Power Ranking Importance of Cincinnati Reds Players Needed to Win a Ring

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2012

Power Ranking Importance of Cincinnati Reds Players Needed to Win a Ring

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    Entering the final month of the season, the Cincinnati Reds will be relying on Drew Stubbs and other players to step up as the team chases a World Series title in the 2012 Major League Baseball playoffs.

    Cincinnati is the first team in baseball to 82 wins in 2012, and the team has clinched its second winning season in 12 years.

    In 2010, the Reds were swept in the National League Division Series by the Philadelphia Phillies. The team is looking to make some noise this time around.

    Joey Votto is set to return from the disabled list after being out since mid-July, but the team played better than expected during his absence. Without its first baseman, the team went 32-15 and grabbed a 9.5-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

    No team currently has a bigger division lead than Cincinnati, so the Reds are getting ready for a playoff run. While pitching has been the team's strength this season, the offense will need to step up in order to advance past the first round of the postseason.


    *All stats are from MLB.com

No. 10: Zack Cozart

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    Stats: .243 average/.285 on-base percentage, 15 HR/32 RBI

    When Joey Votto returns from the disabled list, manager Dusty Baker may choose to shake up the lineup. 

    Rookie Zack Cozart is currently the leadoff hitter, but it remains to be seen if he will stay in that spot. He is not getting on base often enough, and it could lead to a change in the lineup. 

    In the leadoff spot, the rookie is hitting only .224 compared to .357 in the No. 2 spot. He was on his way to a great offensive season until he was moved to the top of the order. He is not the only one who has struggled in the top spot, but he has had the most at-bats in the leadoff spot.

    As a rookie, the shortstop has been spectacular on defense. He has great range and a strong arm. The combination of Cozart and second baseman Brandon Phillips is arguably the best duo in the major leagues. Both players make dazzling defensive plays, and they turn double plays with ease.

    Defense has not been an issue with the 27-year-old, but the Reds need his offense to improve in October. 

    The middle of the lineup is beginning to produce, but the top is still failing to consistently get on base. When the first two batters in the lineup get on base, this team will be the most dangerous team in the postseason.

No. 9: Ryan Ludwick

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    Stats: .279/.346, 25 HR/72 RBI

    After winning the left field job over Chris Heisey early in the season, Ryan Ludwick helped carry the team during the past two months.

    Since the All-Star break, Ludwick has been one of baseball's best hitters. 

    The left fielder is hitting .325 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI during the stretch. His production gives the Reds flexibility in the lineup. The veteran worked his way into the cleanup spot, and he may stay there when Joey Votto returns. 

    Although he has been one of Cincinnati's best players in the second half of the season, he is not hitting for power as often lately. The Reds need him to get on base, and he is continuing to do so.

    If he remains in the middle of the lineup, he will need to continue to come through in clutch situations. The 34-year-old is hitting .279 with runners in scoring position.

    Ludwick is a .333 hitter in the postseason, so he will not fade as the spotlight gets bigger.

No. 8: Todd Frazier

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    Stats: .292/.349, 18 HR/62 RBI

    Todd Frazier came to the majors in April, and he has put himself in the discussion for National League Rookie of the Year.

    The 26-year-old is the top position player in the Rookie of the Year debate, but pitcher Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks is also having a stellar season.

    Frazier was called up to serve as a utility player. Injuries have allowed him to play every day, and he is proving why he deserves to be in the lineup. Third baseman Scott Rolen went down early in the season, and Frazier stepped in to begin his great hitting.

    When Rolen returned, Frazier had a hard time staying in the lineup. Frazier has filled in for Joey Votto at first base since the All-Star went down in July. He has helped Ryan Ludwick carry the team on offense since the All-Star break.

    The rookie is hitting .307 with nine home runs and 33 RBI in the second half of the season.

    Not only has he been hot since the break, but he is also one of the team's clutch hitters. He is hitting .282 with runners in scoring position on the season.

    If he finds himself out of the lineup, Frazier will be a nice addition to Cincinnati's bench. Coming off the bench, he is 6-for-10 this season. He has four extra-base hits off the bench, and he will become the first guy used late in the game. 

    Frazier has given the manager a difficult decision to make when Votto returns. The rookie deserves to be in the lineup for the rest of the season, but he will likely be the odd man out with the return of Votto. 

