Mid-April Grades for Every Cincinnati Reds Position Player

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2013

Mid-April Grades for Every Cincinnati Reds Position Player

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    Almost midway through the first month of the Major League Baseball season, it's time to evaluate how the position players for the Cincinnati Reds have done so far.

    The Reds started out fast, but they have struggled lately. Their struggles have been in large part due to an inconsistent offense and a shaky bullpen. Cincinnati went 0-for-25 with runners in scoring position during the first four games of its five-game losing streak and scored a combined seven runs, with five of those coming in one game.

    When this team is patient at the plate, it has been tough to beat.

    Players on this list will be judged based on how they have done on offense and defense. Also, only players who have gotten significant playing time will be graded. Catcher Devin Mesoraco hasn't gotten enough time to be evaluated, and most of the bench has seen very little action.

    Injuries are starting to take their toll on this team, so more players will need to step up.

    After almost two weeks, let's take a look at how the position players on this team have done. 

    *Stats are from MLB.com as of April 14.

Ryan Hanigan, C

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    Grade: D

    It's been an ugly start to the season for Ryan Hanigan in almost every aspect of the game. His hitting has to get better in a hurry.

    The veteran just ended a career-worst 0-for-20 slump and now has two hits on the season. 

    He has yet to get a hit with a runner on, and he is struggling to put the ball in play during key situations. The 32-year-old has five strikeouts in 26 at-bats, another number the team didn't expect to see this early.

    Even his defense has been a little off early on. He already has a passed ball. For a guy who hasn't had more than three in any season, that's a surprising number. The catcher also missed a tag on a play that he normally makes.

    The good news is there is no way that Hanigan will continue to hit this bad. He's too good of a player, and he will start to come through with runners on. Once he does, the offense will see more consistency.

Joey Votto, 1B

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    Grade: A

    No real complaints here, but the Reds need Joey Votto to start smashing the ball.

    He has reached base in all 12 games this season, and he leads the majors with a .542 on-base percentage. He's getting on base, but his team needs him to be a big bat in the middle of the order.

    The former MVP has one double and one triple, and he finally launched one out of the park on Sunday (video courtesy of MLB.com). He doesn't look like himself at the plate, which could still be a lingering effect from his knee injury.

    Votto has only two multi-hit games this season, but he has drawn at least two walks in seven games this year. He leads the majors with 20 walks—or four more than the Chicago White Sox have as a team—in only 12 games and has drawn a walk in all but one game. Pitchers aren't giving him much to hit, and that could be a reason why he hasn't had many extra-base hits.

    Heck, he even has a stolen base in the first two weeks.

    The only concern with Votto is that he is tied for third on the team with 10 strikeouts, but he has only one in the last four games.

    In the seventh inning or later, he is hitting .417 and is sporting a .682 OBP. That includes a walk-off hit and a game-tying triple in the ninth inning.

    On defense, the first baseman has been solid. He's continued to be aggressive with the ball, and he keeps improving at grabbing throws off the mark.

Brandon Phillips, 2B

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    Grade: A+

    Brandon Phillips has been the leader of this team on offense and on defense this season.

    After a rough game on Opening Day, he has gotten a hit in nine of his last 10 games. He has seven multi-hit games, including a stretch of five in a row at one point.

    As he cooled off a bit this week, the team did as well. Phillips single-handedly brought his team back on Friday in Pittsburgh with two home runs, but it still wasn't enough. 

    The 31-year-old leads the team in home runs and RBI, and he trails only Jay Bruce in doubles. 

    Phillips was supposed to be the No. 2 hitter this season, but he has again easily adjusted to being the cleanup hitter. He has a ridiculous .364 average when hitting No. 4 this season, and all four of his home runs have come from that spot.

    He is the best option the team has for the cleanup spot, and he will continue to hit there for the foreseeable future.

    Yes, the Gold Glove second baseman already has an error. All of his "web gems" make up for that one miscue.

    Phillips plays with emotion and swagger, which he has earned the right to do. As long as he continues to swing the bat well, this team is going to be in great position at the end of the season.

Zack Cozart, SS

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    Grade: C

    So far this season, it's been tough to tell whether the Reds are going to get the good Zack Cozart or the bad one. 

    The second-year player currently owns a .159 average and has not drawn a walk. On the plus side, he has only eight strikeouts in 44 at-bats despite his struggles at the plate.

    Five of his seven hits have come in two games, and his only home runs and RBI have all come in those games. While batting No. 7 this season, his batting average is .097. He is 4-for-13 when he hits in front of Joey Votto, so he will probably see more time in the No. 2 hole.

    Cozart has been good in the field, so there is no concern on that side of the ball. Once his hitting gets more consistent, he will be a good all-around player.

Todd Frazier, 3B

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    Grade: B

    How Todd Frazier did not win National League Player of the Week last week is a mystery, but he has cooled off lately.

