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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 top prospect Byron Buxton continues to roll through Double-A
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:43 pm ET) Twins top prospect Byron Buxton is abusing Double-A pitching so far this season. One of the top prospects in baseball, Buxton ripped his 11th triple of the season and ninth in the month of May on Saturday.

Buxton is hitting .267 with five home runs, five doubles and 33 RBI in 42 games this season in the minors.


Dodgers prospect Corey Seager launches firsts two PCL homers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:33 pm ET) Dodgers prospect Corey Seage r had been mired in a slump since being promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma on May 1. The 2012 first-round pick came into Monday night's game in 3-for-25 skid with no extra base hits during that stretch. But Seager did his best to put that drought far behind him on Monday against Salt Lake.

Seager launched his first two Pacific Coast League home run on Monday, as Oklahoma won 6-1. Now, the 21-year-old is hitting .250/.290/.364 with 14 strikeouts in 88 at-bats with Triple-A. But Seager knows what he has to do and is trying to stay positive the best he can.

"There's going to be low points in every year," he said, per MiLB.com. "You just try to minimize them as much as possible. That was the low point for me, and I made the adjustment. Hopefully we can move on and not have too many more of them.

"I'm getting comfortable now. "It's always a whirlwind in the beginning trying to figure out everything about where you're going to be, get your clothes, all that other stuff. It's finally settling down. You can finally relax and go out and play again."


Rangers' Mitch Moreland batting .351 during hit streak
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:02 pm ET) Rangers first baseman/outfielder Mitch Moreland pushed his hitting streak to a season-best nine games with a two-RBI single Monday at Cleveland. He also had his first stolen base of the season and seventh in his career Monday.

Moreland has a .351/.385/.703/1.087 slash line over his last nine games. He also has three home runs, four doubles, six runs, eight RBI, two walks and five strikeouts in that span.


Padres 1B Yonder Alonso (shoulder) looking to return next week
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:55 am ET) Padres manager Bud Black said injured first baseman Yonder Alonso will most likely begin his minor-league rehab assignment on Wednesday. Alonso, who has been out of action with a shoulder injury since May 8, is hoping to be back with the Padres early next week, Black told MLB Network Radio.


Padres' Bud Black: Wil Myers still 7-10 days from rejoining team
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:49 am ET) Padres manager Bud Black was unable to provide a new update on Wil Myers on Tuesday, but noted he is still 7-to-10 days from joining the team, according to MLB Network Radio.

Myers, who is currently on the 15-day DL with a wrist injury, is getting examined on Tuesday to see if his wrist has made enough progression to take the next step in rehab. Myers has been out since May 10 with the injury and is hitting .291 with 19 RBI in 134 at-bats this season.


Twins DH Kennys Vargas thriving since demotion to Triple-A
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:35 am ET) Twins DH Kennys Vargas has been crushing the baseball following his demotion to Triple-A Rochester. Vargas homered for the third time in six games Monday.

He has a .409/.458/.864/1.322 slash line since joining the Rochester lineup. He has hit safely in all but one game. He also has one double, two walks, five strikeouts, six walks and six runs.

Vargas was demoted to the minors last week after batting .248 with three home runs, 10 RBI and 30 strikeouts in 29 games for Minnesota.


Dodgers, Braves have deal in place involving Uribe, Callaspo
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:34 am ET) The Dodgers and Braves have a deal in place involving infielders Juan Uribe and Alberto Callaspo, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. No word yet on if the deal has been finalized.

The deal would save Los Angeles some money in sending Uribe to Atlanta, but Callaspo can reject the deal until June 15th per a clause in his contract. The deal would also send a minor leaguer to Atlanta with the Braves shipping back three minor-league prospects.

Callaspo was a late scratch from Monday's game as the team was looking to make a trade. He is hitting .206 with eight RBI in 107 at-bats this season.

Uribe is part of a crowded infield with manager Don Mattingly trying to rotate both Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero in at third base. Uribe is hitting .247 with six RBI in 81 at-bats this season.


OF Slade Heathcott off to promising start for Yankees
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:24 am ET) The short-term future of Yankees newcomer Slade Heathcott is unknown. One can only speculate on his status upon the eventual return of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the disabled list.

But the present looks pretty promising. Heathcott has been impressive in three games, slamming a double for his first big-league hit and adding a two-run homer in a Monday rout of the Royals. He is 5-for-12 with three runs and three RBI.

So much for wilting under the pressure of playing in the majors, let alone that of wearing the legendary pinstripes.

"When I step across those lines, I just want it to be the same game I've played my entire career life," he told the Journal News. "Obviously on a higher scale, and at a higher level - a lot more fans, a lot more energy - but I want to keep this the same game I've been playing. Don't stress. Don't try to do too much. That's something I have to remind myself every AB."

Joe Girardi has not indicated where Heathcott will fit in when Ellsbury comes back. But he's certainly happy with his performance.

"You want to see your young players come up and have success and feel like they're contributing," he said. "Not put a ton of pressure on themselves and not looking over their shoulder and wondering if they're going to play the next day."


Reds closer Aroldis Chapman takes loss on Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) Reds closer Aroldis Chapman gave up the go-ahead run in the ninth inning on Monday in Cincinnati's 5-4 loss to the Rockies.

Chapman, in a non-save situation, allowed the first two batters of the inning to reach safely, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Then, Chapman allowed a sacrifice fly to Nolan Arenado to give Colorado the lead. Chapman would strikeout the final two batters to end the inning.

Chapman, now 2-3, moved his ERA to 1.86 in 19 1/3 innings of work.


Mets' Cuddyer: David Wright experiencing 'frustration of unknown'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has been exchanging text messages with ailing teammate David Wright lately. And the former can sum up the feelings of the latter with one word.

Frustration.

Wright has spun his wheels in his attempt to return from the disabled list. A diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis has him seeing a spine specialist. He appears no closer to coming off the DL now than he did when he was placed on it. There is no timetable - just more examinations and more rest.

"He's frustrated," Cuddyer told NJ.com. "I'm right there with him. We're all frustrated with him. On a personal level it stinks. ... Not knowing [is] tough. Any time it's an indefinite - you don't know. Broken arm, you know six weeks. Hamstring, you know probably three weeks. the back thing with him now, you just don't know. It's the frustration of the unknown."

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has stated that there is no indication that the back injury will limit Wright in the future. But nobody seems to know when that future on the field will begin.


 
 
 
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