by: Chase Fitzgerald
Pretty much all of the media and Vegas doesn’t have the Reds as the No. 1-ranked team in the league despite fixing all of its holes and winning 97 games in spite of those holes last season. I really disagree with that, so I’m going to do a 5-part series comparing the Reds to each team I’ve seen ranked ahead of them.
Part 1: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays, according to Vegas, are now the favorites to win the World Series with all the trades they have made this season. I have to disagree with that. Here’s why:
Blue Jays: Adam Lind/Edwin Encarnacion
Reds: Joey Votto
Since the Reds do not have a DH, I put Encarnacion at first which is where he sometimes plays. It honestly doesn’t matter who is at first, Joey Votto, in my opinion, is the best hitter in all of baseball and I’d take him over either of these two. Encarnacion did have a breakout season, but Joey Votto hit .337 and was the only player with an OPS over one. Votto has now fully recovered from his knee injury and should now be the favorite to win the NL MVP. 1-0 Reds.
Blue Jays: Emilio Bonifacio
Reds: Brandon Phillips
Bonifacio is a very solid all-around player, but he is no match for one of the league’s top second baseman in Brandon Phillips. Phillips had a solid 2012 stepping up nicely in Votto’s absence. He is the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball and also one of the best hitting. Bonifacio had a very disappointing 2012 after a breakout 2011 where he came out of nowhere with a .753 OPS. He reverted back to his old self with a .258 average and .646. Those numbers and a career .672 OPS are not going to get you the nod over Dat Dude. 2-0 Reds.
Blue Jays: Jose Reyes
Reds: Zack Cozart
Reyes was the main piece of the mega-trade that gave the Blue Jays pretty much the entire Marlins team. Reyes did come back to Earth after winning the batting title in 2011, but is still miles away from Zack Cozart. Cozart was solid for a rookie SS especially defensively, but Reyes’ career low OPS is still higher than Cozart’s was this season. I think Cozart has loads of potential and will become a fine ball player but will never touch super star caliber which is what Reyes is. 2-1 Reds.
Blue Jays: Brett Lawrie
Reds: Todd Frazier
This one had to be the toughest decision. Frazier had an amazing rookie season as evidenced by his OPS of .829. On the contrary, Lawrie was a slight disappointment with an OPS of .729. I want to go with Lawrie because he has so much potential and he showed it in 2011 with an OPS of .953 and a WAR of 3.5. In the end, I have to go with Frazier. Frazier had more homeruns and RBIs despite less at bats and he had a higher OBP, SLG, and OPS so, there is no doubt Frazier had the better 2012. In the long run, I would rather have Lawrie but for next season, give me Frazier. 3-1 Reds.
Blue Jays: J.P. Arencibia
Reds: Ryan Hanigan
This one was also very close. J.P. Arencibia has way more power than Ryan Hanigan hitting 18 homeruns and 56 RBIs. Hanigan on the other hand, only hit 2 homeruns and collected 24 RBIs. Hanigan though, hit .274 and had a .365 OBP while Arencibia hit .233 and had a .275 OBP. Their OPS are almost identical but the real thing that helped me make my decision is their defense. Hanigan was second in the league behind Molina in defensive catcher ratings while Arencibia was 83rd(full list here) Hanigan gets the nod. 4-1 Reds.
Blue Jays: Jose Bautista
Reds: Jay Bruce
Bautista’s season was derailed by injuries and just didn’t have a good season. Jay Bruce on the other hand, had a career year hitting a career high 34 homers and 99 RBIs. His average was about his career average but did post a .841 OPS. Jay Bruce though doesn’t come close to Bautista. Even in Bautista’s down year he still had a .885 OPS which would be a career high for Bruce. Bautista may be the best homerun hitter in the league and may be the most underrated super star in the league. 4-2 Reds
Blue Jays: Colby Rasmus
Reds: Shin-Soo Choo
This Blue Jays lineup is absolutely packed with power hitters like Colby Rasmus. It seems like every guy on this team can hit 20 homeruns. Rasmus is a low average power hitter but his average is just way to low. He hit .223 and has an OPS of .689. Choo, the Reds newest addition, has an OPS of .814 and also has the power to hit 20 homeruns. This was a very easy decision as Choo is obviously the superior hitter. 5-2 Reds.
