Results tagged ‘ Joey Votto ’
Joey Votto is one of the top players in all of baseball. The 2010 NL MVP was rewarded for his skills last spring when the Reds gave him a 10-year, $225 million extension, which could keep the Canadian-born first baseman in the Queen City through the 2024 season.
Since the start of the 2008 season, his first as a regular, Votto has posted a 27.7 WAR, 6th in MLB (Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Chase Utley, Miguel Cabrera, and Ryan Braun rank higher), and a .419 on-base percentage, 1st in MLB. He has been very productive, driving in 444 runs, but when you consider how often Votto is on base and his WAR value, you would think that he would produce more runs, as those 444 RBI rank 23rd since the start of the 2008 season.
Certainly part of the reason why Votto ranks lower in RBI is due to his extended absences, as he has missed 106 team games since the 2008 season due to general illnesses, depression, and surgery on his left knee, which cost him 51 games in 2012; however, what if he swung more?
So far in the 2013 season, Votto has a .500 OBP, inflated by his 30 percent walk rate, and his .264 batting average seems likely to rebound due to his .351 BABIP, which is in line with his career .359 BABIP. His hitting ability was outlined in a recent ESPN the Magazine feature, when Votto said:
I’ve stopped caring about runs and RBIs. I care more about how high a percentage of productive at-bats I can have, how consistently tough and competitive I can be for the opposing pitcher. That’s my goal every single time I go up there. If I drive in 90 runs, I don’t care. I know a lot of old-school people wouldn’t believe I’d say something like that.
The apparent way to be more productive is to not swing. Votto currently has a 32.1 percent swing rate (career 44.9 percent), while posting a 14.4 percent swing rate on pitches outside of the strike-zone (career 25.2 percent), and a 57.9 percent swing rate on pitches inside of the strike-zone (career 70.2 percent). Only Lucas Duda has a lower swing rate in 2013, at 29.9 percent, but Duda’s career swing rate has always been low, as he sports a career 40.9 percent swing rate.
How can you produce if you don’t swing the bat? Sure, Votto is getting on base, but he has scored just 11 runs in his 40 appearances on the base paths (14 hits, 24 walks, 2 hit-by-pitch), largely due to the ineffectiveness of Jay Bruce (who has struck out 10 times in 31 at-bats with runners on base this season), while driving in FOUR runs in 80 plate appearances. Luckily, Brandon Phillips, who took over the cleanup spot after Ryan Ludwick‘s shoulder injury, has done a fantastic job, posting a .405/.452/.649 line with 17 RBI in 37 at-bats with runners on base. With Shin-Soo Choo and Votto in front of him, it is likely that Phillips will continue to produce some impressive counting statistics in 2013, but why shouldn’t Votto?
A productive at-bat is when a ball is put in play and moves other runners. Sure, you’re Little League coach and Moneyball says that a walk is as good as a hit, but what if Phillips falters in the No.4 spot? What if Jay Bruce continues to strikeout with runners on? What if Todd Frazier, who is currently the 4th most valuable position player in baseball (based on WAR) goes through a drought?
The Cincinnati Reds need Joey Votto to swing the bat because he is such a special player. Getting on base has value, but when you are as capable with the bat as Votto is, there is more value in the contact that he does, or can, produce. After all, Votto has struck out 16 times, tied for 8th most in MLB, while he is waiting for his pitch.
Is Joey Votto the best pure hitter in baseball right now? Possibly, but striking out in 20 percent of your at-bats doesn’t seem like a reasonable statistic for a hitter, possibly a slugger. It is time for Votto to become a slugger again not only for fantasy baseball players, but because the Reds would be much more impressive and capable of winning more often if he was the 37-home-run-of- 2010-version of Votto than the one-home-run-in-80-plate-appearances-2013-version of Votto.
- Joey Votto is not struggling (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Joey Votto appears as cartoon (wcpo.com)
- Reds’ Joey Votto named ‘Face of MLB’ (wcpo.com)
- Votto is still productive despite slow start (mlb.mlb.com)
Ryan Ludwick was a one-time All-Star, in 2008 for St. Louis, before his career started a downward trend in 2009, where Ludwick hit just .251/.321/.409 over the 2009 to 2011 seasons while being shipped out of St. Louis and playing for the Padres and Pirates. His career looked nearly finished before the start of 2012, when Reds GM Walt Jocketty gave him a one-year, $2 million deal to play left for Cincinnati, a job he had to earn over Chris Heisey.
Ludwick proved his worth, hitting .275/.346/.531 with 26 home runs and 80 RBI in 2012 in just 125 games and 472 plate appearances. His offensive outburst started when Joey Votto went on the disabled list on July 16, as he helped the Reds go 29-15 while Votto was out, posting a .346/.412/.654 line with 11 doubles, 12 home runs, and 36 RBI over 153 at-bats. Overall, Ludwick’s second half was much more impressive than the first:
Clearly, Ludwick wasn’t likely to maintain a .333 BABIP in the 2012 season, which he had in the second half of 2012, when you consider that his career BABIP is .304, but crazier things have happened…such as the rebound that he had in 2012 after a pretty miserable 2011 for Pittsburgh and San Diego (.237/.310/.363).
While losing a 34-year-old outfielder wouldn’t seem awful for most clubs in an era where players decline naturally without being able to used performance-enhancing drugs, Ludwick was a leader in 2012 and he brought stability to the middle of the order. His right-handed bat seems irreplaceable now, as he was the No.4 hitter between Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. His replacements just don’t measure up to his career track record, especially when compared to his recent success.
