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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
Edinson Volquez back to being a viable mixed-leaguer
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:05 pm ET) The most notable aspect of Edinson Volquez's complete game gem at the St. Louis Thursday is that it wasn't an isolated event. Well, OK ... he hadn't gone nine innings yet this season, but he has excelled now in five of his last six starts, compiling an 0.90 ERA in his last four.

But before you rush out to pick him up, understand that he's not the strikeout pitcher he used to be, recording 18 strikeouts in 30 innings over those last four starts. That rate is skewed a bit by a one-strikeout performance at Tampa Bay June 23, but it's not so impressive either way. That doesn't invalidate his success, though. Volquez is throwing more strikes than usual, and it's probably not a coincidence he's doing it under the tutelage of pitching coach Ray Searage, who helped Francisco Liriano get his stuff under control last year and A.J. Burnett before that.

Volquez has always had good stuff -- the kind that shouldn't generate hard contact even when he's not missing bats -- so with this recent performance, he has at least established himself as a worthy streaming option in standard mixed leagues.


Mark Trumbo to hit fifth in return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:47 pm ET) Diamondbacks outfielder Mark Trumbo will hit fifth Friday against the Giants.

Trumbo has been sidelined since late April with a foot injury. Over 81 at-bats, he's hitting .210 with seven home runs. He'll face off against Tim Lincecum in his return. 


Donald Lutz gets the call Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:44 pm ET) Reds outfielder Donald Lutz has been called up Friday.

Lutz will fill in for Skip Schumaker, who was placed on the disabled list Friday. Lutz has hit .154 over 13 at-bats in the majors this year. 


Skip Schumaker hits seven-day disabled list
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:43 pm ET) Reds outfielder Skip Schumaker has been placed on the seven-day disabled list Friday.

The club will call up Donald Lutz to take his place on the active roster. Schumaker is hitting .240 over 146 at-bats. 


Michael Saunders diagnosed with Grade 2 oblique strain
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(6:41 pm ET) The Seattle Times reports that Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 oblique strain, which could keep him out "for some time," according to manager Lloyd McClendon

Saunders was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday with the injury. Saunders is expected to need more than the 15 days on the DL. He is hitting .276/.329/.436 with six homers and 28 RBI in 196 at-bats.

Hanley Ramirez sitting Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez was not in the team's starting lineup Friday.

Ramirez is expected to miss some time due to a shoulder injury, so the move shouldn't come as a surprise. He's not expected to play until after the All-Star break. Ramirez is hitting .275/.369/.467 over 291 at-bats.


Tommy Medica remains out Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:22 pm ET) Padres first baseman Tommy Medica was not in the team's starting lineup Friday.

Medica is dealing with a groin injury. He had to leave Thursday's game due to the issue. Jake Goebbert will get the start at first base with Medica out. Medica is hitting .230 over 122 at-bats.


Matt Lindstrom to throw 'pen session Saturday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Matt Lindstrom is scheduled to throw a  25-35 pitch bullpen session Saturday, MLB.com reports. Lindstrom is targeting a Sept. 1 return from ankle surgery.

Jerome Williams signs minor-league deal with Rangers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(6:17 pm ET) The Rangers have signed pitcher Jerome Williams to a minor-league deal, and assigned him to Triple A Round Rock, MLB.com reports. WIlliams posted a 6.04 ERA and 38:16 K:BB ratio in 47 2/3 innings for Houston this season.

Roger Kieschnick sent to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) Diamondbacks outfielder Roger Kieschnick has been optioned to Triple-A Friday.

Kieschnick was sent down in order to make room for Mark Trumbo. Trumbo had been out since late April with a foot injury, but is ready to return. Kieschnick hit .207 over 29 at-bats in the majors. 


 
 
 
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