No. 7: Mat Latos

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    Stats: 11-4, 3.79 ERA

    Playing baseball in October is the reason the Reds pulled a trigger on a deal to bring Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres to Cincinnati.

    After going 1-2 with an earned run average of nearly 6.00, Latos is showing why he was acquired. In the past four months, he is 10-2 while playing in a pennant race. He has also gotten his ERA down to 3.79, which is tough to do at Great American Ball Park.

    The 24-year-old leads the staff with 152 strikeouts, and he is starting to go deep into games. In his past seven starts, he pitched at least seven innings six times and has not lost when he pitches at least six innings.

    The pitching staff needed help in the offseason, and the acquisition of Latos solidified the rotation.

    Cincinnati now has a dominant duo at the top of the rotation. Latos will be the No. 2 pitcher in October, and he will be difficult to beat if he continues to throw strikes.

No. 6: Aroldis Chapman

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    Stats: 5-4, 34 saves, 1.25 ERA

    Aroldis Chapman is turning in one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher in baseball history.

    He started spring training by competing for a spot in the starting rotation, but he moved to the bullpen before the season started. Although he did not start the season as the closer, he has been the best in the game since taking over in mid-May.

    The left-hander is tied for the National League lead in saves with 34, according to MLB.com. Outside of a shaky June, teams have rarely scored on him.

    Chapman is known for his fastball, and it is leading him to a historic season. He has 115 strikeouts while only walking 16 batters in 65 innings this season. The Cuban Missile has held teams to a .133 average, so he does not have to deal with many runners on base.

    He is averaging nearly 16 strikeouts per nine innings. It was even higher before he hit a little slump in his last eight games. During that stretch, he failed to strike out a batter in three of those appearances. That was a feat he had only done one time in 52 previous games.

    The closer has been so good that ESPN's Jayson Stark made a case for Chapman to win the Cy Young award.

    A dominant closer is a dangerous weapon to have in the postseason. If the starters can pitch deep in games and turn the ball over to Chapman, the game will be all but over.  

    Chapman's ability to keep runners off base limits the opportunities for opponents to score. In a tight game in October, his fastball will be the key to the team's success.

No. 5: Joey Votto

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    Stats: .342/.465, 14 HR/49 RBI

    While the Reds continue to win games without Joey Votto, it is crazy to think the team will not need him in October.

    The former NL MVP continues to rehab from knee surgery, and he will rejoin the team this week. 

    Votto was on a historic pace before he was injured. His 36 doubles were on record-pace, and he is still among the league leaders in that category. 

    The All-Star will be a big addition to the middle of the lineup. His return will allow Brandon Phillips to move to either the top of the order or the cleanup spot. The first baseman gets on base a lot, and the guys behind him are continuing to drive in runs.

    Not only will his offense help the team, but he is the reigning NL Gold Glove winner at first base. 

    Cincinnati has won two-thirds of its games without Votto, including a 10-game winning streak. However, a patient bat in the middle of the lineup will be necessary in the postseason. The team has proven it can win without the first baseman, but Votto needs to be productive in order for the Reds to advance past the first round.

No. 4: Johnny Cueto

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    Stats: 17-7, 2.58 ERA

    Johnny Cueto has quietly turned into an ace in the past two seasons. 

    In 2012, Cueto leads the major leagues in earned run average and is tied for the lead in wins (according to MLB.com). Pitching in Great American Ball Park can be tough on a pitcher, but he has learned how to get hitters out. 

    The 26-year-old is 9-2 in Cincinnati with an earned run average below 2.50 this season. 

    Cueto is also pitching deep into games and saving the bullpen. In 28 starts, he has gone at least seven innings in 16 games. He has allowed more than three earned runs in a game only five times but has not allowed more than five earned runs in a start this season.

    He is also one of the best pitchers in terms of controlling the running game. The veteran pitcher has only allowed one stolen base in nine attempts all season, and he has seven pickoffs.

    The right-hander has put himself into discussion for the NL Cy Young award. 

    If the Reds manage to get home-field advantage, the team would have to travel to the winner of the wild card game for the first two games of the series. That is significant because the wild card team will likely have used its No. 1 pitcher before the NLDS. Cueto and Latos would get to face the No. 2 and No. 3 pitchers, and it would give the Reds a big advantage.