Chris Heisey seems like the most likely, full-time replacement for Ludwick. He is a career .258/.314/.436 hitter in 913 career plate appearances. The issue with using Heisey full-time becomes the loss of his bat off of the bench. As a substitute or pinch-hitter in his career, Heisey has a .288/.344/.507 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 164 plate appearances. Beyond his value off of the bench, Heisey’s inability to make consistent contact, a career 23.9 percent strikeout rate, is a concern, just like his reverse platoon statistics, as Heisey is much better as a right-handed hitter against right-handed pitching, than he is against left-handed pitching:
|vs RHP as RHB||269||658||596||164||25||5||25||72||12||39||155||.275||.331||.460||.791||274|
|vs LHP as RHB||122||255||234||50||10||2||8||30||1||14||63||.214||.272||.376||.648||88|
Heisey is likely to share some at-bats with Xavier Paul, a 28-year-old, left-handed hitting outfielder. Paul can play all three outfield positions fairly well, which seems like a useless fact when the Reds are playing one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball in center field this season in Shin-Soo Choo. Paul was once an interesting prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers, displaying solid gap power and speed, but he has managed just 508 plate appearances over parts of four seasons in the majors, posting a .258/.305/.363 line. Paul’s inconsistent at-bats and consistent job as a No.5 outfielder could play a role in his inability to post solid numbers at the major league level, but considering that Heisey is better against right-handed pitching and Paul holds a .140/.197/.158 line in just 61 plate appearances against left-handed pitching.
Derrick Robinson replaced Ludwick on the Reds’ 40-man roster, as his contract was purchased when Ludwick was placed on the disabled list. Robinson has never appeared in the majors before, posting a career .255/.321/.324 hitter in seven minor league seasons. At 25, the switch-hitting outfielder, who was a minor league free agent signing after spending his whole career with the Kansas City Royals’ organization, doesn’t seem to offer the Reds much more than position flexibility, as he, too, can handle all three outfield positions.
Luckily, the Reds just have to replace Ludwick’s spot in left field and not as the cleanup hitter. Brandon Phillips can move from the No.2 spot to the No.4 spot as another solid, right-handed hitting option in the order. Dusty Baker will likely slide Zack Cozart up to the No.2 spot, breaking up Choo, the leadoff hitter, and Votto, as left-handed hitters at the top of the order. Phillips is likely to produce very good numbers in the middle of the order, but the bottom half of the Reds lineup is now very suspect, as Ryan Hanigan or Devin Mesoraco will likely bat behind whoever fills the left field void, followed by the starting pitcher in the No.9 spot.
While Ryan Ludwick’s injury may seem like an issue that could be overlooked, it really isn’t for the Cincinnati Reds. Certainly, with a power-packed lineup of Shin-Soo Choo, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Joey Votto, you’d think that they could overcome this injury pretty easily; however, Ludwick’s ability with the bat is not replaceable with the on-hand talent that the Reds have on the bench. Chris Heisey could do well in spurts, but the club has to find creative ways to keep the lineup strong from the top to bottom for the next several months, as Ludwick is out due to surgery on his labrum in his right shoulder.
I did this last year and it was interesting, as they were mostly useless guesses as opposed to valuable predictions. However, with days until real games begin, I figured that I would join in the fun of putting this out there so that we can all look back and see just how wrong I was when October rolls around. Let the incorrectness begin!
AL East Champion
I’m buying the upgrades to the Jays roster. A great improvement to the pitching staff, and just in time to pounce on an AL East division where the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox don’t look like major factors. While the Rays and Orioles look to maintain success without a huge payroll increase, the Jays will utilize their awesome blend of speed, power, and rotation depth to take the crown in the East.
AL Central Champion
Like the Jays, the Tigers will impress with their strong rotation, and while the club plays scetchy, at best, defense, the presence of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera is enough to make them strong contenders in a weak, yet improving, AL Central. The signing of Torii Hunter and the return of Victor Martinez will only improve the offense, while the club will hope that Austin Jackson continues his tremendous improvement and that Andy Dirks can hold down left until Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia prove themselves ready. The bullpen issues are something to be concerned about, but someone out of Bruce Rondon, Phil Coke, and Joaquin Benoit will step up.
AL West Champion
How do you improve a lineup that had Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in it a season ago? Well, by signing Josh Hamilton, of course! The Angels could be the best offensive team in baseball, but they’ll need to be, after seemingly taking the “we-will-outscore-your-team-because-we-don’t-have-pitching” way of building a roster. After losing out of Zack Greinke, the club traded for Tommy “my shoulder is gonna rip off of my body at any moment” Hanson, signing Joe Blanton, and trading for Jason Vargas, who could benefit from continuing his career in another pitcher-friendly ballpark. The Halos have enough offense to overcome their pitching shortcomings, though, and could easily manage to score about 6-8 runs per game.
AL Wild Cards
Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays
The Rangers may have lost Josh Hamilton, but they still have a dynamic offense, led by Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre. While it is highly unlikely that Lance Berkman can truly fill the shoes of Hamilton, he is just a season removed from revitalizing his career in St. Louis. Can he do it again? Well, if he can’t, the club will need more from their rotation, which is solid, but not nearly a lock to be great as others in the AL. Yu Darvish is the anchor, but with Matt Harrison‘s low strikeout rates, one has to wonder if he can maintain the 32 wins and 3.34 ERA that he has put up the last two seasons. Derek Holland needs to bounce back, as well, if Texas is to be taken seriously. If they don’t get the right breaks, this could easily be the Oakland Athletics, once again.
The Rays gambled on cashing in two seasons of James Shields for more young talent, acquiring a great haul from the Royals. While the rotation will miss the strength and innings that Shields brought, David Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, and Alex Cobb will be solid, while Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann fight over the No.5 spot. The Rays have to get some production from Desmond Jennings and Yunel Escobar up the middle, while hoping that Evan Longoria stays healthy until Wil Myers can get called up. They need power in the lineup and on Opening Day, Longoria and Ben Zobrist seem like their only hope. Pitching and defense has worked for the last several years, and it will again in 2013.
Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
While everyone will focus on the huge trades that brought the club Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, and others, Bautista will be the spark plug to the offense due to his tremendous power and ability to get on base. With his wrist fully recovered and a dynamic lineup around him, opposing clubs will be forced to pitch to the slugger, which will result is a season that should resemble his 2010 and 2011 seasons, with overwhelming power and run producing statistics.
