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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
Mark Melancon closes out Reds
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:37 pm ET) Pirates closer Mark Melancon struck out one and needed 15 pitches to close out a perfect ninth inning and a 3-2 victory over the Reds. He has converted all but four of his 30 save chances. He owns a 2.04 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP over 57 1/3 innings of relief.

Vance Worley gets back on winning path
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:33 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Vance Worley put together a quality start Saturday against the Reds, improving to 6-4 on the season. The right-hander yielded two runs -- one earned -- on three hits and two walks while striking out four over 6 1/3 innings of a 3-2 victory.

Worley picked up his first win since Aug. 8. He owns a 3.01 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP over 86 2/3 innings of work. He will make his next start Friday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Alfredo Simon takes another tough loss
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:09 pm ET) Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon pitched well but was hit with another loss Saturday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, dropping to 13-9 on the season. The right-hander permitted three earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out seven over seven innings of a 3-2 defeat.

Simon has allowed three-plus runs in three of his last four starts. He owns a 3.28 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over 27 starts (167 1/3 innings). His next start will come Friday at home against the Mets.

Edwin Jackson begins work in bullpen
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8:05 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson tossed a low-intensity bullpen session Saturday, and told MLB.com his strained right lat is improving.

"It's getting better," Jackson said. "Just needed rest and recovery."

Jackson is hoping to return at some point during the final month of the season, though the Cubs surely won't rush him back. He had a 6.09 ERA in 139 innings of work prior to the injury.  


Jacoby Ellsbury unlikely to play Sunday either
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(7:57 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury might miss Sunday's game against the Blue Jays as well, after his ankle injury kept him out of the lineup Saturday.

"I'd be really shocked if he played," Girardi told MLB.com, after Saturday's loss. "I think it was wishful thinking on his part [to play Saturday]. He was trying to gut it out, but there was no way."

Ellsbury suffered the injury during Friday's game, and will not receive an official diagnosis until he can be checked by team doctors in New York. 


Aaron Sanchez K's 3 in first career save
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(7:54 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez pitched two perfect innings for his first career save, as he closed out a 2-0 win over the Yankees.

Sanchez set the Yankees down in order over his two innings of work, striking out three of six batters faced on 28 total pitches. He has allowed just four runs over 21 2/3 innings since making his major-league debut, while striking out 20 batters and walking just three. 


Jake Petricka picks up save No. 10
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(7:53 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Jake Petricka picked up his first save in nearly two weeks Saturday, as he closed out a 6-3 win over the Tigers.

Petricka was not perfect Saturday, but he was good enough after a few subpar appearances. He retired the side on 18 pitches, while allowing one hit and one walk, and striking out one batter.

Petricka has 10 saves in 13 opportunities this season, while holding a 2.81 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 64 innings of work. 


Justin Masterson rocked by Cubs as struggles continue
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(7:44 pm ET) Slumping Cardinals pitcher Justin Masterson made some mechanical adjustments in the time since his last start, but they did not appear to do much, as he struggled yet again in a 5-1 loss to the Cubs Saturday.

The Cubs got to Masterson in the second inning for one run, but things came apart in the fourth inning. Masterson was tagged for a pair of solo home runs in the fourth, followed by one in the fifth before he was listed, after allowing five runs on six hits and a walk in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out five batters on 82 pitches in the loss.

The Cardinals acquired Masterson in July with the intention of making him a reclamation project, but that has not worked out so far. He has a 7.90 ERA in six starts since joining the Cardinals, and his rotation spot no longer appears assured. His next start is currently scheduled for Thursday in Milwaukee. 


Felix Doubront wins in return
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(7:30 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Felix Doubront tossed seven strong innings in his team debut Saturday, a 5-1 win over the Cardinals.

Doubront limited the Cardinals to just one second-inning run over his seven innings of work, while scattering seven hits and a walk. He struck out four batters on 89 pitches in the win, his first since May.

Doubront was acquired by the Cubs from the Red Sox at the deadline, but had been sidelined by a calf injury prior to Saturday. It is not clear if Doubront will get another chance to start, but it wouldn't be a surprise, given how well he pitched. 


Chris Sale settles down, fans 13 in win
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(7:22 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Chris Sale struggled early on in his start against the Tigers Saturday, but settled down in a big way in a 6-3 win over.

Sale was tagged for three runs on a pair of first -inning home runs, but that was all the White Sox would manage in seven innings against Sale. Sale was pretty much untouchable from that point on, scattering six hits and a pair of walks while striking out a season-high 13 batters on 119 pitches in the win.

Sale improved his record to 11-3 with the win, while his ERA rose slightly to 2.11. His next start is set for Saturday against the Indians. 


 
 
 
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