Projected starting rotation: Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Micah Owings
Projected 2010 starting lineup:
C: Ramon Hernandez
1B: Joey Votto
2B: Brandon Phillips
3B: Scott Rolen
SS: Orlando Cabrera
LF: Wladimir Balentien/Chris Dickerson
CF: Drew Stubbs
RF: Jay Bruce/Jonny Gomes
Cincinnati perhaps finished better than anyone could have imagined last year--only 6 games under .500. However, they did play in one of the worst divisions in baseball, so getting to play Pittsburgh and Houston, and underachieving Chicago and Milwaukee teams all the time will help matters. The Reds don’t strike me as a team ready to make a meteoric rise from obscurity, but since they do play in such a weak division, they could make some strides. (I’m just not planning on it.)
Their team is mostly the same as last year’s, save for Orlando Cabrera being brought in to play shortstop. (And they no longer have Willy Taveras, who was the very definition of “dead weight” on the roster anyway.) Joey Votto is still one of the most promising young power hitters in the game, and hopefully he won’t have any effects remaining from his social anxiety disorder (the same disorder Zack Greinke suffered from.) Brandon Phillips is among the more underappreciated second basemen in the game playing in such a small market. He is perpetually a 25/25 threat (and fantasy baseball managers everywhere love the guy). Scott Rolen, who came to Cincinnati last year in one of the worst trades in recent memory, will man third base for a majority of the games, but he is probably just keeping the position warm for Juan Francisco. The Reds outfield is a mish-mash of promising talent that largely has not lived up to expectations. Wladimir Balentien, once a top prospect for Seattle, was given 265 at-bats last year and failed miserably, posting a wretched .250 OBP. Chris Dickerson stands to gain a lot more playing time if Balentien has another disappointing first month or two. Drew Stubbs is locked in at centerfield, but he is pretty average in every aspect. Jay Bruce started off April semi-decently, but had an injury-plagued and overall awful final five months. He’ll probably split time with Jonny Gomes. On the whole, the Reds’ offense just looks way too iffy and injury-prone.
The Reds’ perpetual middling-to-poor finishes in the NL Central mostly fall on the shoulders of the pitching staff, which is at an inherent disadvantage having to pitch in that little league stadium. However, their pitching problems can’t be solely blamed on the stadium. Their pitching staff was already mediocre, but then Dusty Baker got a hold of it and made it even worse. (And if this comes as a shock to you, then clearly you’re either too young or you haven’t been paying attention for the last two decades.) His decision to use Aaron Harang in a lengthy extra-inning game last year cost him dearly. Harang was never the same for the rest of the season. The rest of the starting rotation was either largely ineffective except for Bronson Arroyo, who wasn’t spectacular or anything, or they were injured. Talented young gun, Edinson Volquez, dealt with chronic elbow problems until finally, he went the dreaded Tommy John route. He likely will not pitch at all in 2010 due to setbacks in his recovery. Johnny Cueto’s sophomore season started off tremendously, but once July came around, it turned into a disaster. Homer Bailey showed flashes of brilliance, but had an otherwise utterly forgettable season. And someone seriously needs to convince Micah Owings that he is not a pitcher. Yell at him, berate him, hypnotize him, do whatever it takes. Just stop this charade of making him stand on the pitching mound every five days and calling it a “pitching performance”. His pitches have zero movement and aren’t overpowering. Just make him one of the best pinch hitters in the game. I mean officially. He already is one of the best pinch hitters in the game, but they still have him listed as “SP” in the depth chart for some reason. The Reds’ are so lacking in pitching depth that their only other possible option at SP is journeyman Mike Lincoln. And if you don’t know anything about him, there’s a reason. He is terrible. I neglected mentioning Aroldis Chapman because I doubt he makes the Opening Day roster. They have him signed for six years, and he could use some seasoning in the minors.
2010 Prediction: 70-92 (4th in NL Central): This team just doesn’t have the pitching or consistency to make any kind of real run at the Cardinals or the other two teams above them (the Brewers and Cubs), but they are noticeably better than the Astros or Pirates...for whatever that’s worth. One last thing to Reds’ fans: how scared are you that Aroldis Chapman is going to be managed by Dusty Baker?