AL Cy Young
Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers
To say that Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball would be an understatement. He turned 30 years old in February and since 2008, he has gone 89-48 with a 3.28 ERA over 1,154.2 innings, and while those numbers have been outmatched by only CC Sabathia in the American League (91-39 with a 3.11 ERA), Verlander seems to have a pretty tight grip on the best pitcher in MLB title for the moment. While Yu Darvish and David Price begin to catch up to him, Verlander will hold control it for another season, with another 20-win season and an ERA under 3.00 for the Tigers.
AL Manager of the Year
Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
While he actually has very little to do with the drastic changes that the Indians have undergone this offseason (that honor belongs to GM Chris Antonetti), Terry Francona will get a lot of credit for the Indians posting their first winning season since their 2007 ALCS appearance. Manny Acta never seemed capable of keeping successful starts going over the 162-game season, but Francona’s resume proves that he is capable of that, regardless of the 2011 Boston Red Sox collapse. While the Tribe won’t make the playoffs, they will be very competitive and, possibly, be a nuisance to the Tigers in the AL Central for most of the season. For that, Francona will deserve the honor for making a Cleveland sports franchise matter again.
AL Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
He won’t start the season with the major league club, but Myers will be up in June, once the Rays can guarantee that he won’t gain Super Two arbitration eligibility, taking over the left field job from Matt Joyce, while manning right field when Ben Zobrist goes to second or short. Myers exploded in the minors last season, hitting an absurd .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs between the Royals’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. While he could work on his contact rate (he struck out 140 times in 522 at-bats), Myers is a much needed offensive force for the Rays, who need someone besides Evan Longoria and Zobrist to produce consistently. Expect a .260/.320/.460 line with nearly 20 home runs if Myers gets the call in June, which should be good enough to win the AL ROY with Jurickson Profar waiting for a shot in Triple-A for the Rangers and so few players getting an opportunity early in the 2013 season.
NL East Champion
Bryce Harper will be better than he was in 2012 and Stephen Strasburg won’t have an innings limit. Really, this is all that you need to know, but with the addition of a leadoff hitter in Denard Span and another fantastic arm in Rafael Soriano to add to Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, the Nationals are about as good as it gets in MLB for a lock to go to the playoffs. Add in Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche, and you have a team capable of winning 95-100 games. Yes…they’re that good.
NL Central Champion
What do you get when you take an outstanding team without a leadoff hitter and you add a guy with a lifetime .386 on-base percentage in that spot? You get a team with a very bad defensive outfield that plays in a hitters paradise and the 2013 version of the Cincinnati Reds. Shin-Soo Choo could be a liability in center, but his offensive skills fit perfectly into the Reds lineup. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto will need some help from Choo and Ryan Ludwick, but with a very good starting rotation and great depth in the bullpen with the move of Aroldis Chapman back to closer, the Reds will battle the Nationals for the best record in MLB in 2013.
NL West Champion
Los Angeles Dodgers
Like the Dodgers, I’m buying. The addition of Zack Greinke was huge, but the trade with the Boston Red Sox that brought Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, along with their massive contracts, to the Dodgers will begin paying dividends this season. While the Hanley Ramirez thumb injury is a slight issue to start the season, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are the right kind of awesome to overcome any issues like that. The Dodgers have great pitching depth, unless they make a trade in the next few days, to overcome any further arm issues for Chad Billingsley, and their bullpen is lights out, with flame-thrower Kenley Jansen sharing end-game duties with Brandon League…until Don Mattingley sees what everyone else does and puts Jansen there full-time. This team is dangerous if they stay healthy. The pitching is deep, but an injury to Crawford, Kemp, or Andre Ethier will cost them the division to the San Francisco Giants.
NL Wild Cards
Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals
The Atlanta Braves have an incredible roster. If Chipper Jones had hung around one more season, they may have had a chance at another World Series title for the old man. Unfortunately, Jones finally retired and third could be the clubs only weak spot, as Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson will share the job in 2013. The addition of B.J. Upton and Justin Upton will make the offense even more dangerous, as Jason Heyward continues to become one of the best players in baseball. Freddie Freeman got his eye issues worked out, so he will also improve in 2013, while the club will rely on a deep rotation, that will only get better when Brandon Beachy returns in June or July. By then, the Braves could have a very difficult choice, especially after seeing Julio Teheran thrive this spring, as someone will have to be removed from the rotation if the club is healthy. As far as the bullpen goes, one name is all you need: Craig Kimbrel.
The Cardinals continue to stick around and be contenders, even after losing Albert Pujols a season ago and, potentially, losing Chris Carpenter for the entire 2013 season. Adam Wainwright should re-establish himself as an ace this season, while Allen Craig will show that he is an MVP-caliber player if he would just stay healthy. Speaking of health, could fantasy baseball nerds be any more excited for the first of Carlos Beltran‘s injuries in 2013? If you don’t know why, you need to look up super-prospect Oscar Taveras. The Cards seem to have an endless supply of young arms, as well, as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez arrive and establish themselves in the majors.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Votto will do one of two things: 1) Post an on-base percentage approaching .500 (.474 in 2012) while never seeing a pitch worth hitting, or 2) Post numbers close to his 2010 MVP season (.324/.424/.600, 37 home runs) while earning his 2nd MVP. The Reds are going to have Votto hitting No.3 again, and with Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips hitting in front of him, Votto will easily exceed his career-high 113 RBI this season. With his knee healthy and a tremendous lineup and hitter’s paradise as a home ballpark, Joey Votto will win the NL MVP in 2013.
NL Cy Young
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
You can take Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw, while I go off the board (or rocker) to choose Madison Bumgarner for NL Cy Young. After tiring at the end of the 2012 season, Bumgarner knows that he has a lot to prove. Add on the fact that his WHIP fell from 1.21 in 2011 to 1.11 in 2012, and you can see that the 23-year-old left-hander can not only miss bats (191 K’s in each of the last two seasons), but he isn’t allowing many hits or walks. With a pitcher-friendly ballpark and loads of expectations on him due to his fall-off late last season, Bumgarner will show that he shouldn’t be overlooked due to Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum being on the same roster.
