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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Cincinnati Reds

Senior Fantasy Writer
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After a one-year hiatus, the Reds returned to the playoffs in 2012, beating out the never-say-die Cardinals for the NL Central title.

Their pitching staff was the main reason for their success. While their lineup was at times a hodge-podge -- particularly during that period when Joey Votto was sidelined by a torn meniscus -- their starting rotation was a model of consistency, featuring five pitchers that accounted for 161 of the team's 162 starts.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Johnny Cueto stayed healthy enough to break through as the ace. Mat Latos, after some initial struggles, adapted to the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, demonstrating the same efficiency and strikeout-per-inning stuff that made him so successful with the Padres. Homer Bailey finally capitalized on his long-awaited potential, producing an impressive final line despite some ups and downs along the way. Even Bronson Arroyo delivered 202 quality innings, bouncing back from a disastrous 2011 with his usual command and guile.

And that rotation is about to get all the more intimidating. A year after taking the league by storm as a closer, Aroldis Chapman gets his shot at the fifth spot this spring. It's between him and Mike Leake, who was the weak link in the rotation last year. Few expect it to be much of a contest.

Of course, removing Chapman's 102-mile-per-hour fastball from the closer role leaves a 102-mile crater in the bullpen, but the Reds are confident former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, who they acquired to set up for Chapman late last season, is capable of filling it. Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo and J.J. Hoover are all reasonable fallback options and the kind of middle relievers worthy of consideration in deeper Fantasy leagues.

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Shin-Soo Choo CF
2. Brandon Phillips 2B
3. Joey Votto 1B
4. Ryan Ludwick LF
5. Jay Bruce RF
6. Todd Frazier 3B
7. Zack Cozart SS
8. Ryan Hanigan C
Bench Devin Mesoraco C
Bench Jack Hannahan 3B
Bench Chris Heisey OF

As for the lineup, it's still heavily dependent on Votto, who's probably the best left-handed hitter in the game, but the ultra-patient Shin-Soo Choo is a dramatic improvement over the swing-at-anything Drew Stubbs in center field and could be poised for a career year at Great American Ballpark. Todd Frazier, fresh off a 19-homer rookie season, gets to step in full time for Scott Rolen, who will presumably (and mercifully) retire. Brandon Phillips remains one of the better offensive second basemen in the league, and Jay Bruce is a bona fide slugger, if nothing more.

Buyer beware ... Aroldis Chapman, relief pitcher

After a couple years of tantalizing everyone with his triple-digit-but-hard-to-locate fastball, Chapman finally made good on all the hype last year, putting up numbers that would have made him far and away the most dominant closer in baseball if, you know, Craig Kimbrel didn't exist. And now he's moving to the starting rotation, where he can make even more of an impact in Fantasy. Great news, right? Not so fast. The transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation doesn't always go smoothly, as Daniel Bard showed last year. Even in successful cases, the pitcher still typically loses something on his fastball. The concern with Chapman is only amplified because of his past control issues. Even with the reduced walk rate last year, he still ranked among the leaders in pitches per plate appearances. If he lasts only five innings at a time, who cares what his strikeout rate is? Granted, if he looks like Jonathan Sanchez out there, he'll just go back to closing, but with all the lumps he'll have taken along the way, you'll be wishing you had drafted Adam Wainwright or Yovani Gallardo instead.

Sleeper ... Ryan Ludwick, outfield

Even after a resurgent season in which he hit 26 home runs, Ludwick still isn't getting much love in Fantasy. Understandably, owners have lumped him in with other dubious sluggers whose obvious shortcomings make them not so likely to repeat their 2012 seasons -- guys like Alfonso Soriano, Jason Kubel and Brandon Moss. The difference for Ludwick is he has a clear explanation for why his numbers came roaring back last year and why they went wrong in the first place: PETCO Park. A midseason trade brought him there midway through 2010. It was big. It was scary. It made him swing the bat differently. He became a dead pull hitter, and that swing carried over to his short stint in Pittsburgh late in 2011. It continued last year as well, but because the Reds stuck with him, he eventually righted himself, batting .298 with 21 homers and a .942 OPS over his final 91 games. He won't maintain that pace over a full season, of course, but when you consider who he was before he went to PETCO and where he plays now, perhaps his numbers aren't so dubious after all.

