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Season Preview: Louisville Bats

Looking for some baseball to check out tonight now that the Reds game is over?  Well, you're in luck!  Four of the Reds affiliates start their seasons tonight.  We'll be following the games, but you can follow our guys via MiLB gameday (sometimes with audio).  Here's how the schedule looks tonight:

Louisville Bats vs. Toledo Mud Hens - 6:35 ET
Dayton Dragons vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods - 7:00 ET
Carolina Mudcats vs. Mobile BayBears - 7:15 ET
Bakersfield Blaze at Visalia Rawhide - 10:00 ET

Follow along today, since it's not like there's any other baseball to watch.

We'll also give you a bonus team preview today, of the AAA Louisville Bats.  These will be the names that Reds fans should be paying the most attention to, as they're the next guys in line to make the trip up I-71 to GABP.  Let's get into it after the jump.


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.  



2011 Projected Lineup

C - Devin Mesoraco/Corky Miller
1B - Daniel Dorn
2B - Chris Valaika
SS - Zack Cozart/Kris Negron
3B - Todd Frazier
OF - Yonder Alonso, Dave Sappelt, Jeremy Hermida

Matt Klinker
Scott Carroll
Chad Reineke
Tom Cochran
Kyle McCulloch

Joe Krebs
Dontrelle Willis
David Johnson
Jerry Gil
Danny Ray Herrera
Carlos Fisher
Jeremy Horst

Lots of possibilities with this lineup, starting at the catcher spot.  Devin will most likely be the everyday catcher, but Corky will definitely see time as a more than capable backup.  The most interesting projection here is that Yonder Alonso will see time in the outfield, with Danny Dorn playing 1B when that happens, which we think is a possibility because the Reds listed Yonder as an OF on their official rosters.  If Yonder does go back to 1B, expect to see Brian Barton or Dorn starting in LF.  I think Cozart will see most of the time at the shortstop position, but I'm not sure where Negron will be getting his ABs.  I think he's more than capable of playing at this level, though, so I hope Rick Sweet finds a way to get him into the lineup (at 3B or 2B, maybe?).  

The starting pitching staff is probably weaker than what we'll see for most of the year, but it's a good possibility we'll see Matt Maloney or Sam LeCure back here at some point due to the logjam in the bigs once Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto are healthy.  Justin Lehr is also nursing an injury at the moment, so he's likely to crack the rotation.

The bullpen is where we'll see the most big league turnover, with more than half the arms there with big league experience under their belts.  Dontrelle Willis will be in the mix to move up if he does well, and from what we saw in spring training, Jerry Gil could be a nice fill-in arm down the stretch.  Don't forget about Philippe Valiquette, who's starting the season on the DL, but has excellent stuff from the left side that can reach the high 90s.  

Overall, this may not be the stacked team we saw last year, but it's still a team that will be in contention for the entire summer.  Even after a year where they graduated a bunch of guys, look at that lineup.  It's still pretty great.  Dave Sappelt will be one to watch along with Yonder and Devin, but there's a future major leaguer at about every position here.  It'll be nice to see Matt Klinker get his shot at a full season in Louisville, and hopefully he can put himself in the conversation for next year's rotation with a strong 2011. 

Enjoy tonight's games!