2014 Reds preview: Rotation, rookie Hamilton key to success
MAR 04, 2014 4:00p ET
Offense: Losing center fielder Choo as a leadoff hitter with the second highest on-base average in the league is a possible problem, but rookie Billy Hamilton and his base-stealing ability could fill the hole, if he gets on base. Joey Votto had a down year as far as driving in runs but his past history says he will return to form.
Rotation: Johnny Cueto, the ace, made only 11 starts last year due to lat injuries after winning 19 games the year before and is expected to be healthy to offset the loss of Arroyo, who never missed a start and contributed 200 innings every year. Rookie Tony Cingrani is the fill-in at the back of a strong rotation, although Mat Latos had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee a day before camp opened and may not be ready for Opening Day.
Bullpen: The club once again resisted their thoughts of turning Aroldis Chapman into a starter, by his request, and he should continue his dominating, intimidating ways. Setup pitchers Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton both missed nearly all of last season and are expected back.
Players to watch: Hamilton. The 23-year-old speedster set a minor-league record with 155 stolen bases in 2012 and is expected to take over the leadoff spot and center field. He is a converted shortstop and has only played center field for two years and is still learning how to switch-hit after batting only right handed when he signed. His problem may be reaching first base, but when he does he upsets the defense’s equilibrium. He was called up last September and stole 13 bases, tied for the most in baseball in September, although he had only 21 plate appearances.
Why they will win: The rotation is solid, the bullpen is solid and the offense will be better with Jay Bruce batting fourth.
Why they will lose: Pitching and defense is in place, but the team won’t win if it doesn’t hit, particularly with runners in scoring position, a problem it encountered last season.
Jon Paul Morosi’s outlook: It speaks to the Reds’ talent that their 90-win season in 2013 was judged a disappointment and led to the dismissal of manager Dusty Baker. Price was promoted from pitching coach to manager, and he’s taking over a team well-positioned to earn at least a wild-card berth and possibly win the division. Homer Bailey, 49-45 career record with a 4.25 ERA, will be expected to pitch like an ace after signing a $105 million contract extension. Offensively, pressure is on speedster Hamilton (to win the center-field job) and Ryan Ludwick (to assert himself as the right-handed complement to Votto and Bruce). If Hamilton or Ludwick falter, general manager Walt Jocketty should be active on the trade market.