The Cincinnati Reds closed out the month of April with a 2-1 loss at the hands of the rival St. Louis Cardinals. Currently, the Reds' record sits at 15-13 and they currently find themselves one game back of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cardinals for the NL Central lead.
The Reds offensive charge has been led by center fielder Shin-Soo Choo, first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips. Mat Latos has anchored the team's starting rotation, while Sam LeCure and closer Aroldis Chapman have led Cincinnati's bullpen toward the top of the National League.
The aforementioned players are helping the Reds toward their third divisional title in four years.
Other players have not been so fortunate during the first month of the season and are struggling to get going early on.
Let's see what kind of grades players on Cincinnati's 25-man roster mustered up in April.
Generally, there are no A+ grades for an article like this, but you'll see why one was given out this month. Additionally, starting position players, bench bats, starters and relievers are all judged by their role with the team, so their grades reflect that.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com (unless otherwise noted) and are current through 4/30/13.
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Stat Line: 15 G, 45 AB, .244/.364/.311, 0 HR, 3 2B, 5 RBI and 6 R
Devin Mesoraco was largely disappointing in his 2012 campaign. Entering 2013, he was slated to serve as the team's back-up catcher with an opportunity to win more regular at-bats.
After an early-season injury to Ryan Hanigan, Mesoraco was given consistent starts and he has performed somewhat well.
The 24-year-old backstop has yet to flash the power that made him one of the game's top prospects prior to the 2012 season. However, he does have a few doubles and RBI to his credit.
Mesoraco has shown some gap power and the improvement in his OBP is staggering.
The problem, though, with Mesoraco is that the pitching staff isn't responding to him as well as they do to Hanigan.
In Meoraco's 15 games behind the dish, Reds' pitchers have a 3.74 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and ratios of 7.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 2.62 K/BB and 8.8 H/9. Conversely, in Hanigan's 12 starts, the pitching staff owns a 3.03 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and ratios of 8.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.85 K/BB and 7.2 H/9.
Whether it is just a bad coincidence, or whether Mesoraco is calling bad games, something is different with him catching. Overall, his numbers aren't horrible, but when you consider the level of success the pitching staff has had when pitching to Hanigan, something has to change.
Stat Line: 28 G, 103 AB, .291/.439/.456, 4 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBI, 17 R and 1 SB
Joey Votto is having a very good start to the 2013 season. We have become accustomed to .300-plus batting averages from Votto but .293 is nothing to scoff at.
He has four home runs this season, and that, coupled with the fact that he has played in all 27 of Cincinnati's games this season, has alleviated concern about last year's knee injury.
Votto's peripheral stats don't jump off the page. However, he is performing as well as humanly possible given the lack of quality pitches he sees in an at-bat.
The problem for Votto has been, as mentioned, a lack of good pitches to hit. The 29-year-old first baseman has made due by walking in an impressive 19.7 percent of his plate appearances.
Votto is currently leading the league in walks, so look for that trend to continue over the course of the season.
His strikeout rate is a bit disconcerting, as it currently sits at 22.0 percent (the highest rate in his big league career). However, that statistic should be taken with a grain of salt given Votto's track record.
His OBP, coupled with his four home runs and 17 runs scored are enough to earn him a very respectable mark in the season's early goings.
Stat Line: 27 G, 110 AB, .282/.331/.443, 4 HR, 6 2B, 24 RBI and 14 R
Brandon Phillips is one of the game's best, and most consistent second baseman. In 2013, he has gotten off to one of the hottest starts in all of baseball.
The 31-year-old currently ranks first among all second baseman in RBI and slugging percentage. Additionally, Phillips ranks second in RBI among clean-up hitters (per ESPN.com).
Phillips is on an incredible pace. With a full season of production at his current rate, he would finish the year with 23 HRs, 35 doubles, 144 RBI and 83 runs scored.
Currently, Phillips' 24 RBI and his impressive slash line are slowly earning Votto better pitches to hit. That is as valuable to the Reds as any stat Phillips could possibly post.
Stat Line: 27 G, 96 AB, .240/.315/.479, 6 HR, 5 2B, 19 RBI, 13 R and 2 SB
Hot off a break-out campaign in 2012, Todd Frazier came out swinging in 2013.
Through his first 16 games, Frazier was slashing an impressive .305/.382/.610 with five HR, three doubles, 14 RBI, 11 runs and two stolen bases (per Baseball-Reference.com).
The past 11 games however, have hardly been as kind to the 27-year-old third baseman.
