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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
Padres option Cory Mazzoni to Triple-A
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:26 pm ET) The Padres optioned RHP Cory Mazzoni to Triple-A El Paso on Tuesday, per the U-T San Diego

The Padres acquired Mazzoni in a trade with the Mets on Monday. Mazzoni was 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA this spring. 


Yankees pitcher Adam Warren roughed up in minor league start
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:22 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Adam Warren is still hoping for a shot at the starting rotation this season. He didn't help his case Tuesday, allowing five runs on nine hits in four innings of work against minor league hitters. 

"The results weren't the best, but I'm just trying to get ready for the season," Warren said to ESPN.com. "It's tough out here to get the adrenaline going, so you try to lock it in, work on some things. That’s really what I try to focus on, getting ready for the season."

Warren is still having difficulty with the transition from reliever to starter.

"Sometimes you feel like you let off the pedal a little bit because you're like, you've got to go multiple innings, and sometimes you catch yourself pulling off a little bit," Warren said. "But I feel like I'm better if I'm bringing everything I’ve got for as long as I can. So I’ve got to constantly remind myself to go out there with a bullpen mentality, just as a starter."


Pirates pitcher Vance Worley allows one run in outing Tuesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:18 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Vance Worley went three innings Tuesday against the Tigers, allowing one run on three hits with one strikeout.

Worley, who is expected to begin the season in the bullpen, was happy with his performance, according to MLB.com.

"I felt good. It's a tough lineup. I didn't want to leave anything over the plate," Worley said. "I've been hit pretty hard by them in the past. I wasn't trying to leave anything over the white. I wanted to make some good pitches to make them swing."


Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco expected to return Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:01 pm ET) Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco missed Tuesday's game with a cramp in his left quadriceps suffered in a game over the weekend, but is hoping to play Wednesday, reports MLB.com.

"I'm optimistically thinking that he'll be ready to play tomorrow," manager Bryan Price said Tuesday morning. "[What I don't want to do with injured players] is to put them in there and find out they can't go, or shouldn't go."

Mesoraco is hitting .214 with two home runs and four RBI in 11 spring training games.


Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman leaves with undisclosed injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman was removed from Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury after manager Bryan Price and a trainer came to the mound to check him out, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Chapman, who looked like he wanted to stay in the game, pitched to just one batter and did not allow a hit in his brief outing.


Brian Flynn will have tough time making Royals' staff
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:52 pm ET) Royals pitcher Brian Flynn will have a tough time making the Major League roster, according to a report by the Kansas City Star.

Flynn had a 1.50 ERA in nine games this spring, and manager Ned Yost said he was one of the best pitchers in camp. However, the Royals would risk losing either Ryan Madson or Louis Coleman if they sent either of those pitchers down. Flynn still has options available. 


Ryan Madson has opt-out with Royals but would consider AAA
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:48 pm ET) Ryan Madson confirmed to the Kansas City Star that he had a "gentleman's opt-out" clause in his contract with the Royals that would allow him to field offers from other teams, if the Royals try to send him down.

Madson said that he'd be willing to accept a demotion to Triple-A Omaha, if no other team offers him a Major League roster spot.


Yankees catcher Austin Romine still unsure of role
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:47 pm ET) Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine still doesn't know where he will be when the season begins, reports NJ.com.

Romine, who is battling with John Ryan Murphy for the backup role at catcher, is hitting a low .143 in 28 plate appearances this spring.

It's hard for Romine to not think about what will happen.

"Being a human, you're going to think about it," he continued. "It is your career, it's your future, stuff like that. So best I can do is go out there and show them I can catch."

With four games left, Romine will continue to try to perform at the highest level.

"I'm just playing. I'm playing to make this team, but I'm also playing for the teams out there," Romine said. "But I want nothing more than to make it on this team. That's my goal."


Yost: 'High probability' Franklin Morales makes Royals' roster
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:45 pm ET) Royals manager Ned Yost said there was a "high probability" that pitcher Franklin Morales will make the team's Opening Day roster, per the Kansas City Star

Morales was signed as a free agent on February 19. He went 2-0 this spring with a 7.20 ERA. Yost said that Morales still needs to be added to the team's 40-man roster.


Joe Blanton accepts assignment to Royals' Triple-A affiliate
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:40 pm ET) Royals RHP Joe Blanton agreed to accept an assignment to Triple-A Omaha. Blanton signed a minor league contract with the team on February 13 and was invited to camp as a non-roster player. 

Blanton was 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA in three games this spring. 


 
 
 
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