In a weak division anything can happen and that should keep things interesting for the Reds in 2010.Â The team comes into the new season having rolled the dice big time on a hard throwing Cuban left hander who they hope can become the team ace sometime this season, but having made only minor changes elsewhere.Â This isn't a rock solid team, but it is one that could gel into something special with a little luck and some minor tweaking.
2009 Regular Season Record: 78-84
Joey Votto anchors a strong Reds offense.
Rank: Fourth in the NL Central - 13.0 Games Back.
Home Park: Great American Ballpark
Painting the Town:
SS - Orlando Cabrera (Free Agent from Twins)
IF - Miguel Cairo* (Free Agent from Phillies)
IF - Aaron Miles (Trade with A's)
OF - Josh Anderson* (Free Agent from Royals)
LHP - Aroldis Chapman (Free Agent from Cuba)
C - Craig Tatum (Waiver Claim by Orioles)
IF - Danny Richar* (Free Agent signed with Marlins)
IF - Adam Rosales (Traded to A's)
OF - Willy Tavaras (Traded to A's, then cut by A's, signed with Nationals)
* Signed minor league contract.
Strengths:Â Bullpen, Offense
The bullpen, one of the team's strengths last year has come back essentially intact.Â Lead by closer Francisco Cordero, the pen was dominating throughout much of the season and featured five pitchers with ERAs between 2.37 and 3.32.Â That allowed the Reds to protect a lot of leads - something they'll need to do a lot in 2010 as the starting staff seems a bit shaky.Â Key men for the Reds include Arthur Rhodes, David Weathers, Daniel Herrera and Nick Masset.
I hesitated to put offense as one of the teams strengths after the team managed to score just 673 runs last year (11th in the NL) but the ceiling here is really a lot higher than that.Â Last year the team suffered in terms of runs scored as they lost two of their best hitters for a total of three months (one month for Joey Votto and his anxiety disorder, and two from Jay Bruce with a broken wrist).Â Â With all of that behind them, and the addition of Orlando Cabrera to act as a tablesetter the team has to potential to raise their run total by more than 10% which would move them into the top six in terms of runs scored.Â Scott Rolen aside (who'll miss his traditional amount of time), they'll still have to dodge the worst of the injury bug, and they'll need production from both Drew Stubbs and Chris Dickerson if they really want to score some runs.
Weaknesses: Starting Pitching, relying on an inexperienced leadoff hitter.
After losing Edinson Volquez to Tommy John surgery in the middle of last season the Reds haven't looked all that strong in the pitching department.Â Sure there is still plenty of upside with Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey but neither has yet hinted that they are capable of a sub 4 ERA or on the verge of making the breakthrough that will get them there.Â Staff leaders Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are both more than serviceable pitchers, but Harang is coming off back to back dreadful years (12-31), while Arroyo is at best a number two starter on any real contending team.Â The team is having open auditions for the 5th spot at the moment, but eventually that spot will belong to Aroldis Chapman, who'll almost certainly cut his teeth against AAA hitters rather than in the bigs to start the season.Â Just what he'll bring to the team is unknown at this point.
The Reds traded away Willy Tavaras in the offseason to clear room for Drew Stubbs, their first round (eighth overall) pick in the 2006 draft.Â Stubbs has a grand total of 180 Major League at bats, all of which came late last summer when he went .267-8-17 with 10 steals.Â The speed is real, the power isn't anywhere near as good as the small sample suggests, but it's the average and OBP that raise a bit of concern, especially since his average took a big hit at AAA last season before his call up.Â He could struggle, especially as NL pitchers begin to make a book on him, and if he does the team lacks a real leadoff hitter who can step into that role.
CF - Drew Stubbs
SS - Orlando Cabrera
1B - Joey Votto
2B - Brandon Phillips
3B - Scott Rolen
RF - Jay Bruce
LF - Chris Dickerson
C - Ramon Hernandez
One question that need answering:
How good is Aroldis Chapman really?Â Is he the ace pitcher the Reds want him to be or will he just show flashes of brilliance.Â He's only 22, doesn't have MLB experience and has the weight of Cincinnati's expectations on him.Â If he can step up big time, then so could the Reds.
The Reds won't win this division, but they'll improve on last year and barring serious setback they should at least finish with somewhere between 79-85 wins.Â The upper end of that scale would probably be more than good enough to finish second in the division, but no team after the Cards (and excepting the Pirates) has a big advantage over the rest of their division rivals.Â Still if I had to pick a dark horse to win the division I'd probably lean to the Reds this year - a bounce back year by Aaron Harang, a big jolt from Aroldis Chapman or steps forward from Homer Bailey or Johnny Cueto could push this team to a whole new level.