When you're thinking Fantasy Baseball, the Cincinnati Reds might not be the first place that comes to mind. That is exactly why you have to pay very close attention to them this spring.
They promise to be a team full of potential breakthroughs and sleepers -- and few busts, if any. They have a lot of players we say will outperform their draft position and nary even one we believe won't.
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And it doesn't figure to stop after Draft Day. They have a number of intriguing prospects that could push to the majors and impact all Fantasy leagues before the end of the season.
It should all add up to a surprising year in Cincinnati and a great one for Fantasy owners of the Reds' under-the-radar gems.
Breakout: Joey Votto, 1B
It doesn't take a Fantasy genius or a baseball scout to see the value in Votto. He hit .322 with a .567 slugging percentage and .414 on-base percentage last year in 469 at-bats. The problem is he hasn't put that one huge .300-30-100-100 season together yet. It is going to come in 2010 ... the year he turns the prime age of 27, no less. You could see Votto on the board after the top 10 Fantasy first baseman, but he is capable of posting numbers that would slot him in the top 5 at the strongest position in Fantasy. He won't be as surprising as Mark Reynolds, Adam Lind, Kendry Morales or even Pablo Sandoval a year ago, but he could be even more productive. This belief is sounding like a common one among many analysts, though, so just be wary of the wide expectations of this 27-year-old breakthough carrying his draft position a little too high.
Honorable mention: Johnny Cueto. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but he could be a top 15 Fantasy flamethrower if he finally puts it all together. In fact, the third-year starting pitcher could finally reach 200 innings, pass 200 strikeouts and and post an ERA and WHIP on the level of any starter in the majors.
We took the easy way out here, mostly because it is just so tough to find a Reds player that will be overrated on Draft Day. There just doesn't seem to be one. We could say Votto, because so many are jumping on that bandwagon early, but you cannot predict a 27-year-old slugging talent to go bust before he has even popped. Brandon Phillips, 28, remains highly sought and might have posted his best years already, but he should remain one of the best speed-and-power options at the now deep and productive second base position. Closer Francisco Cordero could be overvalued for his saves, but his notoriously erratic results keep his draft position down to a reasonable level, too.
An aside, if anyone is drafting Aroldis Chapman as anything more than a long-term keeper stashee right now, they are buying themselves a potential bust. He just hasn't proven anything as a pro and might open the year in Class A and be stuck there for the duration at this point.
Sleeper: Jay Bruce, OF
Drew Stubbs was a popular Fantasy option down the stretch last year, hitting eight homers and stealing 10 bases in a month and a half. Those numbers project to something around 30-30 and make it hard for him to be considered a sleeper. Our Top 300 currently lists Bruce just one notch ahead of his outfield mate, but it says here Bruce is twice the potential Fantasy star. In fact, he could be even better than our breakout pick, Votto. Bruce's pitiful .223-22-58-47-3 season doesn't suggest it yet, so he will go off the board far later on Draft Day. He will be just 23 on opening day, which means there is still plenty of time for him to become the .300-30-100-100-10 player he has been billed to become. We modestly project .254-30-88-76-7, but we actually expect much, much more. He could be this year's Lind breakthrough player of the year, perhaps for as little as the $3 bid we list him at in our Auction Values.
Honorable mention(s): Stubbs, Homer Bailey and Chris Heisey. We love Bailey's improvement in the second half, not to mention the opportunity meets talent of Stubbs and Heisey, but we just like Bruce's sleeper potential a tad more. By the way, Bailey, with 37 career starts, just misses the cut for our third-year starting pitchers category (those with 40-70 career starts).
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Drew Stubbs||CF||1||Aaron Harang||RH|
|2||Orlando Cabrera||SS||2||Bronson Arroyo||RH|
|3||Joey Votto||1B||3||Johnny Cueto||RH|
|4||Brandon Phillips||2B||4||Homer Bailey||RH|
|5||Jay Bruce||RF||5||Micah Owings||RH|
|6||Scott Rolen||3B||Alt||Aroldis Chapman||LH|
|7||Ramon Hernandez||C||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Chris Heisey||LF||CL||Francisco Cordero||RH|
|Top bench options||SU||Nick Masset||RH|
|R||Chris Dickerson||OF||RP||Danny Herrera||LH|
|R||Ryan Hanigan||C||RP||Arthur Rhodes||LH|
|R||Wladimir Balentien||OF||RP||Jared Burton||RH|
|1||Aroldis Chapman||22||LH SP||DNP -- signed late||High Class A|
|You can't rule him out from starting in the majors, but we have to figure the Reds will be patient with him.|
|The Reds have a difficult (but welcome) decision to make once Votto and Alonso both have to play in Cincy.|
|He needs to find a position long term -- be it 2B, 3B or LF -- but his bat will play, perhaps as soon as June 1.|
|He could position himself to play left field this spring, which would expedite his arrival for Fantasy owners.|
|A speed-and-power mix makes him the Reds' LF of choice out of spring training, perhaps an NL ROY fave.|
|Best of the rest: Mike Leake, SP; Travis Wood, SP; Yorman Rodriguez, OF; Chris Valaika, SS; Matt Maloney, SP; Brad Boxberger, SP; Zack Cozart, SS; Billy Hamilton, SS; Kyle Lotzkar, SP; Neftali Soto, 3B; Mariekson Gregorius, SS; Daryl Thompson, SP; Donnie Joseph, SP; Mark Fleury, C; Daniel Tuttle, SP; Ramon A. Ramirez, RP; Devin Mesoraco, C; Juan Duran, OF; Juan Carlos Sulbaran, SP; Sean Watson, RP; Tyler Stovall, OF; Danny Dorn, OF; Pedro Viola, RP; Alex Buchholz, SS; Craig Tatum, C; Jordan Smith, SP; Daniel Dorn, 1B; Dallas Buck, SP; and Ezequiel Infante, SP.|
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