The 2010 Reds Club won the Central Division, making the playoffs for the first time since 1995. They were swept by a very good Philadelphia Phillies ballclub led by Roy Halladay. The disappointment soon gave way to anticipation. The young, inexperienced Reds club would undoubtedly grow in 2011. It didn’t happen. The club that finished 91-71 in 2010 finished 79-83 in 2011.
Not content to stand pat, Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty was active this offseason. He made key moves that have the potential to propel the Reds forward after a disappointing 2011. Will those changes result in a winning formula in 2012? Like last season, the Reds have the potential to win their division and make noise in the playoffs. The foundation is very solid. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are All-Star caliber veterans that perform consistently at high levels. Johnny Cueto has become a top-of-rotation starter and Bronson Arroyo eats innings. Miguel Cairo is one of the best super-utility players in baseball. A solid bullpen cemented by new additions Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson may be the club’s strength. Together with Bill Bray, Jose Arredondo, and Nick Masset, this bullpen will hold leads in 2011.
If the Reds are to live up to their potential in 2012, however, these things need to happen:
Mat Latos needs to continue to pound the strike zone with his outstanding stuff. Latos, a 24 year old, 6’6, right-hander joins the Reds from the San Diego Padres. Latos has fanned nearly a hitter per inning over his short big-league career. His command is excellent, especially for a young pitcher. Latos walks less than three hitters per nine innings. He’s exceeded 180 innings pitched in each of the last two seasons. If Latos doesn’t let Great American Ballpark get in his head, he will be a significant upgrade over the departed Edinson Volquez who walked 5.38 hitters per nine innings in 2011.
Homer Bailey and Aroldis Chapman must improve in 2012. This will be Bailey’s sixth season in the big leagues. Still, he is only 25 years old. Injuries limited Bailey to just 132 innings last year. He posted an ERA and WHIP of 4.43 and 1.28 respectively. In 2012, Homer Bailey needs to reach 175 innings and improve his ERA to 4.25 or better.
The Reds learned that Aroldis Chapman’s arm does not respond well to pitching out of the bullpen. One day, his velocity was 102 mph with command. Two days later, he was 94 mph without much command at all. As a result, Chapman will return to a starting role in 2012. Chapman needs to stay healthy and continue his development (and maturity) and be ready to join the rotation when injuries necessitate. If he can learn to pound the edge of the strike zone with his fastball, there’s no ceiling for Chapman.
In three big league seasons, Drew Stubbs has struck out in 27% (2009), 33% (2010), and 34% (2011) of his at bats. His average dropped from .255 in 2010 to .243 in 2011. Stubbs needs to improve his plate discipline even if it means sacrificing power. His defense is extraordinary. He cannot, however, continue to regress offensively. Unproductive outs lead to unproductive offenses.
Jay Bruce hit .342 with twelve homeruns in May. If you take out the month of May, Bruce hit just .236 with twenty homeruns over the remaining five months of the season. There is something about Bruce’s mental preparation that causes him to have monster surges and monster slumps. Perhaps, he gets too high when things are going well and too low when things aren’t going well. In any event, Bruce needs to adjust his mental approach so that he’s more consistent from week to week.
Scott Rolen needs to stay healthy. His defense, leadership, and right-handed lineup presence behind Joey Votto are instrumental to this club’s success. He played 133 games in 2010 and just 65 games in 2011. Rolen is 36 and has chronic shoulder and back problems. He isn’t going to play in 150 games. The Reds need him to play 120 games in 2012.
For the first time, Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart, Juan Francisco and Devin Mesoraco will be expected to perform at the big league level over the course of an entire season. Cozart will likely be the everyday shortstop. Mesoraco will likely split time behind the plate with Ryan Hanigan. The Reds need Cozart to play solid defense and provide a spark at the top of the lineup. Cozart hit .324 in his first 37 games last season before sustaining a season-ending injury in Atlanta on July 23rd. Don’t expect him to do that over the course of an entire season. The Reds simply need Cozart to produce offensively the way Orlando Cabrera produced in 2010. Defensively, he’s much better than Cabrera.
Sparky Anderson once said “I don’t embarrass any other catcher by comparing him to Johnny Bench.” The Reds don’t need Mesoraco to be Johnny Bench. They need Mesoraco to learn the pitching staff, play solid defense, and produce the way Ramon Hernandez produced from 2010-2011.
Both Cozart and Mesoraco put up strong numbers in the minor leagues. It’s tempting to expect big things from them. Remember, however, they have just 55 games in the big leagues between them.
Frazier will get the opportunity to play some OF and 1B. Francisco will see plenty of action behind the oft-injured Rolen. The Reds need both players to improve upon their 2011 production. Who knows? One or both of these guys may become a regular someday.
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