Questions and projections

After Friday, it will be nine days left in the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting. I have a camp preview in the editing process that will go up late Sunday or early Monday.

Especially after some of the debacles of last year’s camp, namely the pitching injuries to Cueto and Bailey, Arroyo’s mono and Volquez’s visa issue, I’m cautious about saying this job is locked up or that spot is filled. You never know what will go down during Spring Training. Depth and health will be key for sure but assuming all goes as planned, this is about as strong of a group entering a Reds camp I’ve seen since I started here. (This will be season No. 7 covering the Reds for me).

No doubt there will still be enough questions like — can Aroldis Chapman crack the top 5 and if he does, who is out? In my projected rotation you will see Monday, Chapman is currently out. Is Devin Mesoraco ready to step and assume either most of a good portion of the catching duties in the big leagues. I expect him to be in a similar tandem situation with Ryan Hanigan, at least at the beginning. Will Brandon Phillips ever sign a contract extension? Is Scott Rolen healthy, and just as important, able to contribute at the level he did in the first half of the 2010 season? That will be a big key. There will be a serious dogfight for the final bench spots as well.

*Here is my pre-Spring Training NL Central final standings projection:

1. Cardinals
2. Reds
3. Brewers
4. Pirates
5. Cubs
6. Astros

The Reds have no doubt been impressive in the roster improvements, and the Cardinals suffered some losses with the departures of Albert Pujols, Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan. But St. Louis is not just the reigning champion, they have a very strong team coming back. Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Yadier Molina and now Carlos Beltran are in the lineup. Chris Carpenter, a should-be healthy Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia are in the rotation. The bullpen is pretty solid. So far now, I have to give the Cardinals the edge. This is certainly subject to change in the coming weeks.

Odds and ends

*I was at GABP’s loading dock yesterday for the surest sign Spring Training is near — the loading up of the 18-wheeler for Goodyear. Here is my short story if you want to take a look. There is also a little video in there.

*If you haven’t had a chance, please check out the efforts from Meggie Zahneis, our youth correspondent. In the short time since I’ve met Meggie, I’ve been very impressed with her work and even more impressed with her as a person.

*Nice effort last night by Rich Linville, who narrowly lost in the second round of “Baseball IQ” on MLB Network. Like many people, I’m sure, I was repeatedly saying “Mike Piazza!” to the TV. So close. So close.

*Emily Szink, a University of Dayton graduate from Kettering, is one of 50 finalists vying to be a contestant for the 2012 MLB Fan Cave. Through Feb. 22, fans can vote for their favorites at


Only way Chapman starts in the rotation is if someone goes down in front of him, and with Cueto and Bailey’s history, you can’t rule that out. The biggest battles I think will be Valdez and Janish for backup shortstop, Ludwick and Heisey for starting Left Fielder, and thats about it. You know Francisco will be backup at third and Frazier will be in the minors since Juan doesn’t have any options. I assume they will take 13 position players and 12 pitchers with them to Cincy. So here we go…
Cueto, Latos, Arroyo, Leake, Bailey, Madson, Marshall, Masset, Bray, LeCure, Ondrusek, Arredondo
Hanigan, Mesoraco, Votto, Cairo, Phillips, Cozart, Valdez, Rolen, Francisco, Ludwick, Heisey, Stubbs, Bruce

Oh, and you can go ahead and start trying to come up with your nickname for Masset, Marshall, and Madson.

“The three M-egos”

!!! That’s good!

Cardinals are reigning world champions but they still did not win the central either of the last 2 years so Im hard pressed to pencil them in at top when even with Larussa and Pujols they couldnt grab the title.

I feel Sheldon has managed to steal some of my thunder, but I’ve been arguing since Pujols’ departure on other sites, that the Cardinals will actually be better in 2012. LaRussa is gone but Duncan remains only on leave so he is available for consultation. The first half weaknesses a year ago, bullpen and defense, have both been shored up considerably and, while they may not be any longer the NL’s # 1 offense, they will not need to be and remain plenty potent with Beltran, Holiday, and Berkman in the middle of the line-up. Moreover, if Wainwright comes back anywhere close to what he had been, I think the division title is theirs as almost a foregone conclusion.

You are an idiot

Thanks for your brilliant and enlightening comment…

I am still not sure the Cardinals can take first in NL Central. They are a tough team but teams will pitch them a lot different this season. I think the Reds have a golden chance to take first early and keep it all season long if they can keep the injuries down.

If anybody besides the Reds win this division, it’s going to be the Brewers. But both the Cardinals and Brewers are similar. Good pitching staffs, but they will both struggle scoring runs in 2012. My comparison of all three:

Pitching- Edge SLIGHTLY goes to the Reds. Latos is a big add and they just might have the best bullpen in ALL of baseball. The Brewers and Cardinals both have good starting staffs and bullpens. But a step below the Reds because of how strong the Reds pen is.

Offense- Edge goes to Reds again. Not a whole lot to say here. The Reds do K a lot, but they hit a lot of homers and score a lot of runs.

Defense- Edge goes to Reds. A lot of gold gloves in that infield and Stubbs and Bruce are about as good as it gets at their positions. Mesoraco and Hanigan a good behind the plate to.

I just don’t see how anybody, especially Mark, could not give the Reds the advantage here. Maybe he just doesn’t want to get his expectations to high. But I’m going to, because the Reds are all in for this year and next. So I expect a lot!

