Friday, March 29, 2013

RR Roundtable: Roster decisions, season predictions and more

This place will soon come alive with the sounds of summer.

After months of kicking around aimlessly through the cold months of winter, baseball fans can finally rejoice - the season is here! With that, our esteemed group of Redlegs Review writers convene for a joyous edition of the RR Roundtable. This week, Scott Eddy (@scotte97) returns as moderator and is joined by Jimmi Adair (@Redlegs_Review), Jesse Welte (@RedlegsWriter), Dan Howard (@DaHermit16) and Jon Davis (@I_Bleed_RedsRed). 

This week's topics include the final roster cuts and our opinions of who should stay and who should go, if the Brew Crew is any more of a threat with the services of one Kyle Lohse, surprises of spring and the key to the Redlegs stretching this season from April into late October. So, take this as your invitation to the discussion!

1) It’s finally nearly here. With spring training at an end and Opening Day just around the corner, there are a couple roster spots left up for grabs. There seems to be one infield spot and a couple bullpen spots lefts up for grabs. Jason Donald, Cesar Izturis and Emmanuel Burriss are fighting in the infield while J.J. Hoover, Manny Parra, Logan Ondrusek and Alfredo Simon are battling for the final ‘pen spots. Who would you pick for these final roster spots?

J.J. Hoover did his part to earn a spot on the Opening Day
Jimmi: There's a good chance that the roster could be set by the time folks read this post being that Dusty said he wanted to have the roster finalized by Saturday. If that's the case, forgive my ignorance as I may have swung and missed on my picks. With that being said, if we're going strictly by performance, I think you've got to go with J.J. Hoover for one of the bullpen spots, first and foremost. The guy has been outstanding this spring. But ultimately, I think the spots are going to go to Alfredo Simon (out of options) and Manny Parra (another left-hander). Now, having Parra in the 'pen isn't such a necessity with Chapman back in relief, but Dusty loves having southpaws to turn to. For the last bench spot, I would like that to go to Jason Donald

Scott: I’ve been rooting for Jason Donald because I’d like to see that that trade be as productive for the Reds as possible. Donald doesn't bring much offensively, though – he’s a lifetime .257/.309/.362 hitter and aside from a strong 39-game sample in 2011 (.318/.364/.402) he’s been fairly woeful at the plate in his big league career. His minors numbers (.285/.372/.434) and his age (28) suggest there might be something more here, though, and because he’s out of options I’d hate to lose him at this point so that’s who I’d pick, although Izturis has made himself an intriguing case. In terms of the ‘pen, I just don’t think you can deny the results of J.J. Hoover and it would be nearly criminal to send him down. I’d also send Manny Parra north to give the club another lefty. I think Simon stays, though, because of options.

Jesse: Jason Donald, J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon. I suspect that by the time this is being read, we will know if we were wrong or right. Like Scott, I would like to maximize the value of the trade by using Donald, though almost all of the value in that one obviously comes from Shin-Soo Choo. Then you can keep Izturis and Burriss as veteran options just in case. As far as the bullpen, Hoover cannot be denied. He has been filthy this spring. With Aroldis Chapman slated to go back to the closer's role, I would keep Simon on the roster and keep Parra as more minor league depth until he's needed later in the season. You can never have too much depth.

Dan: I think Cesar Izturis brings veteran leadership, something a young team, like this, needs. As far as the bullpen I’ll agree about Alfredo Simon, and since you can’t have enough lefties, I pick Manny Parra too.

Jon: Well as far as who I would pick that is simple. I would go with Donald for the infield spot and for the last two bullpen spots I would pick Simon, because he is out of options and he was great last year, and Hoover. If I may expand the question just a bit because those were my choices, but I have no say in the matter. So what I think the Reds will do, first in the infield I think it is a tight race between Izturis and Donald. Izturis brings a veteran presence, something we all know Dusty loves, and better defense so it would not surprise me at all to see him get the nod over Donald, given how great he has been with the bat this spring. As far as the 'pen I think Hoover has solidified his spot. I just comes down to Simon, Ondrusek & Parra, of which only one does not have any options left which I think is why they are probably leaning towards Simon, for the last spot.

2) The Brewers made a mini splash this week by signing starter Kyle Lohse. Does this change your view of the N.L. Central race at all?

Dan: The only thing that could help Milwaukee pitching is Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain.

Scott: I think it pulls the Brewers a bit closer to the Cardinals in the race for second. I never like to be overconfident, but I really believe the Reds should win the division if they can stay healthy. A big if to be sure, but over the long haul I think the Reds are simply more talented than any other team in the division. The Cards are also good, but are extremely prone to injuries.

Jesse: This does bolster the Brewers rotation quite a bit. Lohse, with Yovani Gallardo, is a formidable 1-2 punch and they've got some other guys, like Mike Fiers, who put up good numbers last year so that gives them a chance. That coupled with an MVP candidate in Ryan Braun, I think, gives the Brewers a shot to challenge for one of the wild card spots, but the NL Central still belongs to the Reds, with the Cardinals as their closest competition.

Jon: I think it does not change the race at all. If you look at his surface numbers it is a good addition, but still not enough to compete with us or St. Louis. If you dive deeper into his numbers over the last two years, then you see that he has been quite lucky and can not continue to put up such numbers. In this case then I think the Brewers may end up regretting this deal, as it does not represent a significant upgrade over their other options.

