Sunday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks saw the Cincinnati Reds roll out a lineup that almost assuredly will be the one used at the start of the season, assuming everyone remains healthy. It lined up like this:
Billy Hamilton - CF
Eugenio Suarez - 3B
Joey Votto - 1B
Brandon Phillips - 2B
Jay Bruce - RF
Devin Mesoraco - C
Zack Cozart - SS
Scott Schebler - LF
P (Brandon Finnegan, in this instance)
Not surprisingly, there are a few obvious initial reactions to this, the first being that the team is still committed to giving Hamilton chances in the leadoff spot. Hamilton limped to just a .274 OBP in 2016, and with him as the team's primary leadoff hitter since the beginning of 2014, the Reds have ranked dead last in all of baseball from the leadoff spot in OBP (.294), wRC+ (76), and wOBA (.285). He's coming off shoulder surgery that both ended his 2015 season and caused him a late full start to his 2016 Spring Training, has expressed interest in ditching the team's plans for him to switch hit, and owns just a .529 OPS (with no walks) in 17 Cactus League PAs so far this year.
Still, Bryan Price has expressed confidence that Hamilton - still just 25 years old - can show that his offensive performance over the last two years isn't a true representation of his abilities. When Hamilton's on base, of course, he's as lethal a baserunner as exists in the game today, and even a moderate improvement of his OBP skills would therefore be an amplified offensive improvement at the top of the order, but the status quo he's shown since April of 2014 simply won't be good enough atop the order yet again. A lost year may be the perfect time to give him one more shot, though.
The second thing that jumps off the page is Phillips hitting cleanup, something we should all be accustomed to at this point as Reds fans. Like when your dad insists on wearing socks with sandals, it's not something that either looks good or makes sense, but it's what you've come to expect from ol' pop, and the Reds insistence on hitting an aging middle infielder in the heart of the order is no different. Nevermind that Phillips is now 35 years old and the owner of a combined slugging percentage of just .389 since the end of the 2012 season, or that the OPS+ he's accrued in those 420 games (94) would rank dead last among all teams in baseball among cleanup hitters.
But, Phillips is an "RBI guy," so he'll once again slot in behind OBP monster Joey Votto, and the neverending narrative will perpetuate still.
In other Reds news, R.J. Anderson profiled the young starting pitching talent possessed by the Reds for Baseball Prospectus. It's nothing new, really, but it's always reaffirming to see someone else echo sentiments about which we've generally reached agreement.
Building on that topic, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer spotlighted Monday night's starter, Cody Reed, who has looked every bit like a star in the making so far this spring. Put it this way, this article has Kyle Skipworth saying of Reed, "He comes over and you see a big ol’ donkey warming up in the pen throwing cheddar balls," and if that's not a good enough click-teaser I don't know what to tell you.
Finally, FanGraphs is firing up their annual Positional Power Rankings beginning today, which is a team ranking position by position of all 30 MLB teams. Today, they look at catchers, and the Reds land right in the middle of the pack at #15. Dave Cameron notes much of what we've said here, which is that the difficulty in predicting what Devin Mesoraco is capable of makes estimating their overall worth quite difficult, but the upside is unequivocally there. It's probably also worth mentioning a) the Reds rank the lowest among the 5 NL Central teams here, unfortunately, and b) the Los Angeles Dodgers rank 2nd (with Yasmani Grandal getting an outright, name-dropped Joey Votto comparison). Shrug emoji.