Written by Mike Chiari
Published: 03 February 2008
While the Reds may have been disappointing as a unit during the 2007 season, they had many high impact fantasy players perform at high levels. While they had plenty of offensive contributors, the Reds pitching was suspect at best. It seems as though the Reds did a nice job of addressing their problem areas as they added pitchers Edinson Volquez and Francisco Cordero during the off-season. The fact remains, however, that you’ll find the bulk of the Reds’ fantasy stars amongst their positional players. For a team that has been so stagnant in recent seasons, the Reds certainly have their share of talented fantasy players, albeit some inconsistent ones.
Brandon Phillips (2B):
A second baseman with 30 homerun power? Sign me up. Brandon Phillips may very well have been the cream of the crop at his position in ‘07. In 2006 he showed glimpses of his great talent; enough to make the Indians look foolish for giving up on him. He took his game to another level in 2007, however. Phillips ended with a .288 average, 30 HR’s, 94 RBI, 32 SB’s, and 107 R’s. Any player with 30/30 potential deserves consideration in the early rounds of a fantasy draft, especially when it’s at a traditionally scarce position. Now that Phillips has shown he can be one of the best at his position, it’s time to see if he can dispel any thoughts of 2007 being a fluke.
Adam Dunn (OF):
The best thing about Adam Dunn is that you know what you’re going to get. Dunn’s had 4 straight seasons of at least 40 HR’s and 160 strikeouts. He’s not going to get you a high average, although his 2007 average was better than usual (.264), but you’ll live with it since he has such great power numbers (40 HR’s and 106 RBI in ‘07). As if his power numbers weren’t solid enough, he added 101 runs scored and sprinkled in 9 SB’s. Dunn won’t surprise you, so if you own him, I’d be sure to have some guys who can who can help to cancel out his poor batting average.
Ken Griffey Jr. (OF):
See what he can do with a full season? Griffey showed that he’s still got it, even at the age of 38. Griffey missed only 18 games all season, the healthiest he’s been over his entire stint with the Reds. Griffey put up a decent .277 average with 30 HR’s and 93 RBI in ‘07. He was a valuable late round selection in many fantasy teams, as he proved himself worthy of being a fantasy starter all season. While there will always be questions about his durability, especially since he isn’t getting any younger, Griffey showed that he can still produce at a very high level when healthy. I’d proceed with caution, but he’s definitely worth taking a chance on.
Aaron Harang (SP):
The lone reliable pitcher on the Reds’ staff in 2007 was undoubtedly Harang. Over the past two seasons, Aaron Harang has been the model of consistently. His 2006 and 2007 stats were virtually identical. He won 16 games in each season, had an ERA in the 3.7’s, threw over 230 innings, and struck out over 215 batters. While Harang’s ERA isn’t spectacular, it’s his strikeout numbers that make him an excellent fantasy option. Harang seldom gets hurt, so he’s a safe pick in the upper middle portion of your fantasy drafts. Since Harang will be pitching for an improved team this season, I expect his numbers to get even better. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won 20 games in ‘08.
Francisco Cordero (RP):
Cordero returned to his form of 2004 and 2005 last season, shutting the door on opposing teams 44 times for the upstart Brewers. His impressive ‘07 season was enough to land him a big contract from the pitching deprived Reds. While some may argue that his 44 save season had something to do with it being a contract year, I’d have to respectably disagree. Cordero has shown that he can be a lockdown closer in the past, so he may be just what the Reds needed. The Reds are very gifted offensively, so I’d expect them to get a lot of leads. Cordero should get his share of save opportunities because of it. I see no reason why Cordero can’t rack up at least 40 saves once again in ‘08.
Edwin Encarnacion (3B):
E.E. put up solid numbers in his second season of regular big league at bats, but he didn’t make the jump that many thought he would in ‘07. Encarnacion accumulated a .289 average and tallied 16 HR’s, 76 RBI, and 8 SB’s in 2007. The problem is that his numbers improved negligibly over 2006, even with 100 extra at bats. Encarnacion has shown power at every level, so I’d expect his homerun total to increase, especially since he’ll be playing half his games in the launching platform that is The Great American Ballpark. Not to mention, Encarnacion has plenty of good hitters around him, and protecting him in the lineup. He should see plenty of good pitchers in ‘08 and could easily earn a second tier grade by the end of the season.
Alex Gonzalez (SS):
While Gonzalez may not be the sexiest fantasy pick, he does have nice pop at a position that traditionally lacks it. Gonzalez knocked 16 out of the park in ‘07 and added 55 RBI, along with a decent .272 average. In a pinch, he would be an alright pick-up late in the draft. I wouldn’t suggest starting him unless you’ve really missed the boat at the shortstop position, but 20 HR’s in ‘08 isn’t out of the question considering the ballpark he’ll be playing in and the lineup he’ll be a part of.
Ryan Freel (OF, 2B, 3B):
Ryan Freel was a reliable fantasy contributor as a utility man in 2006. He swiped 37 bags and didn’t hurt you with his .271 average. While he may not have been a stud by any means, he was a nice depth player for the back of your fantasy team’s bench. Freel’s value was set to skyrocket in ‘07, as he was supposed to take over the starting job in centerfield. Freel, however, floundered when in the lineup, and was also injured for a large portion of the season. Freel looks to regain his starting spot in center after the departure of Josh Hamilton, but the question remains whether he can be more effective than his .245 average, 3 HR’s, 16 RBI, and 15 SB’s. If he can stay healthy I’d expect him to be able to steal at least 35 bases, but he won’t really be worth much outside of that. He’s worth a late round flier in a deep league at best.
Bronson Arroyo (SP):
Big things were expected from Arroyo in fantasy circles in ‘07 following his breakthrough performance in the 2006 season; his first as a Red. While he started off well, he couldn’t buy a win in the early stages of the 2007 season, setting the stage for what would become a frustrating and disappointing season for both himself and his fantasy owners. Arroyo achieved career bests in wins (14), ERA (3.29), and strikeouts (184), during the 2006 season. As miserable as Arroyo’s ‘07 season was, he was solid down he stretch, lowering his ERA to 4.23. His 9-15 record was nothing to write home about, but I would expect that to improve, just as the Reds seem to have as a team during the off-season. While Arroyo doesn’t have a large sample size of success during his career, the talent is there. He’s worth taking a risk on, but not too early.
Homer Bailey (SP):
The Reds look like they’ll have an infusion of young pitching talent in ‘08, and it all starts with the crown jewel of the Reds minor league system, Homer Bailey. It would seem as though Bailey will start the season in the Reds’ rotation, so he’ll get every chance to succeed. Bailey saw limited action in ‘07, going 4-2 with a 5.76 ERA. The Reds made sure to keep Bailey on a pitch count which hindered his ability to perform in a way. Bailey has miles upon miles of talent and if he can realize even a shred of that talent in 2008, he’ll be in the running for the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Edinson Volquez (SP):
Volquez has seen a few innings here and there at the major league level over the past 3 seasons. He showed his great potential in 6 starts with the Rangers in ‘07. The Reds obviously think very highly of him, as they moved the infinitely gifted Josh Hamilton to get him. While I don’t expect Volquez to have a huge impact this season, he should find his way into the rotation and get a fair shot to contribute. He’s worth a look late in NL only leagues, but I don’t see him really breaking out until ‘09.