Some people weren't too thrilled when the Reds signed Ryan Ludwick to a one-year deal prior to the 2012 season. The veteran's numbers had declined steadily since his 2008 All-Star campaign with St. Louis, a campaign in which smashed 37 homers, batted .299, and drove in 113 runs, to the point he hit only .237 with a .310 on-base percentage during the 2011 season. To be fair, Ludwick's drop in offensive production probably had something to do with playing in spacious PETCO Park, but his decline in value was beginning to make people think that his better playing days were behind him. However, Cincinnati was in need of a run-producing bat to play left field, and GM Walt Jocketty turned to a connection from his days as the St. Louis Cardinals general manager for the answer.
By the end of the 2012 season, Ludwick had regained his mojo, as well as disprove any doubters who believed his time as a big leaguer was over. The UNLV product proved his worth by crushing 26 homers, 80 RBI, and 28 doubles, while maintaining an .877 OPS. His bounceback year had most people around Cincinnati believing he would sign elsewhere as a free agent during the winter, but in a surprising move, Ludwick decided to go with his heart, take less money, and re-sign with the Redlegs. On Dec. 10, the two sides officially agreed to a two-year deal worth $15 million.
The expectations for the 34-year-old have undoubtedly been raised for the 2013 season. The Reds will be relying on him to once again be the everyday starting left fielder, and are hoping that he can produce at the rate he did just one year ago. If he does, Cincy's lineup is going to be looking really potent come September. In the words of Ludwick, how do you like that BROTHER?
Here are some '13 projections for the big guy:
As you can see, projections aren't optimistic that Ludwick will quite live up to the bar he set for himself last year. But I have got to believe that most Reds fans would consider his season a success if he can club 20 homers or more while driving in 70-plus runs. He should figure to have more RBI opportunities with the addition of Shin-Soo Choo at the top of the lineup and a healthy Joey Votto hitting in front of him. So, he could even exceed the numbers he posted in 2012. But I think a more realistic outlook is that he performs at the same level or a notch lower as he did in '12. Nevertheless, it is good to have the seasoned veteran back in a Reds uniform.
Here are the links to past player previews: