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2015 Team Previews: The Cincinnati Reds?

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A look at the 2015 season facing this interesting National League squad.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

There's a baseball team in the National League that lost a lot more than it won in 2014 whose entire off-season plan was banking on the health and return to form of the players already on the roster.  They insisted that their nine-figure contract superstar (1) would be back and able to finally play a full season again after a series of debilitating leg injuries, and that their sweet-swinging lefty outfielder (2) would be able to rebound from an awful, injury riddled year to resume his Silver Slugger ways.

That, they assure, will be the recipe for turning the corner and getting back to the playoffs.

You see, they've got a 3B who has emerged as a legitimate two-way star (3) and is primed for an All Star caliber campaign, as well as a long-hyped middle of the order bat (4) whose breakout at age 25 saw him crack the top 5 in the NL in slugging percentage and blast 25-some dingers.  Their emergence allowed the front office - who has a lengthy history of being tight with payroll and hesitant to splash cash on anything but homegrown players - to rest a bit easier despite having to wave goodbye to their injury plagued, yet veteranny outfielder (5) who was brought in to be a clubhouse leader.  They'll hope to partner all of those players with their talented young CF (6), whose first half of 2014 had him in the conversation for end-of-season awards before a brutal second half torpedoed his chances.

And, that team is probably correct.  That's a boatload of talented individual players, yet banking on each of those scenarios playing out congruently without bringing in any significant outside additions is a pretty bold and defiant strategy, especially considering the division they play in.  One of their division rivals has spent so much time in the postseason lately that you'd think they had some sort of deal with the devil intact, another spent most of the off-season making high-profile additions after their franchise had sat idly defeated for years, and neither of those teams actually profiles as the best team in the division on paper (that honor is bestowed on the team fresh off back to back playoff appearances who has a #3 hitter who is a perennial Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, and whose first name starts with "A.")

There's a pitching portion of this team's scenario, of course, and it's one that spent much of the off-season in a bit of a kerfluffle.  They waved goodbye to one of their more durable arms over the winter, a former reliever-turned-starter (7) who had a rubber arm and could slot anywhere with decent success, and they'll be looking to a talented young hurler with Top 100 prospect pedigree (8) to fill that position despite him having a disappointing, roller coaster 2014.  They've also got injury issues with one of their other usual rotation cogs, as a long dependable arm in their rotation (who has led them in strikeouts before in the past) is fresh off arm issues (9) that cut short his 2014 season.  Fortunately, they'll at least still be able to count on their rotation anchor, the guy who led their staff in wins, ERA, H/9, WHIP, K/BB, xFLIP,  and every other major statistic - though they'll know that if they fall out of the race, he'll (10) be a sought after commodity at the trade deadline.

Finally, there's the bullpen, which was a complete dumpster fire last season (aside from the closer).  It was one of only two bullpens in all of the National League to post a cumulative ERA over 4.00, and that can't just be attributed to them having a home ball park that serves as a launching pad for dinger smashers on the other 29 teams.  One of the hard throwing Texans who had been with the team for years (11) was cast off after another disappointing season in 2014, and the front office will hope that the cache of talented young arms they've developed over the years can emerge from AAA and AA to help fill in the rest of the bullpen's holes.  The lone significant outside addition came in the form of a talented arm who could potentially be the team's closer in the future (12) should the guy currently in that role predictably leave in the not-too-distant future as he (13) nears the end of his contract.

That's it.  That's the strategy of a team fresh off a disappointing 4th place finish in their division who's trying to leapfrog several division rivals with deep playoff aspirations.  There's a refusal to part ways with drafted & developed stars, an insistence that young pitching can help resuscitate a pitching staff staring at significant turnover, and a hope that there will be ample dinger blasting in their dinger blaster of a home park to keep the fans rolling through the turnstiles even if the wins aren't there to show for it.

It's not the Cincinnati Reds.  It's the Colorado Rockies.

★★★

(1)  Troy Tulowitzki

(2)  Carlos Gonzalez

(3)  Nolan Arenado

(4)  Corey Dickerson

(5)  Michael Cuddyer

(6)  Charlie Blackmon

(7)  Franklin Morales

(8)  Eddie Butler

(9)  Jhoulys Chacin

(10)  Jorge De La Rosa

(11)  Matt Belisle

(12)  John Axford

(13)  LaTroy Hawkins