Greetings! Paging Aroldis...
Projected Starters - Ryan Hanigan/Devin Mesoraco/Miguel Olivo (C), Joey Votto (1B), Brandon Phillips (2B), Zack Cozart (SS), Todd Frazier (3B), Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey (LF), Shin-soo Choo (CF), Jay Bruce (RF)
Joey Votto is one of the best players in baseball, and for my money, one of the top-two "pure" hitters (along with Miggy Cabrera) in the game. Last year, he walked at a higher percentage (19.8%) than he struck out at (17.9%), and with a career .316/.415/.553 slash line, it's pretty comical. The only "question" with Votto is his true power ceiling, but he did hit 37 homers in a season recently, and I think he's good for 30 this year. Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips return to support Votto in the lineup, and both guys are solid-to-great. Bruce had a down year in the batting average department last year (.252), but he's hit 30 homers in two straight seasons, and his power is legit. Phillips, now in his 30's, doesn't have the same "wow" upside that he used to have, but he's safe for .280/15 HR/15 SB and that's great at second base, especially when considering that he's a big-time defender at the position. The biggest question (for me) about the Reds is going to be outfield defense. Shin-Soo Choo is a guy that I've always loved in Cleveland (career .289/.381/.465 hitter with speed), but he was brought in to play center field exclusively, and it's widely considered to be a disastrous experiment. Choo was an awful defender by the metrics last season in a corner spot, so putting him in Center is bold. He's going to hit, but that may end badly. In left field, they locked up Ryan Ludwick over the winter, and he's coming off of a 26-homer season in 2012. The issue with Ludwick is whether he'll be able to get on base, but if he maintains that level, he's above-average in LF. I frankly have no idea what Cincy is doing at catcher, as Devin Mesoraco is the top prospect (but they seem to not trust him), they brought in Miguel Olivo (for reasons unknown), and Ryan Hanigan is a great defender, but has no power in his bat. Seem easy enough? Oh, we haven't mentioned Todd Frazier, who came in 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting last year when he slugged nearly .500, and he gets the full-time reins at 3rd with Scott Rolen gone. A really nice lineup.
Projected - Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake
The headlines at the moment are centering around the fact that they've moved Aroldis Chapman back to closer. They went and spent money on Jonathan Broxton (we'll get to him) in the off-season and announced that Chapman was a starter, but in the past few days, they've moved him back. As a starter? He's probably capped to 160-170 innings, and while he'll strikeout a million guys, his stuff won't play in exactly the same fashion. As a closer? He's a top-2 guy along with Kimbrel, and he'll strikeout 14 guys per 9 innings. If he can start effectively, they should do it because of shear value, but if there are concerns, they can leave him in the 'pen and they've chosen to. At the top of the rotation, Johnny Cueto is coming off of a tremendous year. He threw 217 innings of 2.78 ERA (4.8 WAR) and he's now been electric for two solid years to lead that rotation. Latos came over from San Diego last year and pitched very well in his first season, posting a 3.48 over 200+ innings. He's a very nice #2 guy and they're safe in the top spots. Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake form the rest of the rotation, and each has warts. Bailey is the best of the three and he looked to turn the corner a bit last year with a sub-4.00 ERA. Arroyo is safe to eat a ton of innings (190 or more in 8 straight seasons), but his ERA could be 3.70 or 5.70. Leake is interesting, and as a former first-round pick, the stuff is nice, but there is debate about where his ceiling is. He doesn't strike anyone out, which limits upside, but he's safely in the rotation now that Chapman has been moved.
Projected - Aroldis Chapman (closer), Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo, Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek, Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon
As I mentioned above, the closer situation could have looked a lot different with Chapman unavailable, but for now, let's operate as if he's the closer. He's a no-doubt top-2 guy with Kimbrel and pencil him in for 100 strikeouts and 40 saves. Broxton had the job previously, and while everyone remembers the big, hard-throwing, high-strikout guy from LA, he's kind of reinvented himself. He's still big (lol), but the K-Rate has gone from double-digits in LA to just 6.98 last season. He's still fully capable of getting saves if Chapman gets moved back, but he's not the dominant-type guy that you may think. Marshall is one of the best set-up men in the game, with three straight seasons of a 9.40 K/9 or higher and a sub-3.00 ERA. Frankly, he's a much better pitcher than Broxton, and it's inexplicable why they wouldn't have considered him for the closer spot pre-Aroldis. The rest of the 'pen is solid, and I really like both Masset and Ondrusek.
Coming off of a 95-win season, I think the Reds could be even better. Votto should get more than the 475 PA's he got last season, Choo is an upgrade from Drew Stubbs and company, and the rotation should be about the same as last year. I really, really like this team, and there isn't a defined weakness outside of defense in CF. They are the favorite in the Central.
92-70, 1st in NL Central