5 Reasons the Reds Shouldn't Be Overlooked as World Series Contenders
The Cincinnati Reds will start the season with aspirations like every other team. Get to the World Series.
However, for the first time in years, their ambitions aren't pipe dreams. The Reds have a serious shot to make the postseason again with their youthful squad and solid lineup.
5. Playing with a Chip on Their Shoulder
The Cincinnati Reds haven’t won back-to-back division titles since 1994-1995 when the division structure first started, and the '94 strike prevented them from reaching the postseason. The Reds haven’t even finished above .500 in back-to-back seasons since 1999-2000.
Redleg Nation knows it takes time to build a great team. They also know about heartache more than others.
It was exciting when the Reds won the 2010 NL Central Division, since it had been 15 long and grueling years since the last time it happened. However, it was just as forgettable as it was exhilarating.
Roy Halladay and Jay Bruce’s blundered fly ball quickly made it a tough postseason to be proud of—and 2012 wasn't much better.
Watching the Reds take a 2-0 series lead against the San Francisco Giants during the 2012 NLDS made it truly seem like team's luck had changed. However, things turned for the absolute worst, as the Reds became the first NL team to blow a 2-0 lead in the NLDS.
The Reds enter 2013 with last season as a distant memory. If anything, it’s going to drive the club to push further, since the taste of the postseason dissolved as quickly as it did in 2010.
4. Youthful Squad
Some might argue that a player’s sophomore year is the hardest to succeed in. The Reds are going against the odds in 2013.
Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart and especially Devin Mesoraco are all fighting to improve from their rookie years. The Reds are counting on Frazier and Cozart to solidify the left side of the infield. And with Brandon Phillips locked up until 2017 and Joey Votto until at least 2023, this is a year for the left side to make an impact.
The Reds have surrounded themselves with young defensive players. Their team .985 fielding percentage was second best in the NL in 2012 and fourth best in 2011. The Reds' .988 fielding percentage in 2010 was tops in the NL, and they'll look to keep defense a priority in 2013.
The probable starting rotation has all but one pitcher who is 27 or younger. The healthiest of the bunch is Bronson Arroyo at a youthful 36. Arroyo has pitched 200 or more innings every season except one (2011, 199 IP) since coming to Cincinnati.
With the majority of the club returning this season, most have already been through at least one postseason. The club may be young, but it’s more experienced.
3. They're Healthy
There are some skeptics about Joey Votto playing for Team Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but it’s honestly a good sign of health.
Votto seems to be playing at nearly 100 percent. He recently hit his first home run in spring training since his last regular-season bomb in June. This gives some indication that Votto is ready for a full season on his knee, and the WBC will test it.
The rotation will play a vital role if the Reds want to succeed for a second straight year. If Aroldis Chapman does join the starting rotation, his health and fatigue will be scrutinized all season.
The Reds have to look at using his innings in the most efficient way.
However, if Choo is able to stay healthy, the Reds will have their unquestionable leadoff hitter for a full season.
Maintaining their healthy lineup will prove the Reds are serious about 2013.
2. Aroldis Chapman
Last week, I predicted Aroldis Chapman’s potential for 2013. For the Reds to prove themselves as World Series contenders, he must produce—no matter which inning he’s pitching.
The Reds could try to preserve Chapman for the postseason better than the way the Nationals used Stephen Strasburg last season.
His presence in the rotation as the fifth starter will only improve the Reds' 2012 collective 3.64 ERA, 770 strikeouts and 412 earned runs.
Barring any setbacks, Chapman should easily out-produce Mike Leake’s 2012 stats (8-9, 4.58 ERA, 5.8 K/9, and 1.352 WHIP).
Chapman will only make the rotation more dominant. But if he’s moved back to the closer’s role, he has the ability to keep an ERA under 1.7, with 40-plus saves. If this happens, the Reds will arguably have one of the top bullpens in baseball.
No matter where Chapman is pitching, his success will certainly play one of the biggest roles in a possible World Series run.
1. The Solid Lineup
There’s hardly any doubt about the 2013 Cincinnati Reds' Opening Day lineup:
1. Shin-Soo Choo CF
2. Brandon Phillips 2B
3. Joey Votto 1B
4. Ryan Ludwick LF
5. Jay Bruce RF
6. Todd Frazier 3B
7. Zack Cozart SS
8. Ryan Hanigan C
9. Johnny Cueto SP
This is the first year Dusty Baker can relax a bit more on daily lineup questions. Last year, it was a battle between Phillips, Cozart, and Drew Stubbs for leadoff.
In the first half of the season, Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey were switching between the fourth and sixth spots depending on who started. There was no solidity.
Ludwick started 44 games batting fourth in the lineup, 37 batting sixth and 15 batting seventh. His best stat line obviously occurred when he batted fourth (.288/.384/.491). Keeping Ludwick in the fourth hole should only improve and sustain his stats.
The Reds ranked 17th in the majors with a .251 collective batting average. Placing Cozart in the seventh spot will relieve the pressure from leadoff and his power numbers should increase.
Votto had an abysmal number of opportunities to knock in runs in the first inning. With Choo and Phillips playing nearly every day, it will only bolster Votto’s RBI numbers. He’ll likely top 100 RBI like he did in 2010-2011.
Even though the Reds won 97 games, they still had significant problems.
The 2012 Reds scored 226 runs in innings four-six, 222 in innings seven-nine and only 211 in innings one-three. The club had yearlong trouble starting games off on the right foot.
The new additions and solidified lineup should prove to be one of the best in the NL. With continuous healthy pitching and a young squad, the Cincinnati Reds shouldn't be overlooked as serious World Series contenders.