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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
Giants SP Chris Heston continues August stumbles
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:27 pm ET) Chris Heston has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants this season, but in the dog days of August, he's experienced a rough patch that continued Sunday when he couldn't get out of the fourth inning in a loss against the Cardinals. 

Heston managed to go just 3 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits, two of them home runs. And while he managed not to walk anyone after combining for nine free passes in his last two starts, he only struck out one batter. 

In five August starts, Heston (11-8) went longer than 4 2/3 innings only once, and finished the month 0-3 with two no-decisions. 


Cardinals SP Jaime Garcia continues hot streak
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:22 pm ET) While Jaime Garcia wasn't as great as he's been recently, he was good enough Sunday to pick up his fourth straight victory as the Cardinals edged the Giants. 

Garcia came into the game allowing just four earned runs in his last four starts. He would give up four runs Sunday, on 10 hits, but got plenty of offensive support to pick up the win. 

Garcia (7-4) went 4-0 with two no-decisions in August and the Cardinals won all six of his starts. Sunday's somewhat "off" outing raised his miniscule ERA to 2.03 on the season. 


Reds rookie SP John Lamb remains winless
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:17 pm ET) John Lamb had the best start of his brief MLB career, but it wasn't enough to put a "1" in the win column as the Reds rookie lost to the Brewers on Sunday. 

Lamb went six innings, allowing five hits while striking out eight and walking noe. But a two-run homer to Ryan Braun in the first inning would prove to be his biggest mistake. 

Lamb (0-3) has seen his ERA drop in his four MLB starts from 7.50 to 5.24, suggesting he is growing more comfortable as a starter at the highest level. 


Brewers SP Wily Peralta picks up fifth victory
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7:06 pm ET) Wily Peralta kept his command, and because of that, was able to pick up his fifth victory of the season Sunday for the Brewers. 

For only the third time in his 16 starts this season, Peralta did not walk a batter. Over seven innings of work, he struck out six, allowed just one run and showed no signs of the "dead arm" that plagued him over his last couple of starts. 

After a 1-5 start to the season, Peralta (5-8) has now won three of his last four starts, though he still sports an ERA of 4.30.


White Sox LF Melky Cabrera gets four hits in win
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:47 pm ET) White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera went 4 for 5 with a double, a home run and a RBI in Sunday's win over the Mariners.

Over his last three games, Cabrera is hitting .500 with seven hits, two doubles, a home runs and a RBI.


Mariners 3B Kyle Seager homers in multi-hit performance
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:40 pm ET) Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager went 3 for 6 with a double, a home run and three RBI in Sunday's loss to the White Sox.

Over his last three games, Seager is hitting .533 with eight hits, three home runs and six RBI.


Strikeouts can't save White Sox SP Jose Quintana on Sunday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:37 pm ET) White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana fanned eight of the Mariners he retired Sunday. That's impressive.

Other than that - not so much.

Quintana surrendered four runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 inning and would have lost if not for an error with two outs in the ninth that allowed his team to tie it. 

His struggles began immediately on a Kyle Seager two-run homer in the first and Austin Jackson two-run dinger in the second. He worked his way out of jams in the third and fourth before working his way out of the game in the fifth.

His effort marked only the second time he has not managed a quality start in his last eight outings.


Mariners SP Edgar Olmos gives up three runs in no-decision
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:37 pm ET) Mariners starter Edgar Olmos was average during his start against the White Sox on Sunday.

Olmos allowed three runs on five hits in five innings. He was erratic with his command, as he gave up five walks while recording just two strikeouts in the no-decision.

Olmos (1-0) now has a 2.13 ERA in 13 2/3 innings this year.


Skid has Cubs LF Kyle Schwarber out of Sunday lineup
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:23 pm ET) Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber has hit safely in only seven of his last 18 games. The result is that he is out of the lineup Sunday night against the Dodgers.

Schwarber is experiencing his first slump in the bigs. He is batting just .137 (7-for-51) over his last 14 games to send his average reeling from .330 to .266.


Yankees 2B Stephen Drew has rare offensive explosion
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:12 pm ET) In using a popular and appropriate term, the performance Sunday of Yankees second baseman Stephen Drew came out of left field.

Drew, who had failed all year to nudge his average to .200, finally scaled that mountain in Atlanta with a 4-for-4 effort that pushed it to .201. Among those hits was a two-run homer in the third.

He reached base all six times in the laugher. He walked in a run in the fifth and singled in another in the seventh.

His effort ended an 0-for-12 skid.


 
 
 
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