In those nine games, Frazier owns a .135/.200/.270 slash line with one home run, five RBI and two runs scored (per Baseball-Reference.com).
Though his recent stretch is disappointing, Frazier's season is still respectable.
At his current pace, Frazier would finish the season with 35 home runs, 29 doubles, 113 RBI and 77 runs scored in 572 at-bats.
One suspect statistic from Frazier's start this year is his strikeout rate, which currently sits at a career high 25 percent. His strikeout rate certainly isn't helping him right the ship over the past 11 games and he'll need to tone it down if he's going to bring his slash line up.
As the season moves forward, look for Frazier to remain somewhat streaky. In any event though, his first 27 games have been a mixed bag, but altogether solid.
Stat Line: 25 G, 97 AB, .208/.234/.356, 4 HR, 3 2B, 12 RBI, 12 R
Zack Cozart was once a highly coveted prospect within the Reds organization. For that reason, his 2011 major league debut was met with much fanfare.
Expectations were high for Cozart entering the 2012 season and while he met some of those expectations, his .246/.288/.399 triple slash was a disappointment.
This year, the same issues are plaguing Cozart. His saving grace has been that, in 23 games played, the 27-year-old ranks in the top five among shortstops in HR and RBI.
Cozart's biggest problem has been his inability to draw walks. He has earned just four free passes all season en route to a 3.6-percent walk rate.
While his strikeout rate is currently lower than it was at the close of 2012—from 18.8 percent down to 11.8 percent—his struggles at the plate will continue if he cannot work the count in his favor and mix in an occasional walk.
Stat Line: 23 G, 75 AB, .173/.195/.293, 2 HR, 3 2B, 5 RBI, 7 R and 2 SB
Since being given the biggest opportunity of his professional career, Heisey has yet to show any sort of promise as an every-day left fielder.
His defense is adequate and he covers enough ground to complement Choo in center field. But but Heisey's abysmal start at the plate caused him to lose ground to Xavier Paul who has started six of Cincinnati's last 12 games.
There are very few positives to take from Heisey's start to the 2013 season.
He was recently placed on the disabled list. However, since Donald Lutz has played in just one game— with one at-bat—since being called-up, Heisey was included on this list over Lutz.
Stat Line: 27 G, 101 AB, .337/.477/.554, 4 HR, 8 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBI, 20 R and 2 SB
Choo has made the Reds' front office, and fan base, a happy bunch in 2013. He made his way to Cincinnati in a three-team deal that cost the team center fielder Drew Stubbs and highly touted shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius.
Since joining the Reds, Choo has staked claim to the MLB lead in OBP and times hit-by-pitch (.477 and 10 respectively). Additionally, the 30-year-old center fielder is tied for the NL lead in hits.
Choo's OBP is astoundingly high, as are his HBP numbers. He is nearly half-way to the Reds single-season HBP record and April is barely in the books.
He has walked nearly as many times as he's struck out (19:17 K/BB ratio). That kind of patience and approach at the plate is exactly what the Reds were looking for when they acquired Choo for their leadoff role.
Through 27 games, Choo's offensive numbers are astounding and he is providing immeasurable opportunities for Cozart, Votto and Phillips.
Stat Line: 28 G, 115 AB, .252/.312/.339, 1 HR, 7 2B, 11 RBI and 15 R
Reds fans have been waiting for Jay Bruce to put all his talents together into one complete season since he became the every-day right fielder during the 2010 season.He has all the tools to be a perennial MVP threat, but his streaky nature at the plate has prevented him from reaching his lofty potential.
This season, Bruce has experienced those same difficulties, maybe to an even greater extent. He has just one home run this season and his strikeout rate has reached a career-worst 32 percent.
Bruce leads the NL in strikeouts and is on pace for 228 over the course of an entire season.
If he is going to turn things around, Bruce needs to be more selective in his approach. With his strikeout and walk rates both trending in the wrong direction, it may be a tough year for the 26-year-old slugger.
Stat Line: 14 G, 27 AB, .185/.257/.1185, 2 RBI and 1 R
Off the back of a strong performance in spring training—where he hit .333/.387/.474 in 57 at-bats—Cesar Izturis earned a spot on the Reds' 25-man roster. He beat out Jason Donald and Emmanuel Burris for the back-up middle-infielder's job and was expected to provide speed and strong defense off the bench.
While Izturis has done that, to some extent anyway, his .185/.257/.185 slash line is unacceptable. The 33-year-old shortstop has done little to reward the faith management showed in him when they added him to the roster.
