The Cincinnati Reds are looking to build on the National League Central division title they won in 2012, and the team has the talent to win 100 games next season.
Most of the team remains the same, but one addition should put them in position to make a deep run next season. The team finally has a leadoff hitter who can get on base, something that has been missing from this team for years.
With the Houston Astros leaving for the American League, the Reds will have a tougher schedule in 2013. Although they still get to face the Astros in interleague play, they don't have the luxury of facing them 15 times a year.
This team is built on pitching and defense. Baseball's best bullpen will be healthy at the start of the season, and they will look to build on last year's success.
Cincinnati is still waiting to hear back from third baseman Scott Rolen, who was one of the team's leaders. He may be nearing the end of his career, but he is a great presence in the clubhouse.
Whether or not Rolen returns, the team has a nice mix of veterans and youngsters. Barring any serious injuries, the Reds have what it takes to win 100 games next season.
Yes, the Reds went 22-3 during one stretch without Joey Votto. They will still benefit in 2013 from having a healthy Votto.
The first baseman clearly wasn't the same player after injuring his knee in the middle of the season. When he returned to the lineup, his power was missing. He got on base in almost half of his plate appearances after the injury, but he was very limited in his production.
Votto had eight doubles in the final month but failed to knock one out of the park. He also knocked in only seven runs and struggled to lead this offense.
In the playoffs, he got on base with either walks or singles. There was no run production out of him in the postseason, which hurt the team.
Getting on base is important but reaching only first base limited the aggressiveness of the team. His knee injury prevented him from taking extra bases in key situations.
He may have rushed back too quickly last season, but a full offseason should hopefully help him recover and return to form.
Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips hitting ahead of him will give him more chances to hit with runners on base, and he will need to take advantage of those opportunities.
A powerful Votto will go a long way in leading this team to another division title.
Cincinnati won 97 games without a legitimate leadoff hitter. Now that Shin-Soo Choo is at the top of the lineup, this lineup is going to take off.
The Reds had the worst production in the league out of the leadoff spot, according to MLB.com. The .208 average and .254 on-base percentage was by far the worst in baseball. Drew Stubbs hit .159, Brandon Phillips was at .202 and Zack Cozart, who spent the most time at the top of the lineup, only managed a .223 average.
Clearly the Reds needed to address that issue in the offseason. By trading Stubbs and Didi Gregorius for Choo, the team fixed its biggest weakness.
Choo struggled while hitting in the middle of the Cleveland Indians' lineup in the beginning of the season. Once they moved him to the top of the order, he took off. He hit .310 and sported a .389 OBP.
He also has some pop in his bat. When he has stayed healthy, he has been able to hit 16 or more home runs in three of the past four seasons.
Being a left-handed hitter gives the Reds more balance in the lineup. They were a right-handed team outside of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
The 30-year-old also had 21 steals, so he has some speed on the bases.
Now that the Reds have a legitimate leadoff hitter, they have the potential to be the best team in baseball.
It doesn't matter what his role is because Aroldis Chapman is a phenomenal pitcher.
If the southpaw spends an extended period of time in the bullpen, the Reds will know what they are getting. He converted 38 of 43 save opportunities and had a 1.51 earned run average in 68 games.
The 24-year-old had 122 strikeouts compared to only 23 walks. There was only one game in which he had a walk but no strikeouts. His great control gives fans confidence that he can turn into an effective starter.
Assuming he is a starter for most of the season, Chapman will provide energy to the rotation.
In games that he went more than one inning last season, he never allowed more than one batter to reach base (via ESPN.com). It's a small sample size, but it's an encouraging sign to know that he can go multiple innings without losing anything.
The Cuban Missile will need to mix in more of his secondary pitches in order to be effective as a starter. If he develops a third pitch to go with his fastball and nasty slider, he will be tough to hit.
Chapman won't keep up his 15 strikeouts per nine innings, but he can still overpower the hitters as a starter. The main stat to keep an eye on is his strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He struck out 5.3 batters per walk last season.
As long as his command holds up all season, Chapman will have a sensational year.
Aroldis Chapman will be the main attraction next season, but the rest of the pitching staff is the reason the Reds made it to October last season.
According to MLB.com, the pitching staff had a 3.34 ERA last season. That was good enough to tie for third-best in baseball and 0.01 behind the Washington Nationals for the best in the National League.
Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo were phenomenal in 2012. All four pitchers had at least 12 wins, 200 innings and a 3.75 ERA or lower. Those numbers are all possible to be met again in 2013.
Cincinnati was the only team to have all five starters throw a complete game in 2012, and they all had one by the All-Star break. The Reds were tied for the most complete games in the majors with nine.
They were also the only team in baseball to not have a starter miss a start. Keeping pitchers healthy is key for any team, and the Reds showed just how good they can be with everyone healthy.
The starters were great, but the bullpen was even better.
In 2012, the bullpen's 2.65 ERA was the lowest in baseball. Chapman, Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall all have experience closing, which made it easy to rely on them in late innings.
J.J. Hoover had a great first season. He managed to record a 2.05 ERA with the team and picked up his first career save as well.
Only two relievers, Sam LeCure and Logan Ondrusek, had an ERA above 3.00, but neither pitcher had above a 3.50 ERA.
Nick Masset missed all of last season with an injury, but he was a setup man for several years. He is one reason why the Reds feel comfortable with moving Chapman to the rotation. Masset has one of baseball's best curveballs and can make an immediate impact.
All of those numbers are impressive by themselves, but it's crazy after realizing that the Reds play half of their games at Great American Ball Park.
Losing in the National League Division Series to the San Francisco Giants was a disappointment, but the experience gained from last season will be valuable.
The Reds were swept in the 2010 NLDS by the Philadelphia Phillies, but it helped them prepare for last year. Through 27 innings, they held the Giants to even worse offensive statistics (three runs on 10 hits) than the Reds had accumulated in the 2010 NLDS (four runs on 11 hits).
Experience can be overlooked, but Cincinnati should only be hungrier after the way the season ended.
Blowing a 2-0 series lead and losing three straight at home is disappointing, so the team will use it as motivation to go further next season.
Postseason experience is good to have, but the Reds also had to overcome adversity in the regular season.
Rookie Todd Frazier stepped in when Scott Rolen and Joey Votto each missed at least a month during the season. His play was a big reason why the Reds didn't miss a beat and got him in the conversation for NL Rookie of the Year.
The Reds were 78-50 when Frazier had an at-bat in a game in 2012. He played third base, first base and left field last year, but he will find himself at third the majority of the time next season.
Overcoming injuries to position players helped young players gain valuable experience. There were some growing pains last year, but they now know what it takes to win.
Cincinnati was on the brink of advancing to the NLCS last season, so the players expect to build on their success next season. The chemistry in the clubhouse will help lead this team to a strong 2013 campaign.