From 2011: Cueto throws against the Marlins during the 1st inning. (Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)

2012 Reds Spring Training: Quick Hits

Some of our everyday readers may remember former staff writer Justin Hamilton. Justin is currently in the process of completing his senior thesis and took some time away from BRM to concentrate on that. Can’t say I blame him either.

Well, Justin sent me a message and wanted to find a means to contribute. I thought maybe it would be something short and sweet. It was sweet, but not short. Not that there’s anything wrong with that as having as many opinions as possible can’t be a bad thing, right?

Here’s Justin’s quick observations of the Reds thus far…

I couldn’t resist. Every February when talk of pitchers and catchers reporting start drifting in I get the itch to talk to anyone and everyone about the budding potential of those Redlegs. I was able to scratch that itch thoroughly last season due to my inclusion on the writing staff here at BRM. But alas, school has intervened and put my blogging career on hold. But I have fought through monotony of academia and found the time to conjure up some quick notes and observations on the Reds’ spring to date.

Got Some Swag?: Watching some interviews and seeing the way the players are handling themselves this spring has me thinking that this team has a confidence and swag about them that is different than season’s past. The work of the front office to add legitimate contention-level pieces during the offseason and the sensing that the others in the division may be weakened have the Reds’ players (and fans) going about with a quiet confidence that is honestly quite exciting to see.

I think a renewed confidence is in order for the 2012 Reds. The additions do assist in that.

Retooled Rotation: Mat Latos and the in-house introduction Aroldis Chapman to the Reds lineup gives the Reds the most potent starting rotation, on paper at least, that they have had in some time. With a proposed lineup of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, and Bronson Arroyo, there is a mix of proven performance, untapped potential, and veteran presence that makes the potential outcomes tantalizing. Best case scenario? Cueto and Mat Latos prove to be young dual aces, Bailey takes the next step and becomes more consistent, Chapman transitions smoothly into a starting role, and Arroyo doesn’t suck and eats innings. This scenario would lead to the Reds cruising to a Central Division crown. Worst case, Cueto and Latos show their youth, Chapman gets derailed with injuries and has to go back to the bullpen, and the rest of the rotation plays at about their average performance. If I were betting however, I would place a wager on this rotation hitting closer to their best case.

I get the feeling Justin forgot about one Mike Leake. With the news of Bill Bray’s groin issue, Chapman will be most likely now be headed to the ‘pen. Don’t get me started…

The New & Improved Jay Bruce: Holy cow, where did Jay Bruce go?!? Bruce lost 15 pounds in the offseason and showed up in Goodyear with a markedly different physique than in seasons past. Citing a change in diet getting away from fast food and a renewed commitment to his workout for the weight loss, Jay is looking to establish himself as one of the preeminent outfielders in the NL. By my inexact and non-scientific calculations, each pound lost for a player equates to 1 HR & 2 SB added. So realistically we are looking at 47 HR and 38 SB…write it down. In all honesty, this renewed dedication shows that Jay is serious in bringing out the potential that led the Reds to give him a long term extension last season. Here is to hoping he starts playing above that contract starting this season.

I wonder if Jay had the opportunity to touch base with Juan Francisco

Young’uns: With what footage of the Reds spring games I have gotten to see thus far, the biggest impression that has struck me has been how good the young players in the Reds system have played. Spring training is spring training and the statistics from it is not entirely useful, but just the look test has returned good results thus far. Didi Gregorius, Henry Rodriguez, and Neftali Soto are all great young position players and could factor prominently into the Reds future plans. Gregorius and Rodriguez in particular were impressive from a skill standpoint. Gregorius plays great defense at shortstop with a cannon for an arm and Rodriguez received high praise from Ken Griffey Sr., being called one of the best hitters in the Reds system. Soto could very well prove to be a start at potentially replacing Joey Votto at first.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has the Reds organization listed at #18.

Jeff Francis: The signing of Jeff Francis by the Reds to a minor league deal was quite intriguing when the news broke. Coming off shoulder problems that derailed his career in Colorado, Francis popped up in Kansas City last season posting a forgettable 6-16 record with a 4.82 ERA in 31 starts. While those numbers do not instill a lot of confidence, the potential that Francis holds and the fact that he is only 31 makes this a good gamble for the Reds. His looks thus far this spring have been promising as well, showing decent velocity and the looks of a great curve. Francis could prove to be a great backup option at the 4 or 5 spot should an injury derail the proposed lineup or Aroldis Chapman be needed in the bullpen.

I talk about Francis in the last BRM podcast. I think this signing may be the best of all the deals the Reds did in the off-season. Well, I love the Madson signing as well. Maybe Francis is #2…

Scott Rolen: “Rolen has the best range of movement in his shoulder as he has had in years!” Seems that has been heard every year Rolen has been in Cincinnati. It may actually prove to be something to listen to this year though…maybe. Rolen has hit very well and looked great in his few at bats thus far in the spring and gives a bit of excitement about the season’s prospects if a healthy throwback season for Rolen can be logged in 2012. It cannot be understated what kind of an impact a healthy Rolen hitting in the middle of the lineup could give the Reds this year. It could very well be the one area next to improved starting pitching that could dictate the true ceiling of this Reds team.

The importance of a healthy Rolen cannot be emphasized enough.

Bullpen, A Strength?: The Reds bullpen was definitely not considered a strength in 2011, ranking middle of the pack in the NL in nearly every relief statistic. The trade and subsequent extension of Sean Marshall and signing of Ryan Madson were very shrewd moves that will provide major dividends for the Reds in 2012. Madson’s current elbow problems are worrisome but with him healthy and looking to prove himself worthy of the multi-million dollar long term deal he sought early in the offseason a dominant closer is definitely likely. Marshall is a signature lefty to have on staff, taking over the role vacated by Chapman’s move to the rotation. He has also been receiving high praise out of Reds camp as of late. During the Reds spring training telecast against the Indians on Monday, Marshall was compared to ‘The Mayor’ Sean Casey in terms of a clubhouse presence and personality. High praise indeed. In addition, the Reds inked Cincinnati area product Andrew Brackman to a minor league deal. The former Yankees first round pick in 2007 returns home and hopes to kick start a faltering career thus far. Early returns are promising but sputtering as Brackman has turned in one good performance in fanning 2 in one inning of work against KC and then one bad performance allowing 2 runs in 2 innings on a couple hits and walks against Seattle. Brackman could be forced into a middle relief role at some point during the season if injuries or ineffectiveness manifest themselves at some point for the Reds.

Think about it. Madson replaces Cordero. Marshall replaces, well, now, Bray if Chapman moves back to the pen. Adding the top reliever never hurt a team especially if you believe you’ve shored up the other end of the pitching staff.

Well those were my so-called ‘quick’ hits on the Redlegs this spring. It was good to get those out of my brain and onto the screen. Here is to hoping this wellspring of potential and excitement for the Reds in Goodyear travel back to Cincinnati with them and translate into a hot start in April. I would like to thank Steve for giving me the opportunity to chime in this bit in a guest post on BRM and most importantly GO REDS!!!

You’re welcome, Justin. When your thesis is done, maybe we’ll let you roam around here a little more.


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Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds Didi Gregorius Henry Rodriguez Jay Bruce Jeff Francis MLB Neftali Soto Reds Bullpen Scott Rolen Spring Training 2012 Starting Rotation

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