Saturday, August 11, 2012

Projecting the 2013 Opening Day roster

Though the Reds currently find themselves in the middle of a pennant race, it's never too early to look ahead toward next year, right? Because that's precisely what ESPN Insider Jason Martinez attempted to do in his latest piece in which he tries to project the 2013 Opening Day rosters for all NL Central teams.

If you're squeezed for time and/or don't have full access to his post, here's the excerpt from it regarding Cincinnati. As you can see, he provides a projected Opening Day lineup and pitching rotation to go along with a brief write-up.

Projected 2013 Opening Day lineup
SS Zack Cozart
CF Drew Stubbs
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Todd Frazier
LF Chris Heisey
C Devin Mesoraco

Projected 2013 Opening Day rotation
SP Johnny Cueto
SP Mat Latos
SP Bronson Arroyo
SP Homer Bailey
SP Mike Leake
SU Sean Marshall
CL Aroldis Chapman

Having the luxury of retaining nearly every core player from this year's impressive squad, the Reds could choose to stand pat this offseason. The pitching staff, which has been one of the best in baseball, returns the entire starting rotation and all but trade deadline acquisition Jonathan Broxton is under contract among the relievers. A healthy Nick Masset should make up for that loss. They could also choose to bring back would-be closer Ryan Madson, who has an $11M club option, after he missed the season because of Tommy John surgery.

Todd Frazier has proved to be a capable replacement at multiple positions, although he's probably in line to replace free agent-to-be Scott Rolen at third base. If Ryan Ludwick declines his half of a $5M mutual option, which is very likely to happen considering he's putting up huge numbers over the past two months, Frazier could also be an option to take over in left field.

If there is a weakness on this ballclub, it's at the top of the lineup, where Zack Cozart and Drew Stubbs aren't getting on base nearly enough. Aside from their inability to produce a league average OBP, both players have been quite productive overall. They would just fit better near the bottom of the lineup.

Offseason priority

With shortstop Billy Hamilton, the "fastest man in baseball," still working on his overall game in Double-A, don't expect him to be the answer right away to fill the team's need for a leadoff hitter. General manager Walt Jocketty will likely survey the free agent and trade markets in search of an outfielder who can set the table for Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. Some soon-to-be free agent outfielders with .340+ OBP: Michael Bourn and Melky Cabrera, though both will probably require a long-term commitment, which is probably not something Cincinnati will be willing to do with Hamilton on the horizon.

No real surpises here, in my opinion. I'd flip-flop Arroyo and Bailey in the rotation and maybe plug somebody else in left field, but other than that I see no real discrepancies. The club will likely return most (if not all) of its key pieces from the 2012 squad and will probably look to free agency to bring in an additional piece or two as well. My hope is that one of those acqusitions involves a leadoff man who has a proven track record of getting on base. That's undoutedly the biggest area of weakness right now.

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