Izturis has yet to deliver an extra-base hit and has scored just one run in 27 at-bats over 14 games played. There is one bright spot in Izturis' season however, and that was a walk-off hit against the Cubs on April 22.
His job is safe for now. However, Izturis has done little to earn any kind of regular pinch-hitting opportunities and he has made just four starts this year.
Stat Line: 16 G, 24 AB, .333/.360/.417, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 R
Jack Hannahan was once a third-round selection of the Detroit Tigers back in 2001. Unfortunately, he was never able to get going as a big leaguer, playing in more than 100 games just four times in his career.
The Reds acquired the 33-year-old third baseman through free agency this past offseason and he is currently the team's back-up third baseman. Through his first 16 games played, Hannahan is hitting .333/.360/.417 and has been one of the steadier bats on the Reds' bench.
Hannahan is never going to be an everyday player in this league, but he's serving the Reds well in his current role.
Stat Line: 17 GP, 20 AB, .250/.375/.250, 1 RBI, 2 R and 1 SB
Derrick Robinson is a speedy outfielder the Reds picked up during the 2012 offseason. He had 314 stolen bases in the minor leagues before finally making his big league debut in 2013.
The 25-year-old has since done a good job of getting on base and has done what he can to provide the Reds with solid depth off the bench. A switch-hitter, Robinson is expected to come off the bench and pinch-hit or pinch-run and wreak havoc on the base paths.
So far, in limited opportunities, Robinson has stolen just one base. But he has made a few starts in left field and his superior range helps limit the amount of ground Choo needs to cover in left-center field.
In short, Robinson's first few games as a major leaguer have been a relative success.
Stat Line: 21 G, 41 AB, .268/.318/.366, 1 HR, 1 2B, 9 RBI and 6 R
Xavier Paul has been a pleasant surprise in his 76 games with the Reds dating back to last season. He has provided the team with an additional left-handed bat off the bench, something Cincinnati has lacked over the past few seasons.
Paul has continued his success in 21 games this season. Through the month of April, he has been the best and most dangerous player on the Reds' bench. His consistency has earned him eight starts in Cincinnati's 28 games, with five coming in the last nine games.
Paul has gained some starting considerations since Ludwick's injury. Now, given the recent injury to Heisey, Paul stands to gain additional playing time and has a chance to play his way into the organization's future plans.
Stat Line: 3 G, 8 AB, .125/.300/.125
There isn't a whole lot to say about Corky Miller and his 2013 season. He has not made an appearance at the big league level since 2010 and is not much of an offensive threat. However, Miller does a good job behind the plate and calls a solid game.
In three games with Miller catching, Reds' pitchers have gone 26 innings allowing a 2.08 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP with ratios of 11.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 5.50 K/BB, 6.57 H/9 and 0.7 HR/9.
Miller's time with the club will be short lived. When Hanigan returns from the DL, Miller will return to Triple-A Louisville.
His mustache and game calling ability will be sorely missed, but Miller's bat will not.
Stat Line: 6 GS, 2-0, 39.1 IP, 1.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 4.63 K/BB, 8.0 H/9 and 0.7 HR/9
Mat Latos first six starts have him near the top of the list of early-season NL Cy Young candidates. He ranks fourth in the NL in ERA and also ranks in the league's top ten in strikeouts, WAR, hits allowed, quality starts and K/BB.
The 25-year-old is a notoriously slow starter, but this year, he's gotten off on the right foot and has set himself on a blazing pace.
At his current rate of production, Latos would finish the season with 216 innings pitched, 204 strikeouts, 43 walks and just 16 home runs allowed.
In his last three starts, Latos has allowed just one earned run while striking out 18 and walking just five over 20 innings of work.
Latos is pitching at an ace level and that bodes well for the Reds who could get Johnny Cueto back relatively soon (per Mark Sheldon).
With Cueto and Latos pitching at Cy-Young-caliber levels, the Reds will have one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball.
Stat-Line: 6 GS, 2-3, 34 IP, 3.95 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 4.0 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 3.60 K/BB, 8.6 H/9 and 1.1 HR/9
Bronson Arroyo's been the workhouse of the Reds rotation for the past six seasons. He will be counted on to turn in a season similar to the one he enjoyed in 2012, when Arroyo compiled a 12-10 record with a 3.74 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.
Through his first five starts this season, Arroyo has improved upon nearly every statistical measure available except for ERA and K/9.
