Sunday, March 23, 2008

30 Teams in 30 Days: Cincinnati Reds




A look back: The Reds had a rough time in 2007, finishing at 72-90 and in 5th place. But Cincinnati was only one game away from moving into fourth with Houston. This year, the Reds should have enough to overtake the Astros and take another step towards relevance.

Positives on the field: The Reds have some very good pitching and outfield possibilities. Everyone who knows about prospects has heard of Jay Bruce, but Cincinnati has other talent too that is already in the majors, notably Corey Patterson, who the Reds signed as a possible stopgap until Bruce is ready after starting in AAA at Louisville. Edwin Encarnacion and Joey Votto are prospects in the infield (on the corners) to keep an eye on, and Brandon Phillips is an emerging star at second base. The Reds have a young lineup that could become a threat once it comes together. That time is likely not this year, but could be soon.

The pitching also has a good amount of potential. Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are known by nearly everyone, but like their hitting counterparts, Cincinnati has a few promising prospects who could give the Reds the strong staff they have not have in years in Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez, to say nothing of Homer Bailey. The bullpen also looks promising now that David Weathers has been moved out of the closer role and Francisco Cordero takes over.

Negatives on the field: The Reds are still very young. With this team, that breeds two concerns: How will the hitters produce against good major league pitching, and what will be the impact of Dusty Baker managing the Reds? Remember, Baker is considered in Chicago to be the guy who ruined Mark Prior's arm when he pitched for the Cubs. With Cueto, Volquez and Bailey in the mix, what will the result be? Cincinnati, conscious of this, elected to sign the Dragon Slayer, Josh Fogg. But if he cannot make the team, the Reds will have no choice but to hope they avoid wrecking more than one season.

On the hitting side, Adam Dunn still strikes out a lot, and Ken Griffey Jr. is now 39. How much does he have left in the tank on the verge of hitting four decades?

Outlook: The NL Central, like its AL counterpart, is a two-tiered division. Here, the division is split into teams who are contenders for the title and teams who are not. The Reds fall into that second tier, but they should be the best in that tier. If the Reds can keep their talent together, they could become a solid team in a few years, and in the NL Central, that is all you need to be.

Projected finish: 4th in NL Central. Season opener is March 31 against Arizona at Great American Ball Park.

Spring base: Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Fla. The team plays its games on the west coast of Florida, and occasionally meets central Florida teams. The Reds are in talks to leave Florida and join the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Ariz. for 2009.

Fan of the team?: Check out Red Reporter, the Reds fan community.

Come back later today: The road trip springs for a direct flight and heads to the land of cheese and beer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This foils my plan to hit close cities on the same day, but luckily the East clusters together nicely.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Earshot.

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