Saturday, March 2, 2013

RR Roundtable: What we're watching this spring

Yorman Rodriguez is one of the young guys the RR Roundtable
has its eyes on this spring for the Reds.

We come together for our second edition of the RR Roundtable and its an expanded version this week. Must be that the start of baseball season has the RR writers all excited. In this week’s roundtable, RR staff members Scott Eddy (@scotte97), Jimmi Adair (@Redlegs_Review), Jesse Welte (@RedlegsWriter), Chase Fitzgerald (@cof867), Dan Howard (@DaHermit16) and Jonathon Davis (@I_Bleed_RedsRed) throw four topics up for debate regarding the upcoming season. We discuss our takeaways from week one of spring, the backup catcher battle, predict which Reds will break out this season and more. If you’re looking for some insight on what to expect this season, you’ve come to the right place. We invite the readers of the site to take part in the roundtable by hitting up the Twitter @Redlegs_Review with your comments!

The first week of spring training is in the books which at this point really only means that we’re thankfully a week closer to the start of the season. It’s insanely early, but has anything from the past week of action stood out to you?

Scott Eddy: Considering that spring training is longer this year with the World Baseball Classic, this first week really doesn’t tell us a ton with a bunch of Double-A and Triple-A pitchers working. That said, the start for Joey Votto is really encouraging – it is great to see him with a home run and at least get that out of the way.

Jesse Welte: My insanely early reaction: It was nice to see Aroldis Chapman put in two perfect innings of work, where he mixed in a lot of his pitches at different speeds according to all accounts. He topped out at 93 mph and threw a few in the 70s according to Mark Sheldon.

Jimmi Adair: Since I haven't been able to actually see the games for myself, I have had to rely on the stat sheet  and game recaps written by people who actually did. However, there are a few things that stand out to me. It's hard to ignore the 8-for-12 showing at the plate prospect Henry Rodriguez has posted this spring. I've also been impressed with the two appearances by non-roster invitee Clay Hensley. The 33-year-old has only allowed one hit and no runs in his 4.1 innings of work. I'm not concerned with Johnny Cueto's debut outing of the spring (2 IP, 4 R, 5 H), but I am still holding my breath about Joey Votto

Dan Howard: I'm disappointed the Reds blew a five run lead against Cleveland in the opener. But I also know it takes a while for the pitching to catch up with the hitting.

Jon Davis:  The question says it all, it is way too early to be making any judgments, decisions or opinions. Now having said that, I agree with Scott, Joey Votto has looked good and that is encouraging, also Chapman's first "start" was very encouraging, two perfect innings in only 22 pitches. The last thing is something a lot of us already knew and that is that Henry Rodriguez can hit, batting .700 as of Thursday. The only question with him is defensive positioning and his abilities at said position. 

Chase Fitzgerald: Yes, the play of Yorman Rodriguez and Aroldis Chapman. I believe Yorman’s OPS is 1.905 and he is really showing us that he can hit. He probably won’t be on the roster for the start of the season but I am excited to see him whenever he gets called up. Also, Arolids Chapman pitched two very impressive innings and using a lot of off speed pitches which looked impressive. Even though it was only 2 innings, there is still no doubt in my mind that can succeed as a starter.

One of the things to watch this spring is the production of newcomer Miguel Olivo. The veteran catcher is battling for the backup job with Devin Mesoraco, though is not on the 40-man roster. Both guys already have a home run this spring, but those numbers are too early to read much into. Who would you rather see win the job?

Jesse: I want to see Mesoraco win the job and I think he will. I don't really have a good argument other than I would much rather see Mesoraco on the roster than Olivo. Mesoraco has to make it happen against big league competition at some point and if need be the Reds can bring Olivo up later in the season like they did with Dioner Navarro last year.

Will Miguel Olivo be wearing red on
Opening Day?
Jimmi: This is a tough one. If the Reds weren't in a position to contend this season I would say go with Devin Mesoraco. However, I believe Miguel Olivo may offer more to the team at this point in team by way of productivity. It is going to be a tough decision to make for Dusty Baker if Olivo performs well this spring. But I believe the ultimate result will be that Olivo begins the year in Triple-A, while Mesoraco begins the year in Cincinnati. It could come down to contract technicalities (i.e. options) rather than actual performance.

Scott: I’m leaning toward Olivo. If we’re talking upside, Mesoraco wins without question. But the backup is at most going to play twice a week behind Ryan Hanigan. I think Mesoraco really took a step backward last year and if he’s ever going to reach his potential, and he could be vital to the team’s long-term success, I think he needs to play everyday. That’s only going to happen in Louisville. Olivo is nothing special, but he’s proven to be a decent backup over his career.

Dan: With the Reds pitching depth, it’s possible the Reds could start the season with three catchers. Mesoraco is still learning and he could learn a lot from Olivo.

Jon: Oh this is a tricky, tricky topic. It depends if Baker is actually giving Mesoraco a chance to win the starting job, which I do not believe is the case. If that were the case then Mesoraco over Olivo, but I believe Baker has already decided that Hanigan is the starter, well deserved might I add, then I would rather see Olivo make the team over Mesoraco. It is simple Hanigan is only under contract for one more year, so rather than have Mesoraco fight for playing and struggle without consistent at bats as the backup. Let him go to Louisville and get his confidence back and fine tune his offense and defense, then let him take over next year. Olivo is nothing special but he can be an acceptable backup for one year. There is only one concern I have with this plan is that who gets bumped of the 40 man, I wouldn't want to lose a good player in the process.

