From Spring Training: Reds Send Hermida to Padres Making Room for Devin Mesoraco

Tomorrow Major League Baseball teams can expand their rosters from 25 to 40.  The Cincinnati Reds appear to be showing their hand today in regards to calling up top-prospect Devin Mesoraco.  Entering the 2011 season Mesoraco was not on the 40-man roster for the Reds.

By sending Hermida to Sand Diego they have made room on the 40-man roster to bring up Mesoraco tomorrow.

Padres Claim Hermida; Designate Phillips

From Spring Training: Inconsistentcy of the Cincinnati Reds and Bronson Arroyo Notes

Currently the Cincinnati Reds sit 13 games back in the National League Central and 14 back in the NL Wild Card Race.  After entering the season with high hopes they have yet to seemingly bring consistent hitting, pitching, and fielding to the ballpark on a daily basis.Without looking at the statistics my eye test keeps pointing their inconsistency as the main culprit to the season.  At the end of the day many players look on a path to finish with pretty decent numbers as a whole.

Joey Votto through last night led the National League in OPS and Drew Stubbs has already passed the 30 stolen base plateau.  Brandon Phillips currently is hitting .293 with 70 RBI and 72 runs.  Jay Bruce has won a player of the month and another player of the week award while already amassing career highs in both home runs (27) and runs batted in (84).

The injury of Scott Rolen has put a hamper on their predicted output from third base and they have gotten little from shortstop in 2011.  Combined Reds shortstops are hitting .236 in 130 games.  But honestly coming into the year many did not expect great numbers from the duo of Janish and Renteria.  But with how good the rest of the lineup was expected to be, one weak spot would not be too large of a problem.  When a team losing problems seem bigger.  That happens in all sports.

Left field has had its issues as well (especially Alonso’s defense, but that’s a different story).  Their pitching has been pretty good too.  Johnny Cueto is having a Cy-Young type season, Homer Bailey, when healthy has been solid outside a few starts.  Mike Leake is having a good sophmore year.  Travis Wood and Edinson Volquez have both largely underachieved., specifically Volquez.  Volquez has spent a lot of time in, Louisville after being demoted this year.  With the Reds he was walking an alarming 7.1 batters per nine innings while only throwing a first pitch strike 53.5 percent of the time.

Dontrelle Willis seems to be resurrecting his career and until recently Bill Bray and Sam LeCure were dominate.  After Chapman came back up from the minors he has been lights out and he was before the demotion, outside right before being sent  down.  Francisco Cordero and Nick Masset have a 2.43 and 4.01 ERA each.  Both of these two have received great heat throughout the season, but Cordero has been pretty good and Masset has been respectable, especially considering how the rest of the bullpen has pitched.

Bronson Arroyo has struggled throughout 2011 but he seems to be turning it around of late.  (See at bottom for lots of Arroyo stuff.)

Too me it all comes down to consistency.  On paper they have the talent to compete against every team they take the field against.  With the struggling in left field this year, maybe the playing time the young guys have received will be a blessing in disguise for 2012.  Also Zack Cozart who made a good impression before going down with injury is supposed to be ready after surgery in the spring.  Every team has their own “if ands or buts” but many Reds fans will look back at this season and wonder how this team finished so far back in the playoff race.

Bronson Arroyo Notes:

Bronson Arroyo’s first 21 starts:
127.1ip (6ip/s) 152h 73k 30bb 30hr 3hbp 5.58era 554 batters faced .297avg .337obp .544slug .881ops .295BAbip 2,003         pitches (66% for strike) BBREF game score 44 8sb 3cs -1.676WPA (-0.08 WPA/s)

Arroyo’s last 5 starts:
34.0ip (6 2/3 ip/s) 30h 17k 9bb 4hr 2hbp 2.91era 138 batters faced .238avg .299obp .381slug .680ops .248BAbip 529             pitches (64% for strike) BBREF game score 56 1sb 1cs .473WPA (0.09 WPA/s)

Arroyo’s 26 starts so far in 2011 stats (Compare how much his last 5 starts have brought down his stats from where they were after 21 starts)
161.1ip (Almost 6 1/3 ip/s) 182h 90k 30bb 34hr 5hp 5.02era 692 batters faced .286avg .329obp .512slug .841ops                     .286BAbip 2,532 pitches (65% for strike) BBREF game score 47 9sb 4cs -1.203WPA (-0.05 WPA/s)

In his first 21 starts Arroyo was averaging 86.5mph on his 4-seam fastball.  In his last 5 starts he has averaged 87.5mph on his 4-seam fastball.  He has also thrown 4-seam fastballs 5.1% more often in his last 5 starts than what he did in his first 21 starts.


