SI's Ben Glicksman speculates about who will have a Jose Bautista-like breakout (read dramatic, not unexpected) this coming season
Our boy Jay Bruce tops the list. "After an underwhelming sophomore effort in 2009, the much-ballyhooed Bruce finally showed signs of springing to life in 2010. He finished with a .281 average, 25 home runs and 70 RBIs and was most impressive in September. He hit .346 with seven homers over his final 18 games, including a walk-off blast that cemented the Reds' first postseason berth since 1995. Bruce was rewarded with a six-year contract extension. He turns 24 in early April and will once again team with NL MVP Joey Votto to form a potent middle-of-the-order tandem and the core of what should once again be one of the best offenses in the National League." You know, I foresee great things from this kid. You can read all about it in the up coming critically-acclaimed, much-ballyhooed, often-described-by-hyphenated-phrases Reds Annual, available soon.
Jonathan Mayo is still working on his prospect lists by position
and Billy Hamilton (terrific baseball name. Did you ever notice that few adult Williams can get away with going by Billy? It's almost exclusively a young boy's name. Baseball players can get away with it though. Billy Ripken, Billy Williams, Billy Wagner, Billy Beane, Billy Butler...I guess that's because they are men playing a boy's game. Eternal youth and all that.) comes up #3 on the list of 2B, though many (maybe not Mayo) still believe he has what it takes to be a SS. Blurb, commence: "Any time a player steals 48 bases in a rookie-level, short-season league, it's time to sit up and take notice. He uses his plus-plus speed on both sides of the ball, and while he's got the range to play short, he's probably better suited for second base. He's not going to be a power guy, but with his strike-zone knowledge and speed, he should be a dangerous leadoff hitter in the future."
More from Jonathan Mayo's prospect lists
Aroldis Chapman - obviously - tops the list of left-handed pitching prospects. Here's the snippet: "1. Aroldis Chapman, Reds: When news about his triple-digit fastball in the Minors spread, there surely were a few skeptics. Then the Cuban defector arrived in Cincinnati and popped a 105 on the radar gun, ending any doubt about the fastball. It wasn't an aberration -- Chapman tops 100 mph consistently, especially when he's coming out of the bullpen. Coupling that with a plus slider, he's got all he needs to dominate as a setup man or closer. That's the kind of role he'll have in 2011, at least, meaning he won't have to worry about his developing changeup or his command issues quite as much."
Here's what I don't understand - why does a starter need to have 3 pitches? I moseyed over to FanGraphs and checked out the pitch type leaderboards. Here's some stuff that surprised me: some of the best pitchers in the game only throw 2 pitches. Last year, David Price threw his 3rd and 4th pitches a combined 10.5% of the time. He's a pretty good analog for Chapman I think, as he's a hard-throwing lefty with a power breaking pitch. When you have a fastball like Price (and Chappy's is better, mind you), you can throw it 3/4 of the time and not get burned.
Back in '06-'07 when Aaron Harang was one of the best pitchers in the NL (I already miss the big fella), he threw his fastball/slider combo ~90% of the time. In his breakout '08 season Edinson Volquez threw fastball/change up around 88% of the time. These guys didn't throw a 3rd pitch but maybe 10 times in an entire game.
Everyone loves to compare Chapman to Randy Johnson (because it's so obvious), and Unit almost exclusively used his fastball/slider. One that may surprise you is Greg Maddux. For the 7 seasons that FanGraphs has pitch type info on him, he threw fastball/changeup 90% of the time. What Chapman has in common with all of these pitchers is a pair of devastating, top-notch pitches. Chapman's fastball and slider (aside from the control issues) are both so good that he doesn't need a change up or a splitter or a cutter or any other off-speed pitch. I'm not saying he doesn't need to know how to throw an off-speed pitch, as it's obviously pretty useful to keep the hitters guessing. My point is that a 3rd pitch is not going to be important for his development. The most important things are going to be his control (as Mayo mentioned) and his ability to go deep into games while maintaining his stuff. Guys like Matt Maloney have to throw 3 or 4 different pitches to get guys out. Aroldis Chapman is not Matt Maloney.
The Fay has a small overview of the division
illustrating how every team got better over the off-season. Here's the one that really got me: "Houston Astros (76-86) Additions: Infielders Bill Hall and Clint Barmes. - The skinny: The Astros played well from August to the end the season (32-27)." Soooo...they were a few games above .500 over the last two months of last season and they added a couple of bench players. It's chilling just how familiar this refrain is. Anyone else read that and think about the Reds of ~'03-'05? We've come a long way, baby.
Sheldon gots deets for the Edgar Renteria deal
He's getting $2.1 mil in base salary, plus $600k deferred. Walt has been playing the deferment card this winter like a college grad with a BA in musical theater working part time at the Starbucks. I think $2.7 mil is a tad much for a player like Renteria, but I realize that there wasn't much of an alternative out there. He also has a slew of bonus opportunities tied to plate appearances and various awards that could push the total up to $3.55 mil. Of course, if he hits all those bonuses, that means he would have the best SS season since Larkin and the Reds would win the World Series, so I doubt we would care much about it. Still, the company line is that Paul Janish is the starter and Renteria will back up. I'll believe it when I see it.
One of the many Fayplacements (he's building an army over there)
draws up a list of the worst trades in Reds history. One that furrowed my brow was the Paul Konerko-Mike Cameron swap in November of 1998. The assertion is that the Reds really lost this one because Konerko turned out to be much better than Cameron. I don't know where that idea came from, but it's crazy. Here's a WAR comparison (fWAR/rWAR) - Cameron (50.4/47.4) Konerko (29/22.1). Cameron has not only been the better player over their respective careers, but he's been about twice as good.
I can see how this guy (and many others) could underrate Cameron so much though. For one, he played only one season for the Reds before being traded to Seattle for Junya. Also, he's precisely the kind of player that gets underrated by traditional measurements. He's a high strikeout/high walk hitter who plays incredible defense. It may surprise a lot of people, but Mike Cameron is probably a borderline Hall of Famer. Of course, he will probably only get 6 votes when he eventually is up for induction, but that's what happens to underrated players. /tips
cap earflapless batting helmet in the direction of John Olerud