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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
Yankees SP CC Sabathia nearly '100 percent'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:10 pm ET) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia said Tuesday that he feels "pretty much back to 100 percent" and expects a full 200-inning workload in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"It's definitely a huge relief," Sabathia said. "I feel good enough to do all my workouts, to play catch and kind of have a normal offseason."

Sabathia, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in July, starting throwing off flat ground in late September and plans to report to spring training early.


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman likely to play first base in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:05 pm ET) Nationals third baseman/outfielder Ryan Zimmerman will likely shift over to first base in 2015, MLB.com reports. He's currently resting his right hamstring after suffering a Grade 3 strain in July.

"I'm sure I'll talk to them soon or they will talk [to the media]," Zimmerman said. "I think Anthony [Rendon] is the future third baseman. Obviously, he played great there. He played some second and some third. If he goes into Spring Training knowing that he is playing third base, he has a chance to be a very good third baseman.

"Obviously, I love playing third base. But some of the injuries over the last two or three years made it tougher for me to be an above average third baseman. It's hard to accept that, but I think that's the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurts sometimes. But Anthony has a great chance to be very good over there. I could be an above average first baseman if I work at it during Spring Training and the rest of this offseason. But that's not just my decision. Obviously, I'll talk with [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] and Matt and see what their plans are. I'm sure we'll find out in the next week or two."

The Nationals have first base open due to the impending free agency of 2014 starter Adam LaRoche.


Diamondbacks add Enrique Burgos to 40-man roster
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) The Diamondbacks have added pitcher Enrique Burgos to their 40-man roster, the Arizona Republic reports. He's now protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

Red Sox OF Rusney Castillo day-to-day with hand/thumb injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:06 pm ET) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo is day-to-day after suffering a bruised hand/thumb during Arizona Fall League play Monday, WEEI.com reports.

Castillo suffered the injury while getting jammed during an at-bat. He signed a $72.5-million deal in August that runs through 2020.


Report: Mike Zagurski joins Hiroshima Carp
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(5:43 pm ET) Pitcher Mike Zagurski has agreed to a deal with the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, SportsNet reports. He delivered a 2.08 ERA and 83:29 K:BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level in 2014.

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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:39 pm ET) The Royals will start pitcher Jeremy Guthrie in Game 3 of the World Series Friday, with Jason Vargas scheduled to pitch Game 4 the following day, the team announced Tuesday.

James Shields takes the mound in Game 1 Tuesday, while rookie Yordano Ventura is slated to pitch Game 3. If the series reaches five games, Shields would likely be in line to start Game 5 Sunday.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:34 pm ET) An MRI on the injured shoulder of Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha came back clean, MLB.com reports.

Wacha has been dealing with a stress reaction in his right shoulder, but he is expected to follow his normal offseason program. "Even the doctors were a little surprised on how that looked," general manager John Mozeliak said.


Giants 2B Joe Panik batting second in World Series Game 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:31 pm ET) Giants second baseman Joe Panik remains in the second spot in the team's announced starting lineup for Game 1 of the World Series against the Royals Tuesday.

Panik has hit second in all nine of the Giants' postseason games so far, but he's hit just .239/.271/.348 in 46 at-bats, with three of his 11 hits coming during the Wild Card game to open the postseason. He bat just after leadoff man and center fielder Gregor Blanco. Catcher Buster Posey bats third, followed by third baseman Pablo Sandoval, right fielder Hunter Pence, first baseman Brandon Belt, designated hitter Michael Morse, left fielder Travis Ishikawa and shortstop Brandon Crawford.


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(5:26 pm ET) Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is leading off in the team's announced lineup for Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday against the Giants.

Escobar led off just 16 times while playing all 162 games during the regular season, but he's been the man atop the lineup in each of the Royals' first eight postseason games -- all wins. He'll be followed by right fielder Norichika Aoki, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, first baseman Eric Hosmer, designated hitter Billy Butler, left fielder Alex Gordon, catcher Salvador Perez, second baseman Omar Infante and third baseman Mike Moustakas.


Phillies sign Jerome Williams to one-year deal
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(5:21 pm ET) The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $2.5-million deal with pitcher Jerome Williams, the team announced Tuesday. The contract includes performance bonuses.

Williams went 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 38:17 K:BB ratio in 57 1/3 innings over nine starts after joining the team off waivers in August. He has pitched for seven teams while compiling a 4.40 ERA in 891 1/3 career innings.


 
 
 
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