Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year: 2013 Cincinnati Reds

After two months off – looking down the barrel of a new year, it’s time to start talking about Spring Training and the 2013 Cincinnati Reds.

Though the snow is still piling up here in Dayton, Ohio; the warmth of spring is only a few months away as we start analyzing the 2013 roster. There have been some monumental moves within the Reds’ clubhouse that could very well put them back into the post-season.

I’ll address these changes as well that could debunk the real mystery; will the Reds fall short after a 2-0 series lead again this October?

The 2013 Rotation and the Cuban Missile:

Is the Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman finally getting his shot in the rotation? This seems to be the case; Baker, Jocketty, and pitching coach Bryan Price says this is gonna happen. Before I get into the meat-and-potatoes, can we first imagine how devastating the Reds starting five will look? Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, and Homer Bailey could realistically be the rotation kicking off the 2013 season.

Cueto hurled an astonishing season wielding a 2.78 ERA over 19 wins and 9 loses, however oblique strains kept him from prevailing in the playoffs. Cueto did pitch 217 innings during the season, a career high; his second most was in 2010 when he hurled 185 IP. Not only did Cueto pitch deeper into the season then ever before, he fanned a career high 170 batters. Cueto was in a high contender for a Cy Young award, an accolade never received by a Reds pitcher.

Veteran right hander Arroyo notched a 3.74 ERA over a 12-10 record, hurling over 202 innings; Arroyo played a key role during the 2012 Divisional Series against the World Series Champs. Arroyo pitched 7 innings giving up only 1 hit and zip, zero, zilch runs. The 2012 season has been his best in over six years, just when the skeptics were mumbling that his career was over as his velocity seemed to dissipate after the 2011 season. As far as we know, Arroyo will continue to be a veteran asset along with his hard slider and straight changeup; if you have ever seen this guy bring his stuff you’d agree is curveball may be one of the best in the league.

Mat Latos, acquired in a much debated trade last year with the Padres – many Reds fans thought we gave up too much for the hurler that included two first-round draft picks Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal (Volquez and Boxberger too). The argument was then, the Reds already had a long-term first baseman along with a veteran and rookie catcher, this concluded that Grandal and Alonso were 100% trade bait. All and all it worked out as Mat Latos settled nicely into the Reds hot rotation. Latos, bringing some attitude and flare to the mound hurled 209 innings with an astonishing 185 strikeouts. Latos finished the season with a 3.48 ERA over 14 wins and 4 loses. The stat junkies tell us that his slider has a 42% whiff rate, which is one of the best in all of the majors.

Homer Bailey finally had the break-out season we have all been waiting for, including a NO-NO hurled on September 28th 2012 (I can remember listening to 700 WLW in the garage sweating bullets). Overall, Bailey had his best year ever as he threw 208 solid innings, 168 K’s- maintaining a 3.68 ERA over 13 wins and 10 loses.

Finally, the missing link… Aroldis Chapman – the missile settled into the closer position early in the season and became the most feared closer in the history of the game with a microscopic 1.51 ERA notching 38 saves. Though Chapman only pitched 71 innings, the debate emerges – can the young Cuban go 150+ innings in the rotation? This is the question being worked out as we speak; the general idea here is that the Reds will never know until they try, or at least that’s what the club is saying. Can we argue that throwing one or two innings four days in a row compare to tossing six innings every five days? I don’t think stats or computer analysis’s can give us a definitive answer; with that being said I’m siding with the Reds clubhouse in saying we’ll never know until we give it a whirl. If Chapman can successfully contribute to the rotation – the 2013 Reds could possibly harness the greatest rotation ever seen in National League history.

Pitching tid-bits: All is not lost with starter Mike Leake, the young starter is just getting some game time, waiting his break out season much as we saw in Homer Bailey – Leake has tons of potential and could still have a place in the rotation or as a long reliever.

Mammoth hurler Jonathan Broxton is to step in as closer.

The bullpen still best in N.L – Sean Marshall, Sam LeCure, Jose Arredondo, Alfredo Simon, JJ Hoover, Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek, Tony Cingrani, Villarreal, and Redmond.

Exit Stubbs – Enter Choo:

The Reds can say they gave it their all when starting center fielder Drew Stubbs time and time again. Stubbs struggled for years but would often have offensive bursts that kept people watching – not to mention his lights-out defensive prowess. The Reds had to move on and made quite the splash during winter talks. Reds signed Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and let Stubbs seek greener pastures up north. Christmas came a couple weeks early as this December 11th trade rolled across headlines. Choo fits the Reds leadoff needs perfectly as Choo has been batting .310 and a .389 OBP in the leadoff hole. Stubbs barely scratched above the Mendoza line, I’d rather not check for accuracy but it can’t be more than .220. Thought Choo isn’t as defensively potent as Stubbs, the trade should work in the Reds favor non-the-less.

Don’t worry about Votto:

It was no secret Votto struggled a bit returning from his injury – it was to be expected. Luckily Votto is easily the most disciplined athlete in the game and will be more than ready for Spring Training. I’m not even going to comment anymore on the matter; He’ll be his old self again in no time.

The Todd-father gets the nod?

Currently, the Reds depth chart depicts Todd Frazier as the clubs starting third baseman; however there has been no word to if Scott Rolen is hanging up his cleats. Rolen will be 38 years old by Opening Day, and if 2012 was any indication he is really starting to slow down – Rolen is starting to play like Chipper Jones in his remaining season, he is slower, injury prone, but damnit he can still play some damn good ball. I think if Rolen, a 7 time All-Star – 1998 ROY – 8 time GG – and SS recipient, feels he can battle through another season, I think Walt Jocketty will give him the chance. Even if this is the case, expect to see a lot of Todd Frazier filling in for the 100 games Rolen can’t play in along with days off around the diamond for other starters. If the Todd-Father gets the nod, expect some more of the same – 100% effort from a classy ball player who hit .273/.331/.498. Frazier legged out 26 doubles, 6 triples, 19 homers, and 67 rib-eye-steaks.

Around the Horn:

Catchers Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mezoraco will call the games again in 2013; though the young Mezoraco spent some rehab time at the AAA level – mostly due to an argument between himself and plate umpire Mr. Fairchild.

Infielders Brandon Phillips AKA Dat Dude AKA B. Peezy and shortstop Zach Cozart will return to provide the club with the best defense in the league along with some quality at bats.

Ludwick and Bruce should continue to do their thing as both reliable outfielders and Rawlings crushing bruisers who love to hit balls out of GABP. Though some say Ludwick’s performance was a one-year wonder, he is here to stay non-the-less and we should see more slugging out of the starting left fielder. As for Bruce, this guy gets better and better every year – he is beginning to look like a young Mickey Mantle in right field. Keep an eye on this kid, he’s lights out.

The bench- The Reds have a cornucopia of a bench, overflowing with goodies – Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul, Henry Rodriguez, Jason Donald, and Jack Hannahan. We also have the opportunity to see the young star Billy Hamilton come up for a few starts depending on how things work out.

I wouldn’t expect to see this again; not to suggest the Reds will be in the playoffs, but if they can stay healthy, they have the potential to go deeper into October. In 2012 the Reds had the stuff to clinch the division and play in the divisional series before they self-destructed; mostly due to inexperience and health problems. The young rotation can now say that they have been there before, seen it, experienced it – this time they will be calm and collect. If health remains on their side the rest will be history – The sluggers will hit, the defensive will prevail, the rotation will destroy – all on the shoulders that Chapman can endure a long strenuous season, that Cueto can go deep into October, and for the most part – good health in the new year.

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