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.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Preseason Preview by Position

Wow, try saying the title of this post five times fast without messing up! 
Today will mark the beginning of a series of posts breaking down the Reds preseason roster position-by-position.  The following is the tentative schedule of the days and the positions that will be covered:

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

So without further due let's talk about the guys who patrol the vast, grassy area of the field known as the Outfield.

Key Losses: Laynce Nix

Key Additions: Fred Lewis

Jay Bruce- Jay is coming off a stellar 2010 campaign in which saw him posts career-highs in almost every offensive statistical category.  The 23-year old from Beaumont, Texas batted .281 with 25 longballs and 70 RBI's.  In addition to his improved offensive prowess, the left-handed Bruce also showed off some great defense in his RF position last year.  However, the one moment from last season that people will remember from Bruce is his National League Central Division clinching homerun that sent the Reds to the playoffs for the first time in 15 long seasons.  This memory can be relived through this link.

Jonny Gomes- Gomes returns for his third season in the Queen City much to the delight of Reds fans everywhere. His toughness and hustle has made him one of the most beloved players in this city in the last decade.  Not only did Jonny play hard, but he also produced at the plate in 2010 driving in 86 runs.  If the Reds want to return to where they were in '10 this guy must continue to provide some punch in the batting order. 

Drew Stubbs- Number 6 was a very pleasant surprise to the franchise in his rookie year.  Drew provided exceptional defense in CF while also providing some pop at the plate with 22 HR's.  The promising young player also managed to swipe 30 bases rotating from the lead-off man in the lineup to the bottom of the order.  One thing to look for in 2011 is Drew to cut down on his high number of strikeouts (168) and get on base more either by walk or hits.

Chris Heisey- Heisey was called up from AAA Louisville in early May last year and never went back.  A valuable pinch-hitter and defender off the bench, Chris quickly became a fan favorite through his ability to come through in the clutch and his all-out style of play.  He is likely to resume this kind of role this year with the chance of a spot-start here-or-there to give the regular guys a day off.

Fred Lewis- Mr. Lewis is definitely the wildcard for this group.  The 30-year old player signed with the Redlegs as a free-agent in the offseason after spending last year with the Blue Jays.  I expect him to take over the role that departed Outfielder Laynce Nix did last year which would be to provide a left-handed bat off the bench in late-inning situations.  Fred could also see some time in any of the 3 outfield spots due to his speed alone.

Guys we could see later in the year: Todd Frazier, Jeremy Hermida, Dave Sappelt

Group Grade: B
One of the great factoids about these guys is that they are all relatively young and have yet to reach their potential.  However, outside of Bruce none of these guys are going to inflict fear in opposing pitchers.  With this being said these players are durable, versatile and should cover a lot of ground defensively all the while producing some steady offense this season.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring Training Schedule

This season marks the second year for the Redlegs in their beautiful new facility in Goodyear, Arizona.  Spring Training is always a spectacle each year as you have seasoned veterans mingling with young, ambitious players just trying to make the Opening Day roster.  This year is no different as the fight to make the 25-man roster is well underway.  Plenty of opportunities for players to showcase their talents next week as the Spring Training Season gets underway with the following slate of games:

Sun 2/27    @ Cleveland Indians 3:05 EST
Mon 2/28   @ Cleveland Indians 3:05 EST
Tues, 3/1    @ Los Angelas Angels 3:05 EST (Split Squad)  (TV-MLB Network)
Tues, 3/1    @ Oakland Athletics 3:05 EST (Split Squad)
Wed, 3/2    Chicago White Sox 3:05 EST
Thur, 3/3     Los Angelas Dodgers 9:05 EST
Fri, 3/4       @ Seattle Mariners 3:05 EST
Sat, 3/5      @ Los Angelas Dodgers 3:05 EST

Ah yes, baseball is in the air!

Back in the Saddle Again!

After an almost two-year furlough I am back to bring you the wonderfulness that is Cincinnati Reds baseball. Spring Training games begin here very soon and with them they bring hope for what is to come for this 2011 season. After a National League Central Division title and a first-round playoff exit to the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies last year, the Reds look poised to make another strong run this year as well. And why not? They return most of the roster that led them to their postseason berth since 1995 last season. With the return of the defending National League MVP Joey Votto and a plethora of great young arms, these next 7-8 months should be fun to watch for Reds fan everywhere. Stay tuned for future news, notes, and comments in the coming days.