Blue Jays: Melky Cabrera
Reds: Ryan Ludwick
By far, the hardest decision I had to make. Ludwick had a rough couple seasons in San Diego but revived his career in Cincinnati having an OPS of .877 and slugging 26 homeruns. Melky Cabrera on the other hand, was having an absolutely amazing season and was leading the discussion for NL MVP but then he got caught taking performance enhancing drugs ending his season. I honestly don’t think the PEDs were affecting Cabrera as much as some people think and he will surprise a lot of people next season. I have to give the edge to Melky. 5-3 Reds.
Number 1 pitcher
Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey
Reds: Johnny Cueto
Dickey had an amazing season winning the NL Cy Young award, but he didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. He has a 2.94 ERA over the past 3 seasons but this year he really came out of his shell striking out 230 hitters. Cueto finally proved all of his doubters wrong by having another great season and if not for a bad stretch at the end of the year, probably would have won the Cy Young. I have to give the edge to Cueto because he seems to be improving every year as he gets older and Dickey is getting close to 40. I really don’t expect Dickey to repeat 2012’s success, but he should have a solid year with a sub-3.50 ERA. Cueto on the other hand, will contend for the Cy Young. 6-3 Reds.
Number 2 pitcher
Blue Jays: Josh Johnson
Reds: Mat Latos
Mat Latos recovered from an awful start to lower his ERA to 3.48 and have a record of 14-4. Latos’ career ERA is 3.41, which is right where he’s been the past two seasons. Josh Johnson is a very percuiliar case. He was phenomenal for three straight seasons and had a mediocre year last season. I’m a big fan in Johnson and believe he will have a great season but also, Latos is going to improve a lot from last year as he had an ERA below 2.50 in the last two months of the season. I’m going to give the very slight edge to Johnson because 2012 showed what he can do. 6-4 Reds.
Number 3 pitcher
Blue Jays: Brandon Morrow
Reds: Homer Bailey
Brandon Morrow had a great season with a 2.96 ERA but that was with a very small sample size with only pitching 124.2 innings. Homer Bailey seems like he has finally turned the corner after he pitched a no hitter against the Pirates and just seems like a different pitcher. He gained some muscle during the off-season which resulted in him staying healthy throughout the season which is something Morrow has failed to do. Have to give the edge to Bailey. 7-4 Reds
Number 4 pitcher
Blue Jays: Mark Buehrle
Reds: Bronson Arroyo
They both had almost identical seasons last year. Arroyo had a great bounce back season after being arguably the worst pitcher last season in all of baseball. Besides that year, Arroyo has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the league never landing on the DL and never missing a start. Buehrle and Arroyo are about the same type of pitcher being very consistent throughout their career. I have to give the edge to Buehrle because he has a slightly lower career ERA than Arroyo and he is going back to the AL so his transition should be smooth. 7-5 Reds.
Number 5 pitcher
Blue Jays: Ricky Romero
Reds: Aroldis Chapman
Chapman is finally making the transition to the rotation and if all goes well, he should be at least a solid under 3.50 ERA pitcher. He has ace potential and it wouldn’t shock me if he contends for a Cy Young. Romero on the other hand, is an interesting case. He was one of the best pitchers in the league in 2011 having a 2.92 ERA in 225.0 innings pitched but in 2012, he had an ERA of 5.77 and was just awful. I’m going to say he won’t repeat those numbers again but he won’t be phenomenal. I’m going to give Chapman the edge. 8-5 Reds
Blue Jays: Sergio Santos
Reds: Jonathan Broxton
Broxton had a great bounce back season after only pitching 12 innings last year. He stepped in big when Chapman had his issues and is taking over the closer role for the Reds this year. Santos had problems of his own only pitching 5 innings. He will take over as the close next season but I think he is a solid close at best. Not as good as Broxton who could have a big season. Got to give the edge to Big Broxton. 9-5 Reds.
The Reds have the edge at 9 out of the 14 spots and appear, on paper at least, to be an overall better team. With one team in the books, stay tuned in the coming days as I compare the Reds to four other contending squads.