Yes, the pitching has undergone a major facelift but it had a long distance to be stretched, having finished just 14th in the league (not in all of baseball) a season ago. Not gonna lift them all that much.

And the offense is classically inconsistent and clearly non-clutch, no matter what the aggregate stats might indicate. The constant frustrations of a year ago are not gonna magically disappear.

You are right about their superior defense but that was clearly the case, again, a year ago.

I say a solid second place finish with an outside shot at a wild card berth, but because of a maturing Atlanta Brave squad, a chance only because of the newly-created fifth playoff spot! Many thanks to Bud Selig! (By the way, I’m not really in favor of diluting the baseball playoffs in this heavy-handed way, but it will give this improved Reds’ team their only legitimate shot at the post-season.)

The Reds finished 2011 with the 12th best ERA in the NL(4.16). They had the 8th best BAA in 2011. They were 6th in the NL in quality starts (90) with a really inconsistent staff. Imagine adding probably 20+ quality starts to that number with Latos on board

The Reds had a top 10 bullpen in baseball last year and it only got better this year. Their starters besides Cueto were all awful. I’m not high on Bailey or Arroyo. But they both have their moments. I just don’t think maybe Reds fans know much about Latos. Adding Latos gives the Reds a one-two punch of Latos/Cueto to compete with Carpenter/Wainwright and Greinke/Gallardo. We really have no way of basing this years pitching staff off of last years stats, the Reds got a big make over.

I can agree with you on the offense side. They are consistent and not clutch. But they finished 7th in the MLB in runs scored, 2nd in the NL to only St. Louis.

All the Reds needed was a more consistent pitching staff (and Latos is the model of consistency) that can get them into the 6th or 7th inning so that this really really strong builpen can close it down. I fthe Reds go into the 6th or 7th with the lead, it’s going to be very tough for teams to come back on them.

You are right about the 12th best in NL instead of 14th. Must have been a bit of a surge at season’s end, but still pretty piss-poor. Don’t agree about the bullpen at all, and, in this instance, I really don’t care what the stats or rankings say. Misleading. The bullpen stunk collectively, and five-sevenths will be back with the loss of the best performer in the pen a year ago, Cordero. Of course, Madson and Marshall will account for improvement, but really Madson covers for Cordero and Marshall constitutes a 14% improvement, maybe!? Not enough to catapult them to the heights that so many envision.
Latos may prove to be what you say he is, but, at the moment, he remains unproven and he is only 24! That is always far from a sure bet.

Thanks for the plug Mark – I could say the same for you!

Young person, you are a very talented writer. Keep up your great work!

you are a great writer. I’m just a kid who started a blog recently. I was wondering if you could checvk mine out and plz comment advice

I can appreciate looking at last year as a roadmap of the upcoming season…but it’s flawed to do so. I agree stats are a huge part of the game but if you look at in the context of bad years then having good years it’s not that predictable. Who would’ve thought Berkman would’ve done what he did last season, who could’ve predicted the cardinals doing what they did. I look at the talent we have and what it is capable of. Stubbs gets his head right (and the media stops shoving his K’s down his throat) and he improves. Heisey/ludwick instead of Gomes/heisey. A back end rotation pitcher who will not wake up everyday feeling exhausted from mono symptoms. I think one of the best bullpens I can pull from memory. If Cueto stays Cueto there’s your ace (he’ll be pitching against other aces though). Barring a break down in bullpen confidence I see out rotation pitching more relaxed knowing there’s a good chance that they don’t leave the game and lose the win, earn a loss, or a swollen ERA.

Rebounding Stubbs, versatile Phillips, MVP and reigning walk machine Votto, clutch rolen, Bruce keeps improving, pull hitting power heisey, young cozart, plate discipline hanigan, and the rest.

I’m excited for this team that I’m gonna post now and go shadow box in the shower.

Hope you are right…one issue: after the first couple of turns through the rotation, Cueto will probably not be lined up against other aces due to off=days, scheduling quirks, and cancelled games.

I hope I’m right too…and that’s true with the rotation turn. I’m excited for what this rotation and bullpen is capable of.

I mean how many 1 run games did we lose last year? How many games did the bullpen lose? I don’t know off hand but I’m curious. I like how these players aren’t unproven arms. We weakened the cubs as well as they weakened themselves. Astros and pirates…well I won’t go there. Cardinals lost a big bat, big names and Freese’s post season magic will have a hard time lasting for the whole season…Holliday protecting Berkman…ehhh. Holliday had a 20-30 points in batting average on Bruce last year but fell well short on home runs RBI’s to Bruce, but obviously more consistent. Wainwright will be there but I doubt he’ll be wainwright just yet, and a 37 year old carpenter doesn’t scare me.

Greinke, no fielder, no K rod and possibly a shut down of Braun. Not scared. Yovanni is still good, marcum is still good, so I say the brewers are about even with the cardinals.

Of course I’m biased…but it works.

Reblogged this on Reds Fan Central.

I really enjoyed reading your blog. My name is David and I’m a kid who just started a blog. I was wondering if you could check it out. Please comment advice. This is it-

Latest Spring Training advent calendar windows – Saturday, a group picture of the Reds announcers. The photographer had to stand way back to get them all in the shot so it’s hard to make out individual faces, but I assume the one under the cowboy hat is Brantley. Sunday – a large, ornate # 7 made from bats surrounded by a circle of baseballs. Monday – a photocopy of today’s Arizona weather forecast: scattered clouds and 70 degrees! I guess that’s why they don’t train at Georgetown College.

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