Reds Fantasy Roundup: Introduction and Week One


Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my new weekly fantasy baseball series! This series will focus on the Reds and their fantasy impact for the upcoming week. Many fantasy baseball leagues use a weekly lineup structure- as in, you have to set your lineup at the beginning of the week, and can not alter it until the following week. With this kind of league, it’s crucial to know whether to start or sit your stars, especially if money is on the line. One bad decision can wreck your fantasy staff for that week. As such, it is vital to have the necessary information in order to make these decisions.

In this series of articles, which will be posted once per week throughout the season on Sundays at noon, I will be examining 3 Reds position players who I think are big start or sit candidates for the week. In addition, I will also examine the entire Reds starting rotation, as well as Aroldis Chapman, and decide whether or not they should start or sit for the upcoming week. Finally, I will give a prediction on how the Reds will fare for the upcoming week, in terms of wins. This is relevant for fantasy baseball in a number of ways- it affects whether or not Reds pitchers will get many Wins (which are key for fantasy baseball) for the week, and whether or not Chapman will get many Save Opportunities (which are also very important in fantasy baseball) for the week. These recommendations will be made based on a 5×5 roto system (runs, home runs, RBI, SBs, AVG, W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP) although it should apply for most setups. Remember that these are just guidelines, not rules.

Reds Week One Projected Matchups:

April 1st: LAA @ CIN — Jered Weaver vs. Johnny Cueto

April 3rd: LAA @ CIN — CJ Wilson vs. Mat Latos

April 4th: LAA @ CIN — Joe Blanton vs. Bronson Arroyo

April 5th: WSH @ CIN — Dan Haren vs. Homer Bailey

April 6th: WSH @ CIN — Ross Detwiler vs. Mike Leake

April 7th: WSH @ CIN — Stephen Strasburg vs. Johnny Cueto

The Reds face a slew of tough right handers in Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Stephen Strasburg, as well as a couple of solid lefties in CJ Wilson and Ross Detwiler.

Position Player Recommendations:

1. Jay Bruce

Jay Bruce does one thing very well- he hits home runs. More specifically, he hits home runs at Great American Ballpark very well. If you took Bruce with the early pick that he’s demanding, that’s likely the thing you were looking to get from him. Bruce has a chance to impact your fantasy lineup right from the get-go. While Jered Weaver is a fine pitcher, he isn’t the best at utilizing ground balls. In fact, behind Phil Hughes, Bruce Chen and Mike Minor, Weaver’s ground ball percentage was the fourth lowest in baseball at 36 percent. He also doesn’t strike a ton of hitters out, as he posted a 6.77 K/9 in 2012. What does this mean, then? This means that Jered Weaver is a flyball pitcher. You know how flyball pitchers usually do at Great American Ballpark? Just ask Homer Bailey and his 5.16 home ERA last season. Along with Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto hitting before him, Bruce hits righties much better than lefties. A right handed flyball pitcher coming to Great American Ballpark spells great things for Bruce. As for the rest of the series, I expect him to struggle against CJ Wilson, but to bounce back against Joe Blanton. Joe Blanton surrendered the 11th most home runs per 9 last season, with 1.37. He also did that pitching in Citizens Bank Ballpark and Dodger Stadium, two venues much more forgiving to the home run ball than Great American Ballpark. Between Weaver and Blanton, I’d easily expect one or two homers from Bruce. When the Nationals come to town, they’ll be featuring former Angel Dan Haren in the first matchup. Dan Haren surrendered even more home runs per 9 than Blanton did- 1.43 per 9 innings, the 8th worst mark in baseball. This also was in The Big A- a stadium much more pitcher friendly than Great American Ballpark. While I don’t expect Bruce to do too much against Detwiler or Strasburg, and I could even see him getting some time on the bench in one of those contests, he should do just fine against Haren. Overall, Bruce is a pretty safe bet for this week.

Week 1 line prediction: .250 average, 2 HRs, 5 RBI.

Final Recommendation: Start.

2. Shin-Soo Choo

Luckily for Choo, the Reds only face 2 lefties in the upcoming week. Choo, throughout his career, has really struggled against left handed pitching. This was the case in 2012, as he only hit .199/.318/.286 with 2 home runs against southpaws, versus .327/.403/.523 with 14 home runs against right handers. That is an absolutely massive split, even more so than Bruce’s. However, he looks good to go in week one. Any week where the Reds face predominately righty pitching is a good week to start Choo, and this is no exception. Oh, and Choo has absolutely destroyed Jered Weaver in his career. In 29 career at bats against Weaver, he’s hit .448/.484/.621 with 5 extra base hits. While that’s not quite as good as he’s done against Bronson Arroyo in his career, it gets the job done. Since I expect Bruce and Votto to produce big this week, runs should be no problem for Choo. Overall, this is a very easy call- start him.

Week 1 line prediction: .333 average, 1 HR, 2 RBI.

Final Recommendation: Start.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

3. Zack Cozart

Cozart might seem to be a weird guy to talk about in a fantasy post, especially since he’s only owned in just over 50 percent of ESPN leagues. However, I firmly believe that will be 100 percent by the end of the year, because I expect Cozart to have an excellent 2013 campaign, seeing as he hit very well (over .320 in just over 100 ABs) outside of the leadoff spot. Cozart was a bit of a weird case on his splits last season. He hit for a better average against left-handers, .265, but had much more power against right-handers, 12 home runs (vs. 3 against lefties. ) Cozart faces off against 4 righties and 2 lefties this week, which should give him a good power/average mix. Cozart is a bit of a tossup between start and sit. I want to say start, because I believe that he will do well, but saying sit until he proves that he can produce seems smart. After a few weeks, if Cozart is mashing, feel free to insert him into your lineup. Cozart can make for a solid SS option, but I want to wait at least a week to see results first.