Impact prospect ... Billy Hamilton, shortstop

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Johnny Cueto RHP
2. Mat Latos RHP
3. Bronson Arroyo RHP
4. Homer Bailey RHP
5. Aroldis Chapman LHP
ALT Mike Leake RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Jonathan Broxton RHP
2. Sean Marshall LHP
3. Jose Arredondo RHP
4. J.J. Hoover RHP
5. Sam LeCure RHP

With his minor-league record 155 steals last year, Hamilton's speed has become the stuff and legend, and judging by his .311 batting average and 86 walks between Class A and Double-A, he gets on base enough to make the most of it. The Reds resisted the urge to call him up last season, but by moving him from shortstop to the outfield this offseason, they've given themselves more ways to slot him into the lineup if the need a rises. In a best-case scenario, an injury or slumping Zack Cozart opens the door for Hamilton to play full time, but his skill set is such that he doesn't need significant opportunity to make a significant impact in Fantasy. When he gets on base, he runs. It's a rare enough approach in this day and age that even if he arrives midseason and gets only sporadic at-bats as a fill-in around the infield and outfield, he'll still likely rank among the league leaders in steals. That kind of assurance deserves at least a late-round flier.

Prospects Report

Other than Hamilton, whose steals record last year makes him about as well-known as any prospect in Fantasy, the Reds farm system doesn't have many bats of note, but it does have three future members of the starting rotation in Tony Cingrani, Robert Stephenson and Daniel Corcino. Cingrani actually debuted last September, but as a reliever. The Reds don't have an opening in their rotation for him just yet, and for the sake of his Fantasy value, you should hope they keep him in the minors until they do. Given his 1.73 ERA between two stops last year, the Reds likely wouldn't want to confine him to the bullpen long term. Corcino has slowly worked his way up the minor-league ladder over the last five years, earning comparisons to Johnny Cueto along the way. He's just as likely as Cingrani to get a call midseason if the need arises. Stephenson, a first-rounder in 2011, actually has the highest upside of the three, but at age 20, he's still years away from contributing.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Mets' Wilmer Flores exits spring game after HBP on wrist/forearm
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:09 pm ET) Mets infielder Wilmer Flores was forced out of Thursday's spring training game after being hit by a pitch on the wrist/forearm region, reports MLB.com. The team has yet to provide an update on his status moving forward.

Flores is viewed as the favorite to win the shortstop job after he hit .251 in 78 games and had a .979 fielding percentage at shortstop in 2014.


Mets' Gee: I don't care what's going on, just trying to get ready for season
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:07 pm ET) Mets pitcher Dillon Gee took the hill Wednesday for his spring debut against the Braves amid speculation of whether he will be with the team come opening day. Gee allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in two innings. He didn't record a strikeout.

"In the end it doesn't matter, wherever that is," Gee said, per NJ.com. "Whatever role, whatever team.

"I don't care what's going on. I'm just trying to get myself ready for the season."


Head of MLPA Tony Clark: I hope Josh Hamilton gets 'support'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:57 pm ET) Tony Clark, the head of the MLBPA, told the Orange County Register on Wednesday that he's not sure how quickly the Josh Hamilton case will be resolved, but does hope that the embattled Angels slugger receives "support" from the people around his circle.

"There are always baseball concerns, but more important are life concerns," Clark said. "We have a process and protocols in place to handle the baseball issues. But I'm hopeful that anybody that is part of baseball family, if a player finds himself in a tough spot, he is more interested in the support he's getting as an individual than the baseball part."

Hamilton confessed to going on a binge that involved cocaine and alcohol a couple of months ago. A four-doctor panel will evaluate his case before an arbitrator makes a ruling. A verdict on a suspension could come in a few weeks.

"The process needs to play itself out, and then we'll have a decision," Clark said.


Pirates INF Josh Harrison exits spring game with left ankle issue
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:41 pm ET) Pirates infielder Josh Harrison exited Wednesday's spring training game because of left ankle discomfort, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Harrison was replaced by Brent Morel at the start of the second inning. At this point, it remains to be seen how long Harrison will be sidelined for. He'll likely be re-evaluated before their next spring game.

