NL Central 2012 Preview: Looking Far(ther) Ahead

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2. Cincinnati Reds

2011 Results: 79-83 (3rd, Missed Playoffs)

Key Losses

P Francisco Cordero

SS Edgar Renteria (Still in FA)

C Ramon Hernandez

Key Pickups

P Mat Latos

LF Ryan Ludwick

SS Wilson Valdez

P Ryan Madson

Cincinnati is somewhere between rebuilding and reloading. Their core producers on offense, namely Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, are still together and they picked up some key pieces both on the bench and in the starting lineup. Shortstop Wilson Valdez is a potent bat and a handy glove to keep the left side of the infield in order, and Ryan Ludwick should add some pop off the bench as they are likely going to platoon him in the outfield. The big story, however, is the conversion of flamethrower Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation. It’s a story baseball outlets have been covering for years, and it’s finally coming to fruition. There is some speculation about the amount of gas in his tank and whether or not his other pitches can compliment his blistering fastball as well over the course of a game, but only time will tell how this one will pan out.

Perhaps the bigger story about the Reds this year is what they lost. Cordero has become a Blue Jay and Cincy is starting the year without a dominant closer. In 2011, they were 29-33 in one-run games, and every bit of those 29 wins were thanks (at least in part) to CoCo’s pitching prowess. To fill the enormous gap left by Cordero, the Reds acquired Ryan Madson from the Phillies, who chalked up 32 saves last year in 34 opportunities. Inconsistencies have plagued Madson throughout his career, and opponents have racked up a .268 average against him, so there is some reason for Reds fans to be concerned, though not much. Ramon Hernandez is another departure through free agency which leaves a big hole in a backstop rotation that has been blessed with consistent production. Ryan Hanigan takes over as the number one catcher and he’s performed well but has never played more than 90 games. His current backup has played only 18 games in the Majors, and accumulated a paltry .180 average in that time. For the most part, however, it would appear that Cincinnati has put itself in prime position to take control of the NL Central once again.

2011 At-a-glance

Batting Average – .256 14th in MLB, 8th in NL

OBP – .326 9th in MLB, 4th in NL

SLG – .408 12th in MLB, 5th in NL

OPS – .734 10th in MLB, 5th in NL

ERA – 4.16 20th in MLB, 12th in NL

Where Cincy’s offense dominated last year, their defense and pitching let them down in enormous fashion. It’s going to be up to the rotation and the bullpen to lift the Reds into the top of the division, and the reason they aren’t number one is because I’m not sure the Reds pitchers are up to the task. It’s asking a lot to make Chapman a starter and it will take a while for him to settle in. The starting rotation has added another piece in Latos, but up and down the 6-man rotation it looks like a microcosm of each individual player – moments of brilliance sullied by inconsistent performances. I think Cincy and St. Louis will battle for the two and three spot, but neither will have a chance to catch up with a division crown.