Saturday, February 23, 2013

RR Roundtable: The Pilot Episode

New caps, new season, new RR opinions!

Welcome to the first edition of the Redlegs Review Staff Roundtable! This is the first of what we hope becomes a weekly gathering of RR staff writers to discuss the week that was in Reds baseball. Each week, we'll select the biggest topics and news items from the past week and give our takes. Taking part in the roundtable this week is staff writer and moderator for this week's topics, Scott Eddy (@scotte97), senior writer Jesse Welte (@RedlegsWriter), staff writer Jonathon Davis (@I_Bleed_RedsRed) and RR creator Jimmi Adair (@Redlegs_Review).

This week we discuss Reds playing (and not playing) in the World Baseball Classic, worries about Aroldis Chapman, potential spring break out players and more. Let's get to it, shall we?

The Reds exercised their right to block Johnny Cueto from pitching for the Dominican in the World Baseball Classic. That’s probably something most fans were hoping for, but something Cueto might not be too pleased about. Joey Votto, though, will likely play for Canada. Are you nervous about him playing in the WBC?

Joey Votto will be playing for the Maple, Team Canada.
Scott: It’s the right move to stop Cueto from pitching. I really want to love the WBC – but at the same time, I don’t want any Reds participating in it, especially pitchers. The Dominican players take playing for their country very seriously and any innings logged in the WBC will certainly be amped up more than any spring training game. Johnny doesn’t need that stress right now. On the other hand, I trust Votto’s judgment here. I’d rather not see him playing full games, but his chance for re-injury in a WBC game probably isn’t much greater than it is in ST games. If he thinks the WBC is what will help him, I’m willing to agree.

Jesse: As with any injury, especially when it involves your superstar, of course I am a bit nervous for Votto to play in the WBC. It was clear last year during the injury that he wasn't going to play until he felt he was ready though, so I don't think he would even have considered playing in the WBC if he wasn't 100% ready. He's going to be playing baseball either way and injury can happen at any time. I'm glad the Reds blocked Cueto from pitching though. Pitchers are a different story.

Jon: I would rather Reds players not participate, especially coming off injury. The Reds are paying them, not Canada and the D.R. A WBC title means nothing to me, but a Reds title means a lot. 

Jimmi: I would be lying if I didn't say I wasn't nervous about Joey Votto playing in the WBC. However, I definitely feel much easier with him participating than I would with Johnny Cueto. In my opinion, the physical aspect of participating weighs more heavily on pitchers than it does position players. Those extra innings logged under an elimination format have the potential to diminish the effectiveness of pitchers during the regular season come September. On the other hand, I believe the extra at-bats that Votto will receive (if he actually plays) should prove to be very beneficial to help him get back into the swing of things.

A very interesting article ran in Cincinnati Magazine this week on Aroldis Chapman describing his on and off the field issues. One of the focuses of the story was the concern that some within the organization have about Chapman’s mental toughness and his penchant for coming unglued at times when struggling as a starter at Louisville. All things considered, how concerned are you on a scale of 1 to 10 with his transition to the rotation?

Jimmi: I would go with a 7 and it really has more to do with the possibility that the move could end up providing more bad than good. It is always a risky proposition to tweak something that is currently working, especially considering how well having Aroldis Chapman in the closer role worked last year. But the Reds are rolling the dice in hopes that the transition pays off, and that is the decision Reds nation must support. I'm on board, but I'm approaching with cautious optimism. Don't be surprised if Chapman winds up closing again by season's end.

Scott: I’d have to say I’m somewhere around a 6-7. It’s always a concern when moving someone out of a role where they’ve excelled and then ask them to do something totally different. There are a few well-documented instances where Chapman appeared to lose focus at Louisville before moving to the pen. The Choo trade seemed to underscore that the Reds are going all in right now and taking this risk with Chapman seems to make little sense in that regard. There seems to be much more to lose than to gain, this season at least, making this move now.

MPH105 will try his hand at starting - for now.
Jesse: Honestly, I'm going to put my level of concern at 4. I know it's cliche to say, but Chapman has certainly matured on the mound since his days starting at Louisville. He's been a starter before and I think he really wants to be a starter in the long term. I think that mind frame will allow him to make a successful transition. I have more concern about how many innings he'll throw and how fans will react if they don't see Chapman for 10 days or so if he gets skipped every once in a while, especially if Jonathan Broxton struggles to close games.

Jon: I'm not that worried, people forget he is one of a kind plus last spring looked great as a starter and that's what we signed him to do. And he was only a starter until 2011. Focus issues I think more had to do with the big changes moving to America etc etc. most likely worst case he goes back to pen, best case he is elite starter well worth the risk. 

The will-he-or-won’t-he return saga of Scott Rolen ended last week with Rolen deciding not to attend Reds spring training, but the team’s release stopped short of using the “retirement” word. Any chance we see him this year in a Reds uniform – or someone else’s?

Scott: The team release on the Rolen decision was pretty interestingly worded, I thought. Rolen said “right now” he wasn’t ready to make a commitment and that he wanted to “leave options open without closing any doors.” I really think there’s more than a 50-50 shot he suits up for the Reds this year. And it may not take an injury – if Todd Frazier struggles out of the gates, Dusty and Walt might get antsy.

