Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Olney: Reds feature top infield unit in the National League, third best in MLB

Brandon Phillips Brandon Phillips #4 of the Cincinnati Reds attempts to turn the double play over Lastings Milledge #85 of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on August 3, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Phillips and the Reds grabbed the top spot in the NL
It's no small secret that Dusty Baker has one of baseball's best infields at his disposal. It has been that way for several years now thanks to the likes of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and others who have manned the dirt at GABP along the way.

With that in mind, the fact that Buster Olney dubbed Cincy's infielding unit as the third-best in MLB, and tops in the National League, shouldn't come as a surprise.

Here is what the ESPN baseball guru had to say about his ranking of the Reds:

If Texas has the best left side in baseball, the Reds probably have the best right side, with Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, who both excel offensively and defensively. Votto will presumably go into this season fully recovered from the multiple rounds of knee surgery he had last year, and with Shin-Soo Choo joining the Reds, Phillips figures to slide into the No. 2 spot in the Cincinnati lineup. Dusty Baker had to work to get Todd Frazier into the lineup at times last season, but with Scott Rolen closer to retirement, Frazier becomes the everyday guy at third, after posting an .829 OPS in 128 games last year. It's worth noting that while the Reds' hitters generally benefit from hitting in a cozy home park, Frazier fared better on the road than at home in 2012, by a good margin -- his OPS away from Cincinnati was 85 points higher, at .871. Shortstop Zack Cozart, 27, has some pop.

The X factor: For the first time in Votto's time with the Reds, the sum of their parts could really help him to a monster season. In recent years, Cincinnati has sometimes lacked a leadoff hitter who consistently gets on base, or good left-handed/right-handed balance, or depth through the 4-5-6 spots in their lineup. But with the addition of Choo at the top of their lineup, the Reds might have the best group they've ever had around Votto, who finished 2012 with a career-high 1.041 OPS. It could be a really big summer for him.

Olney has been fiddling with top 10 rankings all week long. If I was a betting man, which I am not, I would venture to say that Olney's next post will be who he views as the top 10 bullpens. Expect the Reds to make an appearance in that piece, as well.

Via ESPN.

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