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Ranking Which Cincinnati Reds We Are Most Eager to Watch in Spring Training

Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2013

Ranking Which Cincinnati Reds We Are Most Eager to Watch in Spring Training

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    The Cincinnati Reds are currently in Goodyear, Ariz., and gearing up for the 2013 season.

    With a roster full of players capable of banding together and making a run at a World Series Championship, expectations and excitement surrounding the team is at an all-time high.

    Fans will be paying attention to a couple of players with a lot to prove this spring training.

    With position battles at catcher, starting pitcher and within the bullpen, Reds spring training should be quite the exciting venture.

    This list will rank the top seven players whom Reds fans should be most eager to watch this spring training.

    Let's see who makes this year's list.

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

7. Daniel Corcino

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    Daniel Corcino is entering his sixth season as a professional in the Reds organization.

    In that time, the 22-year-old has become one of the Reds' top prospects and has even earned recognition from Baseball America, having been ranked 94th in the 2013 edition of their Top 100 Prospects list.

    Corcino also was determined to have the best slider in the Reds' farm system by Baseball America in 2012 (per Baseball America).

    The numbers also prove Corcino's worth as a prospect. 

    In his five seasons of work, Corcino has compiled a 28-26 record, a 3.57 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and ratios of 8.7 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 2.48 K/BB and 0.6 HR/9.

    More impressive is the fact that last year, Corcino outperformed his career averages in his first season at Double-A Pensacola.

    In 26 starts, Corcino worked to an 8-8 record, a 3.01 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP with ratios of 7.9 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.94 K/BB and 0.6 HR/9.

    According to a March 6, 2012, article by Reds' beat writer John Fay, Corcino has also showed substantial maturity in seeking out the help of fellow Dominican Republic native Johnny Cueto.

    In the same article, Fay wrote that Corcino had earned the respect of manager Dusty Baker and special assistant to the GM Mario Soto.

    According to Fay, Baker affectionately dubbed Corcino "Cueto Jr." because they're always together. 

    Conveniently enough, Corcino may have picked the perfect person to emulate his game after given their similar build, pitch arsenal and pitching style.

    Seeing Corcino in action this season will give fans a good sense of where the future of the Reds' starting rotation lies. Corcino, Robert Stephenson and Tony Cingrani are considered to be some of the team's top prospects.

6. Tony Cingrani

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    Tony Cingrani has made himself quite the name over his last two minor league seasons.

    Cingrani tore through the rookie league in 2011 and followed that up with a stellar full season debut in 2012.

    In 26 minor league appearances (25 starts) between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, Cingrani pitched to the tune of a 1.73 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and ratios of 10.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 3.31 K/BB, 6.0 H/9 and 0.6 HR/9.

    Cingrani earned himself a big league call-up in 2012. In just three appearances Cingrani pitched five innings allowing a 1.80 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and ratios of 16.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 4.50 K/BB, 7.2 H/9 and 1.8 HR/9.

    Cingrani isn't going to blow anybody away with velocity (91.8-mph per FanGraphs). He does however hide the ball exceptionally well (see video here), and he changes speeds well with an 85 mph change-up and an 81 mph slider.

    This spring training, Cingrani could be competing with Manny Parra for a spot in the Reds bullpen.

    With the impending transition of Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen to the starting rotation, the Reds are in need of a left-handed reliever.

    Although the plan for Cingrani is to become a starter, the Reds could opt to bring him right to the bigs and have him gain valuable big league experience in 2013.

    The fight for a spot on the big league roster, coupled with Cingrani's impressive strikeout capabilities, should make for an exciting spring training experience.

5. Devin Mesoraco

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    Devin Mesoraco was slated to be the next big thing at catcher.

    Ranked as baseball's 16th-best prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season, expectations for the 24-year-old catcher were high in Cincinnati.

    Unfortunately for the Reds and their fans, Mesoraco failed to meet those expectations.

    In 54 games, Mesoraco slashed .212/.288/.352 with five HR, 14 RBI and 17 runs scored.

    Mesoraco failed to supplant Ryan Hanigan as the Reds' full-time catcher, and he now finds himself in a similar, if not worse position this year.

    Hanigan is slated to be the team's starting catcher, and the Reds brought in 34-year-old veteran Miguel Olivo to compete for a spot on the team's roster.

    If Mesoraco continues his trend of underperforming at the big league level, he may find himself on a plane to Triple-A Louisville to start the season.

    The battle for the backup catcher role is heating up early in Goodyear, Ariz.

    Whether Mesoraco blossoms into the catcher many thought he would is yet to be seen, but currently, he's fighting just to stay on the major league roster.

4. Shin-Soo Choo

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    Cincinnati Reds fans should be very excited for Shin-Soo Choo's coming-out party in spring training. 

    Choo was acquired (along with Jason Donald) from the Cleveland Indians in a three-team deal, which sent Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati to Arizona and Cleveland, respectively.

