's been so long that I can't even think of a pop-culture reference.