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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
Mariners SP Mike Montgomery rebounds with strong effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) After three mediocre-to-awful starts that threatened to ruin what had been a fine rookie season, Mariners left-hander Mike Montgomery stopped the bleeding Monday night.

Montgomery wasn't lights-out, but he did allow just two earned runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision against Arizona. He walked four and struck out five.

Home runs by Paul Goldschmidt and Welington Castillo in the first two innings appeared to have Montgomery reeling again. But he righted himself and later retired eight in a row.

Montgomery owns a 3.20 ERA, but hasn't won a game since July 5.


Counsell upset with Brewers OF Carlos Gomez for steal attempt
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:32 am ET) Craig Counsell has reacted angrily to a caught stealing by Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez in the ninth inning of their Monday night loss in San Francisco.

Gomez singled to open the inning with his team two runs behind. He attempted a steal with the tying run at the plate and was thrown out. He was 1-for-4 in the game.

"You cannot get thrown out there," Counsell told MLB.com.

Scooter Gennett later hit a double that would have either scored Gomez or put two runners in scoring position. But the Brewers did not score.


Blue Jays snag RP LaTroy Hawkins in deal with Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:12 am ET) Former Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins has been included in the deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, per CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Hawkins saved just two games this season before losing his job. But he has allowed just one earned run in 14 appearances since June 14.


Report: Rockies snag SS Jose Reyes in return for Tulowitzki
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) The Rockies will receive veteran shortstop Jose Reyes and minor leaguers in return for Troy Tulowitzki, according to Fox Sports MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal.

The 32-year-old Reyes owns a slash line on the year of .285/.333/.385.


Giants RP Sergio Romo earns second save of season Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:00 am ET) Giants pitcher Sergio Romo recorded the final three outs of the ninth inning to earn his second save of the season during Monday's 4-2 win over the Brewers.

Romo allowed one hit and struck out two during the appearance. He is now 2 for 2 in save chances this season with a 4.26 ERA.


Brewers SP Kyle Lohse allows four runs in Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:57 am ET) Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse had a decent outing Monday, but it was not enough as the Brewers lost 4-2 to the Giants.

Lohse (5-12) allowed four runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out four and walked three. His biggest mistake was giving up a two-run home run to Brandon Crawford in the fourth inning.

Lohse is now winless in his last four starts. He has not earned a quality start in his last six outings.


Report: Nationals 1B Zimmerman, LF Werth to play Tuesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:56 am ET) The Nationals are expected to activate first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and left fielder Jayson Werth for their Tuesdsay night matchup against Marlins stud starter Jose Fernandez, according to MLB.com.

The team has not confirmed those moves,however.

Zimmerman has been sidelined for more than a month with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Werth has been out for more than two months with a fractured left wrist. Both have joined the team in Miami.


Giants SP Chris Heston earns win in Monday's start
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) Giants pitcher Chris Heston continued his impressive season Monday when he earned his 11th win of the season during the 4-2 win over the Brewers.

Heston allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings of work to lower his ERA to 3.14. He also struck out four and walked three.

Heston has now won his last three starts and has not lost a start in his last seven outings. He has also earned a quality start in each of his last six starts.


Rockies trade SS Troy Tulowitzki to Blue Jays
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:40 am ET) The Rockies traded shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, reports CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Prior to Monday's contest, Tulowitzki was hitting .224 with four home runs and 11 RBI in his last 13 games. He has spent his entire 10-year career with the Rockies.


Report: Multiple teams targeting Mariners SP Hisashi Iwakuma
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Suitors interested in Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma have lined up, but the team has yet to commit to trading him, according to Fox Sports.

Iwakuma has gotten into a groove after losing most of the season to injury. He is 2-0 in his last three starts with four runs allowed and 18 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings.


 
 
 
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