NL Manager of the Year
Bud Black, San Diego Padres
There isn’t a whole lot to like about the Padres roster. They don’t have a superstar on the front of a video game, they don’t have a player that shows up to the MLB Fan Cave with an infamous twitter account, but they have an interesting team and a better manager. Bud Black can get a lot out of the club that he has. While the team will continue to struggle to score runs, at times, Chase Headley could provide enough power to get runs in bunches, and Yonder Alonso could thrive with the fences being moved in at Petco. Solid speed and gap power throughout the lineup will make the Padres a surprise team in 2013, and while the rotation is more patchwork than well thought out, the bullpen is tremendous, as it always seems to be. If the Friars can get anything out of Andrew Cashner, Clayton Richard, and Eric Stults, they’ll be a team capable of 82-85 wins, which isn’t playoff worthy, but worth giving Bud Black an award for.
NL Rookie of the Year
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
You don’t get called a left-handed version of Vladimir Guerrero and get overlooked, and Taveras is that special of a talent. Like I mentioned above, once Carlos Beltran gets hurt (as in it IS going to happen), Taveras would, more than likely, get the call. Not only a Beltran injury, but an under performing Jon Jay could even be replaced by the super-prospect, as Taveras played 93 games in center for the Cards Double-A affiliate in 2012. Taveras will get enough at-bats to be valuable and he could do that as a fourth outfielder once June rolls around, but once he is in St. Louis, he won’t be leaving town for several years. A pure hitter in every sense of the label.
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals defeat Los Angeles Angels, 4-2
Random, Bold Predictions
There is no rhyme or reason here, just as the title says:
- Bryce Harper will hit over 30 home runs in 2013, while posting an OPS near .940.
- Mike Trout won’t hit 30 home runs again, but he will steal 50 bases.
- Jose Reyes will stay healthy, even while playing on turf, and terrorize the AL East while stealing over 50 bases.
- Ike Davis will hit over 40 home runs after hitting 32 in 2012 while hitting just .227.
- Mat Latos will become the ace of the Cincinnati Reds, posting better overall numbers than Johnny Cueto and winning 20 games in 2013.
- Mike Minor proves that his second half from 2012 (6-4, 2.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP over 87.1 IP) wasn’ a fluke, as he becomes the Braves best starting pitcher in 2013.
- Jordan Zimmerman has a more impressive 2013 season than Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez and he will no longer be overlooked in a fantastic Washington rotation.
- Brandon Belt continues hitting like he has all spring, ripping 25 home runs after having a power outage in the earlier stages of his career (16 in 598 at-bats).
- Troy Tulowitzki stays healthy and benefits from Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler having All Star seasons to hit 40 home runs, making all of those fantasy baseball players that took him in the first round feel like the smartest men alive.
- Allen Craig becomes an All Star and hits over .300 with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI.
- Carlos Santana hits 30+ home runs and will have the kind of hype that Buster Posey has right now during the 2013-2014 offseason.
- Jason Heyward finishes 2nd in NL MVP voting to Joey Votto, posting his first 30 HR/30 SB season for Atlanta.
- Domonic Brown keeps the Phillies left field job all season and posts a .270/.380/.450 line with solid production across the board. Philly fans hit Ruben Amaro, Jr. with batteries for not trusting in him sooner.
- Zack Greinke can’t handle the Los Angeles pressure and spotlight and misses time due to his anxiety disorder.
- Chris Sale pitches 200 innings and proves doubters about his bony frame and drastic innings increase in 2012 wrong.
- Drew Stubbs (remember him?) hits 20 home runs and steals 50 bases, revitalizing his career.
- Rick Porcello wins 17 games with a 3.20 ERA while striking out 180 batters…all because he began using his four-seam fastball for the first time in his career.
These guys are about to go bonkers in 2013. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…(obvious names not listed, i.e. Harper, Brown, Braun, Ike Davis)
Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Brett Anderson, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics
Greg Holland, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
Chris Parmelee, OF, Minnesota Twins
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners
Prospects to Watch
This has nothing to do with the Top 100 Prospects that I put out in December, but you will find some familiar names and others that will be players to keep an eye on, especially if they’re on your favorite team or if you’re in a keeper fantasy baseball league.
