(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh of 30 team reports by GT sports editor Mark Mayer on major league baseball projections for the start of the 2013 season. Today: Cincinnati Reds. On deck: Cleveland.)
CINCINNATI REDS (2012: 1st NL Central 97-65, 9 up)
Recent history shows the Reds running hot in even number years, cold in odd. Not a good sign for 2013.
Cincinnati is projected to win 91½ games, which is Vegas terms means 92 for a winning OVER bet, 91 for a successful UNDER. We’ll say the half is for our way of approaching their playoff chances in 2013.
In 2012, Manager Dusty Baker guided the Reds to 97 victories in the NL Central, breaking away from St. Louis and negating a late Milwaukee rush to win by 9. Only Washington (98) had more wins in the majors.
However, we’ve been down this road before. In 2011, the Reds won just 79 games. Back up to 91 and another division title in 2010, down the elevator to 78 in 2009.
Success or failure may well come down to whether moving lefty Aroldis Chapman and his 102-mph heater from a closer role to the starting rotation works out. Chapman is penciled in as the No. 5 starter, but he is Cy Young material. Problem is he’s never been asked to pitch more than an inning or two at a time.
With Chris Carpenter’s status very iffy at St. Louis, the Reds have the best starting pitching in the division with Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos at the top followed by innings eaters Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey. Jonathan Broxton was once All Star closer with the Dodgers, flamed out and then re-emerged with the Royals. He’ll have a lot to say about Cincy’s hopes as well.
As for hitting, both Joey Votto and Jay Bruce have the ability to carry a team on their back. Brandon Phillips is arguably the most complete second baseman in the National League.
LF Ryan Ludwick is capable of 30 homers, but is only a lifetime .263 hitter. Offseason acquisition CF Shin-Soo Choo (.283, 16 HR, 67 RBI) bounced back from an off year in 2011. But remember this is another odd number year. Look for Chris Heisey to see a lot of action as the top outfield reserve.
The Reds are going to need better than 15 homers and a .240-plus average from both 3B Todd Frasier and SS Zack Cosart. Catching is up in the air. Ryan Hanigan is the starter for now, but Cincy is hoping Devin Mesoraco eventually takes over. Miguel Olivo (over from Seattle) is there for insurance.
In this division you’re always looking over your shoulder at the Cardinals. Cincy can match last year’s numbers as well as repeat what happened in 2011 and 2009. It’s a roll of the dice, very appropriate for Vegas.
Projected wins (91½)
Infield: C: Ryan Hanigan; 1B: Joey Votto; 2B: Brandon Phillips; 3B: Todd Frazier; SS: Zack Cosart.
Outfield: LF: Ryan Ludwick; CF Shin-Soo Choo; RF: Jay Bruce.
Pitching: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman.
Closer: Jonathan Broxton.
Top reserves: RP Sean Marshall, OF Chris Heisey, 3B Jack Hannahan.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].