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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
Brewers' Scooter Gennett prepping for full-time role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:52 pm ET) Brewers infielder Scooter Gennett is prepping for a full-time role in 2015, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Gennett had a bit of a breakout season in 2014, but platooned with Rickie Weeks. With Weeks now a free-agent, Gennett is looking at a full-time role. "When it comes to playing every day and facing lefties, I’m looking forward to that," he said. "It has been a while. I can finally get back to my game."

Gennett admitted that he doesn't think it will be that hard to adjust to seeing left-handers while at the plate. "For me, it doesn’t matter what side it is coming from if I’m getting consistent at-bats," he said. 

The 24-year-old Gennett hit .289/.320/.434 over 440 at-bats last year.


Twins' Alex Meyer willing to pitch out of the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:44 pm ET) Twins reliever Alex Meyer is willing to pitch out of the bullpen, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press

The 25-year-old Meyer is considered one of the team's better prospects, and started 27 games last season at Triple-A. Meyer posted a 3.52 ERA over 130 1/3 innings. While Meyer could compete for a rotation spot during spring training, he said he would be open to pitching out of the bullpen if that will put him in the majors faster. "Whatever it takes to help the Minnesota Twins," Meyer said. "If it’s me being a left-on-left guy, I really don’t care."

As long as he stays healthy, Meyer is expected to make his major-league debut at some point in 2015.


Brewers GM not looking to add another starting pitcher
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:09 pm ET) Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said Sunday the team is not looking to add another starting pitcher to replace Yovani Gallardo.

"I don't think we have room for a notable starting pitcher," Melvin said. "We'd like to add a pitcher that could be a spot starter."

Milwaukee currently has Jimmy Nelson as their fifth starter, who went 2-9 in 2014 with a 4.93 ERA and 57 strikeouts for the club.


David Murphy's role unclear for Indians heading into season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) Indians outfielder David Murphy is heading into his second season with the club and is trying to figure out what his role will be with the team.

Murphy said Sunday he got the chance to speak with general manager Chris Antonetti when the team traded for Brandon Moss in December.

"Communication is huge just in general in this game," Murphy said. "It's nice to go into the season knowing how he feels, and I'm sure he's speaking for the front office and the coaching staff. Just having an idea of how they feel about it, and giving me a chance to voice my opinion in how I feel about it, the lines of communication are open. I definitely think that's a good thing. It's kind of hard to know at this point how things are going to fall into place."

Murphy, who hit .262 with eight home runs and 58 RBI in 2014, knows being traded is one option to find playing time.

"I think everybody can logically see that there's only so many spots out there for so many players," Murphy said. "I'm prepared to lose playing time, but not to the point where I'm going to get 150 at-bats. If that's the case, and that's the best-case scenario for them and for me, I'm open to [a trade]. But I feel like this team has a great chance to win, and for that reason, I would love to be here."

Indians manager Terry Francona said recently Murphy will be the right fielder in Cleveland to open the year.

"Well, it's hard to say right now, because we don't know how healthy Swish or Moss are," Francona said. "So right now, Murph's our right fielder. I don't know if that's going to change in the next month or not."


Brewers' Tyler Thornburg thankful to avoid serious injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:23 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Tyler Thornburg was lucky to avoid Tommy Joh surgery in 2014. After being place on the disabled list in June, Thornburg was diagnosed with a wrist flexor strain. However, after a few more starts, doctors determined Thornburg injured his UCL. Thankfully for Thornburg, rest and time off was enough to allow the injury to heal.

"I feel great," Thornburg said. "Honestly, the best thing ever was the timing of everything. Right now and I’m very optimistic and if it works out I definitely feel very blessed for not having to go the other route. We had time; that was the biggest thing. We gave it as much time as possible to heal.

"The way we have it scheduled now, I would be ahead of everyone, " he said. "So it’s just in case of a setback, then I would be perfectly on schedule. But what we have planned right now, if I’m not having any setbacks then we can just kind of scale it back a little bit.

Thornburg finished 2014 with a 3-1 record with a 4.25 ERA in 29 2/3 innings.


White Sox 3B Conor Gillaspie bulks up
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:52 pm ET) White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie says his offseason weight training program has enabled him to add 15-20 pounds of muscle, "which should translate into driving the ball harder," reports ESPN.com.

“Honestly I’m hoping that by taking the same swing that I did last year, because I’m stronger, I’m hoping that translates into more power,” Gillaspie said, per the website. “It may or may not. We have enough guys that do hit for power on this team now. There are quite a few of them, so truthfully, I think I might be just as valuable getting on base, drawing walks, moving runners.” 

Gillaspie hit .282 with seven homers and 57 RBI in 130 games last year.


Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg throwing bullpen sessions
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:36 pm ET) Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg, who missed the second half of last season with an elbow injury, is throwing bullpen sessions as he tries to prepare for spring training, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thornburg went 3-1 with a 4.25 ERA in 27 appearances before getting shut down in June.

Yu Darvish: 'My elbow feels fine'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Speaking publicly for the first time since he was shut down late last season with right elbow inflammation, Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish said he's feeling no ill effects now, reports MLB.com. Darvish, who's throwing off flat ground, is on track to begin throwing off a mound early next month.

"My elbow feels fine and I am able to throw on my throwing program," Darvish said, per the website.

Darvish has been working out in Texas during the offseason and said his training is "going well." General manager Jon Daniels said Darvish is "right on schedule."

"I think Darvish is very in tune with his body as much as anybody and knows how he's feeling," Daniels said. "He's very confident. Like any of these guys, until they're out there you're always going to have some reservation, but that's the worrywart in me. From all the information we have, I'm encouraged. He's basically been cleared to do just about everything."

Darvish's last start came Aug. 9 against Houston. He went 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 22 starts, tossing two complete games and one shutout.


Brewers reliever Jim Henderson throwing again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Brewers reliever Jim Henderson, who had shoulder surgery last August, began throwing off a mound last week and will toss bullpen sessions this week, reports MLB.com. Henderson hopes to be 100 percent by Opening Day, the report added.

Henderson was limited to 14 appearances last season. He went 2-1 with a 7.15 ERA.


Ryan Braun says his thumb feels 'significantly better'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun, who underwent a thumb procedure last October, said his thumb feels "significantly better" than at this time last year, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Braun was plagued throughout last season by a nerve issue at the base of his thumb, the paper noted.

"Knock on wood, I feel great; it feels really good," Braun told reporters.

"Everything is going well. Regular offseason, regular routine. I started hitting a little bit earlier than I typically do, just to see how it felt. So far, so good. It feels really good.

"I do everything I regularly do. I don't hit off live pitching but I take regular batting practice like we would during the season, and it feels good. I don't feel anything at all."

Added Braun: "I know it's significantly better than where it was this time last year, which I'm encouraged by. But as I told you guys the last time I saw everybody (at Thanksgiving) the real test will come in spring training, once we've played games for a couple of weeks and that everyday wear and tear. See how it recovers, see how it responds."


 
 
 
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