When considering potential first round picks, Joey Votto may raise a few red flags because his 2012 campaign was cut short due to an knee injury. While the injury did account for a significant dip in his power numbers, Votto remained an OBP force to be reckoned with. Despite having only 376 at bats, Votto lead the league in walks and had an OBP of .474. His play this spring suggests that Votto's power is back and is ready to return to his 2010 MVP form. With a bonafide leadoff hitter in Shin-Soo Choo, Votto is also a lock to drive in over 100 runs in addition to his superhuman on-base numbers. He may not be Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera, but he still merits a top-five consideration in almost any league draft.
The Reds also have a handful of solid investments at the right field and second base positions. Jay Bruce, over the past few seasons, has been the definition of consistent when it comes to his final year numbers. His run production and power totals have increased each season slightly and, at only 25, more improvement should be expected. The only concern is that he is prone to severe hot and cold streaks. So long as you pick up a solid fourth outfielder to account for this, his production will help your team tremendously at times if you keep a close eye on him. His .252/.327/.514 numbers from 2012 aren't elite, but, as his slugging numbers suggest, he's still worth a early-mid round pick and should easily crack the 30 home run mark.
The other anualy dependable Red has been second baseman Brandon Phillips. His pop, run production, and batting average place him in the top ten of starting second basemen. One shouldn't expect Phillips, now 31, to continue to be a burner on the base paths , but he has enough giddy-up to provide for 10-15 over the course of a full-season. He doesn't have much upside at this point in his career, but he's a known quantity who should nicely complement your lineup in any league.
Along with the sure-bets for the Reds, there are also several hitters who have nagging questions concerning their health or production. The first is Ryan Ludwick. Luddy didn't get going until mid-year when Joey Votto went down with his knee injury. However, he did become white hot at that point; regaining his 2008 form with 26 homeruns while hitting .275/.346/.531. Joining the Reds/playing at GABP appears to have reenergized Ludwick's career. I wouldn't expect him to mirror his 2012 numbers now at age 34, but the dropoff should not be dramatic enough to resemble his 2010-2011 production.
The other question for the Reds from a fantasy standpoint is newly acquired center fielder Shin-Soo Choo. Choo regained his form a bit in Cleveland in 2012, batting .281/.372/.440 after an injury-plagued 2011 season. Now in Cincinnati, Choo's counting stats should improve considerably with a more potent lineup behind him with Phillips and Votto. Choo should still be considered a threat to steal 20 bases and may approach scoring 100 runs if healthy. His career OPS among lefties of .695 may lead you to want to sit him in situations against the league's better left handed starters. Nonetheless, his on-base potential will help you; particularly if your league does not count strikeouts against your hitters.
Like the offensive side, the biggest offseason questions concerning the Reds' rotation centered on their best player: Johnny Cueto. While Cueto may be among the elite of starters in the National League, his fantasy value suffers a bit due to his lack of strikeouts. The good news is that Cueto cemented himself as a control pitcher in 2012 with a K/BB ratio of 3.47 demonstrating a significant decrease in BB totals. The biggest question about Cueto should continue to be his drop-off at the end of 2012 and his injury a few pitches into the NLDS. While it's premature to say these are significant durability concerns, they may suggest he may have stamina problems for the playoff stretch for many fantasy teams. Regardless, Cueto is a good pitcher to have as a number 2 or number 3 in fantasy leagues; particularly if your league recognizes wins as a stat.
While many were skeptical early on about Mat Latos' transition from Petco Park to GABP, Latos transitioned phenomenally in the summer months. His ERA of 3.48 was only a tick higher than his 3.47 ERA in 2011 while striking out 185 again. His WHIP of 1.16 provided more evidence that the guy can pitch anywhere so long as he keeps the ball in the park. Latos should be the first Reds' starter drafted in leagues and has been the definition of durable during his first few seasons in the bigs.
The other definition of durability for the Reds has been Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo bounced back from his mono-afflicted 2011 campaign with numbers matching career performance. His WHIP of 1.21 and this durability make him a great back-of-rotation addition who should eat up innings so long as you're not too concerned with power-pitching statistics. With a Reds team featuring a potent offense, he should rack up at least ten wins while boasting a low walk rate.
From the dependables to the questionmarks, we transition to two Reds starters with a few red-flags when it comes to fantasy performance. Homer Bailey took the step forward the Reds had been hoping for in 2012 and even complemented the performance with a no-hitter. With a sub 4.00 FIP over the past two years, it appears his 2012 performance of a 3.68 ERA was a sign of things to come. Homer has the makeup to be a legitimate power pitcher, especially when one considers that he averaged 8 strikeouts over 9 innings in the second half. That being said, the delay in him realizing his potential has been an injury history that hinders his value a bit.
The good news for the Reds is that even their fifth starter, Mike Leake, has legitimate fantasy value in NL only leagues. There are reports that rival GMs have been fawning over his near-mastery of four pitches this spring. His numbers took a step back in 2012 suggesting more of a junior-year slump than anything else. His decreased strikeout and increased walk totals should raise some concerns for fantasy owners. However, there's no reason why he shouldn't be given a late round flyer so long as owners remain cautious when it comes to starting him at home.
