The Cincinnati Reds are full of youth and homegrown talent. Many may forget that budding stars Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey are but 25 and 26 years old (respectively), though it seems as though they have been around since the turn of the century.
Then there is Johnny Cueto—yep, he is only 26. Aroldis Chapman is only 24 years old. Mat Latos is but 24 as well. We also shouldn't forget MVP Joey Votto. He may not be as young as the others, but as you will see, he is still progressing with age.
Not only do the Cincinnati Reds have talent, but if development trends continue, they may be overflowing with flat-out scary talent in the next couple of years.
Lets take a look at these trends, starting with Jay Bruce.
The 25-year-old Bruce just completed his fifth year in the big leagues (2008-12). Throughout this time his home-run totals have increased each year: 21, 22, 25, 32 and 34 respectively. His RBI totals, well, they have followed suit: 52, 58, 70, 97 and 99. Total extra-base hits: 39, 39, 53, 61 and 74. There are stats that have not followed the same trend, though, such as his BA: .254, .223, .281, .256 and .252. With more consistency (which, believe it or not, Bruce showed this year), he could surprise us all in the near future.
So what's the conclusion on Bruce? If trends continue, Jay Bruce is actually due for a breakout year—and a breakout year on top of what he has already posted could be absolutely monstrous.
Next, we visit the trends of one of the most frustrating prospects in Reds history—Homer Bailey.
The 26-year-old Bailey has been strutting his stuff around GABP since 2007. Take a look at these ERA/WHIP splits since then:
5.46/1.57, 7.93/2.09, 4.53/1.47, 4.46/1.37, 4.43/1.28 and 3.68/1.24—impressive.
Homer Bailey's trends have lead him to become Cincinnati's key breakout player in 2013. As you will see, Johnny Cueto had similar trends before break(ing) on though to the other side (as Jim Morrison would have said).
Bailey closed out the year with the ace stuff that we all expected of him six years ago. He threw 55.2 innings through September and October (including the postseason). During that time he gave up only 28 hits and 10 walks while striking out 58 and giving up only 11 runs. That equates to a 1.78 ERA folks. Look for this ace-like material to continue in 2013.
Mr. Johnny Cueto is 26 years old himself. In five years his ERA/WHIP combos look like this:
4.81/1.41, 4.41/1.36, 3.64/1.28, 2.31/1.09, 2.78/1.17—can you say bona fide ace?
Though his ERA and WHIP totals increased slightly from 2011 to 2012, what was very impressive was how his K/9 improved from 6.00 to 7.05 and his K/BB ratio went from 2.21 to 3.47. Plus, you can't expect a 2.31 ERA every year out of anyone.
So should you expect improvements from Johnny Cueto next season? Yes, expect more innings, an improved WHIP and more strikeouts—this is where Cueto is now trending.
Oh, Aroldis Chapman. To start or not to start, this is the question. Let's clear that up now—he will start. Chapman made obvious strides in 2012 when he posted a 1.51 ERA with a 0.81 WHIP. His 15.32 K/9 is simply off the wall. But, what many forget is that Chapman posted a 2.12 ERA in four spring starts with a WHIP of 1.12.
He can do it folks, and he will. Chapman mastered his one major flaw in 2012—locating the strike zone. That is one improvement that can not go understated.
This brings us to the other two players that I first mentioned, Mat Latos and Joey Votto. On the surface, these two may not seem to have improved.
After all, Latos' ERA has gone from 2.92, to 3.47, to 3.48 the last three seasons. But, let's not forget that Latos went from playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in Petco Park to playing in the GABP, one of the most hitter-friendly parks. Maintaining his numbers during such a drastic change should not go understated.
Last but not least, we have Joey Votto. Folks, he led the league with a .474 OBP. Aside from admitted and convicted PED users Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds, only Edgar Martinez (.479 OBP in 1995) and Wade Boggs (.476 OBP in 1988) have recorded higher on-base percentages since Norm Cash cashed in with a .487 OBP in 1961.
Votto may have only produced 14 home runs in 2012, but much of that was due to his knee injury. Despite playing in 50 fewer games than in 2011, he produced a career high in doubles with 44 and a 5.6 WAR compared to a 6.2 WAR in 2011. He also set career highs with a .337 BA, that .474 OBP and 1.041 OPS.
To keep a long story short, the young talent that fills Cincinnati's roster is impressive already, but the trends and signs should lead us to believe that the best is still yet to be seen.
What are your thoughts? Be sure to chime in with them and leave your comments below.
You can follow Josh Ramsey on Twitter: @JRamCincy