StrategyFebruary 28, 2009

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Cincinnati Reds

By Vincent McCallum

Think back to the Year 2000 — Bill Clinton was President, Cal Ripken Jr. was gracing the diamond, and unless you wanted a visit from Chris Hansen, it was two years too early to be checking out future uber-babe Scarlett Johansson! It was also the last time the Cincinnati Reds had a winning record. Will that change under Dusty Baker?

There are certainly some top-tier talents in Jay Bruce and Joey Votto to replace the old guard of Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn. They may not be postseason ready yet, but there is a new era coming to The Queen City and a finish in the top half of the NL Central is within reach — something the Reds have achieved only twice since 2000.

For a closer look at the Cincinnati Reds and the rest of the NL Central, be sure to check out The Can of Corn NL Central Preview Podcast.

Offensive Starters

C Ramon Hernandez.257.308.4064915650463w/Bal
1B Joey Votto.297.368.5066924847526 
2B Brandon Phillips.261.312.44280217823559 
SS Alex Gonzalez.272.325.4685516550393in 2007
3B Edwin Encarnacion.251.340.4667526681506 
LF Chris Dickerson.304.413.608206155102 
CF Willy Taveras.251.308.2966412668479w/Col
RF Jay Bruce.254.314.4536321524413 

Unsettled: Chris Dickerson and the leadoff spot. 2008 surprise overachiever Dickerson will get a long look in left field but may well platoon with Johnny Gomes, who excels facing lefties. Taveras gets a full time gig at leadoff, but he’ll sometimes struggle to get to first (assuming MLB doesn’t change the rules allowing him to steal it). His OBP is tepid, but once he’s on base, he becomes Jose Reyes-lite. Dusty Baker likes speedy guys leading off, and that gives Willy some breathing space. The Reds may actually be better suited with him batting much further down, though that leaves fantasy owners worse off.

Target: Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion, and Ramon Hernandez. Votto and Bruce will be highly touted and rightfully so; expect to pay handsomely and be rewarded accordingly. In true Groundhog Day fashion, Encarnacion is again a breakout candidate at third. No really. His power was a pleasant surprise in 2008, but his drop in average wasn’t. I like Hernandez to produce nicely and become a low-end 12-team option. He certainly has the tools and plays in the right ballpark to outperform his ADP or auction price.

The Rotation

Aaron Harang (R)6-174.781.3815550184.1 
Edinson Volquez (R)17-63.211.3320693196 
Bronson Arroyo (R)15-114.271.3416358200 
Johnny Cueto (R)9-144.811.4115861174 
Micah Owings (R)6-95.931.398741104.2w/Ari

Unsettled: Dusty Baker. Baker is definitely unsettled! No one wears out young arms like Baker, and this should be cause for pause for owners of the Reds young pitchers in keeper/dynasty league setups.

Target: Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and Aaron Harang. Both Volquez and Cueto are exciting young guns who will bring plenty of Ks. Cueto proved susceptible to watching his fly balls disappear into Northern Kentucky last season, and while Volquez dodged that bullet in 2008, the second half increase in fly balls suggests that he won’t be so lucky this season. That said, if last season’s dramatic increase in IP doesn’t lead to injury, and Dusty can somehow run into the sunset like David Hasselhoff, both Volquez and Cueto could pay major dividends.

Harang showed the necessary signs of a bounce back late in 2008, and I expect his usual reliable self to return in 2009. Buy low! Owings should beat out Daryl Thompson, Ramon Ramirez and Homer Bailey (who has suffered a ‘07-’09 demise of Blagojevich proportions) for the number-five starting gig but would probably have more fantasy impact in the outfield as he sports a .319/.355/.552 in 116 Major League at bats.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Francisco Cordero (R)343.331.41783870.1
Jared Burton (R)03.221.38582558.2

Chasing Saves: There’s no threat here to the soon-to-be 34-year-old Cordero. He shouldn’t be confused with an elite closer, but he is a viable middle-of-the-pack option. Burton is next in line and was decent before missing time with an injury last season. Bray, a lefty and Weathers, a righty offer decent value as options for holds.

Final Thoughts

Bruce’s current MDP is 97 and Votto’s is 78. Both will be highly sought after and would be relative steals if you can snag them around their respective MDPs. Not all the gems in the ‘Natti are new and shiny – Ramon Hernandez and Aaron Harang should be good values for what they will cost. The Reds pitchers’ numbers should benefit from better defense with Gonzalez back at short, and the departures of Dunn and Griffey Jr. The loss of run support and potential wins is offset by the potential benefit to their ERA/WHIP.

Yesterday, we previewed the Chicago Cubs. Check back tomorrow for the Houston Astros in the next installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days!”

Vincent is fast approaching 50, and having a blast balancing his time between educating youngsters in the corporate world...and getting schooled by them in The Cafe!
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