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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
Jacoby Ellsbury intends to return this season
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(12:27 pm ET) MLB.com reports that Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is working with trainers on a plan that would enable him to play before the end of the season. He missed Saturday's game against the Blue Jays with a hamstring injury and was out of Sunday's starting lineup as well.

An MRI revealed that Ellsbury sustained a mild right hamstring strain, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he would receive "a few days off" before the team would assess the situation.


Masahiro Tanaka back from DL stint
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(12:12 pm ET) Masahiro Tanaka was activated from the 15-day disabled list in order to start Sunday's game for the Yankees against the Blue Jays. He has been out for more than two months with a partially torn UCL.

Sore shoulder keeps Nick Markakis sidelined
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(12:06 pm ET) Nick Markakis was not in the Orioles' starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Red Sox. He has not played since Tuesday, when he was hit in the shoulder by an Aaron Loup pitch.

According to MLB.com, X-rays showed that Markakis did not sustain any structural damage to his shoulder, but he continues to deal with soreness in the area where he was hit.


Welington Castillo returns from rib injury
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(11:56 am ET) After missing Saturday's game with a rib injury, catcher Welington Castillo was back in the Cubs' starting lineup for Sunday's contest against the Dodgers. Castillo sustained the injury in Friday's game.

Adam Lind still out with back issue
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(11:43 am ET) For the second game in a row, Adam Lind was out of the Blue Jays' starting lineup with a back injury. Dan Johnson got the start at first base for Sunday's game at the Yankees.

Lind remains day to day with the injury.


Nationals rest several regulars
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(11:36 am ET) For their Sunday matchup at the Marlins, the Nationals left Ian Desmond, Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos out of their starting lineup. Ryan Zimmerman, who made his return from a two-month hiatus due to a hamstring injury on Saturday, was also not in Sunday's lineup.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis ready to return for finale
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(11:22 am ET) After missing the last two games, Kirk Nieuwenhuis was in the Mets' starting lineup for Sunday's series finale at the Braves. Nieuwenhuis had been out due to passing a kidney stone on Thursday.

Dilson Herrera still out on Sunday
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(11:18 am ET) Dilson Herrera was out of the Mets' lineup for Sunday's game at the Braves. He exited Saturday's contest with a leg injury. Wilmer Flores got the start at second base in place of Herrera.

Robbie Erlin to fill in for Tyson Ross again
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(11:06 am ET) The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Padres lefty Robbie Erlin will start in place of the injured Tyson Ross for Tuesday's game against the Rockies. He did the same on Thursday, as Ross missed his turn due to discomfort in his lower forearm.

It is not yet known if Ross will make another start before the end of the season.


David Ortiz takes a seat Sunday
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(10:52 am ET) David Ortiz was absent from the Red Sox's starting lineup for Sunday's game at the Orioles. Garin Cecchini got the nod as the team's designated hitter.

 
 
 
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