Reds Spring Training Stock Watch: Which Players Are on Fire and Slumping?

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

Reds Spring Training Stock Watch: Which Players Are on Fire and Slumping?

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    The Cincinnati Reds lost a few players to the World Baseball Classic, but some of the remaining have been on fire while others can't wait for spring to end.

    Cincinnati came into the spring as the favorites to win the NL Central, and the team doesn't have many available spots left on the 25-man roster. 

    With that said, the few position battles going on have been put under the microscope. The backup catcher spot is starting to work itself out, but the battle for the utility role has only brought out the best in each candidate.

    The Reds had a couple of games get rained out, but they did get to go up against Canada last week.

    Less than three weeks remain until Opening Day, so let's check out who is hot and who is not.

    *All stats are courtesy of Reds.com

On Fire: Shin-Soo Choo

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    March 4 through March 10 stats: .727 avg., 4 runs scored, 0 strikeouts, 2 stolen bases

    A leadoff hitter that is getting on base? What a great sign for the Reds.

    Shin-Soo Choo had great stretch of games last week, and it is exactly what the team needs. Including the game against Canada, the outfielder has eight hits in his last eight at-bats.

    Cincinnati has been hoping for its leadoff hitter to get on base with great frequency, and Choo is on some kind of roll. Although he has only one extra-base hit in those eight at-bats, he is getting on base for the middle of the order. When Choo has gotten on base this month, he has scored 50 percent of the time.

    It's an even better sign to see that he is putting the bat on the ball. The left-handed hitter has not struck out this month and has only one in 19 at-bats this spring.

    Choo's defense hasn't been an issue yet. As long as he continues to get on base and plays well defensively, the Reds are the team to beat in the Central.

Slumping: Miguel Olivo

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    March 4 through March 10 stats: .200 avg., 3 strikeouts

    In what looked like it was going to be a good battle for the backup catcher spot, Miguel Olivo has faded quickly.

    The veteran is in a 1-for-11 slump and is 2-for-16 since the first weekend of spring training. He does not have a walk during his prolonged slump and has struck out an astounding eight times in 14 trips to the plate.

    Had it not been for a grand slam against Canada, he would not have an extra-base hit this spring and would not have an RBI since the opening series.

    Olivo does not have a hit in the Cactus League this month. If there was any chance of him beating out Devin Mesoraco for a spot on the 25-man roster, it has all but vanished.

On Fire: Jay Bruce

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    March 4 through March 10 stats: .375 avg., 2 HR/4 RBI, 1 2B

    Jay Bruce finally got things going at the plate in the Cactus League last week after going 1-for-14 to start spring training.

    The right fielder had a multi-homer game early in the week, and they were both long blasts (video courtesy of MLB.com). The home runs were his first of the spring, and he had not driven in a run until this past week.

    His first home run was an opposite-field blast, which is a great sign. Everyone knows that he can pull one, but he will be a difficult out if he goes the other way more this season.

    It was a much needed burst for the left-handed hitter. The 25-year-old had been searching for anything positive, so getting his first home runs and RBI of the spring should get him going at the plate.

Slumping: Nevin Ashley

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    March 4 through March 10 stats: .000 avg., 2 strikeouts

    Brought in for depth in the minor leagues, Nevin Ashley has done nothing to prove that he should be in contention for any serious consideration for the 25-man roster.

    The 28-year-old does have a walk this month, but that is about it. Ryan Hanigan is recovering from an injury, and Devin Mesoraco is beginning to find a groove. 

    He got a hit in his first at-bat with the team, but he has not been able to buy a hit since then. Currently in for an 0-for-12 slump, Ashley found himself on the outside looking in.

    *As this was in the final stages of production, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted that Ashley had been reassigned to minor league camp.*

    Reassigned to minor league camp RHP Nick Christiani, RHP Chad Rogers, C Nevin Ashley, IF Kristopher Negron and OF Ryan LaMarre. #reds

    — John Fay (@johnfayman) March 12, 2013

On Fire: Cesar Izturis

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    March 4 through March 10 stats: .500 avg., 1 HR/5 RBI

    Cesar Izturis, Jason Donald and Emmanuel Burriss are all battling for the utility role, and Izturis is hitting the best of the bunch right now.

    The veteran is the best defensive player of the three, and he is the only true shortstop among them. His defensive abilities could be the determining factor on who makes the team, but he's letting his hitting do the talking right now.

    He entered the week with no home runs and only one RBI. The 33-year-old topped those numbers in one game and continued to put up big numbers.

    The Reds don't need a utility man to smash home runs, but they could use a guy who can hit for average and draw walks. Right now, Izturis is doing it all.

Slumping: Jason Donald

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    March 4 through March 10 stats: .167 avg., 2 BB

    As hot as Cesar Izturis has been, Jason Donald has gone in the opposite direction. It's not like his numbers are completely terrible, but they are a huge drop from what they were in February.

    The utility man was hitting .385 and had an on-base percentage of .529 at the end of last month. He is only 1-for-9 this month. He has seen his average dip down to .300, which isn't shabby at all.

    Donald is already on the 40-man roster and he's out of options. That could come into play if numbers remain close through the end of camp. He needs to turn it around in a hurry.

On Fire: J.J. Hoover

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    March stats: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 K/0 BB, 1 SV

    J.J. Hoover continues to make a solid case for a spot in the bullpen. Unfortunately, his youth and available options will probably work against him, but he continues to impress when he takes the mound.

    He has two appearances this month (only one last week), but he has not allowed a run. Meanwhile, Jose Arredondo and others have struggled in relief. Contracts can be an evil thing in spring training, and Hoover is learning that right now.

    In 4.2 innings this spring, the right-hander has only allowed one run run on six hits. Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are the only relievers on the projected 25-man roster to put up better numbers.

    If Hoover continues to pitch like this for the rest of spring training, it will be difficult to send him down. He was one of the better relievers last year and continues to show that he can get hitters out.

Slumping: Manny Parra

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    March 4 through March 10 stats: 0-1, 3 IP, 9.00 ERA, .400 average against

    Cincinnati signed Manny Parra to a one-year deal this offseason, and he pitched very well in February. March has been a different story.

    Parra was brought in to be a second southpaw in a bullpen that may be losing Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation. With Sean Marshall being used as the setup man, the team wanted another lefty to use for certain situations.

    In back-to-back outings, Parra allowed multiple runs—although one was unearned—in a span of three innings. 

    Parra's fate will be tied to Chapman. If Chapman starts the year in the bullpen, Parra will need to put up better numbers for the rest of spring training. If he doesn't regain his February form, the southpaw could wind up pitching somewhere besides Cincinnati.