Week 1 line prediction: .250 average, 1 HR, 2 RBI.

Final Recommendation: Sit.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Pitcher Recommendations:

1. Johnny Cueto

Fantasy owners who own Johnny Cueto get a bit of a treat this week with Cueto- he will pitch twice in the week. This gives him an advantage of other pitchers who only pitch once this week. However, how will he perform against the stacked lineups of Los Angeles and Washington? The Angels had the highest team average in the American League last year…then they added Josh Hamilton. Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo being in the same lineup is simply unfair. The only Angel who has faced Cueto a significant number of times is, predictably, Albert Pujols. Pujols has struggled a bit against him in his career, posting a .269/.345/.308 line against him, with no home runs. While Johnny doesn’t strike too many hitters out, he does keep the ball on the ground well, posting a well above average ground ball rate of 48.9 percent, which ranked in the top 25 last season. This will be key for Cueto, and the question is whether or not he can keep the ball on the ground versus a stacked Angels lineup. If he can neutralize the bats of Pujols, Trumbo, Trout, and Hamilton, he will succeed. If he can’t, he won’t. This is the same case for a solid Nationals lineup, featuring Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Laroche, and Jayson Werth. I believe that he will pitch a fine, but unspectacular, game against Los Angeles, and then pitch very well against Washington. For a high fantasy pick like Cueto, that isn’t great, but it is enough to warrant keeping him in your rotation for week one.

Week 1 Line Projection: 1 win, 0 losses, 13 IP, 7 Ks, 6 ER, 4.15 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Start.

2. Mat Latos

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest, I’m a bit worrisome of Latos in week one. Consider that he’s always been a slow starter, having a career April ERA nearing 6. Also consider that he’s going up against one of the best lineups in baseball. Latos allows his fair share of home runs, surrendering 1.07 HR/9 last season, and is going up against a lineup whose 4 core hitters combined for 135 home runs last season pitching at the home run friendly Great American Ballpark. I think it is incredibly likely that Latos falters in his first start, with the home run ball being a big reason why. In addition, the Reds will go up against a solid lefty in CJ Wilson, and the Reds core hitters (Choo, Votto, Bruce) all hit worse against lefties, and will probably have trouble scoring runs to back Latos up. Overall, I think that Latos should be benched in week one, regardless of the high pick you probably took him with.

Week 1 Line Prediction: 0 Wins, 1 Loss, 5 IP, 5 Ks, 4 ER, 7.20 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Sit.

3. Bronson Arroyo

First of all, I wouldn’t touch Bronson Arroyo in a fantasy league. His FIP and xFIP, as well as his nonexistant strikeout rate, scare me away. Even in an incredibly deep league, I would be wary of Arroyo. However, if you did draft him, bench him for week one without question. Sure, I think the Reds will score plenty of runs against Joe Blanton, but I think that Arroyo will give them back and more. Arroyo surrendered 1.16 home runs per 9 innings last year, and is going against a stacked Angels lineup. I recommend benching him for the same reason that I recommended benching Latos, except without the strikeout potential and upside. Overall, bench him without a second thought.

Week 1 Line Prediction: 0 Wins, 0 Losses, 5.2 IP, 2 Ks, 5 ER, 7.94 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Sit.

4. Homer Bailey

Homer Bailey was quite a good pitcher last year. However, as we’ve already discussed, he didn’t pitch well at all at home. He posted a 5.16 ERA at home, and allowed 21 home runs at GABP, the second most at home in the big leagues. He’s going against an unforgiving Nationals lineup at Great American Ballpark. That’s all you should need to know to bench him.

Week 1 Line Prediction: 0 Wins, 0 losses, 4.0 IP, 4 Ks, 5 ER, 11.25 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Sit.

5. Mike Leake

Leake was even worse than Bailey at home, posting a 5.54 ERA. He also allowed 17 home runs at home, the 11th worst mark in the big leagues. He’s also going against a fearsome Nationals’ Lineup. There really isn’t too much to say here. I don’ t think Leake is a fantasy relevant pitcher, except for maybe in very deep NL-only leagues, but even then, he’s a sure lock for a sit this week.

Week 1 Line Prediction: 0 Wins, 1 Loss, 3.2 IP, 2 Ks, 6 ER, 14.73 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Sit.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

6. Aroldis Chapman

1.51 ERA. 38 saves. 15.32 K/9. This is all you need to know about Chapman, and you probably already know that. He is a dominant force out of the bullpen, and even against the best he should succeed. Even if the Reds don’t give him too many save opps this week, expect him to make the most out of them. Until he hits a rough patch like he did last season, he is an easy lock to start.If you drafted Chapman, pat yourself on the back, because you just drafted one of the most dominant closers in baseball.

Week 1 Line Prediction: 1 SV/1 SVO, 2 IP, 5 Ks, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Start.

It may seem ridiculous that I have the Reds pitchers struggling so hard after what they accomplished last year, but look at the lineups and the teams they are facing. They are, arguably, facing the best lineup in baseball in the Angels, and a top 3 NL Lineup in the Nationals in a very hitter friendly environment.

Week 1 W/L Predictions:

April 1st (LAA @ CIN)- L 5-4

April 3rd (LAA @ CIN)- L 7-3

April 4th (LAA @ CIN)- W 9-5

April 5th (WSH @ CIN)- L 5-3

April 6th (WSH @ CIN) L 7-1

April 7th (WSH @ CIN) W 3-2

Week 1 Projected Record: 2-4

Thank you for reading! Comments are appreciated!