Feb 22, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (21) throws the ball back to the mound during the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

2013 Cincinnati Reds Preview: The Wrap


Tomorrow is the day. Opening Day 2013. A day where a celebration of all that is good in baseball begins. Sure, there’s a game tonight, but it’s not in Cincinnati.

Over the past week, the BRM staff has hopefully provided you with much detail on the Good Guys for the 2013 season. We’ve looked at some of the players and components of the 2013 squad. A squad we all hope delivers the big prize at the end of the season: a World Series triumph.

Here’s some things to watch over the 2013 Reds season…

Mar 12, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Choo is congratulated by teammates after hitting a solo home run during the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Goodyear Ballpark. (Photo: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

Offense

(RELATED: 2013 Cincinnati Reds Preview: The Outfield)

The reconfigured lineup is being called upon to become the monster lineup we thought the Reds had last season. It all starts at the top, and that’s what led GM Walt Jocketty to pursue that one guy to aid the Reds.

Enter Shin-Soo Choo. Even though the Reds were thought to be in deals to acquire players for this role (such as Denard Span who is now in Washington), Choo was a piece that was seemingly made for the Red situation. He will entering free agency after 2013 and that provides a full year for Billy Hamilton to learn while at Triple-A

(RELATED: 2013 Cincinnati Reds Preview: The Infield)

Also, keep your eye on Joey Votto (like I actually needed to say that). After missing 40+ games due to a torn meniscus, Votto was unable to reclaim his power stroke and appeared unable to drive the ball as much upon his return. While the dry, thin air in Arizona can instill confidence (Votto did have a good spring), the process will not be complete until seeing how Votto performs in the cool and damp air which faces him in Cincinnati.

And let’s not forget that it took #19 almost a month before he got settled in last season.

Upon viewing the potential batting order, the top three look nice: Choo, Brandon Phillips, Votto. It is the next four spots which provide most questions.

#4 – Ryan Ludwick. Will he suffer regression as most projections reflect or will “Brother” be the Luddy of 2012?
#5 – Jay Bruce. Can the Beaumont Bomber find that elusive consistency at the plate?
#6 – Todd Frazier. Will a sophomore slump engulf the ToddFather?
#7 – Zack Cozart. Will moving down in the order free up his offense?

And what of the catching duo of Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco? Don’t be surprised that if Mes goes on a tear at the plate if he gets more time behind the plate.

March 5, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Leake throws against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning during a spring training game. (Photo: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports)

Pitching

(RELATED: 2013 Cincinnati Reds Preview: The Starters)

I said the the other day. A big reason the Reds were able to capture the 2012 NL Central title in 2012 was largely due to the pitching staff. Is it possible that the starters can garner 161 of 162 starts again in 2013? History would dictate that will not be the case, but hopefully more recent history repeats and will apply.

The decision of having Mike Leake as the #5 in the starting rotation and Aroldis Chapman as the closer has been hashed and re-hashed to the millionth degree. The decision has been made and we need to move on now.

But of course, we won’t. The first poor outing authored by Leake will lead to a Twitter meltdown by those that preferred the Missile to be a starter. Can’t guarantee I won’t be one, but I do try my best to play nice especially on Twitter.

(RELATED: 2013 Cincinnati Reds Preview: The ‘Pen)

Having Chappy at the back end of games does produce a calming effect. Aside from a small stretch last season, he was as effective as a closer last season as Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel. And you know that’s saying something.

The ‘pen is largely the same as last year.

Defense

Two position will claim the most focus: center field and third base.

Center field for two reasons: no Drew Stubbs to engulf the GABP turf with his speed and that Choo only has those always mentioned 10 games of big league experience at the position.

The other will be third base. Not that Frazier is a slouch, mind you, but what can you do when you replace a guy that owns eight Gold Gloves with one as recent as 2010? That’s a big act to follow, but Frazier and his Jersey-ness should be capable of handling the duties.

Bench

Aside from the lead-off spot, the Reds bench took a huge chunk of fans’ frustration last year. I think we could take Chris Heisey and Xavier Paul out of that mix though. In pinch-hitting appearances, the combo was 18-for-55 (.327) with a homer (Paul) and 6 RBI. They also contributed in scoring 6 runs.

The signing of Jack Hannahan along with the trade which brought Jason Donald to the team should help fill the void for the remainder of the bench. Hannahan will fill-in at the infield corners while Donald is the sub up the middle. Can’t be worse than last season…

Dusty

Of course, much of the pressure for 2013 will land squarely on the manager Dusty Baker. You’ve heard the sing (if not, you can hear it on OMGReds.com). If you’re on Twitter, you’ve no doubt seen the #FireDusty “campaign”.

With such high expectations placed on this team, Baker will undoubtedly have to guide his 25 flawlessly. The first questionable move he makes will create massive havoc. The criticism he will take this season will be at least ten-fold compared to that from last season. And sometimes Johnnie B. can be a bit bristly when those conditions exist.

Prediction

Some of the staff submitted their predictions for the NL Central. We were in agreement on the top two spots, but there was some dissension for the bottom three. Here’s the “average”. I also have some commentary from BRM staff writers John Rentz and Josh Bresser to assist here

1. Cincinnati
John: most depth, solid pitching and solid offense.

Josh: While the Reds’ pitching staff will be hard pressed to repeat their 2012 performance, they should still be solid, and that should more or less be evened out by increased offensive output.

2. St. Louis
John: only serious threat to Cincinnati – relatively unchanged offense that was best in NL, pitching that is comparable to last year.

Josh: A major injury to the Reds could allow the Cardinals to take over the division, and a major injury to the Cardinals could allow the Brewers to take over.

3. Milwaukee
John: offense strong, pitching suspect still

Josh: The Brewers’ rotation isn’t exactly daunting, but it is still a solid piece behind a potent offense.

4. Pittsburgh
John (had PIT in 5th): not enough new to offset the old … can’t see overachieving again

Josh: Their offense, aside from Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, isn’t much, and their rotation is a wreck, too.

5. Chicago
John (had CHI in 4th): improved, may surprise with youth and some new pitching help

Josh: The Cubs, while they won’t be the punching bag they were last season, are still the worst team in the division by a large margin.

The Wrap

It’s that pot of gold that the Reds and their fans cherish. Dropping the 2012 NLDS to the eventual World Champs has left lingering illness within the belly.

Yes, unfinished buisness.

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