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2008 Reds Preview

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Went to my first baseball game of the season last night, so today is an appropriate time to discuss the prospects of my beloved Reds. All projections via Baseball Prospectus (AVG/OBP/SLG/Fielding Runs Above Average):

Catcher
Javier Valentin (.269/.333/.425/-8)

First Base
Scott Hatteberg (.286/.368/.441/-4)
Joey Votto (.280/.360/.499/7)

Second Base
Brandon Phillips (.274/.325/.443/3)

Third Base
Edwin Encarnacion (.285/.356/.493/-3)

Shortstop
Jeff Keppinger (.305/.363/.417/-2)

Left Field
Adam Dunn (.261/.389/.550/-10)

Center Field
Corey Patterson (.274/.317/.430/-1)
Ryan Freel (.260/.334/.370/0)

Right Field
Ken Griffey Jr. (.268/.350/.481/-6)

There’s some interesting talent here; Griffey could obviously fall off a cliff, as could Hatteberg, but there are some reasons to be optimistic. The more ABs that Votto takes from Hatteberg, the better. Jay Bruce will be up at some point, and while he doesn’t really look like a center fielder he can certainly hit. That’s a good thing, because while Freel is likely to win “Scrappiest White Guy” in the NL again this year, neither he nor Patterson are good options for anything but fourth or fifth outfielders. Overall there’s a lot to like, especially since, apart from Griffey, this is likely to be a very healthy team. On the defensive side they’re just appalling, especially since I’m not convinced that Brandon Phillips is actually a plus defender. I kind of wish that they hadn’t traded Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez, although in fairness that’s more because of how much I like Hamilton than any disdain for Volquez.

Starters (IP/ERA)
Aaron Harang (215/3.74)
Bronson Arroyo (190/4.37)
Johnny Cueto (130/4.83)
Josh Fogg (90/4.97)
Edinson Volquez (120/4.63)

Harang is a fine pitcher, and Arroyo a solid innings eater. Volquez, 24 should develop into a solid enough middle of the rotation guy, while Cueto is a really interesting talent. You never know quite what to do with a 22 year old pitcher, but he did have a fantastic start the day before yesterday, 10 strikeouts and 1 earned run in seven innings. I would prefer never to have to watch Josh Fogg pitch again. This is a staff with some potential; if Harang is himself, Cueto has a great rookie year, and 2006 repeats itself for Arroyo (this is the least likely of the three), then there’s really something here.

Bullpen:
Francisco Cordero
David Weathers
Jeremy Affeldt
Mike Lincoln

We’ve had some really bad bullpens in Cincy, and this year it looks like it should be much less really bad. Hopefully.

Two years ago the Reds improbably contended for the NL Central, very nearly beating out the eventual world champions despite the fact that the team was terrible. Last year the Reds were simply terrible. This year, there’s some reason for optimism. On the risk side, Griffey could go down, Dunn could go down, and Dusty Baker could take out a gun and shoot Johnny Cueto’s career just to watch it die. On the plus, it could be a real interesting team to watch. Given the weakness of the rest of the NL Central, I’m going to go ahead and predict 82-80.

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