Sunday, February 27, 2011

Preseason Preview by Position Day 2

Day 1: Outfielders
Day 2: Infielders
Day 3: Catchers
Day 4: Relief Pitchers
Day 5: Starting Pitchers

With the Outfielders out of the way today's topic will give us a chance to discuss the 3, 4, 5, and 6 defensive positions for those of you scoring at home.  That's right, let's turn on our attention to the Infielders.

Key Losses: Orlando Cabrera

Key Additions: Edgar Renteria

Joey Votto- What a special year it was in 2010 for the Toronto native.  The reigning National League MVP was a huge reason why the Reds managed to capture the Central Division as he shouldered the load offensively all year long.  Joey notched career-highs in HR's (37), RBI's (113), BA (.324), SB's (16) and OBP (.424).  Although skeptics may be quick to predict a slight decrease in those production numbers in '11, Votto seems poised to follow up 2010 with an even better season in 2011.  Barring injury or suspension, this fellow should be a mainstay in Cincinnati for many, many years to come.

Brandon Phillips- Fresh off a Gold Glove award and his first career All-Star selection last season, Brandon should once again provide consistency in the Reds lineup.  An everyday starter since he joined the Reds in 2006, the 29-year old all of the sudden finds himself in a leadership role as one of the elders of the ball club.  The 2010 season saw a drop off statistically for BP, but this can partly be attributed to a move from clean-up hitter to the lead-off spot.  Phillips will no doubt provide his usual outstanding defense at second base all the while being a valuable contributor with the bat.      

Scott Rolen- It comes with no question that Scott Rolen was the clear team leader and difference maker in 2010.  Scott came over in a deal from the Blue Jays in late 2009 and the Reds have been winning at a high rate ever since.  His .285 batting average, 20 HR's and 83 RBI's last year are only slightly above average for an everyday third basemen.  What doesn't show up in the statbook is the intangibles that he brings to such a young team like the Reds.  The six-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner has tasted his share of success, but after an early exit in last year's NLDS series vs. the Phillies you better believe he's gunning for redemption in '11.

Edgar Renteria- This guy comes to the Reds fresh off not only a World Series title with the Giants, but a World Series MVP honor as well.  He will fill the vacancy created by former SS Orlando Cabrera (who signed as a free agent with the Indians this off season).  The 35-year old played in only 75 games last year for the Giants, but obviously played a huge role in helping San Francisco win it all.  A five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove award winner, Renteria is known most notably for his defense, however, has achieved better than average success hitting-wise as a shortstop.  I must admit this is the one guy I'm most anxious to see perform this Spring for the Reds due to his newcomer status and past reputation for being in the right place at the right time (i.e.-1997 walk-off hit in the W.S. with the Marlins and last year's MVP with the Giants).  Here is a link to his Game 5 World Series blast off Rangers' ace Cliff Lee that sealed the deal for SF.   

Paul Janish- I don't know of any guy who's had worst luck at keeping his job than Janish.  Prior to the 2010 season many of us in Reds nation predicted Paul to be our everyday SS.  As it turned out Cincy signed Orlando Cabrera weeks before the season and he became the everyday starter there.  Same story in 2011, except this time the Reds front office gave Janish a little more notice with the signing of yet another proven, veteran player in Renteria.  Aside from that Paul provides perhaps the best glove of anyone else on the team (besides Rolen) and can be very useful in late inning defensive substitutions.  Offensively don't look for too much out of him except an occasional base knock here and there.

Juan Francisco- The 23-year old 3B from the Dominican possesses some major power at the plate, but is still trying to adjust to big league pitching.  Juan only saw 55 at-bats in '10 primarily from a pinch-hitting role, but struck out at a whopping clip of about 1 in every 3 attempts (20 SO).  With Rolen back and healthy for 2011 I'd fully expect for Francisco to reprise some resemblance of the role he had last year.  Which is to provide some left-handed pop off the bench and make a spot-start at 3B about once every 7-10 days.

Guys we could see later in the year: Yonder Alonso, Miguel Cairo, Chris Valaika 

Group Grade: A
No bias here, I just think that this group is that good; maybe the best in all of baseball and certainly in the National League.  With Votto, Rolen, Phillips and Renteria you basically have four All-Star caliber players who can not only rake at the plate, but they can give you steady defense too.  If these guys stay healthy, Reds fans are in for a treat this season.

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