Mets' Collins fine with how Parnell handled Syndergaard situation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:33 pm ET) Mets reliever Bobby Parnell said he wasn't trying to embarrass starting pitcher prospect Noah Syndergaard when he threw out his lunch plate in the clubhouse Tuesday in an effort to inform the highly touted prospect he needed to be in the dugout for an intrasquad game. Third baseman David Wright also talked to Syndergaard about being in the clubhouse.

"We try to keep those things behind closed doors, but the media was there and saw it," Parnell said in a statement released by the team, per NJ.com. "But it wasn't about embarrassing anyone. Again, it goes back to creating that culture on and off the field."

Parnell said he talked with Syndergaard since the incident became public.

"It's a clubhouse issue that needed to be handled," Parnell said. "We are trying to create a winning culture around here and that what's the whole situation was about."

Mets manager Terry Collins said he has no issue with how Parnell handled the matter.

"I think it's the perfect way he dealt with it," Collins told NJ.com. "Perfect. I think Bobby did what I would do and a number of other guys would've have done. The captain made a statement and it wasn't really adhered to and Bobby said, 'Maybe he didn't hear it'."


Rockies' Blackmon held out Wednesday with abdominal injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:23 pm ET) Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon was not in Wednesday's spring lineup against the Diamondbacks due to an abdominal injury, per MLB.com. However, Blackmon planned to take batting practice Wednesday.

Orioles limiting pitcher Kevin Gausman early in spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:20 pm ET) The Orioles are taking things slow with relief pitcher Kevin Gausman. He pitched just one scoreless inning on 14 pitches in Wednesday's game, but it's a part of the plan, reports MLB.com.

"Every year is a little bit different," said Gausman. "My first year I wanted to come into camp and show what I had and possibly be an option for later in the year, knowing I wasn't going to make the team. But pitched well. Last year came to camp, felt I had a good chance of making the rotation and then we signed Ubaldo [Jimenez]. So, it’s one of those things. Every spring is going to be different."

Gausman went 7-7 in 2014 with a 3.57 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings pitched.

"That's one thing that's different this year is they kind of held me back. [The Orioles] told me don't throw any bullpens before you get to camp. Normally I throw 7 or 8 bullpens before camp."


A good spring could help Brewers' Morris in getting back on track
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:16 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Hunter Morris is trying to re-establish himself this spring after he was removed from the 40-man roster in the offseason. It wasn't long ago that Morris was considered the Brewers' top prospect.

“I don’t feel any pressure to make this team right away,” Morris said, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’m still confident in my ability and I firmly believe I’m going to play in the big leagues.

"My goal is go out and force the Brewers’ hand and not give them any choice but to have me in the big leagues.”

Morris was named the Brewers' minor-league player of the year in 2012 after he hit .303 with 28 home runs, 40 doubles and 113 RBI at Double-A. While he totaled 24 home runs the following year, he hit just .247. He ran into more offensive struggles in 2014, and he also missed time due to a wrist injury.

“It was frustrating, the way everything played out,” Morris said.

Now, the 26-year-old first baseman must prove to the Brewers he still has a future in the majors, and it starts this spring.

“He needs to have a good year this year, get back on that right track,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “He hasn’t performed well in spring trainings for us. That’s the hard part, that we don’t get to see him when he’s really good.

“All I get is what I see in the spring, and he hasn’t had good springs. It’s really hard for me to get a good read.”


Royals' Hochevar (elbow) emerges unscathed after BP session
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:52 pm ET) Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar threw his first batting-practice session of the spring Tuesday and emerged from the outing without any issues, per MLB.com.

"Everything was fine this morning," Yost said. "He felt great."

Yost liked how Hochevar, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, threw in batting practice.

"A good live fastball," Yost said. "Good curve. He looked really good. Just a normal progression for him."


Angels' Roberto Baldoquin could join club this weekend
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(1:21 pm ET) Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that Roberto Baldoquin could be with team as early as this weekend, according to the Orange County Register. Baldoquin, who has been dealing with visa issues, agreed to an $8 million bonus in November and is expected to work with the minor-league squad before starting the season in Class A.

 
 
 
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