Guide Preview: Cincinnati Reds

Next up in the team preview series is the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds had an underwhelming year in 2008 under the new management of Dusty Baker. The squad had gone into the season hoping for big years from some of their young talent, including Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Edinson Volquez. Votto and Bruce both played well enough to finish in the top five in the Rookie of the Year voting, but it wasn’t enough to help the Reds finish out of the second division. Cincinnati may have to count on even bigger years from those talented youngsters if they’re hoping to move up in the congested NL Central.

As before, this preview is meant to be a summary of what the three main baseball preview magazines are saying about the team’s 2009 season. I’ve included quotes and other information from each of the them – Sporting News, Athlon, and Lindy’s. I’ve also included some statistics about each magazines’ success at predictions over the last ten years. Be sure to check out the Team-by-Team Season Preview index for other guide previews over the next few weeks.

My original intention was to completely refrain from providing any opinion. I was afraid that I would have too much to say about some teams and too little about others. But, after doing a few of these now, I feel like there’s room for some personal commentary. I think it’ll add a little bit of personality to the preview. But I don’t want to make my opinion the focus of the post, so I’ll put it near the end. Please feel free to ignore it; I’ve never claimed to be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to all 30 teams. With that said, on with the “combined” team preview for the…

Cincinnati Reds
Last Year: 74 – 88, 5th Place, NL Central

Predictions Since 1999
This Year Last Year Avg Pred. Avg Finish
Sporting News 4 4 4.375* 3.875*
Athlon 5 2 3.875** 3.75**
Lindy’s 4 5

* Sporting News average includes preview guides from these years: 1999 – 2001, 2003 – 2004, 2006 – 2008
** Athlon average includes preview guides from these years: 1999 – 2003, 2006 – 2008

Team Notes

With three Cincinnati players earning Rookie of the Year votes last year (two of them legitimately), Reds fans have a lot to cheer for. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are legitimate players who, if given the proper room to grow, can help this team immensely. But, in the meantime, the team’s low on-base percentage (third-worst in the NL) and shaky pitching staff make it hard to win consistently.

“When the Reds traded veteran sluggers Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn last season, it signaled a change in the team’s direction. Now, the headliners are Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Edinson Volquez and Joey Votto. That’s an impressive core, and the Reds might contend for a wild card spot if their pitching comes together. But after eight consecutive losing seasons, their fans have reason to be skeptical. The Reds have not truly contended in a decade, and they still seem closer to last place than first. (Athlon)”

The Reds also hope that with (nearly) a year in Cincinnati under their belts, GM Walt Jocketty and Manager Dusty Baker will have a better grasp of the team and its needs.

“Jocketty and Baker are proven winners. Jocketty was the architect of the Cardinals’ World Series winner in 2006 while Baker won NL Manager of the Year award with both the Giants and Cubs. While neither may want to wait on a youth movement, the Reds have no choice but to let their talented core of newcomers continue to develop, especially with a payroll in the $75 million range that prevents them from adding significant help. (Lindy’s)”

Besides the continued development of Votto and Bruce, the biggest key to the Reds’ season is the starting rotation. If everything goes well, they will be division contenders. If not, then the Reds’ offensive struggles will have a lot to overcome.

“A starting rotation of Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, [Edinson] Volquez, and Johnny Cueto remains in search of a fifth starter. Top prospect Homer Bailey disappointed last season, barely squeezing 36.1 innings from eight starts. … Harang emerged as the staff mystery. After going 43-30 in 677.2 innings the previous three seasons, he suffered a loss of velocity, fell to 6-17 and watched his ERA explode from 3.73 to 4.78. Harang also surrendered a career-high 35 home runs, 19 before the fourth inning. A rebound from one of the game’s most underrated piitchers is a must for the Reds to surprise. (TSN)”

Spotlight Quote

A scout’s “View From the Other Dugout” in TSN:

“The Reds are finally rid of (Ken) Griffey’s contract and are no longer committed to Adam Dunn’s big money. They seem ready to become a faster, more-athletic offense. They’re certainly younger with (Chris) Dickerson, (Edwin) Encarnacion, (Homer) Bailey and (Joey) Votto. Encarnacion is still an inconsistent and mostly pull hitter. The other guys, especially (Jay) Bruce and Votto, are gifted but still learning on the fly. Brandon Phillips is very athletic… a 30-30 guy. Willy Taveras gives them a stolen-base threat, though his on-base percentage isn’t what you’d want from a leadoff guy. There’s still a lot of work to do here…”

Commentary

There was a lot made last year about the Reds’ up-and-coming prospects. But when Homer Bailey and Joey Votto struggled out of the gate, the press seemed to write off the ballclub. Granted, the team never seemed to get off the ground, with their third-lowest on-base percentage, but it definitely wasn’t the kids’ fault. Votto and Bruce had legitimate ROY seasons, and Edinson Volquez also put up some good numbers in his first full season. And now that the Reds have gotten rid of their big contracts, they may actually be forced into following this youth movement. However, Dusty Baker’s penchant for sticking with below-average veterans over young prospects (Corey Patterson last year, likely Willy Taveras this year), and his overuse of bullpen arms may threaten that much-needed move.

As a fan of baseball and the NL Central, I hope the Reds figure out a way to get the most out of all of these talented players, but I’m not sure they can do it this year. The youngsters are good, but they may need another year or two before we’re voting them into the All-Star game regularly. When you couple that with Dusty Baker and his veterans-only philosophy, it just seems like something that will take more than two years to get going. I suspect that they’ll be fighting with the Astros for fourth place.

Larry Granillo

About Larry Granillo

Larry Granillo has been writing Wezen Ball since 2008 and has dealt with such touchy topics as Charlie Brown's baseball stats and Ferris Bueller's day off. In 2010, he got the bright idea to time every home run trot in baseball; he has been missing ever since.

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