Jon: Your guess is as good as mine no one knows what he is thinking. If I had to guess I would say he eventually officially retires.

Maybe we've seen the last of this. Maybe not.
Jesse: Rolen definitely didn't put a period on his statement that he wasn't going to camp. I agree there is more than a 50-50 shot we see Rolen in a Reds uniform sometime this year. Dusty won't hesitate to look for him if there is injury or under performance at third base. As for any other teams, if he does play in 2013 I don't foresee it being for anyone other than Cincinnati.

Jimmi: Honestly, who knows? Judging by the press release, it seems as though Rolen still has the itch to play in some form or fashion. In fact, he may have decided to join the Reds this spring if the roster wasn't already loaded with role players. He didn't seem too content with the idea of playing behind Todd Frazier at third, either. I could see a scenario where Rolen stays in shape this summer and re-joins the team once the rosters expand in September. He would be a fantastic addition to the clubhouse as the Reds neared the postseason. But I can also see a scenario where he signs on with another franchise if they give him the chance to start.

More talk of Jay Bruce’s willingness to play centerfield came out this week during ESPN’s report from Reds camp. Who’s the starter in CF on Opening Day?

Jimmi: Shin-Soo Choo. I could be totally off base here, but I think the baseball media is severely overplaying Choo's perceived inability to play center field. Sure, he hasn't played but 10 games there in his big league career. Sure, he won't provide as much range as Drew Stubbs did, but I think Choo will pan out as the everyday center fielder. He is basically auditioning for a big contract this off-season and will surely work harder in 2013 than he ever has before. If the Choo experiment in center doesn't work, the Reds know they at least have Jay Bruce to fall back on.

Jon: Opening Day I think it will be Choo and think that all this is way blown out of proportion; he will be fine. Sure doesn't have the speed of Stubbs, but both Bruce and Choo are both above average athletically so either way the offensive upgrade more than compensates the small defensive downgrade. Opening Day I think it will be Choo until I hear or see something that makes me think otherwise.

Scott: I’m pretty split on this one actually. I think the Reds are going to give Choo every possible chance in center and that’s the way they want the lineup to settle, but I also have a feeling Choo is going to be ugly enough at times out there to make the front office pause a little. I’ll go Choo … but by May it might be a different story.

Jesse: Unless he's hurt or doesn't catch a single ball during the spring, Choo will be in center on Opening Day. It's perfectly normal to wonder how he'll perform, but I think this thing is starting to get blown out of proportion, but what doesn't these days? Every single time there's a ball in the gap, there will be someone who says "Stubbs would have caught it" whether it was catchable or not. If he starts messing up routine stuff on a regular basis, then I'll start to really worry. When all is said and done, we aren't going to be pointing at Choo's play in center as the reason for whatever result the Reds have achieved by season's end. Baseball is more complex than that.

The roster seems pretty set as spring training begins with fewer position battles than we’ve ever seen on the Reds. That said, do you see anyone breaking out and surprising us this spring?

Jesse: I don't think he'll really break out or surprise anyone with his play, but I do think we'll be surprised to see Cesar Izturis on the 25-man roster to start the year. He can play all around the infield, is a switch-hitter, and has been around the league. Dusty will overvalue those qualities from him. He's no Willie Harris though.

Scott: I have a feeling Clay Hensley is going to be tough for Dusty and Co. to cut. We know Dusty likes veteran arms in the pen and Hensley provides a lot of experience. He was great two years ago with the Marlins and he might find a little of that magic in spring. I can also see this being something that irks the fans a little bit if it costs someone like J.J. Hoover a roster spot.

Miguel Olivo could push for a roster spot.
Jon: Not really assuming everyone is healthy of course. I completely disagree on Hensley, he is a mediocre reliever at best and is good for nothing more than organizational depth. The infield is pretty much locked the starting four then Jason Donald & Jack Hannahan. The outfield is even more solidified with Chris Heisey & Xavier Paul with the starters. The rotation is either Chapman as five or Mike Leake if the Chapman experiment fails or is abandoned like last year. The bullpen is already crowded Jonathan Broxton, & Sean Marshall are locks. Manny Parra, Jose Arredondo and Alfredo Simon are most likely a due to contract or option issues, which leaves Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover & Logan Ondrusek for the remaining two spots, hence my comments on Hensley.  The only possibility I see for a surprise is at catcher where if they are going with Ryan Hanigan as starter they may opt to give Devin Mesoraco regular playing time at triple a and that would lead to Miguel Olivo as the backup catcher I believe, but that requires putting him on 40 man roster so don't think it will happen. Which is why I don't think there will be any surprises without an injury.

Jimmi: I really, really like the Miguel Olivo signing. I believe he could provide a spark to this club similar to how Dioner Navarro did last season. I'm also very intrigued by Armando Galarraga. Perhaps it is because of the mystique of his near perfect game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Galarraga begin the year in Triple-A and then make an impact with the Reds near the end of the year.

That does it for the first round of the RR Roundtable. Have your own opinions? Comment below or hit up the Twitter at @Redlegs_Review.

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