He is a classic innings eater who is currently averaging just shy of seven innings per start. Arroyo leads the team in this respect.
As it stands, Arroyo is having the type of season we should expect from him. He is well on his way to another season with 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings pitched.
Stat Line: 5 GS, 1-2, 32 IP, 2.81 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 3.56 K/BB, 7.0 H/9 and 0.8 HR/9
Homer Bailey was once the crown jewel of the Reds' farm system. Now, after a couple of seasons we will chalk up to growing pains, he is finally reaching his full potential as a major league pitcher.
Disregard Bailey's 1-2 record. He is currently receiving just 2.7 runs of support per game. But his individual numbers are fantastic and Bailey is on track to set career highs in a number of categories.
Consider the season Bailey would have at his current pace.
If not for one dismal start against the Washington Nationals, Bailey would have an ERA about a run lower than his current 2.81 mark and would be putting the league on notice.
However, that's not exactly the case.
Even so, it currently looks like Bailey's success is here to stay. That is of great value to the Reds who have been incredibly patient with the 26-year-old right-hander.
Stat Line: 5 GS, 1-1, 29 IP, 4.34 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.73 K/BB, 10.2 H/9 and 0.9 HR/9
Do not be fooled by the decrease in Mike Leake's ERA and HR/9 figures. He is having a very poor start to the year.
The former first-round draft pick was hoping for a bounce-back season after a disappointing 2012. Instead, Leake has regressed by nearly every statistical measure, including his one saving grace; his quality start percentage.
Leake has turned in two quality starts in five appearances and even those came against two relatively weak-hitting teams in the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs
With rookie Tony Cingrani impressing in his first three starts, Leake is pitching for his life in Cincinnati. Leake is not doing himself any favors so far with his slow start to 2013.
Stat Line: 3 GS, 2-0, 18 IP, 1.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 14.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 7.0 K/BB, 6.0 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9
Tony Cingrani had an ultra-successful minor league season in 2012. Due to his success with the Reds' minor league affiliates, Cingrani was called up to replace Johnny Cueto following a lat injury which sent him to the 15-day DL.
The 23-year-old lefty has yet to disappoint since his call-up.
In his last outing, Cingrani carved up the Washington Nationals. Over six innings pitched in Washington, he allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out 11.
Cingrani will have to continue to outperform Mike Leake if he is going to stick in the rotation once Cueto returns from the DL. If Cingrani does in fact outperform Leake, he may force Cincinnati to either demote Leake or relegate him to a long/middle-relief role.
It is important to remember that it has only been three starts. However, Cingrani looks to be the right track and could stave off a demotion to Triple-A Louisville with a few more strong outings.
Stat Line: 9 G, 1-0, 11 IP, 1.64 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.82 K/9, 4.09 BB/9, 2.40 K/BB and 6.55 H/9
Sam LeCure has been one of the Reds' most reliable relievers over the past few seasons. In 2012, and now in 2013, LeCure has really come into his own, becoming one of the better long/middle-relievers in all of baseball.
LeCure has been easily the second best reliever on the team this season. Among Reds relievers with at least five innings pitched, LeCure is second behind Chapman in ERA, K/9, H/9, BAA, OBPa, SLGa and OPSa.
What makes LeCure so valuable to the Reds—maybe even more so in the early stages of the season—is his ability to pitch multiple innings in an outing.
Early in the year, starters tend to go fewer innings. Having a guy like LeCure, who can work well over two innings, or as a shut-down reliever over one inning, is of immeasurable value to any team.
LeCure is having a little bit of difficulty limiting his free passes. But since it has yet to come back to haunt him in any significant manner, it's tough to mark him down significantly.
Stat Line: 11 G, 2-1, 14.2 IP, 4.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 2.5 K/BB, 8.6 H/9 and 1.2 HR/9
The signing of Alfredo Simon proved to be one of the more savvy moves made by Reds GM Walt Jocketty prior to the 2012 season. In 36 appearances, the 31-year-old right-hander pitched 61 innings, allowing a 2.66 ERA, with a 1.43 WHIP and ratios of 7.7 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 2.36 K/BB, 9.6 H/9 and just 0.3 HR/9.
This year, Simon has not enjoyed the same level of success.
In 11 early appearances, Simon has pitched 14.2 innings compiling a 4.91 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. Outside of his HR/9, the rest of Simon's metrics have improved, but his ERA is nothing to be proud of.
