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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
Rockies confirm Christian Bergman will start Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:12 pm ET) The Rockies confirmed Wednesday that pitcher Christian Bergman will return from the disabled list and start Sunday's game against the Marlins, the Denver Post reports.

Bergman has been on the disabled list for the past two months while recovering from a fractured hand. He has posted a 7.20 ERA in 15 innings over three starts.


C.J. Cron likely to be called up soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:10 pm ET) Angels designated hitter C.J. Cron is likely to be called up soon, according to the Orange County Register

Cron has performed well in a nine-game stint in the minors, and could be on his way back up with the team facing two lefties during the weekend series. Cron has hit .266/.295/.462 over 199 at-bats this season.


Steven Souza could begin rehab assignment Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:08 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Steven Souza said Wednesday that he could begin a rehab assignment as soon as Thursday, MLB.com reports.

"It's a matter of just how I feel," Souza said. "Kind of build of slowly and see how I feel from there."

Souza suffered a sprained AC joint after crashing into the outfield wall on Aug. 8 and was placed on the disabled list two days later. He went through a full hitting workout Wednesday and will hope to progress to a rehab assignment Thursday or soon after.


Jeff Samardzija gets knocked around Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:06 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija was knocked around Wednesday against the Mets.

Samardzija allowed seven runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings during the start. He struck out three and walked two. Samardzija melted down in the third inning. Eric Campbell hit a solo shot to lead things off, and it only went downhill from there. With two outs, Samardzija gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases. A wild pitch brought one run home. The next batter then proceeded to smash a three-run homer to center off Samardzija. The fourth inning didn’t go much better. With a man on and two outs, Samardzija gave up three straight singles, bringing in two more runs. He was replaced by Jesse Chavez at that point.

With the loss, Samardzija fell to 5-10. He’ll take on the Astros in his next start.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Serving as his team's designated hitter Wednesday, Mets first baseman Eric Campbell went 2 for 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 8-5 win over the A's.

Campbell kicked off a five-run third inning with his shot, which broke a scoreless tie. He has two home runs in his last five games after collecting just one in his first 56 games. Campbell has hit .301/.348/.418 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 146 at-bats.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) Mets first baseman Lucas Duda went 2 for 4 with a walk and a three-run home run in his team's 8-5 win over the A's Wednesday.

Duda capped off a five-run third inning with his blast, and the Mets kept the lead the entire game. It was just his third multihit performance of August as he has watched his season rate statistics dip this month. Duda has hit .255/.354/.487 with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 392 at-bats.


Zack Wheeler picks up win vs. A's Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:58 pm ET) Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler picked up a win Wednesday, giving up four runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings while striking out three in his team's 8-5 victory over the A's.

Wheeler (9-8) surrendered a pair of runs in the third inning then watched two more come home on a fourth-inning error. He hasn't taken a loss since June 25, going 6-0 during that stretch. Wheeler owns a 3.48 ERA and 148:65 K:BB ratio in 152 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Braves next Wednesday.


Report: Cubs, Giants set to continue Tuesday game Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:58 pm ET) The Giants have prevailed in a protest of how Tuesday's called game was handled, and Tuesday's 2-0 Cubs win is set to be continued Thursday, picking up where things left off in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The game was delayed for more than four hours after the grounds crew was unable to get the tarp completely on the infield before it was drenched, with the umpires ultimately deciding to call the game and award Chicago with the win late into the night. Tsuyoshi Wada (win) and Ryan Vogelsong (loss) were the pitchers of record in the game, but if it's continued, those decisions are up in the air.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) Giants first baseman Brandon Belt will remain sidelined for at least two or three more weeks, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Belt will be held out of baseball activities for the next few weeks in order to rest, per orders from the doctor. He is attempting to return from a concussion.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:35 pm ET) Giants catcher Buster Posey is dealing with left hip tightness, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Posey is scheduled to receive treatment Wednesday, and though he isn't in the starting lineup, he should be available off the bench. Manager Bruce Bochy hopes he'll be able to catch Thursday.


 
 
 
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