Wednesday, March 2, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Cincinnati Reds

Last year the Reds were one of the league's pleasant surprises. After years of futility, the Reds won their first division title since 1995 and had their first winning record since 2000. Despite their quick exit from the playoffs, this is a team on the rise. But, in maybe the most competitive and open division in baseball, do the Reds have enough to repeat?

What they Have: Youth, and they have it in spades. From the NL MVP Joey Votto, to their pitching rotation, their youth movement is in full swing. Their offense while defined by Joey Votto's successes, they do have other weapons. Jay Bruce proved to be a good hitter in RF last year, and if it weren't for injuries, Brandon Phillips would have been a 30 and 30 guy. Through the abundance of youth, veteran leadership is present in 3B Scott Rolen. If it weren't for injuries, he may have been the NL MVP. Overall, the offense is their best asset, as they come into this year after last year leading the majors in runs, home runs, and average. Their starting rotation is once again primed to be one of the best in baseball. Lead by Edinson Volquez, the rotation last season had a better winning percentage, .564, than anyone else in the majors sans Philadelphia. Bronson Arroyo was one of the keys to the rotation, and he returns off a 17-10 season in which he won a gold glove. The rest of the rotation is young and shows promise, with Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake who will probably switch between the bullpen and rotation after he broke onto the scene last season.

What they Don't Have: Their bullpen is not very good. Despite the presence of flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, their bullpen struggled some at the end of last season, and with the loss of Arthur Rhodes to free agency, they may struggle even more. Closer Francisco Cordero became more vulnerable despite saving 40 last season, throwing Reds fans for many a loop. Nick Masset and Bill Bray fill out the bullpen, and their presence may stabilize the trouble area for the Reds.

Any Help Coming? Of course, Aroldis Chapman is still the Reds prized prospect, despite pitching in the bullpen last year. His velocity is amazing, but still his command is a bit raw, so look for the Reds to treat Chapman with care as they did last season. Billy Hamilton is a SS prospect who has great defensive tools while being one of the fastest guys in Class A. He likely won't see major league action this season, but he could be on the way soon.

Outlook: They will be competing with the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs for the NL Central title this season. Their offense may be the best in baseball, and with their rotation protecting them, they'll win north of 90 again, if they stay healthy. the bullpen is a question mark, along with depth, but those a minor issues when you have the NL MVP and a good accompanying cast.

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