The Reds bullpen was still a bit in flux until this week when it was determined that Aroldis Chapman would remain the closer for the Reds. This decision should make Chapman one of the first closers selected after Craig Kimbrel. It'll be difficult for anyone to repeat a K/9 rate of 15.3 in any capacity, so it's tough to say that we're in tune for a repeat performance from Chapman. That being said, his WHIP of .81 and his 122 strikeouts are a pleasant addition to anyone's pitching staff, regardless if your league favors enhanced statistical performance or counting stats. In addition to Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, and Sam LeCure may warrant consideration in deeper NL-only leagues.
1. Todd Frazier (3B) - After briefly flirting with NL Rookie of the Year contention, it's a bit tough to argue that Todd Frazier is, at all, a sleeper candidate. That being said, after his 2012 endeavor, there are suggestions that the best is yet to come for the 27 year-old third baseman. With Scott Rolen
retired gone retired gone, Frazier appears to have the everyday job at third locked down. The biggest knock on Frazier has been his streakiness. However, peaks and valleys included, Frazier ended up hitting .273/.331/.498 while belting 19 homers in only 422 at bats. With an improved top of the Reds lineup, look for his RBI chances to improve, surpassing his 67 in 2012. With eligibility at 3B, 1B, and, in some leagues, OF, Frazier is great bench player in any mixed league to plug in on off days and during his hot streaks.
2. Zack Cozart (SS) - Cozart, like Frazier, showed glimpses of their solid potential during his first full season in 2012. Don't expect Cozart to turn into the second coming of Troy Tulowitzki. However, if you're looking for a solid middle infielder in the later rounds, Cozart may be someone to target. The Reds have committed themselves to Cozart being the everyday shortstop and he'll get the opportunity to improve on his 2012 performance of .246/.288/.399 and 16 home runs. While those slash lines aren't spectacular, they become far more promising when you see that he hit .223/.262/.379 leadoff in 471 appearances; a role nearly every agrees he was not suited for taking over. With an opportunity to hit lower in the lineup, he may languish a bit in runs scored, but his average should improve along with his RBI totals.
3. Mark Prior (RP) - While Frazier and Cozart are safe bets to match and/or improve on their 2012 efforts, Mark Prior is perhaps someone you should follow a bit more closely in Spring Training before you take a gamble on him in the later rounds. Thus far, there have been no reports of pain from Prior and he has been impressive in his limited action this spring; not yet allowing a run. If he's healthy, we all know what he can do to major league hitters. Should he win a spot in the Reds bullpen outright, he's worth a late-round flyer in deep leagues. While he may not get many starts or saves, his sporadic minor league numbers over the past year suggest he'll help out teams in the K/9 category.
1. Billy Hamilton (OF) - Yes, I know Billy is the most highly touted prospect in the Reds organization. However, he had a difficult spring hitting .174/.240/.348 and has already been reassigned to minor league camp. He will likely start the season in AAA. Unless his bat suddenly comes to life, he will not even be the Reds' fourth or fifth option even if there's an injury with the big club. With Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Heisey, and Jay Bruce, the Reds have three outfielders that can play centerfield in a pinch in the majors. This suggests the Reds are going to take their time with Hamilton and allow him to develop. Keep an eye on Hamilton near the end of the season, however. He may be a late inning call-up in time for the playoff stretch and may be able to help your team out in stolen bases and runs.
2. Jonathan Broxton (RP) - I'm a big Jonathan Broxton fan and he can be a solid closer when given the opportunity. The problem is that he likely will not get such an opportunity now that the Reds have moved Chapman back to the bullpen. He put up solid numbers in 2012 posting an ERA of 2.49. Although, his strikeout rate shrunk to 6.98/9 in 2012 and suggests he's just not the fireballer he used to be. Combining this with a negative FIP of -.55, the numbers simply don't suggest he'll do your team much good in a diminished capacity. Without a closer's role, without strikeouts, without even a lock as a set-up guy thanks to sharing a bullpen with Sean Marshall, Broxton just isn't very valuable even if your league values holds. Move along.
3. Devin Mesoraco (C) - Dont' get us wrong, we're huge Mesoraco fans here at Red Reporter. Mesoraco's spring numbers certainly demonstrate that they will improve in 2013 after a disappointing start to his career in 2012. The issue is more of playing time. Ryan Hanigan cemented himself as the pitcher whisperer in Cincinnati. Perhaps more importantly for the time being, Manager Dusty Baker simply prefers giving vets like Hanigan more opportunities than unproven players at the major league level. Hanigan's outstanding ability defensively and to call a game likely means that barring injury, Mesoraco's chances at regularly playing time will amount to a platoon situation at best. Devin is definitely a good backup catcher in NL only leagues and, at 24, remains an intriguing option in keeper leagues. So, if you're patient or have the roster room, you'll eventually like what you'll see.
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