Chase: I would absolutely love to see Mesoraco win the job. He has extreme power and I would love to see him blossom into the player many of us predicted he would be.

Hope springs eternal this year and while Reds fans have a lot to be excited about after winning two division titles in three years, there’s always the hope that certain players will take the next step. We count on guys like Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto to be elite players, but do you see anyone stepping up with a big jump in production this season? It could be a young guy, someone unexpected or an established player who just puts together a career year.

Scott: Every division winner and club that goes far in the postseason has one or two guys who put together career years. Some times It’s an anticipated rise in production from guys who are established and sometimes it comes out of the blue. I’m really excited to see Zack Cozart now that he has a full season under his belt. He gets ridiculed for his poor OBP (.288) last year and while he’s never been a high OBP guy, his .332 career minor league total suggests he’s capable of quite a bit better. I love his power ability in GABP and watching him play short last year was a joy. I think he’s an unsung hero of this club.

Zack Cozart is an RR pick to breakout in 2013.
Jesse: I'm going to have to agree with Scott. Cozart has the biggest potential to put up improved numbers as compared to last year. We actually are covering this in a post next week so stay tuned. He had a lot of pressure hitting leadoff for this ball club, but now with Choo in the lineup, Cozart should be able to settle comfortably into the seven spot. With everyone focusing on the big names from 1-6 in the lineup, Cozart is poised to put up some surprising numbers.

Chase: I think it’s going to be Jay Bruce. I know he is a two time all star and has been very good the past two years but I think this is the season that he puts at least some of it together and finished top ten in MVP voting.

Jon: As far as a career year I could see that happening for either Joey Votto or Jay Bruce. As far as a huge jump I say Cozart now that there is far less pressure on him to perform. Other than those three I am not expecting any huge differences in production outside of Chapman, but that is due to changing roles. I expect all four of those players to give us more production this year than they have in previous seasons.

Dan: I’m thinking Ryan Hanigan and Todd Frazier may be poised for a great 2013, both are young, their career years may be a few seasons away.

Jimmi: I have been saying this since the Reds traded for him, but I think Shin-Soo Choo is primed to have a big season, and there are several reasons why I believe this. First, Choo should immediately benefit from playing more games in the cozy corridors of Great American Ball Park. Secondly, at age 30, Choo is considered by most to be in the prime of his athletic career. Third, he now joins a winning team with plenty of pieces around to help him succeed. Lastly, he is essentially auditioning for a big free agent contract next winter. Expect the Korean native to work harder than ever in an effort to a land a big multi-year deal.

Speaking of spring training hopes, there a lot of young guys in camp that probably don’t have a chance of breaking camp with the big league club, but are looking to open some eyes. Are there any players who are off the 25-man roster radar that you’re particularly interested in watching this spring?

Jimmi: I'm interested to see how Daniel Corcino fares this preseason. The 22-year-old has drawn comparisons to Cueto in the past and I, along with other Reds fans, am really hoping he can live up to that billing. He went 8-8 with a 3.01 ERA and held opponents to a .216 batting average last year, so he appears to be on the right path. He will likely spend this season in the high minors again before possibly challenging for a starting rotation job in the spring of 2014.

Scott: Tony Cingrani. I hadn’t seen much of him in the minors, but I really liked what I saw in his cup of coffee last September. I’m also glad the team isn’t trying to fit him into a reliever’s role this year. I was nervous about the club trading him before the deadline last year, and I’m very glad they held onto him. He could be a player down the stretch if the rotation suffers an injury, too.

Dan: As I posted a couple of weeks ago, I’m rooting for Armando Galarraga to make the staff as fifth starter. Good stuff, with lots of potential, 30 years of age, not quite in his prime yet. I think pitching coach Bryan Price will do wonders with him.

Tony Cingrani is a man to watch this
spring despite likely starting at AAA.
Jon: Just like Scott, Tony Cingrani is at the top of my list as someone who could help us this year, in the bullpen or the rotation. There is also the roadrunner, Billy Hamilton, as he starts what hopefully will be his last season in the minors. Those are the two main guys I will keeping an eye on this spring. A few other noteworthy names are Donald Lutz, Neftali Soto, Daniel Corcino, Henry Rodriguez and Yorman Rodriguez.

Jesse: Billy Hamilton is too easy of an answer. I've always been intrigued with the switch-hitting infielder Henry Rodriguez. He's battled a couple injuries in recent years, but he has hit pretty much everywhere he has been. That is, until he got promoted to Louisville in the middle of the year last year where he hit just .244 in 51 games. I think that was more of an anomaly than anything though. Last year during the spring he hit .350 with a .391 OBP. He's a true long shot for the roster since he's young and has options, but I think he will be a fun player to watch.

Chase: Tony Cingrani by far. I have been a huge fan of Cingrani since the start of last season and even run the Tony Cingrani fan club. The kid just as a knack for getting people out and his fastball is something special. I really want to see this spring if he can improve his other pitches and succeed as a starter. 

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