Merry Christmas, everyone! I trust that you all are enjoying this wonderful season by spending time with your respective loved ones. Since this is the time of year for giving and receiving, I thought it would be noteworthy to whip up a handful of "gifts" the Reds are hoping to receive in 2013. Here goes nothing...
1) Production out of the leadoff spot!
+ Cincinnati's No. 1 hitter was collectively woeful at getting on base last season. The team ranked dead last among MLB leadoff hitter production in many offensive categories including average and on-base percentage, of course. But general manager Walt Jocketty and the front office took a step to improve upon that by adding Shin-Soo Choo to the fold. While nothing is ever guaranteed, Choo and his .381 career OBP promises to be just what the Reds need at the top to spark their offense.
2) Aroldis Chapman makes seamless transition
+ The plan is to convert The Cuban Missile to a starter after serving the first three years of his Reds career primarily as a reliever (he began 2010 as a starter in Triple-A Louisville). This has folks concerned with whether or not he can effectively do it, how many innings he should be allowed to throw, how it will affect his velocity, and so on. Chapman and the team would like nothing less but to make this switch as easy as possible. I'm sure fans are hoping for a flawless switch as well.
3) Another division title
+ Dusty Baker has guided the franchise to two National League Central Division crowns in the past three years. He is looking to make it three out of four in '13. Once again, the Reds appear to be one of the favorites to claim the Central. They no longer have to contend with the Houston Astros, who are moving to the American League West Division this year, but then again the lowly 'Stros haven't put up much of a fight recently anyway. The Chicago Cubs should be slightly improved, the Milwaukee Brewers will be competitive as always, and then there is always those pesky Cardinals from St. Louis to worry about. Oh, and don't forget about the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are looking for their first winning campaign in 21 seasons. Ouch. All in all, the prospects of yet another division title looks great for the Redlegs.
4) A Cy Young Award
+ Believe it or not, Cincy has never had a pitcher win the Cy Young Award since the award's inception in 1956. They are among just five teams in Major League Baseball to stake that claim. The others include the Colorado Rockies, the Miami Marlins, the Texas Rangers, and the Washington Nationals. Ace Johnny Cueto presents the strongest chance to end that drought, while Mat Latos and Homer Bailey also have potential to breakout for an individually dominant year too. And now that reigning NL winner R.A. Dickey has departed from the league, the race for the most coveted award among pitchers appears to be wide open.
5) A World Championship
+ It has been over 22 years since the Reds have been champions of the baseball world. That is about 21 years too long. However, the Reds look to be in as good of a position to win it all now than ever before since that magical 1990 wire-to-wire season. They boast a top-notch bullpen, a formidable offense with a former MVP winner, a solid starting rotation, and one of the league's top defenses. They have done well to upgrade their areas of need this winter and hopefully that pays off in the form of winning in '13. They will face the likes of other great teams along the way, but capturing the franchise's sixth world title is not out of the question come next October.