This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Reds, who after a quick exit from last year’s playoffs are looking to their “secret weapon” Billy Hamilton to help them go further this year.
Projected Lineup: CF Billy Hamilton, 2B Brandon Phillips, 1B Joey Votto, RF Jay Bruce, LF Ryan Ludwick, SS Zack Cozart, 3B Todd Frazier, C Devin Mesoraco
The only story that will get any media attention in Cincinnati this year is Billy Hamilton, even when Joey Votto embarks on his typical MVP-caliber season that, as usual, will go completely unheralded. To that end, this will be the last mention of Votto in this article.
Touted as the fastest man to step on a baseball field since the great Billy Hamilton, Hamilton didn’t miss a beat when he was called up last September, swiping nearly as many bases (13) as he had at-bats (19).
The only knock on him is his hitting, but let’s be honest—if he were a good hitter, that just wouldn’t be fair.
The question is whether his mediocre hitting clip will be enough to keep him in the lineup. His numbers aren’t projected to be great: last year in Triple-A, he put up only a .308 on-base percentage in 547 plate appearances, and his production may dip further as he faces tougher big league pitching. Competition for the starting center field job exists in the form of Skip Schumaker and Chris Heisey, who will be ready to step in if Hamilton isn’t getting on base enough to make his steals worthwhile.
The Reds could end up facing a major problem atop their batting order if Hamilton struggles. Missing the departed Shin-Soo Choo, they lack a real on-base threat to set the table. The best option to hit second looks to be Brandon Phillips, and we’re all aware of his well-documented issues with on-base percentage.
Pitching-wise, the Reds added no one new this winter, and lost the ever-reliable Bronson Arroyo to free agency. The rotation looks okay to start the season, but with Johnny Cueto, the question never seems to be, “if he gets hurt,” but rather, “when he gets hurt”. And when that happens, the Reds have no real big-league ready prospects to take his place. There’s a thing called a “contingency plan” that the Reds are lacking.
The Reds are starting the season with their bullpen in rough shape as well, with Aroldis Chapman having taken a nasty comebacker to the face, and potential fill-in closers Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall dealing with their own respective injuries. Sure they’ll all be back before too long, but in the early stages of the season, the Reds will be stretched pretty thin.
Rookie manager Bryan Price has quite a task ahead of him if he’s going to lead the Reds to the playoffs. With the cast of characters he’s been handed, a playoff run seems like a long shot.
Projected Finish: 78-84, Third place in NL Central