3.23 Reds vs. Rangers

  

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2015 MLB team preview: Cincinnati Reds
By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer
March 24, 2015 2:30 pm ET

After being a playoff team in three of the previous four seasons, the 2014 Cincinnati Reds regressed by 14 games to 76-86. A surge in June and early July actually had them in the thick of the playoff race at the All-Star break, but in all the Reds’ only winning month was June (18-10).

The 2015 season is one of transition. The remnants of a contender are still around, but two pitchers from last season’s rotation have been traded and a few more will be free agents after the season. The Reds wouldn’t go full-on rebuild this season, since they are set to host the All-Star Game, but they could be sellers after the Midsummer Classic if they aren’t contending.

Anyway, let’s take a look.

More: Likes, dislikes | Over/unders | All Team Previews | Spring Training

Probable lineup

1. Billy Hamilton, CF
2. Joey Votto, 1B
3. Brandon Phillips, 2B
4. Todd Frazier, 3B
5. Jay Bruce, RF
6. Devin Mesoraco, C
7. Marlon Byrd, LF
8. Zack Cozart, SS

Bench – C/1B Brayan Pena, IF/OF Skip Schumaker, IF Ivan DeJesus Jr., IF/OF Kris Negron, OF Brennan Boesch

In terms of the lineup, the only real set things are Hamilton leading off and Cozart eighth. Manager Bryan Price has been going with Votto second and Phillips third through much of the spring, but he hasn’t committed to a set plan. Aside from needing Votto toward the top, most of these guys are interchangeable in terms of lineup spot. There will probably be shuffling on a near daily basis throughout the season.

The Reds were 14th in average, 14th in on-base percentage and 13th in runs in the NL last season. Byrd surely marks an upgrade over last year in left field while Bruce and Hamilton should be better, albeit for different reasons. Phillips was held to 121 games because of injury while Votto played just 62 games and was hurt for the most part while he was playing. There is reason to believe the offense will be substantially better this season.

Are Bruce and Votto primed for bounce-back seasons?
Are Bruce and Votto primed for bounce-back seasons? (USATSI)
Probable rotation

1. RHP Johnny Cueto
2. RHP Mike Leake
3. RHP Anthony DeSclafani
4. RHP Jason Marquis
5. RHP Raisel Iglesias

One of the bottom three is a place-holder for Homer Bailey, who shouldn’t miss much time. Right now it looks like the middle of April, so it’s actually possible that the Reds could massage the rotation with off days and not even need Iglesias to make a single start, assuming no setbacks to Bailey. For whatever it’s worth, Iglesias and DeSclafani have minor-league options left.

Probable bullpen

Closer – LHP Aroldis Chapman
Setup men – RHP Jumbo Diaz, RHP Sam LeCure
Middle men – LHP Manny Parra, RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Tony Cingrani
Long man – LHP Paul Maholm

The move of Cingrani to the bullpen relatively early in camp came as a bit of a surprise, but the Reds most likely would rather have him there because of his injury history and fastball-heavy arsenal. It’s entirely possible he becomes a lock-down, late-inning lefty, especially given his splits (he has held lefties to a .193/.274/.286 line in his career).

Under-the-radar offseason transaction

For lack of better options here, I guess I’ll go with Byrd. The trade wasn’t huge news at the time, but he’ll be a marked improvement over what the Reds got in left field last season. Let’s just do this:

Cincinnati LF, 2014: .233/.288/.339, 30 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 57 RBI, 51 R
Marlon Byrd, 2014: .264/.312/.445, 28 2B, 2 3B, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 71 R

Now, at age 37, Byrd could definitely hit his wall and spiral into the late-career regression abyss, but he’s been very good in each of the past two seasons and the Reds got nothing from left in ’14.

Fantasy injury-risk sleeper: Homer Bailey, SP

From Al Melchior’s full Reds fantasy outlook:

Now that Bailey is coming off a season that featured a mediocre 3.71 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 7.7 K/9 and was shortened by surgery to repair a flexor mass tendon, his appeal is far less than it was a year ago. To be sure, he comes with the risk of an uncertain return date and the possibility for a slow start when he does rejoin the Reds’ rotation. Then again, it’s entirely possible that he is ready to go at the start of the season [NOTE: This was written in January and, again, it looks like a safe bet for mid-April at this point], and he still has the upside of a pitcher who can approach a strikeout per inning with good control and decent ground ball tendencies. Because of diminished expectations, you shouldn’t have to use a pick in the first 10 rounds in a standard mixed league draft to get Bailey, but he’s worth picking up as a middle-of-the-rotation option.
Biggest strength

I’m going to go with the power potential on offense. The Reds ranked eighth in homers last season in the NL, but we have to keep in mind they only got six from Votto and 18 from Bruce, who averaged 32 per season in the previous three years. We already noted Byrd as a power upgrade. In Frazier, Mesoraco, Votto, Byrd and Bruce, it’s reasonable to say the Reds have five players capable of 25-plus homers. It’s doubtful all get there, of course, but to have the shot at it is fun.

Biggest weakness

Aside from Pena, the bench is pretty bad. Schumaker’s nearing the end of the road and the rest of the guys don’t have much business on an MLB roster. Now, a good bench is helpful but not always integral to winning, but the problem is the depth. We’ve seen injuries derail this team before (ahem, last season) and it could easily happen again with such a terrible bench. And, really, when Marquis is named to your rotation in mid-March, the starting pitching depth isn’t very good, either. The Reds need everyone healthy in order to make any noise this season.

