The Cincinnati Reds are dealing with an anomaly entering the 2013 season. For the first time, the Reds have a true lineup and solid roster.
The pessimistic approach is that the Reds will not be as healthy as 2012 and sophomore slumps could damper the 97-win club.
However, this year, the Reds aren't depending on a Corey Patterson, Orlando Cabrera or even a Wilson Valdez as a backup. There’s no platooned position like we've seen it the past with Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey or Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix.
It’s certain that Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto are the everyday infielders. And as spring training comes to an end, there are still some important decisions for the club to make.
Including a wild card for each position, here are the final predictions on the Cincinnati Reds’ Opening Day roster.
* Wild card—Derrick Robinson
In the offseason, Ryan Ludwick was signed as a free agent to come back to Cincinnati. He showed resurgence in his career that the Reds hope will continue into his second year in the Queen City.
Ludwick won the left field spot batting .275/.346/.531 with 26 home runs in his first year as a Red. Playing in a smaller ballpark is definitely not hurting his numbers, but Ludwick truly enjoys playing for this team.
Shin-Soo Choo has been dealing with back issues for past week. Choo could possibly start the season on the DL if the issues persist.
The club won’t go to their No. 1 prospect Billy Hamilton this early with his recent subpar spring debut.
Derrick Robinson is quietly the standout spring training outfielder. He's batting .349/.364./.512 with 15 hits and eight RBI. Robinson joined the Reds as a non-roster invitee with the hopes of making the club.
Robinson could be the surprise pick if any injury prevents the five core players from starting the season.
* Wild card—Cesar Izturis
One of the biggest battles this spring has been for the final bench spot. Cesar Izturis, Emmanuel Burriss and Jason Donald have all fought hard for the remaining roster spot.
All three have shown a great spring, but it’s likely down to Izturis or Donald.
While last year's infield is just about a guaranteed lock, there’s a need a for a second base and shortstop backup.
Izturis has spent the majority of his career at shortstop, logging 91 starts in 2012 and 150 in 2010. He is limited and can likely only fill as a solid shortstop or second base replacement.
The Reds will likely pounce on the younger player who can fit just about anywhere on the field.
* Wild card—Miguel Olivo
Devin Mesoraco made it pretty simple for the Reds decision on a backup catcher. He’s currently crushing the ball in spring training hitting .406/.472/.688 with 13 hits and 11 RBI.
The most telling stat is his three strikeouts. He discipline at the plate is showing dramatically and Mesoraco has easily been the best hitter this spring.
While Miguel Olivo has the veteran status, the Reds are likely to go with youth once again and let Mesoraco redeem himself from last year’s woes.
* Wild card—Aroldis Chapman
There’s really no uncertainty with the rotation since Aroldis Chapman was named the team’s closer. Mike Leake fought hard this spring and the 25-year-old will be the fifth starter for the fourth year in a row.
Johnny Cueto was recently named the Opening Day starter, and the rotation is set.
Over the weekend, Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo were hit by comebackers and both had to leave their game.
Latos and Arroyo both appear to be fine, but there’s always a chance the Reds could place Arroyo on the DL for the beginning of the season.
Although it’s very unlikely Arroyo would allow himself to miss the start of the season, the Reds could go with Chapman as the backup.
Before you grab your pitchforks and torches, realize that Chapman has basically gone all spring prepping for the rotation.
There was an immense amount of pressure for the Reds to make a decision on Chapman’s role. With an injury, Chapman could give the Reds an excuse to test him as a starting pitcher.
Nevertheless, expect the starting five to be the same as last year's starting rotation.
* Wild card—J.J. Hoover
The toughest decision this spring will be who stays in the bullpen. Manny Parra was brought in during the offseason as the filler for Aroldis Chapman’s move to the rotation.
With Chapman claiming the closer's role, the bullpen got much tighter.
Sam LeCure, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman are secured in the bullpen.
The question is with Logan Ondrusek, Jose Arredondo, Alfredo Simon and Manny Parra all having guaranteed contracts.
None have really demonstrated a solid spring, but the Reds will have to make some difficult decisions.
Don’t be surprised if you see an Arredondo, Parra or Simon trade for a PTBNL or cash considerations before the season starts. The Reds are overstocked in relief with Chapman moving back.
Although J.J. Hoover has looked the best this spring with a 2.25 ERA and 14 strikeouts, he still has options.
It’s going to cost the Reds a chunk of money to cut anyone else, and Hoover could be the unlucky one for the time being. If a reliever is traded or DFA, the Reds will certainly add Hoover to the bullpen.