MADISON, March 16, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting with the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number 11, the Cincinnati Reds.
2013 Record: 90-72 with a +109 run differential.
Key Additions: C Brayan Pena, IF Skip Schumaker, RHP Brett Marshall and LHP Jeff Francis
Key Losses: OF Shin-Soo Choo
Projected 2014 Lineup:
OF Billy Hamilton
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
OF Jay Bruce
OF Ryan Ludwick
3B Todd Frazier
C Devin Mesoraco
SS Zack Cozart
Projected 2014 Rotation:
Best Case: OF Billy Hamilton gets on base at a .325 clip allowing him to steal 80 bases, which is the most since Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman stole that many in 1988. Joey Votto tells his critics where they can go and continues to hit like Joey Votto with a .315/.425/.525 slash line. OF Jay Bruce hits a career high 37 HR’s while providing his typical great defense in right field. Ryan Ludwick, Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco all hit enough to lengthen the lineup easing the pressure on the top of the order to produce all the runs.
The Reds rotation stays healthy and Mat Latos and Homer Bailey both wind up in the top 10 of NL Cy Young voting. New manager Bryan Price’s experiment to lengthen the outings of LHP Aroldis Chapman out of the bullpen works and Chapman leads the majors in most saves of four outs or more further shortening games for the rotation. The Reds build on last year’s record winning 94 games and the NL Central.
Worst Case: OF Billy Hamilton struggles right out of the gate and fails to get on base at even a .300 clip, which limits his effectiveness and has him relegated to pinch running duties by July. The Cincinnati media continues to pester Votto about his hitting approach but he shrugs it off and posts another OPS of .925. 2B Brandon Phillips’ production continues to slip offensively and he posts an OPS+ of 84. RHP Johnny Cueto continues to be snake-bitten by injuries although he is effective when healthy. C Devin Mesoraco, while continuing to progress defensively, fails to develop as a hitter leaving the bottom of the Reds lineup ineffective. The Reds fall off and win 82 games to finish third in the NL Central 7 games out of an NL Wild Card.
Prospect Watch: Baseball fans at this point are likely aware of OF Billy Hamilton. Hamilton was promoted at the end of last season and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts during the September stretch run. The question is whether or not Hamilton will be able to get on base enough to make himself productive. Hamilton posted a .256/.308/.343 slash line while stealing 75 bases in 90 attempts as AAA. Hamilton will start the season as the team’s starting CF but how long he stays there will depend on his on base skills. RHP Robert Stephenson logged 114.1 innings across three levels last year with a 2.99 ERA and 136 K’s. Stephenson could find his way to the big club this year with an injury to someone in the big league rotation. The Reds have a host of outfielders that could have an impact in the big leagues including Phil Ervin, Jesse Winker and Yorman Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the closest having spent much of last year at AA if Hamilton proves ineffective.