2010 Preview: Cincinnati Reds

  • Thursday, March 18, 2010 6:28 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

Share:

2009: 78-84, 4th in NL Central. Pythagorean record of 76-86.
Key Additions: SP Aroldis Chapman, SS Orlando Cabrera, IF Aaron Miles
Key Losses: IF Adam Rosales, CF Willy Taveras
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 76-86, 5th in NL Central. CHONE – 81-81, 3rd. CAIRO – 85.5-76.5, 2nd (Wildcard).

Pitching: 2009 – 4.63 FIP (26th in MLB), 4.91 for starters, 4.09 for relievers
2010 – Edinson Volquez won't return until late in the season from Tommy John surgery, leaving room for Chapman to make his mark. The Reds need Homer Bailey to step up behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.
Hitting: 2009 – .313 wOBA (27th in MLB)
2010 – The infield, led by the highly underrated Votto, should be solid, but the Reds' fortunes rest with the outfield. Willy Taveras and his .275 OBP are gone, which helps. Still, Jay Bruce and Co. have to make some serious strides if the Reds are going to be legitimate playoff contenders.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of 52.6 (3rd in MLB)
2010 – With back-to-back UZR's of 14 and -15.3, Orlando Cabrera underscores the lack of dependability in one-season UZR totals. He's probably somewhere in between those numbers. His double-play partner Brandon Phillips, however, has put up good numbers three straight years.

Reasons to Watch
1. Aroldis Chapman: .The left-handed Cuban fireballer has been wowing observers so far in Spring Training with his 100-mph heat, his movement and his command. There are two big questions, however. First, where will Chapman begin the season? Second, how will Dusty Baker handle him? The Reds' manager doesn't have the best track record preservingyoung flamethrowers.
2. Joey Votto: He didn't get a lot of attention outside Cincinnati (except when he missed time to deal with depression issues), but Votto put up the fourth-highest wOBA of any player last season, trailing only guys named Pujols, Mauer and Fielder. He might have been a little lucky with a .372 BABIP, but with his blend of power and patience, Votto figures to be an elite first baseman for a while, as long as he is able to stay on the field.
3. The outfield: The Reds have put together an interesting outfield. There's Jay Bruce, a 22-year-old with monstrous power who hasn't quite put it together at the big league level. There's Wladimir Balentien, a former top prospect with the Mariners who has struggled mightily in the majors. There's Drew Stubbs, a former first-round pick with a glowing defensive reputation and solid plate discipline. Plus, the Reds have Chris Dickerson, Jonny Gomes and prospect Chris Heisey. It's a crowded but intriguing situation out there.

Paint By Numbers: Bruce had a strange 2009. Among players with at least 300 plate appearances, he had the third-lowest BABIP (.221) but also the second-lowest line drive rate (13.0 percent). That said, his .246 isolated power was 20th, and he improved his walk and strikeout rates from the year before. It would hardly be surprising if 2010 turned out to be a breakout year for Bruce. ... Aaron Harang has compiled a record of 12-31 the last two seasons after going 32-17 in 2006-07. True, he's giving up more home runs and walks and getting fewer strikeouts, but his FIP last year was a decent 4.14. For the sake of comparison, Andy Pettite had a 4.16 FIP for the Yankees but went 14-8. ... Despite that .275 OBP, Dusty Baker started Willy Taveras in the leadoff spot 85 times. Taveras' other 14 starts came in the No. 2 spot. The good news is that most of the other starts at leadoff went to Chris Dickerson (.370 OBP) and Drew Stubbs (.364 career mark in the minors).

Blog Jog: Red Reporter's Slyde takes a look at the "butterfly effect" of baseball defense. ... Red Reporter also does a fascinating interview with Jaime Cevallos, the swing coach who worked with Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist last season and also is working with Cincinnati utility man Drew Sutton. ... The great Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News addresses an important question: Which Reds player would you want on your side in a fight? ... Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer John Fay presents three questions about Aroldis Chapman to GM Walt Jocketty.

Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

Assessing The Free Agent Leftovers (Part I)

  • Tuesday, January 19, 2010 7:29 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

Share:

With pitchers and catchers due to report to Spring Training in about a month, most teams have finished the bulk of their offseason maneuvering and have only a few minor holes left to fill.

There are still plenty of useful players out there on the free agent market, though. Let’s run through each position and take a look at some guys who could be late additions to a team’s roster. I'll review the position players today and come back with the pitchers tomorrow.

