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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Cincinnati Reds

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Cincinnati's defense of its 2010 National League Central Division title never got on track, and the Reds finished the 2011 season with a disappointing 79-83 record. Strong seasons from former NL MVP Joey Votto and rotation ace Johnny Cueto were not enough to lift Cincinnati above a third-place finish.

The main culprit was starting pitching, as Bronson Arroyo flailed his way to a 9-12 record and 5.07 ERA, and Edinson Volquez and Travis Wood failed to perform to expectations. Though the offense tied for second place in the NL in runs scored the lineup had a few holes, with Scott Rolen playing only 65 games, Drew Stubbs morphing into a singles hitter, Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria contributing little from the shortstop position, and left fielder Jonny Gomes hitting a paltry .211 before getting shipped to the Nationals.

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Volquez, Wood and Renteria are all gone, as are starting catcher Ramon Hernandez and closer Francisco Cordero. The Reds have all but cleaned out their farm system in an effort to win now, trading prospects Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Bradley Boxberger as part of a deal that netted starting pitcher Mat Latos from the Padres, and bringing in Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart to log a significant chunk of the innings at catcher and shortstop, respectively.

Reds general manager Walt Jockety went to the free agent market to find his new closer, ex-Phillie Ryan Madson, and he imported Sean Marshall from the Cubs to fill the set-up role. While the Reds had a busy offseason, they have kept the core of their '10 division title-winning team intact as Votto, Cueto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips will all return in key roles.

With their recent roster shuffling, the Reds will head into spring training with a few question marks. Namely, they will have to determine whether recently-signed Ryan Ludwick or Chris Heisey will be their left fielder, how much playing time they want Mesoraco to have, and if there will be room for Aroldis Chapman or Jeff Francis in the starting rotation. Ultimately, though, the Reds' chances for returning to the postseason will hinge not on these decisions, but on Latos performing like a legitimate No. 2 starter, the bottom of the rotation improving, and Rolen and Stubbs having bounce-back years. At least some of these developments should pan out, but it still may not be enough for the Reds to keep pace with the Cardinals and Brewers.

Breakout ... Homer Bailey, SP

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It has been almost five years since Bailey first arrived as a highly-touted minor-league call-up, and he still has yet to fulfill much of his lofty promise. While Bailey's performance has been spotty, persistent shoulder troubles have been the 25-year-old's biggest obstacle to progress. The Reds have been conservative with Bailey and the team hopes that their caution will pay off this season. If he can stay healthy, Bailey has an excellent chance for a breakout season, as he has made steady improvements in his pitch selection, control and efficiency. Though he may go undrafted in many mixed leagues, Bailey could be one of this year's top post-hype sleepers.

Impact 2012 prospect ... Zack Cozart, SS

Mesoraco projects to be the more impactful player over the long run, but Cozart will make more noise in 2012. If he can build on the gap power that he displayed in Triple-A last season, Cozart just might hit in the .280s. With regular playing time, Cozart is a safe bet to hit double digits in homers, possibly getting as many as 15. The Reds have a bevy of infielders on their roster, but the biggest impediment to playing time for Cozart is his ability to come back from Tommy John surgery quickly. He should play all or most of the regular season and is worth drafting with a late-round pick in standard mixed leagues.

Bust ... Ryan Ludwick, OF

Though Ludwick will compete with Heisey for the starting left field job, he could benefit from manager Dusty Baker's preference for veteran players. That may land Ludwick a starting gig to begin the season, but that's no guarantee that he can keep it. Some observers have pointed to Ludwick's career line at Great American Ball Park (.276/.321/.600) as a sign of an impending comeback season, and it's true that he has had the misfortune of playing in pitchers' parks for most of his career. However, Ludwick has just 19 plate appearances at GABP over the last two years, a time period during which he has seen an erosion of his power numbers, both at home and on the road. Heisey has simply been a better hitter over the last two years, and it will take a significant comeback on Ludwick's part to hold him off. While some owners may see Ludwick as a candidate for a late-round flier in mixed leagues, his recent performance suggests that he will be better suited for NL-only leagues.

2012 Cincinnati Reds Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Brandon Phillips 2B 1 Johnny Cueto RH
2 Zack Cozart SS 2 Mat Latos RH
3 Joey Votto 1B 3 Mike Leake RH
4 Jay Bruce RF 4 Bronson Arroyo RH
5 Scott Rolen 3B 5 Homer Bailey RH
6 Ryan Ludwick LF Alt Jeff Francis LH
7 Drew Stubbs CF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ryan Hanigan C CL Ryan Madson RH
Top bench options SU Sean Marshall LH
R Devin Mesoraco C RP Nick Masset RH
R Chris Heisey OF RP Jose Arredondo RH
R Juan Francisco 3B RP Bill Bray LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Devin Mesoraco 23 C Majors Majors
Mesoraco will start the season in the majors splitting time with Hanigan, but he has the power and patience to be a top Fantasy catcher in the not-too-distant future.
2 Zack Cozart 26 SS Majors Majors
Coming off Tommy John surgery, Cozart could be ready for opening day. He may not get on base much, but he has good power for a shortstop.
3 Billy Hamilton 21 SS Class A Class A
This is not a typo: Hamilton stole 103 bases in the Midwest League last season. His other skills are a work in progress, though, and he is likely to get shifted to second base before he reaches the majors.
4 Daniel Corcino 21 SP Class A Class A
Corcino has been much more dominant than what you would expect from someone who is 5' 11". He made huge strides in 2011, and now he will have to master the hitter-friendly California League.
5 Robert Stephenson 18 SP DNP Class A
Stephenson, the Reds' first-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft, throws his fastball in the mid-90s but has plenty of work to do on his secondary pitches. He's still several years away.
Best of the rest: Todd Frazier, 3B; Didi Gregorius, SS; Tony Cingrani, SP; Neftali Soto, 1B; Denis Phipps, OF; Yorman Rodriguez, OF; Henry Rodriguez, 2B; J.C. Sulbaran, SP; David Vidal, 3B; Tim Crabbe, SP; Kyle Lotzkar, SP; Juan Duran, OF; Gabriel Rosa, 3B; Tucker Barnhart, C; Junior Arias, 3B; Andrew Brackman, RP; Donald Lutz, 1B; Donnie Joseph, RP.

