2010 MLB Preview: NL Central, 3. Cincinnati Reds
This continues my 2010 MLB preview. I intend to touch every team in the major leagues in installments by division. The lineups I provide will be what I predict will be the most productive for each team for the MAJORITY of the season (e.g., Jason Heyward will be listed as the Braves RF even though he may not begin the season as the starter).
I will also provide the stereotypical letter grade to each team's lineup, rotation, bullpen, and depth/bench. Though it is trite, I think all baseball fans can identify with the letter grade system.
Teams will be addressed respective to their predicted finish in their division.
Drew Stubbs - CF
Orlando Cabrera - SS
Joey Votto - 1B
Brandon Phillips - 2B
Jonny Gomes - LF
Jay Bruce - RF
Scott Rolen - 3B
Ramon Hernandez - C
OUTFIELD: There is plenty of depth in the outfield. Jonny Gomes coming back is huge. He hit 20 HRs for the Reds in less than 300 ABs last season. He fits nicely into the 5 hole in the lineup.
The Reds aren't ready to give up on Jay Bruce, but with all the OFs they have fighting for playing time, this season may be his last chance to live up to his highly-touted billing. He is a good fit in the 6 spot in the order because he hits for power and his lefthanded bat is a nice break up between the righty triad of Brandon Phillips, Gomes, and Scott Rolen.
Drew Stubbs will likely win the CF job. He stole a ton of bases in the minors and looks ready to be an everyday big leaguer.
INFIELD: Orlando Cabrera was a very wise pickup. He can bat at the top of the order and is always solid defensively. Paul Janish can't hit, so the Cabrera pickup was spot on. Phillips is a great offensive and defensive player at 2B, first baseman Joey Votto is the team's best all-around hitter, and Rolen is a steady veteran at 3B. This infield looks really good defensively.
CATCHING: Despite his detractors, I still feel that Ramon Hernandez is a solid catcher who can handle a pitching staff and provide some offense. Ryan Hanigan will spell him.
Aaron Harang - R
Bronson Arroyo - R
Johnny Cueto - R
Homer Bailey - R
Aroldis Chapman - L
Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey are all solid righthanded starters. Bailey had the highest ERA at 4.53 last season, and that's saying quite a bit considering the Reds play in Great American Small Park. Harang got little run support, which led to his 6-14 record. Arroyo had an ERA south of 4.00.
Then there's Aroldis Chapman. Cincinnati won the battle for the youngster in the offseason. He will be the only lefty starter, and he has eased any doubts concerning his readiness for the bigs thus far in spring training. In his first two appearances, the kid hit 100 mph on the radar gun and has allowed 0 ER, 3 hits, 1 BB, and struck out 5. He looks like the real deal. It was the right move to get him, especially with Edinson Volquez out following Tommy John surgery.
The bullpen in Cincy is solid too. Francisco Cordero will close out the games, while veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes sets him up. Diminutive Daniel Ray Herrera is the other lefty, while Nick Masset is the best righty option. Masset produced a tiny 2.37 ERA in 74 appearances last season for the Reds. Micah Owings is available for long and middle relief, as well as spot starts.
The bulk of the reason for Cincinnati's B grade for their bench/depth is for their outfield surplus. Chris Dickerson, nephew of former NFL star RB Eric Dickerson, will be the 4th outfielder. He can play all three spots with his great athleticism. Wladimir Balentien and Laynce Nix provide relief at the corner spots. That's six solid players in the OF.
Steady veteran Aaron Miles will back up at 2B and 3B. Youngster Drew Sutton will likely end up in the minors to start the season (or he should, at least). Paul Janish will back up the left side of the infield.
My problem with the Reds bench is that it is OF heavy. The only backup on the infield whom manager Dusty Baker can trust offensively is Miles. Here's hoping that the starting infield stays healthy.
THOUGHTS: Reds have a strong team: good lineup, rotation, and bullpen. They have solid OF bench players, but I'm not convinced by the infield depth beyond Aaron Miles.
The signing of Aroldis Chapman was smart on many levels. For one, he is the only lefty starter. But he also has electric stuff and will put butts in the seats of Great American Ballpark in the absence of Volquez.
The Reds can certainly compete in the NL Central. They could easily usurp the Cubs' typical no. 2 spot in the final division standings. Cincinnati could also scare the Cardinals if they get off to a good start to the season. As usual, the NL Central will be the most evenly-matched division in the National League from top to bottom.
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