The problem is that Simon has been allowing far more extra-base hits than he did last season.
In 2012, Simon allowed just two home runs all year, holding opposing batters to a .398 SLGa. This year, Simon allowed two home runs in just the first month of the season. He is giving up extra-base hits at a far greater frequency, en route to a .421 SLGa.
The ERA will likely come down as Simon hasn't pitched that poorly. However, he has allowed an earned run in five of 11 appearances and that does not bode well for his grade for the month of April.
Stat Line: 9 G, 1-0, 8 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 2.67 K/BB, 6.8 H/9 and 1.12 HR/9
Logan Ondrusek didn't even make the Cincinnati Reds' bullpen out of spring training. The injury to Sean Marshall provided Cincinnati with an empty roster spot and they chose to fill it with Ondrusek.
Through his first nine appearances, Ondrusek has been average. His peripheral stats are good, but his ERA is not. Luckily for Ondrusek, his ERA is a product of a two earned run performance in a meaningless game against the Washington Nationals on April 25.
His ERA will continue to drop over the course of the season if he continues to pitch the way he has through his first nine outings. For now though, Ondrusek is out-pitching his ERA and he should be commended for that.
Stat-Line: 12 G, 0-3, 12.2 IP, 3.55 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 2.60 K/BB, 7.8 H/9 and 2.1 HR/9
J.J. Hoover came to Cincinnati in exchange for third baseman Juan Francisco prior to the start of the 2012 season.
The move turned out to be a good one as Hoover tossed 30.2 innings over 28 appearances with a 2.05 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.
The 25-year-old righty has a stellar pitch arsenal and boasts a fastball that sits in the low-mid 90s which he pairs with a solid breaking ball.
This year, Hoover got hit around early on, but he's turned it around over his last eight appearances.
After his first four outings, Hoover had an 8.31 ERA, a 2.08 WHIP and ratios of 10.4 K/9, 6.3 BB/9, 1.67 K/BB, 12.5 H/9 and 4.2 HR/9 (per Baseball-Reference.com).
In his eight appearances since, Hoover has pitched to a 1.08 ERA, and a 0.84 WHIP with ratios of 8.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 4.00 K/BB, 5.4 H/9 and 1.1 HR/9 (per Baseball-Reference.com).
Hoover has been outstanding in his last eight performances and that's certainly reflected in his grade.
Stat-Line: 3 G, 2.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, INF K/BB, 0.00 H/9 and 0.00 HR/9
In three 2013 appearances, Marshall has been perfect. The 30-year-old lefty has yet to allow a baserunner, let alone an earned run. He also has three strikeouts to his credit over 2.2 innings pitched.
Marshall has only pitched 1.2 innings since returning from the DL but he's been outstanding in those innings.
Given his relative lack of playing time, there's little to discuss with Marshall's season. However, he's on the active roster and his perfect 2.2 innings pitched this season deserve their time in the sun.
Stat Line: 12 G, 0-1, 11.1 IP, 6.35 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 2.00 K/BB, 7.9 H/9 and 1.6 HR/9
Jonathan Broxton's numbers are like J.J. Hoover's: They are a little skewed by one bad start. Broxton allowed six of his eight earned runs in one disastrous appearance against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 14.
Since then, Broxton has made seven appearances allowing a 2.70 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with ratios of 5.4 K/9, 8.1 H/9, 1.4 BB/9, 4.00 K/BB, 8.1 H/9 and 0.0 HR/9 .
The splits certainly help to explain away his disappointing ERA. However, they do not completely erase the fact that Broxton allowed those six earned runs to the Pirates.
Moving forward, Broxton will be relied upon heavily at the tail end of ball games. It is a good sign that he has turned things around since his dubious outing against Pittsburgh.
Stat Line: 14 G, 6 SV, 13.1 IP, 0.68 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 14.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 7.00 K/BB, 3.4 H/9 and 0.7 HR/9
This year, Chapman's seeking to solidify his position at the top of that list.
Through his first 14 appearances, the 25-year-old flamethrower is off to an outstanding start. In 13.1 innings pitched he has only allowed one earned run and has struck out a whopping 21 batters.
Chapman's leading all Reds relievers (with five or more innings pitched) in every statistical measure and it should stay that way as the season progresses.
Additionally, among big league relievers with at least eight innings pitched, Chapman ranks second in ERA, WHIP and K/9.
Chapman is perfect in six save opportunities and has routinely shut down opposing offenses over 14 appearances. He has been about as close to perfect as humanly possible.