ESPN's Buster Olney continues to crank out "top 10 pieces" and his latest one involves the best lineups in baseball. After cracking the top six in starting rotation, outfield, and infield, the Reds take a step back on this list after settling in the No. 9 spot. Nonetheless, Cincinnati made the list and its batting lineup projects to be in the top third in MLB.
Here is what Olney wrote about the Reds:
Now that Shin-Soo Choo has been added to hit at the top of the Cincinnati lineup, the Reds seem to have their most well-rounded offense in years, with left-handed/right-handed balance, power, speed, everything -- all built around Joey Votto, who is arguably the sport's best left-handed hitter.
A tangible difference: In 2011, Ryan Ludwick hit .237 with 13 homers in 139 games for the Padres and Pirates. In 2012, Ludwick clubbed 26 homers in 125 games and was a difference-maker for the Reds. Cincinnati has bet some significant dollars -- $15 million over the next two years that Ludwick can continue to be a big-time power hitter for them.
Something else to remember about the Reds: This may well be the year that speedster Billy Hamilton makes his debut in the majors, with his best chance for promotion probably coming through injury. There is some skepticism among scouts about whether Hamilton will hit early in the big leagues, but he has demonstrated that he'll take a walk -- he had 86 in the minors last year -- and there is a difference between being fast and knowing how to steal bases. Hamilton clearly has both.
This ranking shouldn't come as a huge surprise. The Reds didn't exactly score at will last season. They finished ninth in the National League in both runs scored (669) and average (.251), 12th in OBP (.315), and sixth in OPS (.726). Good pitching and defense was the formula they used to capture the NL Central title.
However, the 2013 campaign should bring a revival of sorts for Joey Votto and the Reds. They now have a true leadoff hitter at the top, coupled with a healthy Votto, to go along with the emerging development of Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, and Devin Mesoraco. They probably won't be the most potent offensive club in the majors next year, but they should be improved.
Want to see how the rest of Olney's ranking shaked out? For ESPN Insiders, go here to check out the list.