Jonathan Schoop, INF, Baltimore Orioles
Dorssys Paulino, INF, Cleveland Indians
J.R. Graham, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals
Yasel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
Xander Bogaerts, INF, Boston Red Sox
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
Joey Gallo, INF, Texas Rangers
While I’ve already posted a top 10 fantasy baseball player at each position piece, I figured with drafts getting underway, that a more thorough ranking would be valuable. Here are the top 250 players in fantasy baseball for the 2013 season. (5X5 leagues, All MLB)
- Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
- Mike Trout, OF, Angels
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers,
- Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
- Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
- Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
- Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies
- Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers
- Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
- Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels
- Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
- Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers
- Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
- Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins
- Josh Hamilton, OF, Angels
- Justin Upton, OF, Braves
- Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
- David Price, SP, Rays
- Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
- Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
- Buster Posey, C, Giants
- David Wright, 3B, Mets
- Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
- Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays
- Hanley Ramirez, 3B/SS, Dodgers
- Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
- Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
- Jay Bruce, OF, Reds
- Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers
- Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies
- Matt Cain, SP, Giants
- Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays
- Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies
- Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
- Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
- Jered Weaver, SP, Angels
- Billy Butler, 1B, Royals
- Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds
- Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Blue Jays
- Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
- Gio Gonzalez, SP, Nationals
- Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics
- B.J. Upton, OF, Braves
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers
- Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Rays
- Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves
- Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals
- Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
- Chase Headley, 3B, Padres
- Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
- Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox
- Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers
- Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals
- Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants
- Zack Greinke, SP, Dodgers
- Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
- Michael Bourn, OF, Indians
- R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays
- Allen Craig, 1B/OF, Cardinals
- Joe Mauer, C, Twins
- Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays
- CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees
- Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds
- Mat Latos, SP, Reds
- Chris Sale, SP, White Sox
- Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers
- Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
- Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks
- Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
- Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays
- Jordan Zimmerman, SP, Nationals
- Carlos Santana, C, Indians
- Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
- Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers
- Alex Rios, OF, White Sox
- Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants
- Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies
- Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Reds
- Aroldis Chapman, SP/RP, Reds
- Mark Teixiera, 1B, Yankees
- Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Phillies
- Jason Motte, RP, Cardinals
- Alex Gordon, OF, Royals
- Kris Medlen, SP/RP, Braves
- Matt Moore, SP, Rays
- James Shields, SP, Royals
- Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers
- Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
- Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees (mid-May return leaves some value)
- Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers
- Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
- Victor Martinez, C, Tigers
- Martin Prado, 3B/OF, Diamondbacks
- Ike Davis, 1B, Mets
- Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
- Rafael Soriano, RP, Nationals
- Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
- Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays
- Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians
- Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays
- Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees
- J.J. Putz, RP, Diamondbacks
- Doug Fister, SP, Tigers
- David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox
- Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks
- Jake Peavy, SP, White Sox
- Hunter Pence, OF, Giants
- Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers
- Josh Willingham, OF, Twins
- Joe Nathan, RP, Rangers
- Joel Hanrahan, RP, Red Sox
- Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Angels
- Josh Johnson, SP, Blue Jays
- Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Yankees
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
- Angel Pagan, OF, Giants
- Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
- Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers
- Dan Haren, SP, Nationals
- Jonathan Niese, SP, Mets
- Shane Victorino, OF, Red Sox
- Torii Hunter, OF, Tigers
- Erick Aybar, SS, Angels
- Neil Walker, 2B, Pirates
- John Axford, RP, Brewers
- Carl Crawford, OF, Dodgers
- Alejandro De Aza, OF, White Sox
- Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals
- David Freese, 3B, Cardinals
- Brett Anderson, SP, Athletics
- Jim Johnson, RP, Orioles
- Danny Espinosa, 2B/SS, Nationals
- Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees
- Lance Lynn, SP, Cardinals
- Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers
- Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
- Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels
- Ben Revere, OF, Phillies
- Denard Span, OF, Nationals
- Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox
- Addison Reed, RP, White Sox
- Huston Street, RP, Padres
- Alcides Escobar, SS, Royals
- Sergio Romo, RP, Giants
- Jeff Samardzija, SP, Cubs
- Ryan Dempster, SP, Red Sox
- C.J. Wilson, SP, Angels
- Greg Holland, RP, Royals
- Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies
- Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
- Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals
- Jason Kubel, OF, Diamondbacks
- Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers
- Wade Miley, SP, Diamondbacks
- Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
- Mike Napoli, C/1B, Red Sox
- Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
- Michael Morse, OF, Mariners
- Jarrod Parker, SP, Athletics
- Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
- J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles
- Homer Bailey, SP, Reds
- Matt Harvey, SP, Mets
- Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Rays
- Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles
- Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners
- Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies
- Rafael Betancourt, RP, Rockies
- Tim Hudson, SP, Braves
- Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves
- Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks
- Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics
- Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, Reds
- Matt Harrison, SP, Rangers
- Jonathan Broxton, RP, Reds
- Chris Perez, RP, Indians
- Derek Holland, SP, Rangers
- Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS, Giants
- Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies
- Salvador Perez, C, Royals
- Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees
- Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants
- Chris Davis, 1B/OF, Orioles
- Grant Balfour, RP, Athletics
- Mike Minor, SP, Braves
- Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox
- Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Yankees
- Alexi Ogando, SP/RP, Rangers
- Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Indians
- Tommy Milone, SP, Athletics
- Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH, Mariners
- Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox
- Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays
- Adam Dunn, 1B/DH, White Sox
- Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs
- Phil Hughes, SP, Yankees
- Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals
- Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves
- Jesus Montero, C, Mariners
- Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates
- Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres
- Corey Hart, 1B, Brewers
- Norichika Aoki, OF, Brewers
- Lance Berkman, 1B/DH, Rangers
- Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Yankees
- Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox
- Brandon McCarthy, SP, Diamondbacks
- Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers
- Brandon League, RP, Dodgers
- Bobby Parnell, RP, Mets
- Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Rockies
- Michael Young, 1B/3B, Phillies
- A.J. Burnett, SP, Pirates
- Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers (he should get enough time to have value)
- Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals
- Trevor Cahill, SP, Diamondbacks
- Justin Masterson, SP, Indians
- Glen Perkins, RP, Twins
- Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays
- Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Mariners
- Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Twins
- Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
- Tommy Hanson, SP, Angels
- James McDonald, SP, Pirates
- Josh Beckett, SP, Dodgers
- Marco Estrada, SP, Brewers
- Jason Vargas, SP, Angels
- Zack Cozart, SS, Reds
- Mark Reynolds, 1B, Indians
- Steve Cishek, RP, Marlins
- Daniel Murphy, 2B, Mets
- A.J. Pierzynski, C, Rangers
- Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles
- Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, Pirates
- Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Dodgers
- Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles
- Omar Infante, 2B, Tigers
- David Murphy, OF, Rangers
- Kelly Johnson, 2B, Rays
- Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners
- Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals
- Carlos Marmol, RP, Cubs
- Kyuji Fujikawa, RP, Cubs
- Jon Jay, OF, Cardinals
- Brian McCann, C, Braves
- Wil Myers, OF, Rays
- Jean Segura, SS, Brewers
Looking ahead to next season, though the Reds are currently in first place in the NL Central, the Reds have some interesting roster issues to address. Not only do they have arbitration eligible players who can increase payroll significantly, but they’ll have key players with extensions kicking in. Take a look at guaranteed contracts for 2013:
Joey Votto: $17 M
Brandon Phillips: $10 M
Jay Bruce: $7.5 M
Johnny Cueto: $7.4 M
Aroldis Chapman: $2 M
Bronson Arroyo: $11.5 M
Sean Marshall: $4.5 M
Ryan Madson: $2.5 M buyout OR $11 M
Nick Masset: $3.1 M
Ryan Hanigan: $2.05 M
Ryan Ludwick: $500K buyout OR $5 M
Jose Arredondo: $1.2 M
If the Reds buyout Ludwick and Madson, they have $69.25 M locked into 12 players, with only 10 of them returning. If they take on the contracts of both Ludwick and Madson, it goes up to $82.25 M for 12 players. However, it doesn’t end there. The following players are eligible for arbitration after the 2012 season:
Pre-arbitration – players who can have their contracts renewed at the league minimum:
Arbitration-eligible – players who can be non-tendered or signed through arbitration and receive a raise, with 2012 salaries listed in parenthesis:
Homer Bailey ($2.4 M)
Mat Latos ($550K)
Bill Bray ($1.42 M)
Wilson Valdez ($930K)
Paul Janish ($850K)
Drew Stubbs ($527,500)
Mike Leake ($507,500)
Chris Heisey ($495K)
Alfredo Simon ($487K)
The Reds would be wise to let Homer Bailey walk by being non-tendered, as he shouldn’t be getting a raise considering the inconsistencies that he has shown. He would earn between $3.5-4 M in arbitration. Valdez and Janish are veteran utility players who can be replaced with others who can play defense and not hit…just like them! Stubbs, Leake, and Heisey should all still be affordable in their first year of arbitration, but Latos could be an issue. He will get expensive quickly due to his early success, though it wasn’t with the Reds.
