5 Things on the Cincinnati Reds' Spring Training Checklist
The Cincinnati Reds enter spring training with one of the soundest rosters Dusty Baker has managed since his arrival in 2008.
There are still various questions that will hopefully become clearer in the upcoming weeks of spring training.
Issues like Joey Votto’s power and Shin-Soo Choo’s defense will be put under a microscope as the club gears toward Opening Day.
With high hopes for the 2013 season, the Cincinnati Reds have to make sure their primary questions are answered before the start of the season.
Here are five things to look for as the spring training exhibition games begin.
The Sophomores Maintain
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The Reds are a young team, but that doesn't excuse a decline for the second-year players.
Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier made huge strides in their first full rookie seasons. The success was visible and it earned Frazier third in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Devin Mesoraco and his less-than stellar .205/.274/.353 slash line was a mild bust for the season. The 2007 Reds first-round draft pick did manage to catch 10 stealing with a 20 CS percentage in only 53 games behind the dish in 2012.
However, Mesoraco has to fight for a roster spot in spring training. He must demonstrate why he was a first-round draft pick and how he’s more valuable than veteran Miguel Olivo.
Todd Frazier was one of the key replacements when Joey Votto landed on the DL.
Maintaining a winning season seemed like the impossible. But Frazier stood up to the challenge and hit eight HR, 32 RBI and had his batting average reach .298 in Votto’s absence.
Frazier’s 103 strikeouts in 422 at bats is certainly a cause for concern. He needs to win the third base spot even with Scott Rolen not returning.
Cozart had a .288 OBP last season and it should rise with him likely hitting seventh in the lineup. Cozart’s solid defense can’t miss a beat if the Reds plan on another successful season.
All the sophomores must show steadiness in spring training.
A Complete and Stable Bullpen
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Ironically, one of the major losses from the 2012 season will be Aroldis Chapman from the closer’s role.
With the transition of Chapman to the rotation, there’s some trepidation toward Jonathan Broxton as the new closer. Losing one of 2012’s most dominant closers will certainly affect the Reds bullpen in 2013.
By the time Chapman saved his 15th game, the Reds had boosted their record from 20-19 to 52-40.
Stability within the bullpen needs to be achieved in spring training. Broxton has to stay healthy and show signs that he’s ready for the closer’s spot.
More importantly, the Reds bullpen needs to become obvious.
The competition will be high for the possible eight bullpen spots.
Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, Jose Arredondo, Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra, Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek, Clay Hensley, and J.J. Hoover will fight to make the opening day roster.
By the end of spring training, the Reds need assurance with their bullpen. Any uncertainties that lead into the season could cause disturbance for Chapman’s new role.
If the Reds can continue to be one of the top bullpens in the MLB, there will be little doubt for another postseason run.
Certainty in Center Field
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The best Reds acquisition this offseason was adding a career .289/.381/.465 slash line to the leadoff spot. Compared to the combined 2012 leadoff slash line .208/.254/.327, the Reds certainly solved the offense question.
However, the club did create another concern with the fact that Shin-Soo Choo isn't a center fielder. Choo has to be able to show the club that his fielding will not plummet in the transition.
Bruce has expressed his willingness to move to center. Walt Jocketty isn't so eager to move his star right fielder, but if Choo fails, he might not have a choice.
The Reds have to make it clear who is the primary center fielder for Opening Day.
Aroldis Chapman Ready for the Rotation
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All eyes will be on Aroldis Chapman this spring as he makes the transition to the rotation. Even though he trained last spring as a starter, Chapman has far more press this year.
Losing Chapman as the backstop will be a huge blow to the Reds, even if he works out in the rotation.
Dusty Baker will have to manage his bullpen without the force of a Marshall-Broxton-Chapman three punch.
This spring training, Chapman has to demonstrate why he belongs in the rotation.
The 2012 Reds pitching staff ranked first in ERA, complete games, saves, and runs allowed. The starting rotation had 63 wins in 2012, and more will be expected this season.
With a likely innings limit, the Reds have to use Chapman cautiously. He will once again need to showcase his pitching during spring training.
Chapman ultimately has to prove he’s not just a two-pitch guy. Since arriving to the majors, Chapman has used his fastball over 80 percent of the time.
Hitters will adjust this year and Chapman will need to outperform Mike Leake for the fifth rotation spot.
With good health and careful watch, Chapman could make one of the best rotations even better.
Joey Votto Shows Power
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One of the most pressing questions this spring is if Joey Votto can play 100 percent on his surgically repaired knee.
So far, Votto appears to be healthier than the last time he swung a bat in the 2012 NLDS.
Getting the pop back in Votto’s bat is absolutely necessary for the Reds to ensure a dominant lineup. With uncertainty in center field and a weaker bullpen from 2012, the lineup is expected to produce more runs.
The Reds managed a total of 669 runs last year ranking them ninth in the National League.
Votto hasn't hit a home run since June 24, and he went the entire NLDS with no doubles or homers.
Votto is typically a slower starter in spring training. But a collective sigh of relief will hit Redleg Nation the second he sends one over the fence.
Votto must regain confidence in his repaired knee. After his return from the DL, Votto took every slide as if his knees were eggshells.
Not only is Votto’s power on the checklist, but he must show some sort of conviction in his base running. Votto can answer a lot of questions through a healthy and confident spring training.