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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
Report: Padres 'in touch' with Phillies regarding Cole Hamels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Padres are "in touch" with the Phillies in an attempt to land pitcher Cole Hamels, FOX Sports reports.

The Padres have made plenty of upgrades across the roster since general manager A.J. Heller took over, and it's possible they don't have the ammunition to land the Philadelphia ace in a deal. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he didn't expect Hamels to be traded before the start of the season. Hamels went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.


Report: Orioles sign Mark Hendrickson to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Orioles have signed Mark Hendrickson to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, CSNBaltimore.com reports.

Hendrickson, who last pitched in the majors in 2011, spent 2014 with York of the independent Atlantic League, posting a 1.54 ERA and 34:11 K:BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings over 55 appearances.


Rangers' Matt Harrison expects to open season on 60-day DL
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said Saturday that he expects to open the season on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to recover from spinal fusion surgery, the Dallas Morning News reports.

"My job is to just get as healthy as I can and get myself right so I don’t have something happen like it did last year when I tried to come back," Harrison said. "I’m just going to focus on that and get ready to contribute whenever it may be."

Harrison is dealing with some stiffness in his right side, which will cause him to throw from a distance of 90 feet for a second consecutive week rather than progress to 105 feet. He hopes that he'll get his hips to rotate more and loosen up with more stretching and more throws from the 90-foot distance.


Report: Rays sign Ronald Belisario to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Rays have signed pitcher Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal with an invitiation to spring training, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Belisaro made 62 appearances with the White Sox in 2014, posting a 4-8 record, 5.56 ERA and 47:18 K:BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings. He'll compete for a bullpen spot during the spring.


Dodgers SP Zack Greinke hasn't decided whether to opt out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said Saturday that he's yet to decide whether to opt out of his contract at the end of next season but added, "There's not really better options anywhere besides here," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Greinke is set to make $23 million in 2015, and he's due another $71 million over the following three seasons if he remains under his current contract. The Dodgers said earlier this offseason that they wouldn't discuss a contract extension with the pitcher during the winter.

Greinke went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207:43 K:BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings in 2014.


Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez hoping to bounce back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez can't wait to get on the field and get past the 2014 season.

"I can’t wait," Jimenez said at Saturday’s FanFest event. "Whatever happened in 2014 is in the past. There's nothing I can do about it now. I can just look forward and now I’m going to do everything in spring training to get myself ready the best I can for the season and help the team."

Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Baltimore in 2014, went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 125 1/3 innings pitched. 

"It was pretty hard, coming in with a new team and signing a contract like that and not to do what everyone is expecting you to do, it’s hard," Jimenez said. "It’s hard not to be there for the team, but regardless what happened, I fought a lot. I think I was trying to find a way to survive to be there for the team and do whatever I can do the best. We got really far. I didn’t help a lot, but I tried to do whatever I could with whatever I had."


Royals' Alex Gordon plans to take it slow in recovery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is still recovering from his wrist surgery this offseason and plans to take it slow in his rehab.

"We really don’t have a timetable," Gordon said. "We’re just going to see how it feels. Obviously, it’s spring training. So we don’t want to rush anything. If it feels good, we’ll be aggressive with it. But if it’s not feeling good, we’ll take it slow."

Manager Ned Yost wants to continue to take things slow with Gordon.
"We’ll just take it slow," Yost said. "We’ll see how he feels. We’ll play him one day. Then we’ll give him a day off. Play him another day, five or six innings, then give him a day off. We’ll just see how he’s doing."
Gordon hit .266 in 2014 with 19 home runs and 74 RBI.

Angels, Garrett Richards settle on $3.2 million for 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Angels and pitcher Garrett Richards have agreed to a contract for 2015 for $3.2 million, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Richards was asking for $3.8 million while the Angels offered $2.4 million. Richards posted a 13-4 record in 2014 with a 2.61 ERA and 164 strikeouts for Los Angeles.


Orioles' Manny Machado expects to be ready for spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is progressing through his rehab and says he's "ready to roll" for the upcoming season.

"I have a lot of time to get ready. That is the key: having a regular offseason," Machado said Saturday. "Was doing my rehab in Sarasota and then went to Miami to do my regular weightlifting and get ready for the season. Been exciting. Looking forward to spring training."

Machado has taken part in baseball activities for the past few weeks since having surgery on Aug. 27 after tearing a ligament in his knee.

"It will be awesome," he said of the prospect of having a normal spring. "I'm dying to get back on the field. Spring training is key for a lot of players to get your at-bats and your reps. I think some take it for granted but it's a very big key for success for the year."

Machado hit .278 in 2014 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI for Baltimore.


Bud Norris remains without update for contract extension
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(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Bud Norris said Saturday nothing has changed between he and the organization for a new contract.

"I haven't heard anything of that," Norris said. "I don't see a reason why I'd want to leave, but that's out of my control."

Norris and the Orioles are preparing for arbitration, when Norris filed for $10.25 million and Baltimore offered $7.5 million. He went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA and 139:52 K:BB ratio in 165 1/3 innings over 28 starts in 2014.


 
 
 
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