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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
Shane Greene twirls 6 2/3 scoreless innings in no-decision
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:35 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Shane Greene turned in a solid outing in a no-decision Thursday night at home against the Blue Jays. He allowed three hits and two walks while striking out six over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Of his 105 pitches, 73 were strikes.

Greene owns a 3.24 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP over 75 innings of work. His next start will come Wednesday at home against Baltimore.

Aaron Sanchez coughs up game-winning run vs. Yankees
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:30 pm ET) Blue Jays reliever Aaron Sanchez (2-2) was pegged with a loss Thursday night against the Yankees. Sanchez allowed the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth due to a throwing error by Aaron Lind.

Sanchez was charged with one unearned run on one hit over one-third of an inning in a 3-2 defeat. He owns a 1.24 ERA and a 0.66 WHIP over 29 innings of relief.

R.A. Dickey unable to factor into the decision
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:21 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey tossed a quality start but was unable to factor into the decision Thursday night against the Yankees in New York.

Dickey allowed a run-scoring double to Stephen Drew in the fifth and a solo home run to Derek Jeter in the sixth. He permitted two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out three over six innings of work. Of his 89 pitches, 60 were strikes.

Dickey owns a 3.82 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 32 starts (202 2/3 innings). His next start will come Tuesday at home against Seattle.

Jered Weaver on track to start Game 1 of ALDS
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:34 pm ET) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, who was scratched on Thursday, will make his next scheduled start on Saturday, then Sept. 26 at Seattle, which leaves him on track to start Game 1 of the American League Division Series, according to the Orange County Register.

Diamondbacks shut down Daniel Hudson for remainder of season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:24 pm ET) The Diamondbacks are expected to shut down pitcher Daniel Hudson for the remainder of the season. Hudson is not dealing with any injuries, but the team does not want to increase the workload of Hudson, who recently returned from Tommy John surgery, per MLB.com.

Hudson will finish the season with just 2 2/3 innings of work, having allowed four runs over three appearances.

Padres may ease Joaquin Benoit back into action
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) The Padres may ease pitcher Joaquin Benoit back into action before using him in save situations, according to U-T San Diego. Benoit has been since Aug. 26 because of a shoulder injury, but could return as early as Friday. He owns a 1.58 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 60:14 K:BB ratio in 51 1/3 innings.

Giancarlo Stanton will need 6-to-8 weeks for facial fractures to heal
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7:55 pm ET) Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton told reporters that he still needs more dental work before he has another CT test. Stanton  also admitted to sustaining an orbital fracture, though his vision was never impaired. The swelling has gone down in his face, but he'll need 6-to-8 weeks for all facial fractures to heal, according to MLB.com.

Jake Smolinski cranks out four hits vs. A's
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7:39 pm ET) Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski had a monster game at the plate Thursday afternoon against the Athletics in Oakland.

He singled in a run in the first, and added three more singled. He finished the game 4 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI in a 7-2 victory. He is hitting .408 with one home run and eight RBI over 49 at-bats.


Josh Hamilton experiencing more shoulder issues
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7:35 pm ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is dealing with tightness and discomfort in front part of his right shoulder, a different spot, which flared up before Wednesday's game, the Los Angeles Times reports. He returned to action Tuesday but left the ballpark early to visit a chiropractor. Hamilton described it as "a sharp, stabbing pain" near his chest and right rib cage, underneath his armpit, per MLB.com. 

He was not in the starting lineup Thursday against Seattle.


Everth Cabrera not likely to return before end of homestand
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7:28 pm ET) Updating a previous report: It now appears doubtful that Padres infielder Everth Cabrera will join the team before the end of their Sept. 15-24 homestand, per U-T San Diego. Cabrera been sidelined since August 9 due to a hamstring injury. He's hit .232/.272/.300 in 357 at-bats. 

 
 
 
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