September 5, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Will Donald be the upgrade Reds fans expect? (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Reds 5 at 5: Expectations

No question that the 2013 version of the Cincinnati Reds carries great expectations. Greater than those from 2011. Remember what happened then? Not trying to be the “bearer of bad news” here or recall painful past, but the 2011 Reds finished the season with a record of 79-83.

I ask: Are we holding certain players or areas to too high of a level for 2013?

Here’s a look at five players/areas where we might be expecting a little too much.

Jul 22, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; In looking at Frazier in 2013, his defense will be under the microscope more than his offense. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

1. Todd Frazier

Finishing third in the National League Rookie of the Year will place a tag on you, and the ToddFather will be looked to build upon his 2012 season.

But the expectations of Frazier taking over for Scott Rolen might be too much. I’m not referring as much to Frazier’s offense as I am his defense.

From an offensive point of view, Frazier should be around the same level that Rolen produced when he manned third base for the Reds. If you glance up at The Hub, you will see a post from C-ing Red where Rolen’s stats as a Red are revealed.

So you gravitate to projections…and some are none too kind to Frazier, slight regression from minor league numbers not withstanding. Despite dealing with a bum wrist in 2010, Frazier still crafted a minor league triple slash of .280/.353/.475. Last season for the Good Guys, that was .264/.323/.485. From what I have gathered on the projection front, Frazier’s triple slash is a little less flattering and could resemble something like this: .253/.317/.456.

In 2008 Frazier set his minor league personal best in home runs with 19, the exact number he hit in 2012 for the Reds. Take that for what you will.

The area of “concern” would be with Frazier’s defense. While Frazier was not a detriment in the field, I don’t believe I’m off in stating that he’s not Rolen. He did manage a DRS of 3 as a third baseman last season, which was better than the 0 Rolen posted.

Are the expectations unfair? From an offensive projection standpoint, no, and I don’t think any rational Reds fan will expect him to be the defensive player Rolen was. Well, before the 2012 Rolen, that is.

And I have always maintained that once the Reds found Frazier a permanent defensive home, the rest of his game would evolve.

2. Starting rotation

You can’t look at the 2012 season and not give a nod to the starting staff as being a main reason the Reds won the NL Central. Never mind the fact the main starters accounted for 161 of 162 starts, look at some of their combined numbers along with their NL ranks:

Complete games – 9 (1st), 3.64 ERA (4th), LOB% – 75.2% (1st), BB/9 – 2.17 (2nd), WHIP – 1.23 (3rd)

Considering the Reds home, these numbers (and others) are amazing. You could look at it as the Reds had three pitchers (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey) that continued on a path of improvement and maturity from the mound.

For us to expect 161 starts for 2012 is unrealistic. One other stat I did not list above: Reds starters hurled the second most innings of any starting staff in the NL last season (Let that debate begin!) Cueto and Bailey did lose time in 2011 due to injury. The last two seasons have seen Cueto’s year end prematurely due to an injury.

And we will hold our collective breath for 2013. I do see a rise in walk rate as Chapman finds his way as a starter.

Sep 11, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Once one of the game’s dominant closers, Broxton will look to rebuild that reputation as the Reds closer for 2013. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

3. Bullpen

So am I picking on the entire Reds pitching staff? Not hardly.

I don’t think many would disagree that the Reds owned one of the best, if not the best, bullpen in 2012. And it doesn’t look like much will change from the construction of that ‘pen for 2013…except for two: closer and a “new” face. With the move of Aroldis Chapman from closer to starter (and it’s not set in stone yet), Jonathan Broxton assumes closer duties.

Where’s this leave Mike Leake? He’s the “new face” as it appears he will see a change in his overall role. Most likely in the bullpen gaining an occasional start…possibly. The plan for Chapman will completely determine this.

Add that the ‘pen is already crowded..

Here’s where I think this ‘pen can build in a positive direction from that set in 2012. Just because Broxton doesn’t possess the “stuff” (or velocity) of Chapman doesn’t mean he will be unable to handle the role in the same manner as Chapman. Brox has added a new pitch to his repertoire. No 100′s from Brox, but he still can hit the upper 90′s on occasion and he actually picked up almost a full MPH last season on his fastball.

For the record, Broxton blew 6 saves last season. Chapman: 5.

And while he is a couple of years removed, at one time, Broxton was the closer in the NL.

4. Shin-Soo Choo

So you’re still leaping up and down over the Reds getting a legitimate leadoff hitter. While no one will look at Choo’s bottom line and not be excited, I feel there’s a caveat the should be in play here. Here it is.

Last year was the first time Choo has been utilized as a team’s primary leadoff hitter.

And it didn’t happen at the onset of the season either. That didn’t happen until game #35 for the Tribe. He was either 3rd or 6th in the batting order previous to the move. No one would doubt his performance in that role last season, and we should honestly expect a similar stat line. That alone would erase the leadoff frustration of the past, oh, five years. maybe?

But I have a fear. How loud will the boos echo if Choo should happen to post an 0-fer with a couple of whiffs?

5. Bench: Jack Hannahan and Jason Donald

First, I will assume that Donald will “win” the Reds utility role over Cesar Izturis. With Rolen not returning (as of yet anyway), Hannahan is a lock, I feel. Considering the players they replaced, maybe we’re a little higher in hopes with these two former Indians.

I’m not going to provide the numbers from Wilson Valdez and Miguel Cairo. They’re still too painful to view. Hannahan’s 2012 was better than Cairo’s, but Donald’s numbers from 2012 are about equal to that of those Valdez produced. And both suffered through their worst offensive seasons since becoming major league players.

Donald produced some of his numbers in a pitcher’s park while Valdez was in a hitter’s paradise. If Donald can make the transition (and I think he can), the Reds bench, particularly from the infield perspective, is much improved…both offensively and defensively.

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