2009 CINCINNATI REDS PREVIEW
The Cincinnati Reds struggled through a disappointing season in 2008. Their 74-88 record also coincided with trading longtime stars Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn at the trade deadline. However, there were some bright spots last year as well. Young stars Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto had solid seasons and provide plenty of hope for the future along the Ohio River.
This season will be defined by the Reds’ young rotation. Expecting their young players to develop, the Reds only made a few minor acquisitions this offseason. The Reds will go into the season with a very young team but Cincinnati definitely won’t be a pushover.
The Reds have a fairly talented rotation. Unfortunately for anyone who pitches in Great American Ballpark, the Reds’ home field can be adequately described as a bandbox, making pitching pretty difficult. Aaron Harang (6-17, 4.78 ERA, 29 starts, 184 IP) struggled at times last season but has historically been excellent for the Red Legs. Expect him to rebound this season. Edinson Volquez (17-6, 3.21 ERA, 32 starts, 196 IP, 206 K) was a star last year for the Reds and should again be an excellent starter. Bronson Arroyo (15-11, 4.77 ERA, 34 starts, 200 IP) rebounded well from a tough 2007 and is expected to continue his solid performance in 2009. Young Johnny Cueto (9-14, 4.81 ERA 31 starts, 174 IP) also had a solid rookie season and has a ton of potential. It would not be surprising to see him improve his numbers this season. The final spot will belong to either Micah Owings (6-9, 5.93 ERA, 18 starts) or prospect Homer Bailey (0-6, 7.93 ERA, 8 starts). Owings had some injury issues in his second major league season and pitched very little for the Reds after coming over from Arizona in the Dunn trade. Meanwhile, Bailey has been the subject of great hope for literally years among Reds fans, so his struggles last season were very disappointing. While the 5 th spot is a concern, the Reds do have four very good starters who should keep them in a lot of games this year.
The Reds have a fairly good bullpen. Francisco Cordero (3.33 ERA, 34 SV in 40 SVO, 72 Gm, 78 K) is a great closer and will be very effective for the Reds this season. The Reds bolstered their bullpen this offseason by signing veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes (2.04 ERA). Adding Rhodes to a stellar group that includes David Weathers (3.25 ERA), Jared Burton (3.22 ERA) and Bill Bray (2.87 ERA) gives Cincinnati a solid bullpen.
The Reds’ infield was quite young last year and that youth will pay dividends this season and beyond. First baseman Joey Votto (.297, 24 HR, 84 RBI, .368 OBP) was excellent in his first full major league season. Expect Votto to have another great year in 2008. Second baseman Brandon Phillips (.261, 21 HR, 78 RBI, .312 OBP, 23 SB) had a good season but he definitely has the potential to improve after hitting 30 HR and driving in 94 runs in 2007. Third base will be manned by Edwin Encarnacion (.251, 26 HR, 68 RBI, .340 OBP), whose home run numbers jumped at the expense of his batting average, which fell 37 points from 2007! Expect Encarnacion to have a very good season and get on base more often. Shortstop will be a platoon between Jeff Keppinger (.266, 3 HR, 43 RBI, .310 OBP) and Alex Gonzalez, who missed the entire 2008 season. Gonzalez hit 16 home runs in 2007 and should provide a boost to the lineup, especially on defense. Super utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr (.326, 6 HR, 36 RBI, .384 OBP, 15 SB in 80 Gm) could also factor in as well. Catcher Ramon Hernandez (.257, 15 HR, 65 RBI, .308 OBP) rounds out a solid infield. The Reds will definitely get improved production from their infield in 2009.
The Reds’ outfield is very young this year. The star of the group is highly touted right fielder Jay Bruce (.254, 21 HR, 54 RBI, .314 OBP), who arrived amidst much fanfare last season. Bruce should have a significantly improved season in 2009 and could develop into one of the division’s best outfielders. Centerfielder Wily Taveras (.251, 1 HR, 26 RBI, .308 OBP, 68 SB) could hit leadoff this season if he can improve his average and is a threat to steal every time he gets on base. In left field, Chris Dickerson (.304, 6 HR, 15 RBI, .413 OBP in 31 Gm) is the favorite to start the majority of the games and will be given plenty of chances to continue capitalizing on his potential. Depth will be provided by Hairston and former Ray Jonny Gomes (.182, 8 HR, 21 RBI, .282 OBP), who will look to bounce back from the worst season of his career. Gomes has the potential to hit a lot of home runs in Great American Ballpark. The Reds have a youthful outfield and if their young players can continue their development then Cincinnati could have a surprisingly strong unit.
Second year manager Dusty Baker likes his young team and most observers agree that the Reds have a ton of talent. However, the Reds are probably a year away from competing in the tough NL Central. Young stars Votto, Bruce, Dickerson, Cueto and others will definitely develop this year and the Reds are going to be a much tougher team to beat. Expect the Reds to win between 75-80 games this season, finish 5 th in the NL Central and give their fans a ton of hope entering 2010.
By Matt Baxendell
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