2011 Cincinnati Reds Season Preview: Wrap-up


There’s only one last thing for all of us yet to do. We’ve covered all the positions and pitchers. What do we think of the 2011 Reds? Now that’s a question that each of us have answered.

When we began our little trek, Justin looked at the infielders. I figured it would be proper to let him have first crack plus give us a player to watch for the Reds in 2011.

Tasked with thinking about the NL Central for 2011, I sat and thought about the Central teams and the 2010 division race. After pondering I realized that nearly every rival team (save for poor Houston) is quite different from last year. Tallying the 2011 NL Central in any form is going to have to start with glancing at the transaction sheet to see who the newcomers are for each club. Matt Garza, Zack Greinke, Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman…et cetera et cetera, new starters everywhere.

The race for the NL Central is feeling like much more than the two-horse race it became last season. I could see a scenario where as many as four teams could vie for the top spot until the end. In examining the teams, player/staff additions will be discussed as well as a player to watch and a predicted record. Given my track record for predictions however, I reserve the right to deny that I ever wrote this. (Editor’s note: Justin most likely will regardless!)

The “jewel” of the Reds offseason turned out to be Edgar Renteria. The 35 year-old 2010 World Series MVP signed a one-year, $2.1 million deal with the Reds earlier this month. Odds are he will slide into a backup role at shortstop or would be entered into the starting lineup if Paul Janish proves ineffective in full time duty. Also added and announced with the Renteria signing was the inking of Fred Lewis. Lewis has proven to be a fairly capable leadoff hitter in his 3 years of full playing time, which is something the Reds may need quickly if the Drew Stubbs leadoff experiment goes awry. Lewis is a player that in limited watching I have really liked and who will be able to platoon in left field with Jonny Gomes and be a decent fourth outfielder.

Player to Watch

Jay Bruce, RF

The cool pick here would be to pick Aroldis Chapman, but I am going against the grain on this.

In the wake of signing a shiny new 6-year $51 million contract as well as his .281/25 HR/ 81 RBI 2010 season, Jay Bruce is looking to be on the rise. At only 23, Bruce is playing elite defense in right field and is also proving to be quite clutch as seen with his NL Central clinching home run last season. Here is looking to Bruce to step up even bigger this season by registering a more complete and consistent offensive year and give the Reds another legitimate fear-striking hitter next to Joey Votto.

And John chimes in with this…

While there are a few questions in the lineup from top to bottom, no team in the Central is as consistent from a pitching, defense and hitting perspective.

With Edinson Volquez another off-season through recovering from Tommy John surgery, Bronson Arroyo spinning through games, chewing up innings and winning 15-17 games in the process and the rest of the rotation so solid that each starter could easily start in any other rotation in the National League including the 6th man, Mike Leake.

Position by position is always a great way to evaluate a team against its rivals and with little exception, the Reds have an argument for starting the best player in the division. Some keys to success for the Reds for 2011 include Drew Stubbs continuing to develop as a lead-off hitter and Scott Rolen remaining healthy for more than 75% of the season. Two other situations are going to have to be watched closely to determine the success of the team as a whole.

First is the shortstop situation with Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria both vying for a starting role. Most people would think that Renteria would be a shoo-in with the World Series ring and MVP credentials behind his name from last season, but Janish is a tremendous defensive player with his only downfall being offensive production.

The other situation is in left field. Between Johnny Gomes and Fred Lewis, the Reds should be solid overall, but determining who plays when – I’m glad I’m not Dusty Baker right now.

How does Alex see the Reds in 2011?

The Reds will be out to prove that 2010 was no fluke, and they have the talent to do so. The biggest difference between the Reds in 2011 and 2010 will be the performances of Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey. If both can stay healthy they will be poised for a huge breakout season. 30 HR and 100 RBI is not out of the question for Bruce, and he seemed to finally get comfortable at the plate at the end of 2010. Homer Bailey and Dusty Baker have discussed several times what it will take for Bailey to become an ace. He is still young and his stuff is excellent. Expect a big 2011 from Bailey and the rest of the Reds young pitching staff.

Also, the Reds easily have the best defense in the division. Arroyo, Rolen, and Phillips won gold gloves in 2010, and Jay Bruce deserved to win one. With Paul Janish stepping in at short, they may very well be the best defensive team in the National League just like they were in 2010. 2010’s #1 offense and defense in the NL will return in 2011 and produce another division title for the Reds.

And what do I believe will be in store for the Reds?

Granted, the Reds didn’t do a whole lot to their roster during the off-season. That was mainly due to the fact that GM Walt Jocketty insisted that he liked where the team stood. Nothing wrong with that, but the perception was by doning practically nothing, the other teams within the division would close in on the 2010 NL Central champs.

And they did. Every team within the division added to their payroll. Why stand pat? Your hope is that the youth on this roster will improve. It’s not always a given that they will either. It’s a risk, but with the young talent here, I’m not completely shocked Jocketty didn’t do a whole lot of shopping.

What was added was the likes of ourfielder Fred Lewis and 2010 World Series MVP Edgar Renteria. Neither are terrible options, but they’re not magical ones either.

The main point people make about this team is the starting rotation. Keep this in mind. These guys are still young. Even with Bronson Arroyo thrown in the mix, the average age of the six starters will be 26.3 on opening day. While the average agse of the bullpen will decrease due the departure of Arthur Rhodes, it will also decrease the experience level as well. The elder statesman of the pitching staff is Francisco Cordero at 36.

Youth is served in the field as well with reinging NL MVP Joey Votto (27), Jay Bruce (24) and Drew Stubbs (26). Depending on how the roster shakes out, you could have the likes of Juan Francisco (24), Yonder Alonso (24), Chris Valiaka (25) and Chris Heisey (26). It is a young team, but with the experience of winning the division last season, that should serve them well in 2011.