As the Cincinnati Reds enter the last month of the season, there are 10 players that all Reds fans should be keeping their eyes on. Many players that have contributed to the team's success this season are entering uncharted waters.
Joey Votto is returning from two knee surgeries, some players are playing more games than ever in their careers while others are raking up new career highs in innings pitched. Did I mention that two rookies have been playing major roles as well?
There have been a great number of positives in all production categories from a great number of players. Let's take a look at some very important factors that could determine how successful this club will be during October play.
Can crafty old veteran, Scott Rolen remain healthy and playing well? Rolen's body is breaking down and his back gives him major problems. But when Rolen is feeling well, he can still produce.
Keep an eye on his September production and how much he is in the lineup. He only needs to get about 50-60 at bats during the month. If he is raking up more than that, then Dusty is walking a very thin line that he shouldn't.
His veteran leadership and presence is needed by this club. He doesn't need to play everyday—he only needs to be able to step up in big situations and feel healthy. Plus, Rolen is hungry for one more ring before he fades into retirement.
Ryan Ludwick is another veteran that has changed the overall look of the Cincinnati Reds. The veteran took the club and hoisted them onto his shoulders once Joey Votto went down.
His production and ability to come up big in the clutch have been phenomenal. When Joey Votto returns to the lineup, it is Ryan Ludwick that will be asked to make teams pay for pitching around Votto.
Keep an eye on Ludwick's September numbers. Will he remain hot and clutch or will he cool off when the Reds will need him most. Ludwick hit .333 in July and .327 in August with seven home runs and 19 RBI in each month. Will he keep par?
Rookie shortstop Zack Cozart may not have been the best choice for leadoff all season but he has made up for it through his defense and overall presence on this team.
Cozart has played Gold Glove caliber defense all season. Though his on-base percentage hasn't been off the charts, he has provided great pop with the bat as his 15 home runs and 32 doubles can attest.
But as September rolls on, Zack Cozart is going to be removed from the leadoff spot. When Joey Votto returns, Reds fans should expect to see Brandon Phillips batting leadoff more often. Keep a close eye on how Cozart produces when placed somewhere else in the lineup.
I expect his production to increase.
Todd Frazier's offensive production as a rookie has been absolutely tremendous. The Frank Sinatra-strutting, Jersey boy has been the second-best offensive player in the Cincinnati Reds lineup this season.
One thing about Frazier's game that doesn't get mentioned is how consistent he has been. On a team full off streaky hitters—guys that are hotter than a sweltering day in the Mojave Desert one week and colder than the bum of an arctic Eskimo the next—Todd Frazier has been steady and reliable.
Keep an eye on Frazier through September. Can the kid continue to march to a consistent tune just a bit longer? Let's hope so.
When Dusty Baker needs a late inning veteran to step to the plate in crucial and late game situations he still rings Miguel Cairo's bell. The only problem with this is that Cairo has not been answering too often.
The Cincinnati bench has been a source of weakness this season. Miguel Cairo, who in years past has been a solid option, has been less than stellar this season as his .169 batting average in 130 at-bats can attest to.
Will Cairo begin to make some waves in September or might the Reds look to some late season call-ups to possibly take over for him and his late inning duties?
I think Homer Bailey ends up being the fourth starter for Cincy in the playoffs. The only problem with this is that Bailey is in uncharted waters already.
He has already made 27 starts this season—five more than his previous career high. Assuming that he keeps up his current pace, Bailey will end the season with 33 starts and over 200 innings pitched. If the club makes it through to the World Series then Bailey will end up with an additional four to five starts and another 25-plus innings pitched.
This means he will end the entire season with nearly 16 more starts and 100 more innings than he has ever pitched before. Will he hit a wall in September or remain strong along the way?
Sean Marshall was a major acquisition for Cincinnati during the off-season. But his performance has been rather inconsistent and he hasn't been the dominant lefty that Cincy had hoped for.
The bullpen as a whole has been stupendous this season and Sean Marshall needs to remain strong. His recent struggles (5.40 ERA in August) have been a bit disturbing. Marshall is a major component to this bullpen and needs to get things straightened out.
Keep an eye on Sean Marshall's September performance—will he continue to disappoint or get the ball rolling in the right direction? Whichever way the ball rolls will impact the Reds' playoff potential in that direction.
Like it or not, Bronson Arroyo shoulders an enormous amount of responsibility regarding the Cincinnati Reds' playoff success. Arroyo will be the number three starter.
With Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos taking on the top two opposing starters, Arroyo is left to handle the middle of the road guys. He has the ability to be a shut down pitcher and to go deep into games. Unfortunately, he also has the ability to do the exact opposite.
Bronson Arroyo has been consistent all season and if that consistency can continue, expect the Reds to have a very strong 1-2-3 punch come playoff time.
Joey Votto is about to return to the Cincinnati Reds lineup—will Votto be the MVP he was before his injury or will it take him time to return to form?
Joey Votto's September performance could be the most significant of all Reds players. Even though the club has performed better than it has all season during his absence, Votto is a game changer.
A healthy Joey Votto adds stability and brings fear to the Reds lineup. Not to mention it makes them the World Series favorites from the National League.
The Reds have made a few September call-ups this season and there are some names that you will want to watch closely.
Catcher Devin Mesoraco was sent down to Triple-A recently and replaced by Dioner Navarro. The Reds will have the luxury of three catchers through September but will have to leave someone off the October roster. Mesoraco may have spent the majority of the season with Cincy but is no sure bet to be on the postseason roster.
Utility infielder Henry Rodriguez impressed Reds staff this spring. Being that he is a switch-hitter and the fact that Cincy has not had a strong bench all season, Rodriguez could make a case for himself to stick around longer than just a month.
Tony Cingrani is the latest player to get the call by Cincinnati. The standout pitcher has a 1.74 ERA in 39 career professional starts. Cingrani may get a start or two if the Reds opt to give their starters a bit of rest. But if you see Cingrani coming out of the pen and performing well, don't be surprised if he steals an October roster spot.