Outlook

I’m not near as down on the Reds as I was a few weeks ago, simply due to reflecting upon how much room for improvement there is here. Hamilton will be better in his second full season, Votto is healthy and still in his prime (remember, he was an MVP once upon a time) and Bruce can’t possibly be as bad as he was last year, judging by the rest of his career. We already covered Byrd as an upgrade, too. There’s upside in the rotation in the youngsters behind Cueto and Chapman is an elite-level closer.

On the flip-side, the rotation behind Cueto is capable of being pretty bad, just as the bullpen behind Chapman is. Bruce’s awful year in the midst of his prime is troublesome, Votto has been hurt two of the past three seasons, Byrd is old and Hamilton seems overmatched at the plate a lot. And on and on.

There’s upside, but there’s downside. Team this with the Reds being in the toughest top-to-bottom division in baseball and a fourth- or fifth-place finish could be in the cards. If that happens, they’ll be one of the best fourth- or fifth-place teams in baseball, but that’s still a disappointing season.

Nice to have you on board. I have been saying this all year. I dont understand how this is a down season. We have our two best hitters coming back that did nothing last year and consistently put up better numbers than anyone else on the team. We removed two pitchers that have regressed each year. We added a bat that will be better in LF. Where is the regression here? I think this team is in the hunt all year and will I guess be considered a surprise.

bigblu…you also. And, I have to agree. I keep scratching my head when I read story after story that the Reds will finish either 4th or 5th. Ok…maybe on paper we don’t pencil to be top dog, but to suggest that with a healthy team, a powerful offensive team and a team that has some pretty good pitchers, we won’t due much better than 4th? Well, the recent bet in Las Vegas is that the Red’s boggy for “games won” is 78 (Brewers – 78 1/2, Cubs – 82 1/2, Pirates – 84 1/2, Cards – 88 1/2). Looks like the OVER to me. I just don’t see the offense rolling over and quietly finishing a game, as we did last season. I think the league and Las Vegas are in for a few surprises…especially, as the article above notes, there is some long-ball thunder in the Reds 2015 lineup; lot’s of potential for our over 20+ group at GABP.

Interesting lineup card – think all 9 players make the Opening Day roster?

Maxblue…I don’t think there is any question about it; this is our starting 8. This lineup is laden with HR power. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t quickly remember last years pains with our OBP; a hand full of solo HR don’t necessarily win games, especially with a SP staff that isn’t what it was over the last few years. However, just like last year, the name of the game is scoring more R and with our healthy lineup and Byrd joining in, well, I can’t believe we will not excel over last years blight…
* .238/.294/.365/.661
* 131 HR
* 595 R

Why wouldn’t any of those guys in the starting lineup not make the opening day roster?

Extending on my statement earlier that the Reds will compete. I believe this is only true without injuries. If anyone from the starting 8 or Cueto, Leake, or Bailey missing an extended time, then I feel this team is in trouble. They have a top starting line up, but no bench or minor league help. I have no faith in the upcoming young pitchers, but we just need one this year to really do something. We have to sign Cueto or next year is lost and possibly any future years.

Jay Bruce | Rank: 70 Age: 27
CIN | #32 | Video Bats: L, Throws: L
Qualifies at: OF Dollar Value: $13
Also Ranked: #24 at Outfield, #4 on Reds
2015 Preview:
Previously one of the Majors’ most reliable sluggers, Bruce regressed during a 2014 season negatively affected by two factors: knee woes that likely contributed to a career-low 18 homers and struggles with defensive shifts that helped sink his average. The native Texan has never been a high-contact hitter, but he did bat at least .252 in five of his six big league campaigns prior to posting a .217 average in ’14. Bruce was one of just three big leaguers with at least 30 homers and 90 RBIs in every season from 2011-13, so his decline was a surprise. But with age still on his side, the 27-year-old slugger has the potential to rediscover his consistent power stroke in 2015.

Fantasy Bottom Line: Still in prime, slugger looking to rebound from sudden decline.

Year Team AVG AB R HR RBI SB OBP SLG OPS
2012 CIN .252 560 89 34 99 9 .327 .514 .841
2013 CIN .262 626 89 30 109 7 .329 .478 .807
2014 CIN .217 493 71 18 66 12 .281 .373 .654
Career .251 3531 523 182 551 48 .323 .467 .790
Projected .251 581 82 27 86 8 .317 .453 .770
PECOTA .243 519 73 25 79 9 .318 .445 .763
PECOTA is Baseball Prospectus’ proprietary system that projects player performance based on comparisons with historical player-seasons.

Two things that a bettor cannot predict; 1) injuries and 2) errors/turnovers. And it’s true in every single sport; it just comes with the territory. However, I am already cringing when I hear that a Red’s game catchers mask was allowed to be used, yet caused Mesoraco to sit out a number of games due to a ‘foul tip’.

Although it’s spring training, it’s kind of fun to see where we are ranked in relationship to the other 14 NL teams, so here it is:
R – #10
H – #11
2B – #7
3B – #3
HR – #5
RBI – #8
BB – #9
SO – #7
SB – #15
CS – #2
AVG – #9
OBP – #14
SLG – #5
OPS – #7
…some interesting numbers/trends; spring training or not.

Most unfortunately will probably hold true, except for the Stolen Bases….

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