So, buyout Ludwick and Madson and keep Heisey in left and Chapman at closer and go from there.
Catchers: Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco
1B: Joey Votto
2B: Brandon Phillips
3B: Todd Frazier
SS: Zack Cozart
LF: Chris Heisey
CF: Drew Stubbs
RF: Jay Bruce
Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, and OPEN
Jose Arredondo, Bill Bray, Nick Masset, Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon, Logan Ondrusek, Sean Marshall, and Aroldis Chapman
Clearly, the Reds would need to fill the bench with about three players: a utility infielder, a super-utility player (infield and outfield), and a good fourth outfielder. They will need to look to free agency to fill those roles. The following players will be free agents and would be worth a look for the Reds:
Jose Lopez – Lopez can play first and third comfortably and second if or when needed. He has done so for the Cleveland Indians in 2012. He is making $800K in 2012 and will be 29 in 2013
Scott Hairston – Hairston may end up on the expensive side of bench players, as his power and versatility will be very valuable on the open market. He currently has an .840 OPS with 10 HR and 31 RBI in just 157 at bats for the New York Mets. Hairston is making $1.1 M in 2012 and has played all three outfield spots this season and some second base in his career.
Grady Sizemore – Injuries MIGHT be gone when he hits free agency after the 2012 season. Sizemore hasn’t had a healthy season since 2008. He is making $5 M in 2012 but hasn’t played in a single game. An incentive-laden contract is a necessity for Sizemore to prove his worth and as a former gold glove caliber center fielder, he can handle all three outfield positions…if healthy.
Ryan Theriot – Theriot is making $1.25 M for the San Francisco Giants while playing primarily shortstop. He played left field late in a game and has played second, short, third, and outfield in recent years.
The open rotation spot should be left to Tony Cingrani, the young left-hander out of Rice, who has dominated the minors this season to the tune of a 7-2 record, 1.47 ERA, 86 IP, 109:21 K:BB, .196 BAA, 0.95 WHIP, including a 15 strikeout, eight shutout inning outing on Wednesday night. It’s worth seeing what you have there. Alfredo Simon or Sam LeCure could fill the number five spot if the Reds don’t sign another veteran arm like: Aaron Cook, Kevin Correia, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Marquis, Joel Piniero, or Chris Young, who could all be cheap options.
It’s never too early to wonder what your team will look like in the future. Maybe Billy Hamilton moves to center and Drew Stubbs or Chris Heisey becomes the team’s fourth outfielder? As the season goes on, trades could be made involving Cingrani or Hamilton to upgrade for 2012, as well. Regardless, the Reds look like an excellent team for this season and could get better by cutting some of the dead weight, namely their entire bench and Scott Rolen.
Back before the humidor, the Colorado Rockies were capable of padding their stats by launching balls out of Coor’s Field through the thin air in their 81 home games. We saw Dante Bichette become a force and Mike Hampton became a pitcher who didn’t matter anymore, along with Denny Neagle. Today, there are still some hitter-friendly ballparks, but you’ll see some of the guys below taking advantage of some home field love below.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
.405/.507/.793, 18 2B, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 4 SB, 28:24 K:BB in 116 AB at home
.331/.468/.529, 12 2B, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 26:31 K:BB in 121 AB on the road
Votto has been an absolute freak in 2012, posting an MVP-like .367/.468/.658 line. It doesn’t really matter where he is this season, the Reds new franchise player is unstoppable.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies
.382/.441/.733, 6 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 5 SB, 29:13 K:BB in 131 AB at home
.288/.344/.508, 9 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 5 SB, 24:10 K:BB in 118 AB on the road
CarGo is still taking advantage of the thin air in Denver despite the humidor. He is an excellent all-around player on his own, but he may not be capable of substantial numbers without the Coor’s Field effect.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians
.371/.389/.743, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 2 SB, 4:1 K:BB in 35 AB at home
.125/.125/.125, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, 3:0 K:BB in 24 AB on the road
It is only 59 at bats, but the Indians could have the power bat that they need for the middle of their order…when they play at home. Chisenhall doesn’t turn 24 until October and he has a bright future, but he has some flaws, especially with plate discipline and left-handed pitching. But…hey, he can hit at home!
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
.350/.385/.570, 9 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 6 SB, 19:6 K:BB in 100 AB at home
.326/.409/.484, 4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 13 SB, 22:13 K:BB in 95 AB on the road
Trout has been more than anyone expected since finally getting his opportunity with the Angels. You can’t call anything about his game weak, he is clearly an excellent hitter, runner, and he is a well above average outfielder, too.
Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants
.338/.389/.451, 6 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 7 SB, 20:11 K:BB in 133 AB at home
.261/.289/.410, 6 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB, 21:6 K:BB in 134 AB on the road
San Francisco’s home park is not typically thought of as a hitter’s paradise, but Pagan really thrives there. He has better power numbers and run-production on the road, but he is also not as patient. Either way, Pagan is a beast at home in 2012.
R.A. Dickey, RHP, New York Mets
6-0, 1.20 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 52.1 IP, 54:13 K:BB in 7 home starts
5-1, 2.89 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 46.2 IP, 49:8 K:BB in 7 road starts
You can’t say Dickey without smiling and the Mets wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the NL East without the 37-year-old Cy Young front-runner.
Chris Capuano, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
5-0, 1.57 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 46.0 IP, 46:13 K:BB in 7 home starts
3-2, 4.02 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 40.1 IP, 34:18 K:BB in 7 road starts
Capuano has dominated at Dodger Stadium, but has been about as good as his career statistics outside of that. Capuano is struggling mightily in June with a 4.24 ERA…since when is that awful?…but when compared to his dominating April and May, his 1-1 record in April seems so pedestrian. Don’t jump ship on him yet!
Tom Milone, LHP, Oakland A’s
5-1, 0.99 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 45.2 IP, 19:8 K:BB in 6 home starts
2-4, 7.42 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 43.2 IP, 33:16 K:BB in 8 road starts
Milone may have the worst home-road split in baseball, but he has been fantastic at home. You have to wonder which pitcher he is and whether he will even things out by being absolutely horrible and really good…maybe even just decent when he is at home or on the road. The soft-tossing lefty is just 25, so we have time to see what he really is.
A.J. Burnett, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
4-0, 1.27 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 42.2 IP, 36:9 K:BB in 6 home starts
3-2, 7.18 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 26.1 IP, 22:15 K:BB in 5 road starts
Burnett is 6-1 with a 4.02 ERA in his last 9 starts for the Pirates, but he has a split that has rivaled Milone’s terrible home-road split. Burnett’s inconsistency is well documented in his 14 year career, and it is more of the same this season. You could argue that some of his stats would make him an asset at the trade deadline, but as teams look at his production on the road, they will be scared off.
Zack Greinke, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
4-0, 1.08 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 41.2 IP, 52:8 K:BB in 6 home starts
3-2, 4.96 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 45.1 IP, 43:12 K:BB in 8 road starts
Greinke will be a rich man when he signs this winter as a free agent. With that being said, his splits are just not very good in 2012. Clearly, Greinke is dominant at home. Maybe Greinke has some issues pitching on the road that go back to his anxiety disorder that he had earlier in his career. From 2009-2011, Greinke had a 29-8 record and a 2.99 ERA in 49 starts and a 13-20 record and 3.72 ERA on the road in 45 starts. The 2012 stats fall in line with his last 94 starts prior to this season, so he is and will be dominant at home.
Joey Votto has been one of the top players in MLB in 2012, posting an absurd .362/.485/.657 slash with 27 doubles, 12 home runs, 44 RBI, and a 49:52 K:BB in 213 at bats. Brandon Phillips is finally hitting, posting a .441/.472/.735 over his last eight games, with one double, three home runs, and nine RBI. In doing so, Phillips has increased his triple-slash from .259/.314/.392 on May 24 to its current .292/.338/.454 level. With Votto still mashing and getting on base and Phillips finally hitting, are the Reds capable of being the best team in baseball over the rest of the season?
Some will argue that the Detroit Tigers have the lineup to beat due to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Others say that the Yankees lineup with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixiera, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez is the greatest of them all. Others will argue that it is Ike Davis and Jason Bay, and we will mock them ferociously; however, the Reds seem to have what it takes to win. The rotation can be thin at times with the inconsistencies at the back-end, but look at the front-end of that group…
Johnny Cueto has established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, compiling a 16-8 record, a 2.36 ERA, and a 1.12 WHIP over his last 37 starts. Mat Latos may not have great stats in 2012 (5-2, 4.64 ERA, 1.37 WHIP), but the Reds are 8-2 in his last ten starts. Latos is also in the middle of the season, especially from May to July, where he is now 21-6 with a 2.90 ERA over his career during the early summer months.
What does all of this mean? The Reds were as many as five games back and they were up as many as 3.5 games. Now, they are three games up on both the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds have gone 25-16 since April 15. It’s too bad they aren’t the Chicago Cubs because they are 17-8 in day games after Thursday’s 12-5 stomping of the Cleveland Indians.
The Reds have a solid rotation and enough offense to matter. The American League is filled with punishing offenses, but the National League has…good pitching? With the dramatic decline of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup, the Cincinnati Reds are in an elite class in the National League.
The Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants are the only other teams in the National League with the rotation and lineups that can match the Reds. Bryce Harper is the real deal and the Nats will, at least, ride Strasburg to the limits of his innings, not his talent. The Dodgers have had issues with injuries in the rotation and to Matt Kemp, but they’ve managed to hold on thanks to Andre Ethier’s redemption season and Chris Capuano’s best Clayton Kershaw impersonation. The Giants have had some success from their rotation and offense, definitely not from Tim Lincecum, though, and with the return of Pablo Sandoval from injury, they will be that much better.
However, if Votto and Phillips are clicking like they are right now and the Reds have the 1-2 punch of Cueto and Latos going, then they can sit back and hope that the likes of Zack Cozart, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake take the steps necessary to keep the team in contention while infusing youth in the every day lineup. With smart baseball, like Mesoraco plowing into Lou Marson for defensive interference and a free run (see here), and mediocre production from the spare parts, the Reds are a team to be reckoned with.
Jeff Kent made a living hitting in front of Barry Bonds, averaging a .297/.368/.535, 29 HR, and 114 RBI line over six seasons. Joey Votto is having the same effect this season for Cincinnati, as the player hitting directly in front of him have gone .356/.406/.576 line, as teams continue to pitch around Votto, who is tied for the Major League lead in walks with 13.
