30 Teams in 30 Days: Cincinnati Reds Roundtable

Reds

Our guest bloggers is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux.

Question 1 – Will Jay Bruce hit for average?

Jeff: I would very surprised to see Bruce hit much higher than .250 — he is TERRIBLE on the road, and I don’t think that lineup offers any protection whatsoever — fact is, he should probably be hitting somewhere behind Phillips, Gomes, Rolen and Votto — his power numbers should increase with his experience, but I don’t expect him to hit for average.

Matt: I know Bruce posted a relatively high average in his very brief minor-league career, but, honestly, I don’t think that’s going to be his forte. In the long run, he’s going to get paid for his power, and I think he’s going to develop into a traditional power-hitter: lots of homers, lots of RBI, lots of strikeouts. The big question for him is plate discipline. He’ll probably never develop the batter’s eye of a Ryan Howard or an Adam Dunn, but the Reds are hoping he won’t go the other direction either, towards Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Francoeur territory. His walk rates have been trending in the right direction, so I’m tentatively predicting a breakout year from Bruce, in which I expect he’ll hit around .270 with 30+ HR and 90+ RBI. Don’t forget, he’s only 22.

Daniels: Great American Ballpark hasn’t proven out to be -quite- as bad as Coors Field was in its heyday. Bruce hits .270 at home with a great OPS but a horrific .203 on the road. I tend to think that’s just something in the head of a 22-year-old player who might not feel comfortable in other parks just yet. Maybe he just likes going out to party. Whatever it is, I think he’ll get beyond it as you don’t simply lose the ability to hit. I think it’s just something that will go away with time. So, short answer, yes: I think he’ll hit for a higher average this year.

Trent: Are we suggesting that Adam Dunn, one of the Kings of Strikeout, has a great batter’s eye? Yikes.

Anyway, Bruce played less games last year than in 2008 due to a broken wrist suffered just before the All-Star contest, which kind of skews the numbers slightly because he did not hit well at all before then. He was barely breaking the Mendoza line before the break. Now, after the Rolen trade, it should be noted that his average spiked over a 46 game stretch, hitting at a .326 clip, though only in the line-up for 46 contests. Also, part of the issue early on was the fact that he was the only power hitter in the line-up, with Votto off dealing with various issues, leaving him isolated in the Reds’ line-up. His road numbers are bad, though, oddly, outside of Miller Park and Busch Stadium, he had his best htting numbers on the road in the division (.316 or better in the other three road settings).

Given the changes in the Cincinnati roster, he should be able to up the ante this season, as he should have plenty of protection around him and ought to hit for power and somewhere around .260-.270 this year.

Daniels: What about Adam Dunn’s season in Washington made you think he was a creation of the ballpark? The 40 home runs, the 2nd highest OPS+ of his career, or the 30 doubles? Dude strikes out a lot. He also walks a lot and hits for a ton of power.

Matt: Dunn is by no means a perfect player, but he rarely swings at bad pitches, part of why he walk rates are always among the best in the league. It’s a good thing, too, because of his propensity for whiffing even on pitches in the zone. Dunn gets a lot of flack because of his strikeouts and his defense, but the guy is a monster at the plate. He can hit homers in any ballpark and over the last six seasons has been perhaps the most “consistent” hitter not named Pujols, averaging 41 HR, 101 RBI, and a 917 OPS. Adam Dunn’s never going to win an MVP, but I’d be happy to have him as my cleanup hitter (and I think Ryan Zimmerman would agree).

Trent: Dunn doesn’t swing at many bad pitches in the zone, but throw something low and away that starts out somewhere near the plate and he’ll be on the horse back to the bench.

Though it got me thinking about comparing their opening couple of seasons, and, if you threw out Dunn’s 2002 season and stuck with his first and third and compared them to Bruce, they are fairly comparable to one another, in terms of average, homers, rbi’s, etc.

Question 2 – How much will the team miss Edinson Volquez?

