What We Look To Learn From Spring Training


Every year spring training brings as much in the form of questions as it does in energy and optimism for a new year. This spring training is rolling around being no different. In fact, I’d venture to say that there may be more questions needing solved during spring training this year than in years past due to unknown entities we have in our younger players, especially pitchers. A lot will not be known about these situations until the play starts in Goodyear. So I thought I’d highlight a few of the more interesting questions that are looking to be solved as spring training draws near.

What will the rotation look like?
This is the question that every Reds fan is wondering. But unfortunately it could also be the hardest to answer. There are 8 potential starters in the form of Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Matt Maloney, and Sam LeCure vying for 5 spots. Out of all that, the only two I would consider good enough odds on making the rotation would be Arroyo and Cueto. I cannot give a full enough degree of certainty with anyone else to say for sure without spring training deciding. With Volquez, the mercurial performance last season coming off surgery has me wondering which Volquez will show up: Ace Volquez or Wild Volquez. I still need to see a full season from Homer Bailey pitching the way he did at the end of last year to give a full vote to him, though I think it happens. And then you have the inexperienced group of Wood, Leake, Maloney, and LeCure. While I saw a lot that I liked from all of them last season (especially Wood) they are all still inexperienced at the major league level and their progression is something that is just too hard to predict. In light of my sound advice however, I am going to venture a guess as to the rotation. On gut feeling I am going with Arroyo, Cueto, Bailey, Volquez, Wood.

Who will be starting at shortstop?
As soon as the Reds declined the option on Orlando Cabrera (I did a happy dance when I was told of this news), the job seemed likely to be in the sole possession of one Paul Janish. Once again however, my logic was defied by the personnel moves of the Reds in the form of Edgar Renteria. The 2010 World Series MVP was inked to a one year deal with the Reds with all indications to the media and fans that he will serve as a utility player and main backup to Janish at short. Spring training will hold the final answer to the shortstop spot though. Since it seems Dusty has not had any much trust in Janish in a full time situation (even though he played very well last season), any struggles by Janish during spring training could lead to Renteria as the opening day starter.

Who gets the final roster spot?
Alex wrote a piece on this situation last week but I feel it bears repeating since I think it’ll be the most exciting position battle to watch during spring training. Given the shape of the current roster, the final spot will most certainly have to go to an outfielder. And given the likely suspects it will have to come down to Jeremy Hermida and Chris Heisey. If Hermida can find his form and return to the player he was with Florida I think he will be a shoe-in for this spot but given his recent performances this isn’t a guarantee. I believe in the end Heisey and his masterful pinch-hitting from last season will win out.

Who will be the surprise of spring training?
Every year there is a player who has an awesome spring training that vaults their game up a notch or two for the coming season. This is honestly my favorite part of spring training. Last spring training Jonny Gomes was the guy who raked, which carried over to the regular season in which he posted a career year. This year there are quite a few candidates for the surprise performer given the number of young players who will be invited to camp. I am going to settle on Yonder Alonso and Chris Valaika as those with the highest potential to impress during the spring. Both have gotten a taste of the majors last season and both can definitely play their way into backup roles with a hot spring.

So there is a little primer for the 2011 Reds Spring Training and I am looking forward to your answers to these questions. As a Reds fan, there are a lot of things to keep an eye on as things progress toward the season. Many players will be given an extended look and if they impress they could go a long way toward improving their chances toward helping the major league club. It will also be interesting to see if the pitching progresses on pace, as that is one of the keys toward having another special season.

We are exactly one week away from pitchers & catchers reporting and I don’t know about you but I am counting every second.