Can They Surprise?

With opening day literally right around the corner, fans in every major league city are beginning to feel that itch, that unwavering confidence that this year could be the year their team does some damage. Some of these fans have legitimate cases, as a few teams outside of the usual suspects–Cubs, Phillies, Mets, Dodgers, Yanks, Sox, and Angels–could conceivably play their way to a division title or wild card spot. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Giants or Cardinals somehow snuck up on teams or if the Athletics find themselves playing meaningful games in August and September. One team being mentioned as a potential sleeper is the Cincinnati Reds, and while I do not consider them to have playoff-bound talent this season, I do agree with Jerry Crasnick in that their young nucleus is impressive.

The familiar faces of the team are gone, with Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr finding new homes after mid-season trades, essentially leaving chief regression candidate (in a good way), Aaron Harang as the most recognizable player. He will be joined in the rotation by the consistently under the radar Bronson Arroyo, the PTBNL of the Dunn deal in Micah Owings, and their two young guns, Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. Many forget that Cueto is younger than Volquez and potentially has more upside. This rotation might not wow the pants off of viewers but they certainly combine to be above average.

Francisco Cordero heads the bullpen and while he is in no way worth the ridiculous terms of his contract, it isn’t like he lacks talent. The guy might not be worth all that money but he isn’t a bum. The rest of the bullpen, with names like David Weathers, Mike Lincoln, and Bill Bray, is not flashy but has the experience and skill to get the job done on most nights. This is essentially the perfect recipe for going unnoticed.

Brandon Phillips, though no longer a spring chicken, is still a very solid second baseman combining pop with good glovework. Joey Votto had a better season last year than many realize. Edwin Encarnacion may not be the next Scott Rolen with the glove but he can definitely rake. And top prospect Jay Bruce projects very nicely. The team even has flexibility in certain areas as Jonny Gomes has shown a propensity for mashing lefties and Jerry Hairston Jr put up gaudy numbers in limited playing time last season. Combine both with Chris Dickerson and you get a pretty solid left-field situation.

The lineup certainly has holes and question marks in the forms of Willy Taveras, Alex Gonzalez’s questionable health, and Ramon Hernandez, but the talent on the roster tends to get overlooked. Combine everything and you have a team with a decent enough rotation, a bullpen that doesn’t stink up a locker room, and a lineup primarily featuring players with broad skillsets as opposed to one undeniable ability. The Reds then are the posterchild for being ignored as they lack much flash. Despite the good things I’ve been writing about so far, I cannot see them doing any real damage with regards to the playoffs. Some talent is there, enough to not stink, but not enough to truly succeed.



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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


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Matt
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Matt
7 years 2 months ago

I could see the Reds contending if they were in a weaker division. But I think they’re going to have a real tough time beating out the Cubs for the division and either the Mets or Phils for the Wild Card.

The Riddler
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The Riddler
7 years 2 months ago

Yeah, because when I think of a tough division I think of the NL Central which has the Astros, Pirates and a Brewers team (sans CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets) in it.

Gabriel
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Gabriel
7 years 2 months ago

And Dusty batting Willy leadoff despite the .300 OBP.

mark
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mark
7 years 2 months ago

Yeah, everyone crowing about the Reds always forgets about Dusty. He ruined Harang last season with that retarded relief stunt and he overworked Volquez, sending him from a sub 2 ERA to one in the mid 3s.

Carter
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Carter
7 years 2 months ago

Yes, Dusty Baker is the reason Edinson Volquez did not finish the season with a sub-2.00 ERA.

Kevin S.
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Kevin S.
7 years 2 months ago

No, but Dusty Baker is the reason Volquez will get hurt this year.

mevs
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7 years 2 months ago

great preview, thanks

David A
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David A
7 years 2 months ago

i like the Reds to win 85. probably not good enough to win a wild-card, but close.

mike
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7 years 2 months ago

sans Cordero, Burton’s the best arm in that pen. Not far behind Cordero either.

brian recca
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brian recca
7 years 2 months ago

You forgot that they have Jared Burton and Arthur Rhodes in that bullpen also. The Reds have one of the most well rounded bullpens in the league.

It’s funny I remember before the beginning of last season telling my friends that the Rays were going to compete. This year I’m telling them the Reds are.

George
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George
7 years 2 months ago

I don’t mean to nitpick, but Phillips doesn’t really have much pop, especially with that awful .312 OBP last year.

Samantha Mathews
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6 years 4 months ago

Glad you could use your blog as an excuse to conduct some culinary research! They look delicious.I have a cooking recipe site as well and I??d like to exchange links with you. Let me know if this is possible. Thanks.

ken
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ken
6 years 4 months ago

Easily the strangest comment I’ve seen on FanGraphs.

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