Daniels: It’s hard to say the Reds are going to “miss” Volquez since I don’t think anyone put them in playoff contention this season. I think upper management might miss him because that’s 20 home games that would likely have a little bump in attendance. Besides the point, I think the Pedro comparisons didn’t really pan out over the season. So far, Volquez has proven out to be a reasonably good starter in his first season, but let’s not start comparing to the best pitcher of our era quite yet, when his biggest claim to fame, so far, has been one season with a 1.3 whip and a 3.21 ERA.

Matt: I think Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker are realistic about Volquez’s prospects for the next couple of years. He’s unlikely to make a start before August or September and might not be full strength until the middle of 2011. Sure, the Reds will miss him, but he hasn’t exactly been around enough during the last couple years to make you feel like there’s a gaping hole in the rotation. It’s not like Toronto losing Roy Halladay. The real question for me is whether Volquez’s absence will motivate the Reds to put Aroldis Chapman in their Opening Day rotation.

Trent: As far as Volquez…would he be nice to have? Absolutely. If they are anywhere near the wild card or the division, then he would be sorely missed. Going into last season, the Reds had a pretty imposing 1-4 part of the starting rotation between Volquez, Cueto, Arroyo, and Mr. “I can’t get no run support” Harang. Once they lost Volquez, they seemed to lose a lot of direction in the pitching ranks. Bailey seemed to figure things out last season, and if they had him as the fifth with Volquez at the top, they would have a very imposing 1-5 line-up. As is, they might have the 1-4 line up to still scare some teams but not to the same extent they did.

As far as Chapman, they’d probably want to hold off on him for a little while unless the 5 spot is a complete up-for-grabs scenario, at which point, I guess they might give him a few starts, but that seems a little bit much for me for them to do unless he really flat out wins the fifth spot.

Eugene: As a fan of a team that plays the Reds a lot, I don’t see their rotation as much of a threat. Arroyo was a product of Boston hype; he’s decent but nothing more than a back of the rotation guy. Cueto and Bailey have potential, but until they put it together, that’s all they have. Harang, at his best, would be a 3rd starter. Having Volquez was the one threat they had after his 2008 season. Their rotation is probably 3rd or 4th best in the division with Volquez.

A lot of scouts see Chapman as nothing but a reliever in the majors, so I really wouldn’t consider him an option.

Daniels: Arroyo’s probably a little bit better than a back of the rotation guy. He’s an average pitcher who eats innings and keeps his team in most games. Granted, he will occasionally have them out of the game in the first inning, but his rate stats are mostly static from year to year. His worst season seem like they’re more from wildly inconsistent defense then anything he does. Going 53-50 on a terrible team is a pretty stellar feat. He’s not an ace, but he’s a great 3-starter on a contender.

Eugene: I see both Arroyo and Harang like a Doug Davis guy; 200 inning with a mid-4 ERA. Not guys for the top of the rotation; even if they are #3 starters, the Reds are relying on them as #1-2 guys with Volquez out.

Matt: Bronson Arroyo is overrated!?! Poor dude. He was one of the best pitchers in the NL during the second half of last season (2.24 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 15 starts) and nobody seemed to notice. I don’t expect him to maintain that pace, but he’s a solid #3. Starters who make 30-35 starts every single year with, at the very least, league-average numbers don’t exactly grow on trees. If you can find 100 of them, Jay, I’d love you to run my fantasy team.

As for Chapman, a lot of scouts saw Tim Lincecum as nothing more than a reliever. They saw Carlos Marmol as a front-end starter. Need I go on? I’m not saying those anonymous scouts are wrong about Chapman. I haven’t even seen him pitch yet. But I think you know full well, they aren’t always right. I’d like to see the Reds giving him a look out of the gate (assuming he does alright during Spring Training) rather than handing the fifth spot to a retread like Justin Lehr or Micah Owings. Who knows? Maybe they’ll get a little return on their investment.

Question 3 – Which off season move will have the biggest impact for the Reds?

