Shin-Soo Choo's spot in the Reds lineup will most certainly be at the top.
The Cincinnati Reds' 2013 roster has been quickly coming together over the past couple of weeks. With the recent re-signing of Ryan Ludwick and acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland, the batting order looks to be coming together.
They needed a power-hitting left fielder—insert Ryan Ludwick and his 26 HRs from 2012—check.
They needed a leadoff hitter—insert Shin-Soo Choo and his career .381 OBP—check.
The lineup didn't require many pieces. But the pieces that it did require were pretty pertinent. The Reds' batting order has been an oft-debated subject in recent years—primarily because it lacked a true leadoff hitter. Then again, maybe it isn't the lineup that has been debated, rather the lineup decisions made by Dusty Baker.
Either way, rest assured that the addition of Choo will cure the urge of many to jump all over Baker's decisions.
So, without further ado, I bring to you the Cincinnati Reds' 2013 lineup:
Leading off and playing center field, Shin-Soo Choooooooooooooooooo.
CF Shin-Soo Choo (61 XBH, .373 OBP in 2012)
2B Brandon Phillips (.282 BA, 18 HR in 2012)
1B Joey Votto (.370 BA w/RISP in 2012)
LF Ryan Ludwick (26 HR, 80 RBI in 2012)
RF Jay Bruce (34 HR, 99 RBI in 2012)
3B Todd Frazier (19 HR, .829 OPS in 2012)
SS Zack Cozart (33 Doubles, 15 HR in 2012)
C Ryan Hanigan (.365 OBP in 2012) / Devin Mesoraco (13 XBH in 165 AB in 2012)
Look folks, it's not rocket science. We all know this. The only spot that I can foresee a debate lies with the seventh and eighth slots in the lineup. Many will probably argue that Hanigan and his .365 OBP deserve to bat ahead of Cozart's .288 OBP.
But let's be honest here. Hanigan benefits from his spot in the order. He is not a top-of-the-order guy. While batting in front of the pitcher, Hanigan sees significantly more strikes than many of his brethren batting ahead of him. But then again, he is also pitched around just as often to bring the pitcher to the plate.
You see, it's either one extreme or the other. There isn't a lot of junk in-between. He should have a decent OBP with pitchers pitching around him to get to the pitcher's spot in the lineup. He should also have a decent batting average—benefiting from more fastballs and strikes when opposing teams just want him to put the ball in play.
Reds fans should also expect to see increased playing time for young catching prospect Devin Mesoraco. The Reds see him as their catcher of the future, and he is going to continue to get his chance. Expect him to capitalize on it this season—12 to 15 HR should not be out of the question.
Todd Frazier finds himself in the six-hole. He filled in very admirably in the absence of Joey Votto and Scott Rolen last season and finds himself with a full-time gig at third base this year. With less stress and a set spot in the order, Frazier could spring for 25 HR and 80 RBI in 2013—don't be surprised.
If you think Shin-Soo Choo will be the key for Cincinnati's lineup, you are respectfully mistaken.
Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips hold the 2013 keys. Choo is going to do his thing and get on base—Phillips must follow in his steps as well as move him along for Votto.
Ludwick finds himself with the massive role of Joey Votto guardian. If Ludwick struggles with runners in scoring position, then all the work that Choo and Phillips do at the top of the order could go unnoticed as pitchers will be prepared to pitch around Votto at a Barry Bonds rate.
The 2013 season looks bright for the Reds. They patched the gaping hole at leadoff and look poised to score a ton of runs—if all goes right, anyway.
I have a feeling it will.
Be sure to chime in with your thoughts on Cincinnati's projected 2013 lineup.