Predicting the 2015 Cincinnati Reds Lineup

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For the Cincinnati Reds, this year’s lineup is harder than ever to predict, for a few reasons. Just about every website has their own predictions for this year’s lineup and the team’s projected 2015 stats, and they’re all different.

One thing they all have in common, however, is Billy Hamilton leading things off, and Cozart batting 8th. Both of these come with obvious reason; Billy Hamilton is one of the fastest players in Major League Baseball, as he stole 56 bases last year. Billy can easily steal around 70 bases in a year, if he can get on base. Last season, in 152 games, Hamilton’s on-base percentage was only .292, which according to FanGraphs, ranks as “awful”.

While Hamilton’s OBP was low, Zack Cozart’s was even worse. The 29-year-old shortstop’s OBP in 2014 was a pitiful .268. Ouch. His batting average was just .221, with only four home runs, and 38 RBI’s. This was nothing new for Cozart, though. In his three Major League seasons he has never hit better than .254 and has never had a better OBP than .288, which is still considered “awful”. No, shortstop’s aren’t known for their hitting skills (with a few exceptions; Jeter, Larkin, Tulowitzki, etc.), but Cozart’s are absolutely pitiful. If I’m Bryan Price, I’m making Cozart earn his starting job over the course of Spring Training. Yes, his defense is very good, but the Reds has one of the worst offenses in baseball last season, and if things don’t change, they will again this year.

To fill in the rest of the lineup, batting second is a tough choice. Joey Votto is thankfully back and healthy and ready to play. When healthy, Votto can be one of the best players in the National League, we know that, so if he’s tearing the cover off the ball like the Joey Votto we’ve come to know and love, expect him to bat third in the lineup. Votto will either bat second or third, I’m sure. Whichever he doesn’t bat, Todd Frazier will. Frazier had a great season last year, he lead the team in just about every major offensive category last year-he hit .273, 29 home runs, and knocked in 80 runs, and he scored 88 runs, all team-highs. He didn’t really put up MVP-type numbers, but he was without a doubt the best player on the team last year. Expect him to either bat second of third.

No matter is it’s Hamilton-Frazier-Votto, or Hamilton-Votto-Frazier, expect good things from the first third of the lineup, as it will have the best stolen base threat in the NL along with the team’s two best hitters.

The cleanup spot is hard to predict. It’s really anyone’s job. It will probably come down to Brandon Phillips, Devin Mesoraco, and Jay Bruce. If Votto ends up batting third, don’t expect Bryan Price to pencil in Jay Bruce at the cleanup spot, as that would put two-lefties in a row, you could expect Mez or BP in that spot though. It will probably come down to whoever has the best spring, who gets to his fourth in the lineup, I, for one, think it will be Mesoraco.

That would leave the fifth spot for Jay Bruce, and the sixth for Brandon Phillips, or visa-versa. Then we’re left with the seventh spot, which will likely go to new Reds LF, Marlon Byrd. He’s shown that he can have some pop in his bat and be an All-Star-type player, but don’t expect him to put up Ryan Ludwick numbers.

After all that blabber, here’s an easier look at my projected lineup, along with individual stats.

CF Hamilton (.240, 1 HR, 63 SB)

1B Joey Votto (.288, 29 HR, 97 RBI)

3B Todd Frazier (.301, 26 HR, 88 RBI)

C Devin Mesoraco (.275, 22 HR, 86 RBI)

RF Jay Bruce (.254, 31 HR, 62 RBI)

2B Brandon Phillips (.242, 17 HR, 49 RBI)

LF Marlon Byrd (.261, 25 HR, 50 RBI)

SS Zack Cozart (.201, 6 HR, 34 RBI).

As the season goes on, don’t be surprised if Byrd moves up in the lineup. Reds fans should be very excited about Byrd and the offensive production he can provide.

As for the starting rotation and bullpen, that’s a whole different story that we don’t have time to get into. Bryan Price has a lot to figure out, but rest-assured, he will figure out the best lineup and rotation possible as time goes on.

@CoopLed