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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Cincinnati Reds

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It happened so quickly for the Reds. After nine straight years of losing records and near last-place finishes, their steady accumulation of talent culminated in a first-place finish and a trip to the playoffs for the first time since 1995.

But just because they went from non-contenders to contenders seemingly overnight doesn't mean they were a one-hit wonder. They have the pieces in place to remain at or near the top of the standings for years to come.

No doubt, it all begins with Joey Votto, whose sudden rise to greatness is an obvious microcosm of the team as a whole. The reigning NL MVP has emerged as arguably the best left-handed hitter in the game and a clear first-round pick in Fantasy, ranking right up there with Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Outfielders Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs could follow in his footsteps shortly and, along with Brandon Phillips, give the Reds a middle of the order that ranks right up there with anyone in the National League.

But their starting rotation is really what got them over the hump last season, emerging as one of the deepest in baseball with the return of Edinson Volquez from injury and the unexpected breakout of Travis Wood. It's so deep that Aroldis Chapman, who may have the best arm of anyone on the planet, will have to remain in the bullpen for now, and he's not the only high-end talent getting the boot. Mike Leake, who the Reds liked so much after taking him eighth overall in the 2009 draft that they promoted him straight to the big leagues, may have to pitch in the minors after all if Homer Bailey, another former first-rounder, can hold him off in spring training.

The Reds didn't do much this offseason other than add Edgar Renteria to push Paul Janish at shortstop, but the bottom line is they didn't have to. They're going to be good, and Fantasy owners are going to benefit.

Breakout ... Jay Bruce, OF

Heading into 2008, Bruce ranked ahead of Evan Longoria as the best prospect in the game, but he didn't take off the way Longoria did, stalling due to a high strikeout rate and an abundance of injuries. That changed about midway through August last year. Maybe the 23-year-old just needed a little more time to develop. Maybe the wrist he broke in 2009 finally got back to 100 percent. Maybe he benefited from the tutelage of late-season acquisition Jim Edmonds, who, in his prime, was much like the player Bruce can be. Whatever the reason, Bruce took off, batting .385 with 14 homers and a 1.335 OPS over the final six weeks -- and that was with him missing two of those weeks with a strained oblique. Anyone who saw him play then would have a hard time believing he won't hit 40 homers now, but enough Fantasy owners had tuned out by then that he should still slide to the middle rounds.

Bust ... Francisco Cordero, RP

Cordero got his usual 40 saves last season and now has 265 since 2004, the third-most of anybody during that span. That's the sort of track record that would lead Fantasy owners to believe he's automatic. But at age 35, he's showing signs of the wheels coming off. He's never had the best control, but his WHIP was an unsightly 1.43 last season, mostly because of his increasingly hittable stuff. His strikeout rate, which used to be over 10 per nine innings every year, dipped to 7.3 last year, showing he's not fooling hitters the way he used to. Worse yet, the Reds don't have to give him an especially long leash with Aroldis Chapman and his 100-mph stuff in the bullpen. Cordero isn't a bad pick in the middle rounds since the Reds figure to give him plenty of save opportunities, but he's not as safe as some people would have you believe.

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Sleeper ... Edinson Volquez, SP

Volquez has been out of the minds of Fantasy owners for the better part of two seasons, and it's not like he had a chance to firmly entrench himself before then, putting together only one Fantasy-relevant season before hurting his elbow in 2009. But now that he has recovered from Tommy John surgery, the hard-throwing right-hander is ready to pick up where he left off as an emerging ace and strikeout artist. What helps him from a value standpoint, other than the obvious lack of innings over the last two years, is the fact he didn't set the world on fire in his initial return last July. But after spending a couple more weeks in the minors, he came back in September to strike out more than a batter per inning with improved control and a 1.95 ERA in four starts. He wasn't a finished product before the injury, so you can't assume he'll perform like an ace this season, but he's one of the few late-rounders with a chance of doing so.

Cincinnati Reds Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Drew Stubbs CF 1 Bronson Arroyo RH
2 Brandon Phillips 2B 2 Johnny Cueto RH
3 Joey Votto 1B 3 Edinson Volquez RH
4 Scott Rolen 3B 4 Travis Wood LH
5 Jay Bruce RF 5 Homer Bailey RH
6 Jonny Gomes LF Alt Mike Leake RH
7 Edgar Renteria SS
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ramon Hernandez C CL Francisco Cordero RH
Top bench options SU Aroldis Chapman LH
R Fred Lewis OF RP Nick Masset RH
R Chris Heisey OF RP Logan Ondrusek RH
R Paul Janish SS RP Bill Bray LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Aroldis Chapman 23 RP Majors Majors
Lived up to legend with 100-mph heat. Too valuable to remove from 'pen now, but future is in rotation.
2 Devin Mesoraco 22 C Triple-A Triple-A
First-rounder in '07 finally met offensive potential last year. Only aging Hernandez stands in his way.
3 Yonder Alonso 23 1B Majors Triple-A
Top pick in 2008 could still become an offensive force, but not with Votto blocking him in Cincinnati.
4 Todd Frazier 25 OF Triple-A Triple-A
Long considered a top prospect, but lack of plate discipline catching up to him. Still offers some pop.
5 Zack Cozart 25 SS Triple-A Triple-A
Power-speed threat could end up replacing Renteria and Janish at SS if he hits for high enough average.
Best of the rest: Juan Francisco, 3B; Billy Hamilton, SS; Yasmani Grandal, C; Sam LeCure, SP; Donnie Joseph, RP; Yorman Rodriguez, OF; Kyle Lotzkar, SP; Dave Sappelt, OF; Chris Valaika, 2B; and Danny Dorn, OF.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Indians expected to pick up Mike Aviles' option
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) The Indians are expected to pick up Mike Aviles' option for next season, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group. 