Catcher – The biggest name out there is this point is Bengie Molina, who appeared to be headed for the Mets but has turned down their latest offer, according to Buster Olney. Olney says the Mariners, who currently have only the unproven Rob Johnson and Adam Moore behind the plate, make the most sense now for Molina.

But a smarter pick for some team out there might be Rod Barajas, who is similar to Molina (low OBP, decent power, painfully slow) but probably would come cheaper and with less expectations of playing time.

First base/DH – There are several intriguing names here, the most intriguing of which is probably Russell Branyan, a journeyman who got his first real shot to play every day last year with the Mariners. Branyan responded with 31 home runs and an .867 OPS while appearing to field a decent first base. He’s probably due for some regression but would be still be a good grab for a team in need of a power injection.

There are plenty of other options out there as well in this category. Carlos Delgado hit 38 home runs two years ago but spent most of 2009 on the DL. Ryan Garko is nothing special and doesn’t have the power of Branyan or Delgado but is only 29 and would be a decent fill-in. Hank Blalock has fallen off the map the past few years due to injuries and ineffectiveness but still has some pop and also is 29. Jim Thome and Jason Giambi are strictly DHs or pinch-hitters at this point but have the power to offer some value in that role, especially Thome.

Second base – It’s a bit shocking that there are still two players as good as Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez out there. Hudson is a solid hitter with respectable patience and a little bit of sock in his bat. The numbers tell us he’s not as good with the glove as he appears, but he still has considerable value, especially on a short-term deal like the one he signed last year with the Dodgers. He might be close to signing with Washington.

Lopez has played for five teams since 2006, but don’t let all the moving around fool you. He has similar skills to Hudson at the plate, but might actually be a little better with the glove at this point.

Third base – There aren’t many attractive names left at the hot corner, but one good option is Joe Crede, who spent last season with the Twins. Crede has a little pop left in his bat, although he put up a .289 on-base percentage last year, meaning he isn’t going to help much offensively. On the other hand, Crede has been consistently well above average with the glove, which at third base makes him quite valuable.

Other than Crede, you’ve got Melvin Mora, who is about an average third baseman but will be 38 when the season starts and had a .679 OPS in 2009. Adam Kennedy has been mostly a second baseman but actually played more third last year, posting a somewhat shocking .758 OPS (his best since 2003) that he is unlikely to approach again in 2010.

Shortstop – Orlando Cabrera is a solid batting-average hitter with not enough plate discipline or power to be a real asset offensively. His .705 OPS each of the past two seasons illustrates that. Cabrera has been great with the glove in the past but might be heading rapidly downhill now that he’s reached his mid-30s. One-season UZR totals are notoriously unreliable, but Cabrera’s -15.3 was the second-worst by an MLB shortstop last season.

Miguel Tejada was also bad defensively last season, and with his 36th birthday looming in May, might be shifted to third base by the team that eventually signs him. He can still swing the lumber a little, as he slugged .455 last season.

Left field – Johnny Damon is the clear cream of the crop here, coming off a year in which he posted a line of .282/.365/.489. The bat might be due for a bit of a downturn, and his arm is bad even for left, but this is still a mighty valuable package, especially on a one-year deal.

There are a few other guys who could be useful in part-time roles. Endy Chavez isn’t going to hit much but is a slick fielder. Jonny Gomes smashed 20 homers in just 281 at-bats last season. Gary Sheffield probably should be allowed in the field as little as possible at this point and is 41, but he did OPS .823 last season and could be a decent bench bat.

Center field – It’s slim pickings here, with Mike Cameron and Coco Crisp already off the board. That pretty much leaves Rick Ankiel. The former pitcher was a great story two years ago when he hit 25 home runs, but last season he struggled with injuries, struck out a ton and slugged only .387. He’s also been below average in center each of the past two years, although he’s got a tremendously strong arm. It wouldn’t be shocking if Ankiel bounced back a bit this season, but he has some big holes in his swing and his bat looked slow last year.

Right field – The bounty here is much more plentiful than in center, as even though there’s no real standout, there are several intriguing options. Xavier Nady missed almost all of last season with an injury and isn’t a very good outfielder, but he can hit (.458 career slugging percentage). Randy Winn is an excellent right fielder and can play all three outfield positions.

In the next tier, you’ve got Jermaine Dye, who should be banished to a DH spot (average UZR of -20.9 the past four years), as his defense is negating his offensive value. If you can stomach the atrocious fielding or can hide him at DH, you have a valuable hitter who has smashed at least 27 home runs in five straight seasons. Other options include Rocco Baldelli, who pretty much has to be a part-time player due to an energy-sapping medical condition, and the slick-fielding Gabe Gross.