Matt: The impact potential of Aroldis Chapman is certainly high, but I think it will take a couple seasons for the Reds to get significant benefit from it. There’s a case for “addition by subtraction” from the Wily Tavares trade. Walt Jocketty clearly wanted to make sure Dusty Baker couldn’t give away at-bats, just because he wanted a “veteran presence” in center. The “biggest impact,” however, is probably Orlando Cabrera. I don’t know how much OC has left in his tank, but he’s certainly an improvement on Paul Janish.

Trent: As much as Paulie and Ugly Rosales (My cousin’s given name for the poor boy) were good hustle players, their contributions were limited at best. I will have to take the point about Taveras and run with it.

When they brought him in, they explained that it would be a veteran lead off hitter with good fielding and a solid threat to steal bases.

Of that…you know, I’m not even sure he filled the “veteran” part of the claims.

To say he was a bust would be a gross understatement. A lead off hitter who cannot hit and a runner who never stole bases (stats show he stole 25, I think that’s inflated) and only had an obs of .275. That doesn’t get it done anywhere, so for me, losing Taveras was a golden maneuver by Jocketty. Now, if they could just get Dusty Baker out of dodge as well….

Matt: Since you brought it up…I don’t think we should leave the Reds behind without acknowledging that Baker has quite a bit riding on this season. After building something of a legacy during his decade with the Giants and making a serious run in his first year with the Cubs, Baker has turned into a disaster, with one winning season and no playoff appearances in the last five years. Moreover, he’s been widely blamed for ruining the careers of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Aaron Harang, Carlos Zambrano, and Edinson Volquez. I’m not sure he deserves all the blame, but there is certainly a trend.

Baker waxes philosophical about the importance of veteran leadership. To that end, Walt Jocketty has provided him with Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera, Ramon Hernandez, and Arthur Rhodes, not to mention a host of talented youngsters who are entering their primes. It’s time for Dusty to turn the Reds into contenders. I think he needs at least an 85-win season to earn a new contract, either with the Reds or with anybody else.

Jeff: I understand most reports would say otherwise, but I think the Reds had a lousy offseason — I have no love for O-Cab — that dude is streakier than snot on a mirror — and as far as Chapman is concerned, I’ll have to defer to anyone who’s seen him pitch, I’ve got nothing to go by on him at all but other guys opinions…all indications, however, are that he’s a stud-to-be….but so were lots of guys who never were……maybe 2-3 years from now we’ll look back and claim this as a productive offseason for the Machine, but for me right now, no one comes to mind at all.

Question 4 – Where with the Reds end in the standings?

Matt: It think it is just a matter of time before the Reds become contenders in the NL Central. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce will develop into players who can anchor a lineup (alongside Brandon Phillips). Drew Stubbs and Wladimir Balentien are interesting prospects. And, there’s no denying the bevy of young talent in the Cincinnati rotation (Cueto, Bailey, Volquez, Chapman, etc.). 2009 could be the season that everything comes together. More likely, I think, the Reds are still at least a year away from making a serious run at the playoffs. I do think there’s a good chance they’ll break .500 this year, for the first time since 2000, but I expect them to be fighting the Cubs for third place.

Trent: For all intensive purposes, they need to break .500 this year. Considering they were six games under to close last season, they ought to be able to at least break that glass ceiling this season. If not, one would have to expect major changes in the pitching staff, particularly in the starting rotation, seeing as that is supposed to be the strongest part of the team, much like it was supposed to be last year.

With a healthy Votto, Bruce, and Rolen, paired with Phillips going 3-6, a better lead off hitter, and the same production from the bullpen, they might challenege as high as second, but more likely will be in the middle of the pack come September.

Daniels: I have no faith in the Reds. Fourth in the division, and only there because of how pitiful the Pirates and Astros will probably be.

Eugene: I’m with Daniels. Their additions don’t put them in the top half of the division, but they did more (positives) than Houston or Pittsburgh.

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