Last night we watched the MLB Network's 30 teams in 30 days series which featured the Reds. I was struck by the fact that they didn't tell us anything that my wife and I didn't already know. In fact, I think they got some things wrong; or at least different than the conventional wisdom among fans who follow the Reds. For example, they had a rotation of Volquez, Arroyo, Cueto, and Wood, with Bailey and Leake fighting it out for the fifth spot. Most Reds fans know Homer is out of options, so we assume it's Bailey in the fourth spot with Wood and Leake fighting it out for the fifth spot. Watching the special motivated me to start my 25-man roster preview series. We'll start with the position players.
Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan will be the two catchers. The Reds have two good catching prospects, but they won't be a significant part of this team this year. Mesoraco, the closer of the two, had a break-out last year, and could see time in case of a serious injury, but I think the Reds would go to Corky Miller as a short-term injury fill-in.
Interestingly, the Reds catcher spot may be the only language platoon in the majors, with Hanigan catching the English speaking pitchers and Hernandez catching the Spanish speaking pitchers. This would give Hanigan more starts, but Hernandez would catch opening day, because Dusty has named Volquez as the opening day starter. Hernandez can also back-up at first base in a pinch.
Three of these spots are a lock, Bruce, Stubbs, and Gomes. The Reds picked up the option on Gomes, which more than doubled his salary from last year. He earned every bit of the $800,000.00 he got last year and even at $1.75 mil this year is still a good bargain. He had some rough patches last season, and isn't a very good left fielder, but the kind of power he brings at under $2 mil. is a clear asset to the team.
Dusty has said Gomes will be the man in left field this year, which has surprised a few. I think most fans thought he would platoon with newly acquired Fred Lewis. After all, why give Lewis $900,000.00 if he's not going to play? The problem with Lewis as your fourth outfielder is that he's not a great defender and he doesn't have much power off the bench. But the contract (and the timing of it) indicate he'll be the fourth guy in the outfield.
That leaves the fifth outfielder, and probably the 25th guy on the roster. Heisey is the favorite for this spot. He's a good defender and could probably play all three spots. Plus he proved last year he could be an effective power guy off the bench as a pinch hitter, hitting four pinch-hit home runs. He's also already on the 40-man roster.
That's also true for Juan Francisco. And Francisco is left-handed. If the Reds go with Heisey, they will have no left-handed power on the bench. (Lewis would be the only left hander on the bench in that scenario). And the division is heavy with right-handed pitching. But Francisco isn't really an outfielder. He's more of a third-baseman. He would have the advantage of also backing up Rolen at third, and with Stubbs and Bruce probably needing little by way of a day off, the Reds may not need more than an emergency guy for the fifth outfield spot. We'll consider Francisco further when we get to the infield.
The Reds brought Jeremy Hermida to camp on a minor-league deal. I think he would be the best pick for this spot, providing decent defense and some left-handed power off the bench, but the Reds would have to find room for him on the 40-man. Look for Hermida to start in Louisville and be the guy the Reds look to if there's an injury.
A top prospect from last year, Todd Frazier, had a disappointing season last year and still doesn't have a clear position. He would be a good 25th man because of his ability to play everywhere. He's got good power and speed, but he'll need to rebuild his value in the minors for at least half of 2011. But if he starts strong, I could see him helping the Reds in the second half.
Dave Sappelt has gotten a lot of spring training press because of a hot start, but he is not a serious contender for the opening day roster. Nor do I see him on the Reds this year. the team simply has too much depth both in experienced guys and in prospects.
Finally, the Reds have had Yonder Alonso play some in left, but he won't see legitimate time with the Reds this year unless something goes seriously wrong.
Votto, Rolen, and Phillips are locks. The conventional wisdom is that the other three spots are also locks with Renteria, Cairo, and Janish. Most folks are projecting Janish as the starting shortstop, except for the "experts" who are still clinging to the out-dated notion that Dusty loves veterans and will feel compelled to start Renteria. That leaves Cairo and Renteria as the two back-ups.
Initially we thought Renteria would play a lot at third base, allowing a lot of rest for Rolen. But now we're told he won't play third, but may play some second base. (Are we finally seeing a path to move BP to short?) That leaves Cairo as the back-up at third. We've been told Dusty plans to rest Rolen a lot. So assume Rolen plays 130 games. That's a lot of time for Cairo at third. He played well last year, no doubt about it. But can he produce enough power at third with that much playing time? At this point, the only real option is Juan Francisco, and I don't think he'll make the team. When Rolen isn't playing Janish could hold down third with Renteria at short, but that's not enough offense.
Look for Cozart to take Janish's spot if Janish doesn't hit and Cozart starts off well in Louisville, but Cozart has no shot at the opening day spot. Valaika played some last year, but I don't think he has a shot either.
As an aside, here is one stat that, if it happened, would mean the Reds would win the division: Rolen gets 100 rbi's. I can't think of any other single stat that would mean more to this team. That would mean not only that Rolen was not sidelined by injury, but produced in the number four spot in the order. Plus, it would likely mean the Reds solved their lead-off problem, and got guys on base in the first three spots.
This year, more than any other since I've been a Reds fan, the Reds have very little uncertainty in their roster. That's true even though the Reds have a lot of depth. That depth will cause me some problems when picking the bullpen, which we'll do soon as part two of this series.
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