Predictions, thoughts, pick to click

Upon the conclusion of Friday night’s Reds-D-backs exhibition game at Chase Field, my Spring Training is over. I’m headed home first thing Saturday morning.

Don’t worry, the final split-squad games will be covered and more importantly — so will the final roster moves assuming they are done before the Reds break camp.

My colleague, MLB.com’s Matthew Leach, recently wrote a NL Central overview with predictions and not shockingly, the Reds are the favorites. I agree that Cincinnati is the team to beat and should repeat as division champions.

My NL Central prediction:

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

I don’t expect the Reds to win 97 games again, especially with the Astros gone from the division to the AL West. But the Cubs aren’t likely to be much better and despite having some good starting pitching, I don’t think the Pirates have improved themselves at all. The Brewers shaky rotation should be better with Kyle Lohse, but they have some injury issues – especially at first base.

As for the Cardinals, I expect them to very tough once again. They have a very good overall lineup and even without Chris Carpenter, the rotation is no slouch. I’d be stunned if it’s not a neck-and-neck race into September – with the Reds prevailing at around 91-92 wins.

That being said, there are some concerns. Sure it was Spring Training, but there were too many occasions this month where runners in scoring position weren’t picked up. Thursday vs. the Royals was a prime example when the bases were left loaded and there was one rally where runners were left on second and third. Perhaps when games count and plate strategies are different, this will improve.

The other issue – which can never been predicted – is health. Can the rotation have another season where all five starters are healthy all year? The law of averages would say that is unlikely. But unlike last year when there was little depth in the Minors, there is more this year. Tony Cingrani looks close to big league ready if he isn’t already. There is also Daniel Corcino waiting in the wings and Armando Gallaraga is a veteran who looked pretty good in camp. On the lineup side however, there is no known Todd Frazier type waiting in the wings to pick up for a downed starter. Henry Rodriguez can certainly hit but showed some atrocious defense this spring. Donald Lutz was very, very impressive at the plate this spring but still has some development to do. I would not look for Billy Hamilton any earlier than September. He showed there is some work to do to bring his game up to big league standards.

Links:

Click here for my Opening Day preview.

Click here for a story on Opening Day starter Johnny Cueto.

And click here for a pre-Opening Day feature on Shin-Soo Choo.

Speaking of that, my 2013 Reds “pick to click” is in fact, Shin-Soo Choo. I’ve been very impressed with Choo throughout Spring Training and I expect him to bring a lot to the leadoff spot. He should set the table nicely for the likes of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick and company by getting on base. He can also be good for 15-20 home runs and can drive in guys that get on base in the bottom third of the order. Choo has a smooth swing, a great work ethic and defensively, has looked fine in center field. He is also in a contract year before free agency, which certainly doesn’t create a lack of added motivation.

Once again, thank you to all for reading this blog, the Twitter and most of all, the many stories on Reds.com/MLB.com. I’m looking forward to my 13th season with MLB.com, including year No. 8 on the Reds beat.

3 Comments

Excellent job Mark–Appreciate your info-I spent one week in
goodyear—–biggest concern was lack of run production by 1st line folks…..
Missed some of Choo due to injury–
but you have to like his #’s—Go Reds

Thank you for all your reporting with excellent information! Go Reds! Date: Sat, 30 Mar 2013 02:59:24 +0000 To: garytuemler@hotmail.com

Thanks for all your work, Mark. Those of us out of town are most grateful.

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