Why the Reds will win the pennant

Sarah Glenn
SB Nation 2014 MLB Preview

The Reds didn’t make a large splash in the offseason, but they should still have enough firepower to compete in the NL. The Reds bring back almost all of their roster from last season’s 90-win team, and with them a renewed sense of accountability brought on by a managerial change to end last season’s playoff disappointment. Dusty Baker is gone, and Bryan Price represents the "new sheriff in town" in the Reds clubhouse. There are plenty of ways that a team can improve with the addition of Dusty Baker, but the management’s gripe was that Dusty was too easy on his players. If you believe ownership, that "relaxed" team spirit cost the Reds their last 6 games of the season, and an early exit in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

That won’t be the case anymore. Bryan Price already has the respect of the players, and represents a renewed sense of urgency in Cincinnati. The pieces are (mostly) still here, but the production will need to match that at the end of the day.

The Reds offseason was largely uneventful, with the most notable acquisitions coming in the form of utilityman Skip Schumaker and reserve catcher Brayan Peña. The Reds inability to improve in other places stems from an unfortunate combination of tight budgetary constraints and missing out on the players in their price range who could have helped them. That part is over with though, so they can’t dwell on what they missed out on. 2014 will be all about who the Reds bring back

The Reds return a solid lineup, with two star players in all-around hitting savant Joey Votto and emerging masher Jay Bruce. Their on-base machine, Shin-Soo Choo, is gone, but the Reds will plug rookie speedster Billy Hamilton into the leadoff spot to create some havoc on the basepaths. They’ll also hope from bounce back years from last season’s sophomore slumpers Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier, and will need a healthy Ryan Ludwick to live up to the contract he was given before last season. Devin Mesoraco will be thrust into a larger role as the starting catcher following the departure of Ryan Hanigan. There are plenty of question marks with the offense, but if all goes well the Reds will be a force to be reckoned with. If it doesn’t, the Reds will be an undisciplined team who can’t get on base.

The pitching staff brings back four-fifths of last year’s solid rotation, including still-relatively-young power arms in Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Homer Bailey. Mike Leake will be back to eat innings, and power lefty Tony Cingrani will take the fifth spot. The Reds’ bullpen should be recovered from the injuries that devastated the unit last season, with Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton, and Sean Marshall anchoring one of the most expensive bullpens in baseball. The pitching staff here is as deep as it’s been in years, with reinforcements on the way in newly-acquired command-control lefty David Holmberg (the return on Hanigan) and hard-throwing top prospect Robert Stephenson likely to start at Triple-A. Both could contribute this season.

The Reds will hope that consistency and increased expectations work to their favor, but have a long road ahead of them with the rest of their division improving in this offseason. GM Walt Jocketty has repeatedly said that he likes this squad, but time will tell if this team will live up to his expectation. If they don’t, he might have a lot of extra time on his hands at this time next year.

Ed note: if this looks familiar on other sites, it's because these are part of SB Nation's MLB Preview for 2014. Go check out the ones for the other teams, too! Even the Cubs have one!

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