Thursday, August 23, 2012

ESPN tabs Reds 15th in Future Rankings

Predicting the future can be tricky business.
The experts at ESPN try to anyway.

Back in February, the ESPN Insider trio of Jim Bowden, Keith Law and Buster Olney put their heads together to come up with Future Power Rankings for all 30 MLB teams. They rated the Reds 16th in that particular edition. Now the tandem has teamed up again to muster up some new rankings based on what has transpired from then until now. In this new in-season one, the Reds did well in moving up one spot to no. 15.

Here's what the talking heads had to say regarding the current NL Central leaders:

The Overview

GM Walt Jocketty aggressively upgraded his pitching staff after last season, trading for Mat Latos and reliever Sean Marshall, and the payoff has been immediate. The most intriguing decision moving forward will be the handling of shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton, a minor league shortstop who has obliterated stolen-base marks in the minors this year. The Reds must decide whether Hamilton is better suited for another position -- his arm might be a bit short for short -- and whether he might be ready to lead off in 2013. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma

The Reds need to figure out the leadoff spot, as they have gotten by with Zack Cozart and his .296 OBP for much of the year. Hamilton should be the long-term answer, but if they have to move him off short, he can't move to second because Brandon Phillips is locked up long-term. Another possible solution is signing Michael Bourn as a free agent and then packaging Drew Stubbs and Mike Leake for a better No. 3 starter to put behind Johnny Cueto and Latos. -- Jim Bowden

The System

Hamilton is familiar to all of you, but 2011 third-rounder Tony Cingrani ripped apart the high-Class A California League primarily with his fastball while their first-rounder from last year, Robert Stephenson, has been hitting 98 regularly in short-season ball. -- Keith Law

I believe this to be a pretty fair assessment on the outlook of the team. The present squad is obviously performing at a high level and should continue to be for at least the next 2-3 seasons. The farm system is a little depleted due to various trades over the last calendar year, but there appears to be a wave of up-and-coming talent in the low-level of the system. The team now has a few sizeable contracts on the books with the extensions given to Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto earlier in the season, as well as others who could be demanding a raise soon too. Overall, I would say the state of the organization is pretty healthy. And why they may not project to be the best club in years to come, they are in a position to be extremely competitive at the very least. Especially at the present moment in time when they appear to have just as good a chance to win the World Series than any other playoff contender.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the Reds ranked third among NL Central teams. The Cardinals led the division with a position of 3rd and the Pirates were 14th. The Cubs landed in the no. 16 spot, thus making it three Central teams in a row to occupy the middle of the rankings (14-16). The Brewers rounded out the last of the division teams with a ranking of 25.

Reds fans may also be interested (and happy) to know that the in-state rival Cleveland Indians ranked dead last at 30. How they beat out the lowly Astros for that spot is beyond my imagination.

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