Zack Cozart is now leading off for the Reds after raking .350/.409/.575 in 40 at bats in front of Votto. He isn’t doing well at leadoff yet, walking once but going hitless in his first 8 at bats. Drew Stubbs moved up in the order to 2nd when Dusty Baker moved Cozart to leadoff. He is only hitting .538/.571/.846, going 7 for his first 13 there.
Take a look at production by batting order for the Red thus far:
Obviously, having performed well since the recent moves, the lineup may stick for a while. If Brandon Phillips is hitting 4th between Votto and Jay Bruce, this lineup would remain one that fans can’t complain much about. However, if Baker continues putting Ryan Ludwick or Scott Rolen in the 4-spot, when they’ve gone a combined 4 for 42 with 1 RBI (.095), this doesn’t make sense. The Reds need Phillips healthy and he has been hampered by a hamstring injury most of the season. He has a .333/.333/.667 line in just 9 at bats at #4.
If Phillips isn’t playing and the Reds want production, they need to bat Votto in front of Jay Bruce at 3 and 4. Bruce has struggled to a .229/.250/.458 line in the 5-spot without protection behind him, striking out 13 times in 48 at bats. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were both left handed hitters and seemed to hit well batting back to back in the Yankees order in the late 1920′s. I wonder if Miller Huggins and his three championships and six pennants had a book on how to put lineups together like managers today?
The Cincinnati Reds have made big news for the last few months between their big trade for Mat Latos and the huge contracts to both Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips. One thing they are not in the news for, to this point, is their incredible hitting. The Reds are currently 28th in the Majors in hitting, with a team average of .191 through 9 games. Take a look at their hit totals for the year:
10, 6, 8, 3, 4, 14, 5, 5, 2.
Keep in mind that the 14 hits they had against the Cardinals on Wednesday, they left 13 on base, and the 10 hits from Opening Day had 9 left on base. The Reds just aren’t scoring enough runs because they can’t get any hits. They haven’t had the easiest schedule in the world with the new-look Miami Marlins, the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, and the improving Washington Nationals, but a 3-6 record wasn’t what fans and ownership was looking for as the team heads into win now mode.
You can’t blame Zack Cozart (.313), Joey Votto (.290), or Brandon Phillips (just 16 at bats due to injury to hamstring, .250), but just about everyone else could be labeled an issue. Jay Bruce has 3 HR and 6 RBI with an .802 OPS, but he has 8 K’s in 34 at bats and a .235 average. Drew Stubbs is at .147 with 12 K’s in 34 at bats, certainly not improving on his atrocious contact rate that worried the club last year. Ryan Ludwick (.150), Ryan Hanigan (.118), and Scott Rolen (.111) round out the apparent regulars, while Devin Mesoraco (.167 in 12 at bats) and Chris Heisey (.188 in 16 at bats) continue to be youngsters losing out to the veteran loving, toothpick toting Dusty Baker.
Regardless of who is playing, it doesn’t seem to be working. As the Reds looked to capitalize on the departure of NL Central foes Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the long-term commitments and trades developed expectations that, to this point, they have fallen well short of. With such dynamic talent in Votto, Phillips, and Bruce, the lineup is capable of more. The issue could be Phillips’ absence, the fact that Dusty HAS TO split up Votto and Bruce (and has done so with Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick in the clean-up spot), or it could be a challenging schedule. Expectations are high and if they keep flopping like they are, fans aren’t going to show up in Cincinnati, and if fans don’t show up, they already need to start wondering about how they are going to be paying Phillips and Votto in the coming seasons.
I grew up in Cincinnati. I love Eric Davis and Barry Larkin because of it. I choose Camp Washington Chili over any other offerings, and I refuse to tell you that I graduated from Colerain High School when you ask me where I went to school because I now have a college degree. However, there are some things that you just can’t do in Cincinnati, and signing a player for market value in a small market is one of those things.
Cincinnati isn’t Boston, New York, or Los Angeles. It isn’t Chicago or Detroit. It is miniscule in comparison, an afterthought to a list of cities that house a professional baseball and football team, mainly due to the fact that both have had such miserable bouts of inadequacy over the last 20 years. The city pulls away from failures quickly, leaving the stadiums to fill up with the few morons who are willing to shell out a lot of money in a time where there just isn’t much. Attendance has been all over the place in recent years, especially for the Bengals, but when you have 81 home dates and a payroll which now contains the 4th richest contract in Major League Baseball history.
The issue with the Reds signing Votto is this: When Ken Griffey, Jr. was making $12.5 million per season and deferring money towards his retirement, the Reds were crippled. There is a new owner, of course, but the man sells fruit. He has made money selling…fruit. How much more produce needs to be consumed to make this contract reasonable? Can the Reds really have a guy making $20-22.5 million per year and maintain a roster with Bruce, Phillips, Latos, Cueto, and Chapman?
The problem also becomes the fact that the Reds have gutted the upper levels of the minors by acquiring talent this offseason. While the Reds wait for Billy Hamilton and his crazy speed to reach the Majors, they’ll probably have to watch Brandon Phillips walk this winter via free agency. Do they turn to Todd Frazier, Chris Valaika, a journeyman veteran who, if he is still there, Dusty Baker would love to play way too often? How do they replace starting pitching as it becomes too expensive? Are the Reds going to start giving long-term deals, like the Rays did with Matt Moore or the Indians did with Grady Sizemore years ago, to save eventual costs?
This contract is a great thing for Cincinnati fans, especially the 18,000 that show up between any weekday night from May until school is out in mid-June and families return; however, Votto’s contract needs to have questions raised: What will happen when Cueto, Chapman, and Leake reach arbitration or free agency? How will you replace guys you can’t afford when you’re paying one guy 25% of your budgeted payroll? How is this contract going to look if Votto ages like Scott Rolen or becomes a shell of himself in his age 37-39 seasons?