StrategyFebruary 16, 2013

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Cincinnati Reds

By Chris Xuereb

The Cincinnati Reds enter this season as one of a handful of legitimate World Series contenders. Coming off a 2012 in which they won 97 games and the NL Central, the Reds are bringing back their core of young superstar talent to hopefully take that next step and compete for a championship. The Reds seemed poised for big things in the playoffs last year. They had the eventual world-champion Giants on the ropes up 2-0 in the NLDS, but couldn’t deliver the knockout punch, eventually dropping three straight games at home.

The Reds offseason has been centered around the acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo, the resigning of Jonathan Broxton and the always ongoing drama of where Aroldis Chapman will pitch. Oh, and Dusty Baker is back.

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C Ryan Hanigan.274.365.338252240371 
1B Joey Votto.337.474.5675914565475 
2B Brandon Phillips.281.321.42986187715623 
SS Zack Cozart.246.288.3997215354600 
3B Todd Frazier.273.331.4985519673465 
LF Ryan Ludwick.275.346.5315326800472 
CF Shin-Soo Choo.283.373.44188166721686w/CLE
RF Jay Bruce.252.327.5148934999633 

Unsettled: With Dusty Baker still at the helm, is any position ever truly settled? Other than the Dusty factor, there isn’t any major unsettled issue. I originally had flagged the Scott Rolen/Todd Frazier issue as unsettled. The Reds were still having continuing conversations with Scott Rolen up until the second week of February. Last year, Rolen saw continued time at 3B as Baker preferred his defense to Frazier’s considerably better offense. If Rolen rejoins the Reds, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the lineup once maybe even twice a week, as well as a late-inning defensive replacement, significantly affecting Frazier’s playing time. However, Reds GM Walt Jocketty has announced they will not sign Rolen, seemingly putting the issue to bed. But Rolen is a favorite of the organization and Dusty Baker, a solid glove, and apparently still wants to play. If he doesn’t land anywhere else it wouldn’t be a total shock to see him join the team at some point during the season.
The only other unsettled area may be the arrival of Billy Hamilton. The early indications are that he won’t be making the team this year. The Reds are moving him from shortstop to center field and would prefer to have him spend a season in Triple-A working on the position, with the plan to be to have him join the team in 2014. Of course, anything can happen, but unless you are in a extremely deep league or a dynasty, I would not draft Hamilton, rather taking my chances that I could grab him off waivers if he gets called up at some point.
Target: Shin-Soo Choo. The Reds went out and acquired the leadoff hitter they felt they desperately needed, and Choo makes an excellent target in fantasy leagues. Coming off a 2011 which was plagued by injuries and off the field trouble, Choo rebounded reasonably well last year, still displaying the potent power-and-speed combination that make him so valuable in fantasy leagues. While he wasn’t “vintage” Choo in 2012, he significantly increased his production in almost every peripheral category from his 2011 numbers (BA, OBP, SLG). This helps the argument that 2011 was more about the injuries and the off-field shame from his DUI than any real sign that Choo was declining. Ultimately deciding that Choo would be my target was based on some old school caveman fantasy analysis. Moving to a hitters’ park, check. Hitting in an absolutely stacked lineup, check. Playing for a contract at the end of the year, check. Sometimes fantasy baseball can still be as simple as that.
The Rotation
Johnny Cueto (R)19-92.781.1717049217.0 
Mat Latos (R)14-43.481.1618564209.0 
Bronson Arroyo (R)12-103.741.2012935202.0 
Homer Bailey (R)13-103.681.2416852208.0 
Aroldis Chapman (L)5-51.510.801222371.2 

Unsettled: Aroldis Chapman. The Chapman situation is one of the most unsettled situations in all of fantasy baseball, not just the Reds. First, are the Reds really committed to having Chapman start? All indications are that he will be given the chance, but until we see him actually get through spring training and handed that ball in a game that counts, nothing is certain. Second, at the first signs of trouble, will the Reds stick it out? There will almost certainly come a time this year when Chapman will struggle, suffer fatigue or tweak/strain/injure something. When that happens, will the Reds be willing to keep him as a starter or will they panic and put him back in the bullpen? Finally, even if the Reds are 100% committed to Chapman as a starter, can he even do it? In his MLB career, including the minors, there is nothing that indicates Chapman can handle the workload of a starter. In 2010, Chapman pitched 108 innings between the minors and the majors. In 2011, it was 63, and in 2012, it was 71.2. It’s a leap for anyone, let alone someone who throws as hard and with as much force as Chapman, to suddenly throw 150-160 innings for the first time. Use Joba Chamberlain as a fair comparison of a player who had electric stuff and was teased back and forth from the role of a reliever to a starter. Ultimately, when he got the chance to start his K/9 fell off, his WHIP shot up and Yankee fans were treated to a lot of five-inning starts with 100 pitches thrown. Yes, Chapman will tantalize you with the thoughts of what he could do if he pitches 150 innings, but when you can get Mat Latos at basically the same time in the draft, why take the huge risk?
Target: Mat Latos. It took a little while for Mat Latos to adjust to his new surroundings, but once he did, he was sensational. In the second half of last year he pitched to a 2.84 ERA and held opponents to a .215 BA in 104 innings pitched. In fact, his numbers progressively improved from June through September/October, when pitched to a 2.21 ERA held opponents to a .199 BA while posting 33 Ks in 40 IP. Latos showed he was not a product of Petco Park, and with another year under his belt he should be as good if not better. Early ADPs at Mock Draft Central have Latos being taken at the same time as Ian Kennedy, Aroldis Chapman and Matt Moore. At that price, Latos is an excellent value .
The 8th and 9th Innings
Jonathan Broxton (R)272.481.25451758.0w/2TM
Sean Marshall (L)92.511.16741661.0 

Chasing Saves: Broxton, who pitched reasonably well last year for the Royals and the Reds, will be the Reds closer to the start the season. However, it’s hard to ignore Broxton’s injury history and mixed bag of production over the last few years. His K/9 and WHIP tell the story of a pitcher who can’t strike batters out like he used to and who lets too many runners on base. While he did pitch well as a setup man last year with the Reds, much of his work in Kansas City as the team’s closer was done with smoke and mirrors (6.3 K/9, 1.40 WHIP). The always overlooked Sean Marshall (10.9 K/9 and 1.16 WHIP in 2012) will make a terrific handcuff if and when Broxton falters. Unfortunately, with the size of the contract Broxton was given this offseason, expect him to have somewhat of a long leash.
Final Thoughts
The Reds are an exciting young team looking to build on the success of last season. Their lineup is stacked and their pitching is deep. The Chapman experiment will be fascinating to watch no matter what happens. With a couple of good breaks, the Reds can easily find themselves in the World Series.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Milwaukee Brewers.

Chris is a fantasy baseball fan, who plays the game the right way and enjoys writing about it. You can follow him on twitter @RotoBaseballX
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