Veteran Presence: 2012 Louisville Bats Preview

We feel for you, Toddfather.

Happy Opening Day, everyone! It's the biggest day in Reds Country (outside of the trophy celebration), but after the festivities have subsided, the Reds minor leaguers kick off their seasons after that. Here's a list of the games we'll see today:


Bats start their year on the road at Columbus at 7:05. Jeff Francis will get the start.
The Blue Wahoos take on Montgomery at 8, no starter announced yet.
Bakersfield kicks off at 10:15 with Daniel Renken on the hill.
Dayton takes on West Michigan at 7, with Justice French getting the nod.


Here's our final preview, go Reds Minor Leaguers!

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The Stadium:

The Bats play at Louisville Slugger field in Louisville, KY. The Slug can hold a little more than 13,000 fans, and features a sweet short porch in LF, of only 325 feet.

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Projected Lineup

C - Corky Miller
1B - Neftali Soto
2B - Chris Valaika
SS - Paul Janish
3B - Todd Frazier
OF - Daryl Jones, Denis Phipps, Felix Perez

Rotation:
Jeff Francis
Scott Carroll
Luis Atilano
Sean Gallagher
Chad Reineke

Bullpen:
Andrew Brackman
Nick Christiani
Carlos Fisher
J.J. Hoover
Josh Judy
Brett Tomko
Travis Webb
Clay Zavada

This roster has so much veteran depth for the big league team, it isn't even funny. 5 of the projected starting 8 position players have big league experience, and you can see guys like Frazier and Janish getting a quick call if there's room in the big club. Corky and Daryl Jones are both guys with multiple years of experience at the big league level, albeit as backups. That being said, there's still some upside on this team. Neftali Soto and Denis Phipps are legit prospects, even if Soto is blocked at 1B until 2024.

One storyline to watch will be to see how they handle Soto. I think as the season wears on, we'll see him take on a few more defensive roles than the 1B he's used to from last year, namely 3B and LF. If he's able to adapt to a new position and keep up his 30 HR pace, he might be another solid contributor in the years to come.

Unfortunately, the pitching. This is easily the oldest pitching staff I've ever seen on a AAA team, and prospect-wise, they're fresh out. However, if anything happens to the pitchers on the big league team, there's a wealth of experience waiting to bail them out. Jeff Francis is probably next in line for a starting spot, while Gallagher, Tomko, Brackman, Judy, Zavada, Fisher, and Hoover could be considered in the bullpen at some point this year.

Overall, a lot of these guys will be keeping spots warm for when the big names from Pensacola get there. With other rosters in the league filled with more talent than the Bats, it's easy to be pessimistic about their chances, but no team in the IL will be able to compete with their experience. I'm thinking we'll see yet another playoff trip.
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