    As with any new player, there is a certain level of excitement surrounding them. In this case, however, Choo is replacing Stubbs who had become relatively inept offensively.

    Additionally, Choo is playing a position he is relatively unfamiliar with—center field.

    Choo has only played 161 games at center field as a professional. Those 161 games as a center fielder account for only 11 percent of his career.

    Although there is some doubt as to whether or not the 30-year-old can make the shift to center from right, there is little doubt that he will be an offensive improvement over Stubbs.

    Stubbs played four seasons in Cincinnati, where he was a .241/.312/.386 hitter with 162-game averages of 20 HR, 20 doubles, 60 RBI, 95 runs scored and 37 stolen bases. 

    In the same four-year time frame, Choo slashed .289/.382/.458 with 162-game averages of 20 HR, 37 doubles, 84 RBI, 88 runs scored and 23 stolen bases.

    Stubbs had great speed, but the problem with speed is that you can't use it unless you get on base. Stubbs' OBP has been in free fall since his full-season debut in 2010 (.329 to .277).

    Reds fans will certainly be tuning in to see how the team's new addition will affect the way the offense functions.

3. Billy Hamilton

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    Any other year, Billy Hamilton would be the most exciting player to see at Reds spring training.

    By now, everybody knows about Hamilton's improbable 2012 season when he stole 155 bases in 132 games played.

    Although Hamilton is already an adept base stealer, he offers much more than that offensively. 

    As an 18-year-old in 2009, Hamilton played 43 games with the Reds' rookie league affiliate, posting a .205/.253/.277 slash line.

    At the age of 21 in 2012, Hamilton's played his fourth season as a professional. He worked to a .311/.410/.470 slash line with 22 doubles, 14 triples, 112 runs scored and 155 stolen bases.

    What's incredible about Hamilton's base-stealing ability is the rate at which he is successful. Last season, Hamilton had an 81 percent success rate. In his three previous seasons, Hamilton finished with success rates of 84 percent (2011 and 2010) and 82 percent (2009).

    Even while moving up through the ranks, facing catchers with better arms and reaction time and facing pitchers with more experience holding runners on base, Hamilton has managed to steal bases at an unbelievable rate.

    While it's reasonable to think that Hamilton's success rate could dip upon reaching the majors, consider this statistic. As a major leaguer, Rickey Henderson's success rate was 81 percent.

    If you needed any other reason to be excited for the Reds camp, add Hamilton to your list.

2. Aroldis Chapman

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    Aroldis Chapman was arguably baseball's best reliever last season.

    In 68 appearances Chapman logged an 1.51 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and ratios of 15.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 5.30 K/BB, 4.4 H/9 and 0.5 HR/9.

    Chapman recorded 38 saves in 43 opportunities (88 percent). The most incredible thing about Chapman's season was the fact that he ended a whopping 44 percent of at-bats via the strikeout.

    Chapman had a wildly successful season to say the least.

    However, the Reds still believe they can get more out of Chapman's talents and are moving forward with a plan to make Chapman a starter for the 2013 season.

    This is the second straight season for Chapman as a starting pitcher.

    Last year, Chapman made four starts and worked to a 2.12 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and ratios of 9.5 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 9.0 K/BB, 9.0 H/9 and 0.5 HR/9.

    If Chapman has the ability to produce numbers even close to those of last spring training, he'll be a hell of a success story this season, and he will contribute greatly to an already strong starting rotation.

    In the event that Chapman flops in his second attempt at starting, he will still be able to return to the bullpen where he dominated in 2012.

1. Joey Votto

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    Aroldis Chapman and Billy Hamilton may be Cincinnati's most exciting players, but there's no player on the roster people want to see more than Joey Votto.

    Votto is a popular draw both in spring training and the regular season.

    Over the past several seasons, Votto's popularity has risen so sharply, he even finds himself in the finals of MLB Network's Face of MLB bracket-style tournament where he is currently beating Matt Kemp by a wide margin.

    More importantly, though, fans are anxious to see how their team's superstar will perform with a clean bill of health.

    Votto suffered a knee injury last season which required two surgeries. The injuries and subsequent surgeries sidelined him for 49 straight games between July 15 and September 5 (per Sporting News).

    Prior to his injury, Votto had compiled a .342/.465/.604 slash line with 14 HR, 36 doubles, 47 RBI and 52 runs scored.

    Upon returning to the Reds lineup on September 5, Votto had a noticeable loss of power and was unable to log a single home run in his remaining games.

    Although the team went 33-16 in his absence, the Reds are undoubtedly better with him in the heart of the lineup.

    With the addition of Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips hitting in front of him, Votto should have ample opportunity to drive in runs at will.

    If Votto is healthy and his power returns, the Reds are likely to be a better team because of it.

    Fans and analysts alike will be combing through his spring games with a fine-tooth comb, looking for any inclination of decreased power from the 29-year-old slugger.

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