The team has until shortly after the World Series to decide whether to pick up a $3.5 million club option on Aviles. It's expected the club will exercise that option. Aviles hit .247/.273/.343 over 344 at-bats. 


Tigers expected to keep Joakim Soria
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:32 am ET) The Tigers are expected to exercise their option on pitcher Joakim Soria, according to MLB.com.

Soria has a $7 million club option for next season. The team will need to make a decision on the option shortly after the end of the World Series. While general manager Dave Dombrowski said the final decision hasn't been made yet, he hinted at the club picking up Soria's contract. "It's a situation where we look at him as being an important acquisition toward this [coming] year also," Soria said. 

Soria posted a 3.25 ERA over 44 1/3 innings split between Texas and Detroit. 


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(12:29 am ET) The Giants will have more information on pitcher Tim Lincecum Thursday, according to Bleacher Report.

Lincecum left after his back tightened up in the eighth inning. The club expects him to be OK, but will have a better idea about the severity of his injury Thursday. Lincecum was able to pitch 1 2/3 innings before departing. 


Royals' Lorenzo Cain won't stop hitting
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain continued to assault baseballs Wednesday against the Giants.

Cain has been on a tear during the postseason, and that didn't stop Wednesday. After doubling in his first at-bat, Cain would come around to score the team's first run of the night. He would later single to lead off the sixth inning, and would come around to score again later in the frame. Cain finished 2 for 4, with two runs scored and no RBI. 


Royals' Omar Infante comes up big Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals infielder Omar Infante came up big Wednesday against the Giants.

Infante wasted no time getting to work, doubling in his first at-bat. He would come around to score during the frame, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. Infante would strike again in the bottom of the sixth. With a man on base, Infante belted a 98 mph fastball out to left for the two-run shot. He finished 2 for 3, with two runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Billy Butler drives in two Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals designated hitter Billy Butler drove in two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Butler struck in his first at-bat. With men on first and second, Butler managed to tie the game on a single to the left fielder. He would find himself in the exact same situation in the sixth inning, and responded in the same fashion. Butler again singled in a run on a hit to left field. He would finish 2 for 3, with no runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Yordano Ventura gives up two runs Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura allowed two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Ventura gave up two runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out two and did not issue any walks during the outing. Ventura got himself into trouble immediately. To lead off the game, Gregor Blanco deposited a 98 mph fastball out to right for a solo home run. Ventura would settle in over the next two innings before giving up another run in the fourth. With a man on second, Ventura allowed an RBI double against Brandon Belt. Ventura would pitch into the sixth inning, but was pulled after giving up two singles. He threw 87 pitches during the outing and did not factor into the decision.


Giants SP Jake Peavy gives up four runs in World Series Game 2 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy was saddled with a loss in Game of the World Series Wednesday, allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks in five-plus innings while striking out one in his team's 7-2 defeat against the Royals.

Peavy (1-1) ran in to trouble immediately Wednesday, giving up a run on three hits and a walk in the first inning after the offense had given him a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. He surrendered another run on an RBI double in the second, but the offense evened the game in the fourth. Peavy opened the sixth inning by giving up a single and a walk before being removed, and the Royals went on to post five runs in the inning en route to running out to an insurmountable lead.

Peavy has posted a 3.68 ERA and 6:8 K:BB ratio in 14 2/3 innings over three postseason starts. The two teams head into Friday's Game 3 tied 1-1 in the series.


Giants OF Gregor Blanco slugs leadoff HR in World Series Game 2
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco went 1 for 4 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 7-2 loss in Game 2 of the World Series against the Royals.

Blanco opened the game by running Royals starter Yordano Ventura to a full count before crushing a ball over the right-field fence to give the Giants an early lead, but the Royals evened the score in the bottom half of the first and didn't trail for the rest of the night. Blanco has hit just .176/.276/.255 in 51 postseason at-bats but has turned it up since Game 3 of the NLCS, going 5 for 15 with three walks, the home run and three RBI. The two teams head to San Francisco Friday tied 1-1 in the series.


Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum leaves due to lower back issue
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum left Wednesday's game against the Royals due to a lower back injury.

Lincecum tossed 1 2/3 innings before leaving the contest. After going 2-2 against Salvador Perez, Lincecum called the trainer out to the mound. He appeared to slip on the mound during the pitch. After some discussion, Lincecum was removed from the game. Following the game, the team announced Lincecum is dealing with a lower back injury.


 
 
 
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