|2009 Cincinnati Reds Preview||| Print ||
Written by Tony Meale (Contact & Archive) on March 02, 2009
After parting ways with 600-man Ken Griffey Jr. and shipping one-trick-pony Adam Dunn to Arizona (now with the Nationals), the Reds will no longer live and die by the three-run homer. Instead, they’ll play small ball with new leadoff man Willy Tavares, who led the majors in steals last year with 68, and hope that sophomores Joey Votto, 25, and Jay Bruce, 21, hit like the heart-of-the-order mainstays management believes they will be.
Rank: Fifth in NL Central, 23.5 games behind
Home Park: Great American Ball Park
New to the Nati
OF Willy Tavares (Signed from Houston Astros)
C Ramon Hernandez (Traded from Baltimore Orioles)
OF Jonny Gomes (Signed from Tama Bay Rays)
RP Arthur Rhodes (Signed from Florida Marlins)
1B Daryle Ward (Signed from Chicago Cubs)
SP Micah Owings (Traded from Arizona Diamondbacks)
OF Jacque Jones (Signed from Detroit Tigers)
No Longer a Rojo
RP Jeremy Affeldt (Signed with San Francisco Giants)
OF Ryan Freel (Traded to Baltimore Orioles)
C Paul Bako (Signed with Chicago Cubs)
C Javier Valentin (Signed with Washington Nationals)
SP Josh Fogg (Signed with Colorado Rockies)
OF Corey Patterson (Signed with Washington Nationals)
SP Matt Belisle (Signed with Colorado Rockies)
IF Jolbert Cabrera (Signed with Baltimore Orioles)
Strengths: Starting Pitching
If all goes well – and that’s a big if – the Reds should have one of the top starting rotations in the National League. They’re going to assume that Aaron Harang’s atrocious 2008 (6-17, 4.78 ERA) was simply a one-time thing and that he’ll return to 2006-2007 form when he averaged 16 wins, 217 strikeouts and just over a 3.70 ERA.
The Reds hope that All-Star rookie Edinson Volquez (17-6, 3.21, 206 strikeouts) will take another step forward and that 23-year-old Johnny Cueto (9-14, 4.81, 158) will find more consistency in his second season. Bronson Arroyo, meanwhile, has to find a way to put two halves together (7-7 and 5.97 before the break and 8-4 and 3.47 after).
If one-time minor-league messiah Homer Bailey cannot round out the rotation, the Reds will make due with Micah Owings. Either way, this rotation could be incredible or incredibly mediocre.
Weaknesses: Power Hitting
Votto (24 home runs) and Bruce (21 home runs in 108 games) displayed impressive power in their rookie campaigns, but they’ll need to become legitimate long-ball threats in their second seasons. It says a lot about a team’s power – or lack thereof – if your cleanup hitter is Brandon Phillips, a second baseman who has never hit more than 30 home runs in a season. Phillips is certainly an electric, talented player, but the Reds cannot rely on him alone to provide the pop. Cincinnati desperately needs third-baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who mashed a career-high 26 home runs last year, to take it to another level.
CF Willy Tavares
SS Alex Gonzalez
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Edwin Encarnacion
LF Chris Dickerson
C Ramon Hernandez
SP1 – Aaron Harang
SP2 – Edinson Volquez
SP3 – Bronson Arroyo
SP4 – Johnny Cueto
SP5 – Micah Owings
CL – Francisco Cordero
One question that needs answering:
The Reds endured seven straight losing seasons with Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr., so it’s hard to consider letting them go a bad move. But their lineup is noticeably devoid of power, and one has to wonder how small ball will work playing in the power hitters’ dream also known as Great American Ball Park. The Reds have a potentially stellar starting rotation and one of the best up-the-middle defenses in the National League, but they’ll need Bruce, Phillips and Votto to all hit 30 home runs if they expect to contend for the playoffs.
Given Cincinnati’s small margin for error, everything would have to fall into place for this club to make it to the postseason in 2009. And it won’t. But with the healthy handful of young talent they are developing on the mound and in the batter’s box, the Reds figure to be a legitimate NL Central contender in 2010. As for this season, they have to consider a winning record – something they haven’t had in eight years – a success.