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Ranking the Cincinnati Reds' Players with the Most to Prove This Spring Training

Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2013

Ranking the Cincinnati Reds' Players with the Most to Prove This Spring Training

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    The Cincinnati Reds are under a month away from their first Spring Training game (Feb. 22).

    Spring Training is a chance for players to stand out amongst their fellow teammates while the eyes of the entire organization are on them.

    With that said, several players are competing for starting jobs, or in the case of Mike Leake, competing to stay in Cincinnati period.

    Ranked from least to prove, to most to prove, these are the four Reds players who have something to prove this Spring Training.

4. Zack Cozart

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    Zack Cozart was given a major vote of confidence when the Reds traded away Didi Gregorius this past offseason. 

    MLB.com ranked Gregorius as the 10th best shortstop prospect in baseball for this season and by trading him, the Reds has signified their willingness to make Cozart their franchise shortstop.

    Cozart had a decent rookie season in 2012, finishing with a .246/.288/.399 slash line to go along with 15 home runs, 33 doubles, 32 RBI and 72 runs scored (per baseball-reference.com).

    Cozart also proved himself to be a great defensive player by posting a .975 fielding percentage, and coupling it with a 7.7 ultimate zone rating (UZR) and a 12 defensive runs saved (DRS).

    Both of those sabermetric fielding values place Cozart in the "above average" to "great" range.

    Although there are positive aspects to his first season, fans were hoping for a little bit more from the 27-year-old offensively.

    Cozart tore up the minor leagues working to a .270/.332/.421 slash line with 162 game averages of 16 home runs, 36 doubles, 72 RBI, 98 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.

    If Cozart is really going to step up and become the franchise shortstop that the organization and fans expect him to be, he'll have to prove that he's closer to the offensive threat he was in the minors than what he showed last year.

3. Tony Cingrani

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    Tony Cingrani has become a fast rising name both in the Cincinnati Reds farm system, and Major League Baseball as a whole. 

    Cingrani was ranked by Baseball America as the organization's third-best prospect behind Billy Hamilton and Robert Stephenson for 2013. Additionally, Cingrani was rated the 19th best pitching prospect in baseball by CBSsports.com.

    Cingrani's ranking within the system, and professional baseball as a whole, comes about largely through two seasons as arguably the most successful pitcher in the minor leagues.

    In 39 games (38 starts) as a professional, Cingrani has a 13-6 record with an incredible 1.73 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP to go along with ratios of 11.5 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 6.1 H/9 and 4.34 K/BB (per Baseball-reference.com).

    2012 was Cingrani's age 22 season, and his first full season as a professional. In said season, Cingrani worked between High-A Bakersfield, Double-A Pensacola and the major league level en route to a solid season.

    Level W-L IP ER ERA H BB K HR WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB H/9 HR/9
    A+ 5-1 56.2 7 1.11 39 13 71 2 0.92 11.3 2.1 5.46 6.2 0.3
    AA 5-3 89.1 21 2.12 59 39 101 7 1.10 10.2 3.9 2.59 5.9 0.7
    MLB 0-0 5.0 1 1.80 4 2 9 1 1.20 16.2 3.6 4.50 7.2 1.8
    Total 10-4 151 29 1.73 102 54 181 10 1.03 10.8 3.2 3.35 6.1 0.6

    Currently, Cingrani is looking to supplant Leake as the team's sixth starting option and with a solid spring training, he can continue to prove that he is the better long term option.

2. Aroldis Chapman

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    If Aroldis Chapman were continuing in his role as the team's closer, then he'd have nothing to prove in Spring Training this year.

    However, Chapman is moving into a semi-new role, and is likely to become the team's fifth starter for the 2013 season.

    Chapman worked as a starter in Spring Training last year with the Reds. In five appearances (four starts), The 24-year-old lefty worked to a 2-0 record, with a 2.12 ERA, and a 1.12 WHIP to go along with ratios of 9.5 K/9, 1.1 BB/9 and 9.0 K/BB (per cincinnatireds.com).

    Although Chapman is familiar with being a starting pitcher through his role as a professional in Cuba and for a brief time with the Reds during Spring Training last season, there's no guarantee that he will succeed as a starter at the major league level.

    If the coaching staff, and fans alike, are to feel comfortable with Chapman breaking camp as the Reds' fifth starter, he will have to show that he can maintain some form of the dominance he showed as the team's closer last season.

1. Mike Leake

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    Leake took an unfortunate step back last season as the Reds' fifth starter.

    After skipping the minors entirely, Leake worked himself to a 20-13 record with a 4.03 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and ratios of 6.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 2.4 K/BB (per baseball-reference.com). 

    Though his first two seasons worth of work were impressive, the fact that he progressed between his rookie and sophomore seasons is more impressive and speaks to his upside as a pitcher.

    While 2012 was supposed to be another step toward the front of the rotation for Leake, his season wound up marled with disappointment.

    In 30 starts last season, Leake compiled an 8-9 record with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP to go along with ratios of 5.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 2.83 K/BB. 

    Unfortunately for Leake, all of those measurements signify a step back from his 2011 season.

    Leake is currently battling Aroldis Chapman for the fifth spot in the Reds' starting rotation and may be fighting to stay in Cincinnati period.

    If Leake doesn't make the Reds' rotation then he'll likely be demoted to Triple-A Louisville.

    Barring a blow-up for Chapman or an injury to one of the team's five starters, the Reds could elect to trade Leake during the season due to a wealth of pitching talent ready to hit the majors in 2014 (see: Daniel Corcino, Tony Cingrani and Robert Stephenson).

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