Mar 25, 2012; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) pitches during the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Reds Roster Ramble: The Starters


Remember yesterday’s post where I stated that the position that has “created” a big divide among Reds fans is left field? Well, the starting staff has as well. It’s not just focused on two players, but three.

The one are of the 2011 Reds roster the drew a major amount of criticism was the starting staff. It seems inconceivable that a team that could score as many runs as the Reds did would end the season as a sub-.500 team. So, Reds GM Walt Jocketty went out to improve on that. He did so through two moves: acquiring Mat Latos and, for the, meantime, preparing Aroldis Chapman as a starter.

The Locks

Johnny Cueto

Something clicked for Cueto last season. We witnessed the blossoming before our very eyes, but he must stay the course. One negative I’ve seen is the decline in his strikeout rate. Does it matter when all the opposing hitters do is not square up the bat to the ball and weekly ground out or pop up? Didn’t think so.

Continuing his maturation process is a must for the Reds to take the division and advance in the playoffs. Sure, some still believe he’s not a true #1…and I don’t buy those opinions. I guess that’s what you call “agree to disagree”.

Oh, and stay healthy, Johnny. Cincinnati needs you.

Mat Latos

A four-for-one deal is a lot, but when the “one” (no reference to Neo) is, by many accounts, a future ace, it’s a risk well worth taking. Even more so since two of those in the deal were positionally blocked (Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal) and one would never live up to expectations due to the deal in which he was acquired (Edinson Volquez). That fourth player (Brad Boxberger) was the one I was uneasy seeing leave.

You have a legitimate 1-2 punch with Cueto and Latos. You could even say they are interchangeable. While there is the issue of youth, sometimes, that youth serves well. I also believe that the chance to win a few more games with the Reds will suit the tall righty just fine.

Mike Leake

He continues to make strides as a legit MLB starter. As I have previously stated, Leake is being overlooked when it comes to the success of the 2012 Reds. When you overlook him, that’s when a crafty pitcher like Leake will throw seven innings and then you realize you’re behind on the scoreboard.

Battles?

Bronson Arroyo

The inclusion here is solely for the purpose of dispelling a potential myth. I know Arroyo will not strike fear into opposing hitters. I know there is a certain portion of the Reds fan base that would love to see him go. It won’t happen due the money he’s owed if he’s no longer a Red. There is already the $8.5 million due to Madson. Would you like to add another $15 million? The only way the Reds would not be on the hook for that is if a team trade for him and elects to take on that money.

Plus, I honestly believe that a healthy Arroyo can help this staff.

Real Battle

Homer Bailey

Same old song and dance, huh? Are you weary of hearing “he’s young and [insert your choice: 2010, 2011, 2012] will be his year”? I’m starting to slide that direction myself. Young, no question. He’ll be 26 in early May. And 2012 could be his season, but two things are a must.

Improve consistency…2011 started out so wonderfully that some were touting him as the pitcher we had been waiting to see. That was until, the number two thing: health. Nagging injuries have found their way in hitting Bailey and resulting in lost time.

You have to give serious consideration if his time in Cincinnati is dwindling.

Aroldis Chapman

Here’s the “wild card” for 2012. Chapman’s spring performance, which has been nothing short of tremendous, has sparked the issue of Bailey’s role with the Reds. He just looks much more comfortable as a starter. He also looks more confident. There is no question the Cuban Missile has pitched the best of any starter this spring. It’s a point that cannot be argued. Although that Latos guy has pitched pretty darn well…

With the looming Tommy John surgery for Ryan Madson and the recent issues surrounding Nick Masset‘s shoulder, the speculation was running rampant that Chapman would be once again used (and misused) as a member of the bullpen. All that talent would continue being wasted there.

With the strides he’s made this season, it would be a severe disservice to AC and the Reds to place him back in the ‘pen.

Jeff Francis

Francis is a long-shot and most likely out of the picture…for now. Francis has elected not to opt-out of his deal and stay in the Reds organization. Heading to Louisville and getting his time in as a starter will only enhance his stock should any starter have to miss some time.

Four spots are set (Cueto, Latos, Leake, Arroyo). It’s that last one that’s creating the interest, not only in Cincinnati, but league-wide. You’re an opposing hitter. Who would you rather face: Bailey or Chapman?

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Tags: 2012 Reds Spring Training Aroldis Chapman Baseball Bronson Arroyo Cincinnati Reds Homer Bailey Jeff Francis Johnny Cueto Mat Latos Mike Leake MLB Reds Starting Pitching