Jimmi: Adding Lohse is definitely a big lift to the Brew Crew, who outside of Yovani Gallardo and John Axford don't exactly have an intimidating pitching staff. Do I believe this will propel Milwaukee to a postseason appearance? No, I don't. The dark cloud looming over Ryan Braun and his alleged link to the Biogenesis investigation may result in some sort of disciplinary action (i.e. suspension). If that's the case, the Brewers are in trouble, as they don't have enough horses to stay in the NL Central race without Braun.

3) Spring training is finally almost over, so what stood out to you the most? Any pleasant surprises or things that were concerning?

A different shade of red has suited
Shin-Soo Choo just fine this spring.
Scott: The numbers for Joey Votto are a pleasant surprise for me. He’s posted well, Votto-like numbers (.348/.464/.674) this spring with four long balls. I’m still nervous about his knee and getting back to full strength, but so far, so good.

Jesse: J.J. Hoover. He is good. It was also a relief to see that Joey Votto's ability to hit for power has returned. There wasn't anything that really was a cause for concern to me, mostly because it is just spring training, but I guess if I had to pick one, hopefully Ryan Ludwick doesn't completely fall off the map.

Dan: If Shin-Soo Choo puts up the numbers during the season like his Spring Training stats (.366/.409/.561) this ought to be a fun summer!

Jimmi: Shin-Soo Choo has been as good as advertised out of the leadoff spot. Both Joey Votto (.458 OBP) and Ryan Hanigan (.393 OBP) have had good spring at the plate, as well. Jonathan Broxton didn't allow a run in any of his seven appearances (6.1 IP), while Hoover, Chapman, Sam LeCure, Sean Marshall, and Jose Arredondo all notched ERAs below 3.00. I think this is a good indicator of how dominant the bullpen is going to be, again.

Jon: Well I will save our readers a long drawn out rant about the Chapman thing, but do want to say my only issue is with the flip flopping. If the had just left him in the 'pen they save $21 million over the next three seasons, but once you decided to try it I think they would have been better suited to give it a go. Ok as far as concerns I think as all Reds fans can agree, the only true concern was is Joey Votto healthy? The answer I believe has been given and it was a resounding Yes. As far as surprises Mesoraco's performance this spring was a little tiny surprise, but we all knew that he could hit, it is the reason the Reds drafted in the first round out of high school. The true surprise was how fast Donald Lutz is for such a big man and how well he performed both with the bat & the glove out in left field. This prompting many to think that he may succeed Ludwick in left field eventually.

4) Every fan base has reason for optimism at this time of year, and Reds fans are hoping the sky is the limit this season. Fill in the blank on this sentence: The Reds will repeat as NL Central champs and have a chance to go far in the playoffs if ____________

Joey Votto's health is a key to the
2013 season.
Jesse: Joey Votto's knee stays healthy and the rotation can closely emulate what they did last year. With a healthy Votto in the lineup, it could be scary good from one to eight, with runs being scored at will. Give the starters that extra run support this year before turning things over to one of the best back ends in baseball and the Reds should be around late into October.

Scott: If Joey Votto is healthy and plays to his capability. This team has plenty of talent in the rotation and in the bullpen, and can score runs aside from Votto. Take him out of the lineup, though, and it becomes very ordinary very quickly. It’s no secret that Votto is a special player and the Reds need him to play at a superstar level if they are to not only repeat in the Central but finally get the monkey off their backs in the playoffs.

Dan: The pitching stays healthy. This staff has the capability to be legendary. With this bullpen every game will be a six inning game, just like the 1990 Reds.

Jon: If they continue to get good production out of Ludwick. I have no doubts that the rotation will do a good job and that the bullpen will be great. I also don't think the defense will be an issue either, even Choo playing center. That just leaves the lineup, of which there are six guys that I have no doubts will put up numbers equal to or surpassing their past production. They are Choo, Phillips, Votto, Bruce, Frazier and the catching position, whether it's Hanigan, Mesoraco or the likely time share. Now I don't have a lot of concerns about Ludwick or Cozart for that matter. It is just that when you have a solid team you just have to look at the weakest piece. Cozart I am sure will be just fine without the pressures of batting at the top of the lineup this year. With Ludwick it is more about the fact that he is protecting Votto than anything else. If he struggles then teams will just pitch around Joey and that will limit the amount of damage our best hitter can do. Even with this concern there is a big silver lining. Even if Ludwick struggles the 2013 Reds have other options to protect Joey. One, is Todd Frazier who may of may not be ready for that responsibility but has shown that he can hit in the middle of the order. The other option is Brandon, who may not be suited for it but has done a good job there in the past. Just a parting note if Phillips were to go to the four hole Hanigan could bat two. Then the top of the lineup would have career on bases of .381 & .370, just an interesting thought.

Jimmi: The Reds will repeat as NL Central champs and have a chance to go far in the playoffs if they stay healthy. Seriously, this team is too talented not to repeat as division champs, unless they sustain several injuries to key players. They showed tremendous resiliency in 2012 when Votto was out of the lineup, but outside of him, they really didn't have to deal with any major injuries. The same five guys made 161 of the 162 starts last year, which is absolutely unheard of nowadays. It would be shocking to see that kind of thing happen once more this season. Aside from staying healthy, the Reds will need better production out of their leadoff spot, which they hope to get out of Choo. Additionally, they need Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier to be run producers like they were in '12. Overall, the sky is the limit for this squad.

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