The Cincinnati Reds have done a lot to improve their 2013 roster over the 2012 version.
The team has done several things including: replacing departing players, bolstering the starting rotation, and giving added lineup protection to Joey Votto.
Here are some reasons why the Reds will be a better team in 2013, than they were in 2012.
Cutting Dead Weight
Drew Stubbs, Scott Rolen, Willie Harris, Wilson Valdez, and Miguel Cairo won't be found anywhere on this roster. Those five have been replaced and for good reason.
The five players mentioned combined for 1175 at bats last season and managed only a .213/.269/.320 slash line with just 74 extra base hits.
Replacing these players in the roles they filled in 2012 are, Shin-Soo Choo, Todd Frazier, Xavier Paul, Jack Hannahan, and Jason Donald.
Those five players combined for a .268/.337/.551 slash line with 145 extra base hits including 92 doubles and 43 home runs.
The Reds did one of the best things that any franchise can do following a disappointing playoff exit—cut dead weight. With Stubbs, Harris, Valdez, Cairo, and (unfortunately) Scott Rolen gone, the Reds are a better ball club.
With Frazier taking over at third, the Reds have a competent fielder and hitter in the lineup who can play every day. Due to numerous injuries, Rolen only played 92 games in 2012.
With Frazier in the lineup, the team finally has a player who can remain on the field for a full season.
The other significant addition is Shin-Soo Choo. With Choo in the lineup, the Reds have a legitimate leadoff hitter capable of setting the table for Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, and Jay Bruce.
The additions of Hannahan and Donald, along with the possibility of an increased role for Xavier Paul, give the Reds better bench depth than they had in 2012. The team will no longer have to turn to the likes of Harris, Vladez, or Cairo and every fan will welcome that.
Increased Starting Rotation Depth
The Reds resigned Jonathan Broxton this offseason. He'll be moved from the setup role he filled in 2012 to being the Reds full-time closer in 2013.
The signing of Broxton and his assigned role on the team means that Aroldis Chapman is likely to break camp as the team's fifth starter.
Though I've been passionate in my distaste for the move, there is little doubt that Chapman can be more successful than Mike Leake was in 2012.
Leake had a stellar first two seasons as a starter when you consider the fact that he skipped the minor leagues entirely. However, in 2012 everything unraveled for the young righty who pitched to an 8-9 record with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.
Leake also posted the worst slugging against (.443), home runs allowed (26), K/9 (5.8), and quality start percentage (57 percent) values of his career.
For these reasons, it's hard to believe that Chapman could do worse than Leake did last season. Chapman easily has the best stuff of any pitcher on the Reds staff and if it translates to the rotation, the Reds could finish 2013 with the league's top rotation.
The good news for fans is that even if the Chapman experiment fails, the Reds can fall back on the same five man rotation that won them 97 games in 2012. Not a bad problem to have.
Increased Lineup Protection
Joey Votto has always had good players around him. Whether it be Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, or Ryan Ludwick, the Reds have done a good job surrounding their star player with talented players since 2010.
With that said, the Reds haven't had a lineup this solid since Votto became the face of the team. With the addition of Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds will have both Choo and Phillips in front of Votto, while Ludwick and Bruce bat behind him.
With those five at the top of the order, the Reds have one of the best top-fives in baseball.
With very simple changes, the Reds offense makes significant strides in every statistical measure listed. The most telling changes come in the form of a 30 point increase in on base percentage, a 61 point increase in slugging percentage, and a whopping 85 additional runs created.
A Healthy Joey Votto
Given the team's increase in run scoring potential, it's safe to assume that Joey Votto will have a monster season.
Votto will now have four players batting within two spots of him (two ahead, and two behind), all capable of batting between .260-.300, with power enough to knock out at least 20 home runs a piece.
The former MVP has never had that type of protection in the lineup. Now, after two knee surgeries in 2012, Votto will enter the 2013 season completely healthy with a chance to earn another MVP award.
Though the team played well without Votto last season (33-16 without him), there's no way to expect that they could ever do it again.
Even if the Reds went 49-0 while Votto was injured, it's reasonable to assume that adding a career .316/.415/.553 hitter with 162 game averages of 30 home runs, 44 doubles, 102 RBI and 95 runs scored, will make the offense better, and more complete.
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