    In 2010, the Reds did not have a pitcher to match up with Roy Halladay. With Cueto stepping up as a No. 1, he gives the team confidence against any pitcher in the league.

No. 3: Brandon Phillips

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    Stats: .298/.335, 15 HR/71 RBI

    Second baseman Brandon Phillips is extremely important to his team's success.

    On defense, there is nobody in the league (at any position) who has a better glove than Phillips. He makes plays on a daily basis that makes people's jaws drop. Defense is key in the postseason, so Phillips will be important even when he is not hitting.

    His fielding keeps runners off the bases, and it helps pitchers have confidence in the defense. The second baseman is poised to win his third Gold Glove.

    There can never be enough said about his defense, but his offense makes him very valuable to the team.

    Phillips is about the only player on the team who can hit in every spot in the lineup. He has hit leadoff, cleanup, and in the No. 3 hole this season.

    He struggled at the beginning of the season in the leadoff spot, but he hit at the top of the order in 2010 when the team won the division. After an injury forced him into the cleanup spot, he hit .303 with 10 home runs and drove in 50 runs behind Joey Votto. 

    When Votto went down a knee injury, he moved to the No. 3 spot. Since moving up in the order, he has hit .306 and has driven in 21 runs. 

    He ranks third on the team in runs batted in, and he does not strike out very much. His 61 strikeouts are very low for a hitter in the middle of the lineup.

    Phillips is the emotional leader of this team, and he leads the team with his dynamic play.

No. 2: Jay Bruce

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    Stats: .259/.336, 30 HR/89 RBI

    Jay Bruce is working his way into the NL MVP discussion.

    Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News makes the case for the 25-year-old to be in the debate. He will not win because of his batting average, but he should receive some votes. Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen is cooling off (as well as his team), and Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants is the only other position player on a playoff team worthy of the award. 

    While Bruce goes through extreme highs and lows, his numbers are still among the best in the league. 

    According to MLB.com, he trails only Milwaukee's Ryan Braun in home runs and is tied for third in RBI in the National League. For a hitter who goes through many slumps, it is hard to believe that he is among the best in the league in producing runs.

    The two-time All-Star can carry the team when he goes on one of his streaks. In April, he was the only player on the team consistently hitting and kept his team in contention. He hit nearly .300 for the month and hit seven home runs with 17 RBI.

    While Bruce has made several uncharacteristic errors in right field this season, he is still a great defensive player. His arm is the best in the National League, and he helps keep runners from taking extra bases.

    The left-hander was one of the few bright spots in the 2010 NLDS. He was the only player to reach base in every game of the series, and he had a .400 OBP against the Philadelphia Phillies. The series did not go the way the team had hoped, but Bruce's ability to perform on a big stage is a positive sign.

    He is beginning to drive in runs with base hits and does not rely on home runs anymore. The strikeouts need to come down, but they come in bunches.

    If Bruce gets on one of his famous streaks in October, he can carry this team to the next round. 

No. 1: Drew Stubbs

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    Stats: .219/.285, 14 HR/39 RBI

    The player who is most valuable to the Cincinnati Reds is Drew Stubbs.

    Cincinnati can win without him in the lineup, but the team is virtually unbeatable when he does well. Fans need to realize that Stubbs is an important piece to this team.

    When Stubbs scores a run, the team is 46-6 this season. That record is hard to argue with, so fans need to be patient. 

    The 27-year-old strikes out too much, but he does things other players on the team cannot. His recent struggles may cost him playing time down the stretch.

    He has 28 stolen bases in 34 attempts this season. Nobody else on the team has more than 11. In the postseason, the Reds will need to be able to steal bases to get into scoring position. If he puts the ball in play more, he will see more base hits.

    Joey Votto's return could send Stubbs to the bottom of the lineup. He hit down in the order during the 2010 season, and he hit around .270 in that spot. A drop in the lineup will take pressure off of him, and it will lead to a relaxed hitter.

    Fans also forget about how good Stubbs is in center field. 

    He gets to more balls than almost any player in the league, and he makes tough plays look routine. His speed allows him to get to balls in the gap. Chris Heisey makes brilliant diving plays, but Stubbs makes them on the run. 

    Not only does he have great speed in the outfield, but his arm keeps runners from taking an extra base. 

    While everyone else in the lineup is producing, Stubbs remains the most important player on the roster. He has power at the plate, but he needs to focus on getting on base and stealing bases.