    Through the first six games of the season, the second-year player had a .480 average to go along with a .500 OBP. He had three home runs and nine RBI during that stretch. He got a hit in each of the first six games of the season.

    Frazier has struggled since that hot start. He recently snapped out of his 0-for-16 drought and has struck out seven times during the slump. He also has only one RBI in the last week, which is part of the reason the offense has been inconsistent.

    He also has a .333 average with runners in scoring position.

    Although he has improved on defense, Frazier has plenty of room to grow. He committed an error that cost the Reds a run on a potential double play early in the season. He's still been able to pick it at the hot corner and has shown good reflexes.

    The Toddfather may be the key to the team's offense, and he will continue to improve both at the plate and in the field.

Jay Bruce, RF

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    Grade: A-

    Pretty much the same thing as Joey Votto. There isn't much to complain about with Jay Bruce because he has been very good early on.

    Bruce has at least one hit in seven of the last nine games, which include a stretch of four consecutive multi-hit games. He has twice been inches away from a home run but has had to settle for doubles. As mentioned previously, he leads the team with five doubles.

    The biggest negative to this point has been his 18 strikeouts, but nine of those came in the first four games of the season. 

    He does need to hit better than his current .217 average with runners in scoring position, but he has started to put the ball in play in more of those situations.

    Despite managers trying to bring in southpaws to face him, Bruce has hit .400 against left-handers with only three strikeouts. His average will come up against right-handers as the season goes on.

    Bruce has been driving the ball the other way this season, which is part of the reason he hasn't hit a home run yet. He has just missed hitting a few, but it's a positive sign to see him improving at the plate.

    No complaints on defense. He has been great in the field and could finally win the Gold Glove this year.

Shin-Soo Choo, CF

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    Grade: B

    Relax, this isn't too low. The obvious argument is that he has been great at getting on base, something the Reds have not had at the leadoff spot in a long time. However, his defense has been as bad as expected.

    There's no way around it. Shin-Soo Choo has done what he was brought in to do: get on base anyway possible. He has adjusted to Great American Ball Park very well and should help the Reds score runs this season.

    He has three home runs in the first week and has seven multi-hit games so far.

    Like Joey Votto, he has reached base in all 12 games this season. Choo (.483) ranks second to only Joey Votto for the highest OBP in the NL. He has drawn five walks to go with 15 hits. 

    Perhaps the most astounding stat of the season so far is that Choo has been hit by a pitch seven times already. No team has been hit more times. He was hit by a pitch in four of the first five games this season, including his first at-bat as a member of the Reds.

    Cincinnati had a league-worst .208 average and .254 OBP out of the leadoff spot last season, so Choo is a huge upgrade in that regard. His offense would be rated as an A+ through 12 games.

    However, his defense has been awful. He does have an outfield assist and should have had a second. Nobody is arguing how good his arm is.

    Choo was never a good defensive right fielder, and his defense in center field will continue to hurt the team. He made two bad errors in center that cost Mat Latos three runs on Monday (video courtesy of MLB.com). He also ran into left fielder Chris Heisey during a play. 

    Drew Stubbs wasn't a great hitter, but he was a great defender. Reds fans are starting to see how many runs Stubbs saved them with his speed and glove. Balls are beginning to find the gaps, and it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon.

    Choo is going to get on base and score runs, but his defense will continue to hurt the team.

Chris Heisey, LF

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    Grade: D+

    When Ryan Ludwick went down on Opening Day, Chris Heisey was given the left field job. Fans who have clamored for Heisey to get a starting job were finally going to see how he handled it. Since coming in on Opening Day, it has been a struggle at the plate for the outfielder.

    Heisey struck out with the bases loaded and only one out in the eighth inning on Opening Day with a chance to win the game, and he hasn't done much better since then. During the Reds' nine-run ninth inning on Monday, Heisey committed two of the outs and was the only one not to reach base that inning.

    The 28-year-old snapped out of his 0-for-14 slump, but he could be in danger of losing his starting job. In every game that he has appeared in, he has struck out at least once and has 15 on the season.

    Heisey is hitting .111 against right-handers and .125 with nobody on base. With his speed, the Reds need him to drop down more bunts and pressure the defense.

    The majority of his at-bats have come from the No. 2 hole, but those days could be over. Zack Cozart will start to get some time there, so Heisey will either drop in the order or have to come off the bench.

    Like most of his teammates, Heisey is good in the field. 

Xavier Paul, LF

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    Grade: B+

    Xavier Paul has been able to make the most out of his limited playing time.

    He is 4-for-11 in eight games this season, but he has made an impact off the bench. He already has a grand slam and a game-tying RBI single

    The downside is that he already has three strikeouts in only 11 at-bats. Cincinnati will need him to keep the strikeouts down because he is who the team will turn to in key situations late in games.

    Paul hasn't seen much time in the field or been tested when he has played left, but he has done well enough to not be a liability.

    With Chris Heisey struggling, Paul will see more playing time, especially against right-handers.