The Baseball Notebook

March 4, 2010 2:00 PM

Cincinnati Reds Preview

Dusty Baker has won in Chicago and won in San Francisco. Coming to a tradition-laden, but small market who hasn’t had real success in ten years represented one of his career’s biggest challenges. This could be the year he breaks through and makes it 3-for-3.

The Cincinnati offense is built around Joey Votto, a big-time star at first base who hits for power, gets on base and does it with the glove. Votto missed some time last year for some personal issues, but if his life is in the right place, he is going to be an MVP candidate. The front office went out and got him some help in the person of Scott Rolen at third base. A veteran with championship experience (St. Louis, 2006), Rolen is actually enjoying a second win in his career. After a shoulder injury led to both decreased production and conflicts with his manager in St. Louis, Rolen bounced back the last two seasons with rising numbers in both slugging and OBP. That was mostly in Toronto. Now he gets a full season to feast on National League pitching in a hitter’s haven on the Ohio River. Another veteran with a ring in Orlando Cabrera (Boston, 2004) was brought over to play short. Cabrera, however has been in decline, most alarmingly on defense. The infield is rounded out by the steady, if unspectacular Brandon Phillips at second base.

On the pitching front, Cincinnati completed the successful pursuit of highly touted Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman. If the young righthander is everything he’s cracked up to be, the Reds are going to have a nice rotation. Bronson Arroyo is coming off a strong year and Aaron Harang is the portrait of steadiness. Johnny Cueto showed flashes of potential last year, and Micah Owings and Homer Bailey are both respectable. When you consider that Edinson Volquez, a rising star in his own right was lost to injury last year and will miss 2010 too, it’s obvious the organization has done well in stockpiling starting pitching.

And the bullpen is pretty good on top of it. Francisco Cordero is a proven closer, and Nick Massett was an underrated setup man last year, as was Arthur Rhodes. The last couple innings shouldn’t be an adventure for Baker.

There are weaknesses. Catcher, with aging Ramon Hernandez, and centerfield, with untested Drew Stubbs are problem areas. Defensively, the Reds aren’t awful, but nor are they stellar. Still, the Reds have the chance to imitate the team across the parking lot. It was the Bengals who were the surprise division winner in the NFL this past season. It’s legitimate for the Reds to dream about the same.

A Member Of