Milwaukee Brewers Series Preview: Brewers vs. Reds

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After an woeful road trip that saw the Milwaukee Brewers go 1-5 against top divisional foes, the Cincinnati Reds come to town for a big four game series. Though the Reds were not picked by many to be contenders they still boast one of the best pitchers in the game in Johnny Cueto and the veteran laden lineup features a healthy Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips. With both teams being swept in their weekend series, something has got to give this week.

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With the help of Matthew Wilkes of Blog Red Machine, I was able to catch up with how things were going in Cincinnati. Here is what he had to say:

The Reds dealt a lot of pitching this winter, besides the obvious of Johnny Cueto who are the keys to their rotation being successful this season?

The success of the rotation will largely come down to the health of Homer Bailey and the bottom of the rotation. Bailey just came off of the DL and struggled in his first appearance. The Reds will need much better performances from him moving forward, as they’re counting on him to be their No. 2 starter this season. The No. 4 starter, Anthony DeSclafani, has been great so far this season, giving up just two runs in his first two starts. No. 5 starter is 36-year-old Jason Marquis, who hasn’t had quite the same success as DeSclafani. Through two starts, he’s sporting a 6.30 ERA and has given up eight runs and 12 hits in just 10 innings. The team has two top pitching prospects who are ready, or at least close to ready, in Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias, but the Reds seem intent on keeping Marquis in the rotation for now.

After years of injury and what seemed to be a bit of a power outage what has been the key to Joey Votto returning to superstar form this season?

The No. 1 key has obviously been health. Since 2012, Votto has dealt with knee and quad injuries and after missing 100 games last season, he seems to finally be at 100 percent. So far in 2015, Votto is hitting .350/.480/.750 with four home runs and 10 runs batted in. With Votto, the average and on-base percentage have always been there, but it’s been a welcomed sight to see him show some power, thus far. While it’s unrealistic to think he’ll hit 37 home runs like he did in his MVP season of 2010, even 20 to 25 homers would be huge for the Reds’ offense.

Todd Fraizer became elite last season. Do you see him repeating this year and what type of numbers do you project from him this season?

A lot of projections have Frazier regressing from his All-Star 2014 season. The main reason people are expecting a regression is because he hit .273, 29 home runs, and 20 stolen bases last year, all career highs. Before last season his average through his first three big league seasons was .249. His previous high in home runs came in 2011, when he hit 22 home runs between Triple-A and the Reds. His previous high in stolen bases was 18 in 2011. All that being said, I don’t anticipate a drop in numbers, except maybe in stolen bases. ​If I had to give a projection on his numbers, I’d say he’ll hit around .265-.270 and will be good for around 25 home runs, 75 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases.

With many starters on the diamond already established, who is someone who could have a breakout season and be an unexpected contributor this year?

Two players to keep an eye on are Zack Cozart and Anthony DeSclafani. Cozart has been the starting shortstop for several years, but had a terrible season in 2014, hitting .221/.268/.300. After making an adjustment to his batting stance, has been an unexpected contributor with his hot start so far. Through 11 games, he’s leading the team in average at .368 with three doubles, a home run, and two RBIs. Obviously, he won’t hit .368 all year, but if he can give the Reds an average of around .260 out of the eight hole in the lineup, that would be huge for the Reds offense. DeSclafani was acquired from the Marlins in the trade for Mat Latos and as I mentioned before, has been off to a fantastic start.

The Reds got off to a strong start in the first week of the season. What do they need to happen to be realistic contenders this season?

For the Reds to be successful in 2015, good health will imperative, as the team does not have good depth, particularly on offense. If their starters battle injuries again, they could be in trouble. Injuries have already been a problem, as Devin Mesoraco has missed nearly a week with a hip injury and Billy Hamilton injured his groin in Saturday’s game against the Cardinals. The starting rotation has been pretty solid overall, but the bullpen will also need to improve significantly. It was a glaring weakness of last year’s team and so far in 2015, it’s been a weakness yet again. The eighth inning has been their biggest issue, as the combination of Kevin Gregg and Jumbo Diaz have already given up five home runs between them and blown three saves. Clearly, the Reds will need a lot to go right to be legitimate contenders, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

The pitching match-ups for the series will be as follows:

Wily Peralta 1-0 4.50 vs. Anthony Desclafani 1-0 1.38

Mike Fiers 0-2 5.91 vs. Jason Marquis 0-1 6.30

Jimmy Nelson 1-1 1.50 vs. Johnny Cueto 0-2 2.14

Kyle Lohse 0-3 10.34 vs. Homer Bailey 0-1 7.94

Next: Milwaukee Brewers' Prospect Watch: Top Bats Heating Up

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