Greetings all... we're getting closer...
C - Ryan Hanigan/Devin Mesoraco
1B - Joey Votto
2B - Brandon Phillips
SS - Zack Cozart
3B - Scott Rolen
LF - Chris Heisey/Ryan Ludwick
CF - Drew Stubbs
RF - Jay Bruce
I really like this lineup. Joey Votto is the best player that no one outside of baseball circles talks about. He hit .300+ again with 29 homers and an OPS near 1.000 with above-average defense, and without a peep. Phillips and Bruce are both highly above-average players at their positions with Phillips hitting .300 with 18 homers and 14 steals from weak-hitting 2nd base, and Bruce blasting off with 32 homers even in a down year for him. I think the lineup swings with Drew Stubbs. The former uber-prospect did hit 15 homers and stole 40 bases last year, but did so with just a .243 average and sub -.700 OPS, and he'll need to at least hit for more power if he continues to have his average in that range. Heisey's 18 homers in 120 games were enough to guarantee him the everyday job in left field for a while, so the only true "battle" is at catcher between Hanigan (proven but mediocre) and Mesoraco (uber-prospect). Oh, and Scott Rolen is Scott Rolen.
1 - Johnny Cueto
2 - Mat Latos
3 - Bronson Arroyo
4 - Homer Bailey
5 - Mike Leake/Aroldis Chapman
It gets more interesting here. Cueto is coming off of his best season as a pro with a 2.31 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 24 starts last year, but there is always injury risk with him, and he needs to be there to anchor things. They spent a lot to get Mat Latos via trade (ridding themselves of Yander Alonso) from San Diego, and they'll expect him to transition from pitcher-friendly Petco to hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark without totally falling apart. Arroyo allowed a literally-impossible FORTY-SIX home runs last year in posting an ERA around 5, but that can't possibly repeat itself (can it?) and he's usually a fine middle-of-the-rotation guy. Bailey used to be a huge prospect, but has settled in as a league-average type guy who eats some innings, and they have a potential battle between the proven but unimpressive Mike Leake, and the absolutely electric Aroldis Chapman for the #5 spot. Worth keeping an eye on.
Ryan Madson was inked to replace Francisco Cordero, and I like that move. Madson was tremendous last year in Philly, and they stole him thanks to an over-pricing from Scott Boras. He'll save 35+ this year. After that, Sean Marshall was brought in to set-up and he's coming off an elite year in Chicago. Add in a potential Aroldis Chapman set-up role and guys like Nick Masset with high upside, and this could be an elite bullpen.
86-76, 2nd in NL Central, #2 Wild Card Spot