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Player News
Twins pitcher Brian Duensing struggles in outing Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Twins pitcher Brian Duensing struggled through his start Monday against the Red Sox, allowing six runs on eight hits in just one inning of work.

It was Duensing's first true rough start of spring training, after allowing just one run in his last seven appearances.

'"He couldn't make pitches, he got behind. But he's had a good spring overall. Things kind of snowballed on him," manager Paul Molitor said to the Star Tribune. "We just couldn't get him through that inning. I'm willing to let that go by. Obviously, you don't want to see that for anybody, but he’ll be back out there."


Red Sox C/1B Mike Napoli homers in win over Twins
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Mike Napoli of the Red Sox homered Monday in the team's 14-2 win over the Twins, reports MLB.com.

Napoli's homer was a broken-bat homerun and he talked about it after the game.

"I watched the video on it," said Napoli. "It looked like I got the barrel to it. My at-bat before, when I shot the ball to right field, he kind of got in a little bit on me. That's probably where it broke there."

"It was just a weird feeling," said Napoli. "The bat exploded and it was just kind of sitting there. It's a weird feeling any time you do that. I don't know. I can't really explain it. I was just kind of running around the bases like, 'What just happened?'"

Napoli, 33, hit .248 last season with 17 home runs and 55 RBI. 

 


Rockies P Rex Brothers struggles again in loss to Athletics
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers struggled again in his latest outing against the Athletics, per MLB.com. The Rockies fell to the Athletics an 11-2 loss on Monday.

After only giving up one run and two hits in his first five appearances, Brothers has yielded six runs on five hits with five walks in his last three outings (2 2/3 innings pitched).

The 27-year-old lefty finished the 2014 season with a record of 4-6 posting a 6.07 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 39 RBI.


Report: Dodgers sign P Freddy Garcia to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) The Dodgers have signed pitcher Freddy Garcia to a minor-league contract, according to a report from MLB.com

Garcia spent 2014 pitching in Taiwan, and was with the Braves and Orioles in 2013 before that. He has a career 4.15 ERA since entering the majors in 1999. 


Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts rips eighth double of spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts continues to rip through pitchers in spring training. Bettes went 2 for 3 with a double, one RBI and three runs scored for Boston against Minnesota Monday. 

Betts now has eight doubles this spring with a blistering .467 average in 45 plate appearances.


Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson gives up one run in outing Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson went 5 2/3 innings Monday, allowing just one run on five hits with four strikeouts against the Twins.

Masterson is now 2-1 this spring with a 3.50 ERA in five appearances.


Royals P Jason Vargas gives up five runs in win over Rangers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Royals pitcher Jason Vargas gave up five earned runs in five innings in Monday's 11-7 win over the Rangers. 

Vargas surrendered seven hits, one walk while striking out five batters. His ERA this spring is now 9.68. Vargas struck out five batters but gave up four home runs. 


Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris posts eight strikeouts Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris recorded eight strikeouts over six innings of work Monday against the Astros. Norris allowed four runs on five hits in the outing.

"I'm actually glad that happened tonight, just being able to bounce back and make the adjustment in-game," Norris said to MLB.com. "It was a good finish. It was one of those nights where 90 percent of the mistakes I made got hit. That's baseball, I guess."

Norris has posted a 3.28 ERA in 24 2/3 innings of work with a team-leading 29 strikeouts in spring training.


White Sox pitcher Zach Putnam tosses straight scoreless appearance
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) White Sox pitcher Zach Putnam continues to make a push for a role in the bullpen. That journey continued Monday, throwing his fourth consecutive scoreless appearances after giving up eight runs over 3 2/3 innings in his first four games of spring training.

"I feel as if it's been there since the start of camp, but what changed was the frequency with which I was throwing it," Putnam said to MLB.com. "I was going into at-bats early on trying to kind of work on my fastball and polish my cutter just a little bit.

"When you are not fine with those pitches and guys are coming in taking massive hacks trying to hit homers, as they are sometime in Spring Training, I got hurt a lot. As soon as I figured it out and started throwing it more and setting up hitters the same way I set them up during the season, things fell into place for me."


Orioles comfortable with Everth Cabrera at short
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Orioles GM Dan Duquette gave Everth Cabrera a vote of confidence on Monday. 

With expected starting shortstop J.J. Hardy missing the start of the season with a strained muscle in his shoulder, Duquette was asked if the team was in the market to acquire a shortstop. 

"We signed one just before camp opened," Duquette said, per MASN Sports. Cabrera signed with the team as a free agent in late February. 

Cabrera has hit .238 this spring. 


 
 
 
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