*From Protect the Plate
The Cincinnati Reds endured their eighth straight losing season in 2008 and are mired in a 13-year playoff drought. While it's difficult to put a positive spin on a 74-88 season, the Reds did have a number of young players burst onto the scene. With young studs in the lineup and the rotation to build around, the Reds appear to be heading in the right direction for the future.
YOUNG STUDS IN THE LINEUP...
Some of the few bright spots for the Reds in 2008 were first baseman Joey Votto and outfielder Jay Bruce. Votto, 25, has a .300 average, 28 home runs, and 101 RBI over his first 175 Major League games.
Bruce, 21, started 2008 by being named Baseball America's top prospect and ended the year with 21 homers with the Reds. In all, Bruce had 31 home runs and 89 RBI in 157 games between Cincinnati and Triple-A last season.
...AND THE ROTATION
Among the other bright spots were starters Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. Volquez, who arrived in the Josh Hamilton trade, was 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA in his first full season in the bigs. The 25-year-old was also tied for second in the NL with 206 strikeouts.
Cueto, 23, posted less impressive numbers (9-14, 4.81 ERA) but is expected to have a bright future. He especially came on in August, posting a 2.77 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
Homer Bailey, the seventh pick in the 2004 draft, has a 6.72 ERA in 17 Major League starts, but is still only 22 years old and could join Volquez and Cueto to form a formidable young rotation.
In three seasons since coming to Cincinnati, second baseman Brandon Phillips has averaged 22 home runs, 26 stolen bases, 82 RBI, and 84 runs scored while playing above-average defense. While his numbers dropped off from 2007, Phillips was still ranked third among second basemen in both homers (23) and stolen bases (23).
The Reds acquired 2008 stolen base champ Willy Taveras to play center field. The 27-year-old stole more bases (68) than six entire teams last season. Taveras also led the NL with 24 bunt hits, holds the Houston record for longest hitting streak at 30 games, and has two World Series appearances in just four seasons.
Adding speed to the lineup will be Chris Dickerson, the favorite to start in left. A veteran of seven minor league seasons, he stole 31 bases and hit 17 home runs in 128 games between Triple-A and Cincinnati last year.
Bronson Arroyo, whose windup has become one of baseball's most recognizable due to its exaggerated leg kick, had a career-high 15 wins last year despite posting a subpar ERA (4.77). Arroyo has led all of baseball with 103 starts in the three years since being traded to Cincinnati.
After consecutive seasons with 16 wins, an ERA under 3.80, and 200 strikeouts, Aaron Harang went 6-17 with a 4.78 ERA in '08...Francisco Cordero had his fourth 30-save season a year ago...The bullpen will be led by 39-year-olds Dave Weathers and Arthur Rhodes...The Reds' .247 batting average ranked last in the NL...Their pitching staff ranked third with 1,227 strikeouts.