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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
Jayson Werth sits again for Nationals on Wednesday vs. Marlins
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:33 am ET) Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth was not in the starting lineup once again on Wednesday against the Marlins. Werth, who missed the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury, was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game, though no injury is being reported.

Michael Taylor drew the start in left field on Wednesday, batting eighth in the lineup for manager Matt Williams. 


Giants' Bochy on Panik and Crawford: 'It's fun to watch those two'
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:29 am ET) Giants skipper Bruce Bochy is loving what he's getting from shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Joe Panik, both in the field and at the plate. 

"It's fun to watch those two go, how they work together," Bochy said Tuesday, per MLB.com. "Craw is so gifted, and Joe Panik has made so much improvement defensively. They're so solid out there, offensively and defensively. They make the routine plays, and when you need a double play, they turn it as well as anybody."

The two continued their offensive prowess in Tuesday's victory over the Padres. Crawford, who was moved up to the fifth spot in the batting order, reached safely in all four of his plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and two runs scored. This was his third mult-hit performance in his last six games.

Panik, meanwhile, hit a solo home run, his second of the year, in the fifth inning. He went 1-for-4 on the evening. He has hit safely in four of his last five games.

"We have a great relationship," Panik said. "He makes my job easier -- just a great guy to play with. When you first get called up, a lot of emotions are running through you, the typical butterflies. The game tends to beat up on you. Then you look over at Brandon, and everything's fine.


Padres' Black on Derek Norris playing first: 'we're thinking about it'
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:20 am ET) With the Padres' recent call-up of prized catching prospect Austin Hedges, manager Bud Black has offered a potential solution to getting him in the lineup more often, while also playing current catcher Derek Norris. Black said Tuesday that Norris could start taking some groundballs at first base, and might see some time there this season. 

"It would just be against certain left-handed pitchers, we want to keep his bat in the lineup, like for a day game after a night game, or if he's caught consecutive games," Black said, per MLB.com. "Take the load off his feet from catching."

Norris has played just one game at first base during his career, and that was in 2013. But Black expressed confidence that Norris could handle a transition.

"It would be a gradual build-up of reps. We are working through this," Black said. "But he was an amateur third baseman. He has good hands, good feet and a good baseball mind. This will not happen quick, but we're thinking about it."


Cubs reliever James Russell makes season debut Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:05 am ET) Cubs reliever James Russell allowed one run on two hits in 1 1/3 innings during the team's 7-4 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday. After starting his career with Chicago, he was dealt to the Braves at the trading deadline last season. The Cubs signed him to a minor league contract last month, and brought him up to the team prior to Tuesday's game

"It's comfortable to be back," Russell said, per MLB.com. "It's a good feeling. The culture has kind of changed for the better. It's definitely nice."

Last season with the Cubs and Braves, the left-hander pitched to a 3.51 ERA in 33 1/3 innings. While pitching in Triple-A this season, Russell did not allow an earned run in seven appearances, and posted a 12:0 K:BB ratio.


Report: Diamondbacks could pursue C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:53 am ET) Now that catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has officially been released by the Marlins, teams are starting to do their due-dillegence on the veteran backstop in preparation for making a possible run to sign him. One of those teams could be the Diamondbacks.

"He's a player that we're going to talk a little bit more in-depth about," general manager Dave Stewart said Tuesday, per the Arizona Republic. "I have to see what our scouts are saying and talk to our internal guys, and if it makes sense then we'll make the next step."

Currently, the Diamondbacks have Tuffy Gosewisch as their primary catcher, with Jordan Pacheco as the backup. Neither one has swung the bat all that well this season, though Pacheco has five hits in his last 15 at-bats. 

"Although Tuffy has done a really good job defensively, we still expect a little more offense from him," Stewart said. "He may make those adjustments, but with that being said, we have to at least go through the process internally and see if Saltalamacchia is an option to bring here."


Mariners 2B Robinson Cano collects three hits in loss Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:22 am ET) Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano recorded three hits in five at-bats, including a double, and scored a run in Tuesday's loss to the Angels. Cano, who recently broke an 0-for-18 skid, is now hitting .320 (8 for 25) over his last six games. 

Cano is still trying to get things going in 2015, as the lifetime .309 hitter is batting just .261 on the year with only one home run and seven RBI. 


Tigers CF Anthony Gose records two hits, steals base Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:16 am ET) Making his third consecutive start for the Tigers on Tuesday, center fielder Anthony Gose recorded two hits, stole a base and scored a run in the 5-2 loss to the White Sox. Gose, who has mostly been in a platoon with Rajai Davis, has started five of the last seven games for manager Brad Ausmus, and seems to be taking a grasp on the bulk of the playing time.

Gose has been fairly inconsistent in recent games, hitting .259 with 10 strikeouts (to just two walks) over his last eight games played. 


Cubs' Kris Bryant using walks to contribute while searching for power
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(2:07 am ET) Although Kris Bryant hasn't hit any home runs yet, his batting eye remains locked in as he's using the walk to contribute, showcased Monday when he took four free passes, reports the Chicago Tribune.

"I’ve always walked a good amount," Bryant said. "My junior year in college I had a pretty good amount of walks, and I think that made me a better player, just seeing a lot of off-speed pitches, and it made me the player I am today. I'm just taking that same approach."

Bryant has 16 walks in 17 games this season.

Mariners' Logan Morrison reaches base four times, extends streak
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:02 am ET) Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison reached base four times and extended his hit streak to seven games Tuesday night against the Angels.

Morrison doubled in the second, doubled again in the fourth, drew an intentional walk in the sixth and singled in the eighth. He finished 3 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored in a 5-4 victory. Morrison has three games with at least two hits during his streak. He is hitting .500 (13 for 26) with three doubles, one triple, three homers, five RBI and six runs scored over his last seven games.


Angels 1B Albert Pujols uncorks fifth HR of season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:56 am ET) Angels first baseman Albert Pujols launched his fifth home run of the season Tuesday night against the Mariners.

Pujols took Seattle starter James Paxton deep for a two-run home run in the opening frame. He reached base three times and finished 2 for 3 with a walk, a single, a home run, two runs scored and two RBI in a 5-4 victory. He is hitting .239 with 12 RBI and a .314 on-base percentage in 25 games.


 
 
 
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