With opening day two days away, @MattNiehaus and @jezzemane will give their thoughts and prediction on the 2014 Cincinnati Reds.
JM: This spring traning for the Reds was one of the most injury infested in recent memory. Eight players will start the season on the disabled list. New manager Bryan Price is going to have all his hands full
The scariest incident I’ve ever seen, happened on March 19 in a spring training game against the Kansas City Royals.
Closer Aroldis Chapman was drilled by a line drive after Kansas City’s Salvador Perez turned on a 99 mph fastball and left him on the mound in pain, the immediate question marks about Chapman’s health and long-term prospects became significant items on the Reds priority list and the team’s out-of-the-gate ability to do without him became instantly magnified.
Initial diagnoses veered from facial lacerations and contusions all the way to bone fractures. Chapman will be back on the mound in two months, Price said he might go with the “closer by commitee.”
Joey Votto will look to return to his MVP form in 2010, last season he hit for a .305 average with 24 home runs and 75 runs batted in last season, in which he played 162 games after being held to only 111 in 2012 due to a knee injury. I expect him to have a soild year and will drive in many runs than last season.
Is this the season Jay Bruce breakouts into a superstar player this season? He has reached the 30 homer run mark for the third straight season in 2013 and driving in a career-best 109 RBI’s. He’ll presumably be helped by the full-time return of left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who played just 38 games last season after a banner 2012 in which he hit 26 homers and drove in 80 runs. If we see the Ludwick of 2012, that would be so huge for the offense.
Center field is finally all to the hands of Billy Hamilton after Shin-Soo Choo signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers. The youngster stoled 13 bases in 13 games with the Reds last season and had 395 steals in 502 games across six stops in the minors. If he hit, he batted .368 in the brief stay last season, the Reds won’t miss Choo nearly as much. It’s a big “if”, Hamilton is definitely the key to the offense this season.
Bronson Arroyo was just as valuable during an eight-year stay with the Reds in which he won double-digit games six times, never made fewer than 32 starts and never pitched fewer than 199 innings. His spot will be taken by lefty Tony Cingrani, who pitched well enough while filling in for an injured Johnny Cueto to convince the team it was OK to let Arroyo walk as a free agent. If Cingrani can translate those numbers to a full year as a full-timer starter, the decision to set Arroyo, who was sidelined in spring training with back problems, will look even better.
Homer Bailey was a No. 1 draft choice in 2004, signed right out of high school and was immediately viewed as the next big thing for the Reds. Instead, he struggled mightily for five seasons and didn’t hit double- digits in wins or get his ERA below 4.00 until going 13-10 with a 3.68 in 2012. He won another 11 games last season while lowering the ERA to 3.49 in 32 starts, and, perhaps fueled by the two no-hitters he’s thrown in the last two years, the Reds locked him up for the long term with a six-year deal worth in excess of $100 million. Guys who make that sort of money do it with elevated expectations, so it’s clear the front office is expecting Bailey to graduate from solid No. 3 behind Cueto and Mat Latos to a legitimate No. 1 that’ll make the Reds staff among the best in the majors. If he does, Walt Jocketty will look good. If not, it’s a contract that’ll follow him for a long time. I believe Bailey will win 15-16 wins, if he stays healthy and the offense gives him run support.
“Dat Dude BP” the second base in Cincinnati since the Reds got him from Cleveland, but the vibe surrounding Brandon Phillips throughout 2013 was an alarming one. He seemed likely to be shipped out during the offseason after his late season antics last year and his inconsistency on the plate, but he’s in the fold with the team this spring after no deals were struck and he’s got four years remaining on a 2012 contract that’ll pay him $50 million through the end of 2017. Other issues aside, he’s still a quality all-around player, as evidenced by a fourth Gold Glove in 2013, and an RBI count that rose to a career-best 103. My X- factors are Hamilton, health, and consistency. Tood Frazier must have the year he had in his rookie season. Will Devin Mesoraco prove that he is the number one catcther for the future? He is probably going to start the year on the disabled list with a oblique strainned.
In all, I have this team winning 87 games and competing for the second NL wild card spot. The St Louis Cardinals are the class in the division, the Pittsburgh Pirates won’t sneak up on anyone this season.
MN: 2014 is a new beginning for the Reds, out with the old in with the new. Well Kind of.
Manager Bryan Price takes over for the fired Dusty Baker. Cincinnati is coming off a loss in the NL Postseason Play-in game to the Pittsburgh
Pirates. Baker was fired after two dismal endings in a row in 2012 and 2013 that saw the Reds exit the postseason much earlier than anyone anticipated.
The Reds lost Shin Soo Choo this offseason, this was a huge blow to the team. Billy Hamilton takes over for Choo and the future appears to be bright for the Reds in the outfield. That was the only major change for the Reds this season.
Apart from injuries the roster for Opening Day is a lineup that can do some damage. There are a number of questions that have yet to be answered, how will the rotation be, how will the players respond to Price? Will Brandon Phillips be a distraction? A lot of questions, not many answers.
The Rotation will be solid, losing Arroyo is bad but Tony Cingrani can fill in for the departed veteran. As for the players responding to Price, hopefully they pull a 2013 Red Sox and win it all. They’ll give him everything they have, they need Price to be a vocal leader though, a force in the dugout, the exact opposite of Baker. Brandon Phillips will continue to be a distraction while he is in Cincinnati, not talking to the media just hurts your image even more. His defense is impressive, his attitude makes him repulsive.
Cincinnati will win 85 games this season and once again make a trip to the NL play-in game. The Cardinals will win the division, the Pirates will struggle this season.