Images Via Joe Lefkowitz’s PitchFx Tool

From Spring Training: Brewers Could be Sacrificing their Future to Win Now

Winning 17 of their last 20 games the Milwaukee Brewers are racing out to a huge lead in the National League Central with a lead of 8.5 games.The last time the Brewers won their division title was in 1982, when they were a part of the American League East and they had the likes of Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and Cecil Cooper on their team.

The only time they have been to the playoffs since 1982 is in 2008 when they won the National League Wild Card; the year they made the deal for CC Sabathia.  It was a quick exit for them however after they lost in 4 games to the eventual World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

They remained competitive in 2009 and 2010 finishing third in the National League Central both years.

But in 2011 they are already one win shy of matching their 2010 win total, of 77 games, with 34 games remaining in the regular season.  With a 8.5 game lead and a magic number of 25 on August, 22 the Brewers faithful are already making plans for the postseason.

Regardless of how this year finishes the Brewers organization is not in the best of shape.  They have spent many resources in their farm system on bringing in talent to compete now the last few seasons.

In 2008 the Brewers made these trades:

Sent: Received-From:
Rob Bryson (RHP, 31st Rd Pick 2006 Amateur Draft by MIL)
Zach Jackson (LHP, 1st Rd Pick 2004 Amateur Draft by TOR)
Matt LaPorta (1B, 7th Overall Pick 2007 Amateur Draft by MIL)
Michael Brantley (OF, 7th Rd Pick 2005 Amateur Draft by MIL)
CC Sabathia (LHP, 11-2 in 17 starts with MIL)-CLE
Steve Hammond (LHP, 6th Rd Pick Amateur Draft by MIL)
Darren Ford (OF, 18th Rd Pick Amateur Draft by MIL)
Ray Durham (2B, 41 games with MIL)-SF
Then in 2009 they did this:
Sent: Received-From:
Eric Fryer (C, 10th Rd Pick Amateur Draft by MIL) Chase Wright (LHP, 22-24 in minors & zero MLB appearances with MIL)-NYY
Tony Gwynn Jr. (OF, 2nd Rd Pick Amateur Draft by MIL & 347 MLB games played since trade.) Jody Gerut (OF, .224avg in 117 games with the Brewers)-SD
Roque Mercedes (RHP, FA Signing by MIL)
Cole Gillespie (OF, 3rd Rd Pick Amateur Draft by MIL)
Felípe López (IF, 82 games with the Brewers)-ARZ
Vinny Rottino (LF/3B, FA Signing by MIL in 2003) Claudio Vargas (4.78 ERA in 74g with MIL)-LAD
Bill Hall (3B/SS/OF, 6th Rd Pick 1998 Amateur Draft by MIL & 278g since trade) Ruben Flores (No MLB experience)-SEA
J.J. Hardy (SS, 2nd Rd Pick 2001 Amateur Draft by MIL & .767OPS in 195g since trade) Carlos Gómez (.652 OPS in 178g since trade)-MIN
Followed by this in 2010 and 2011:
Sent: Received-From:
Matt Treanor (C, 147 Major League Games Played since Trade.) Ray Olmedo (SS/2B, Zero Major League Games Played since Trade.)-TEX
Jim Edmonds (OF, 13g with Reds to finish 2010 season.) Chris Dickerson (OF, .535 OPS to finish the 2010 season.)-CIN
Carlos Villanueva (RHP, 4.24 ERA in 2011 with TOR.) Cash
Brett Lawrie (3B, 16th Overall Pick 2008 Amateur Draft & .983 OPS in 16g since 2011 call-up.) Shaun Marcum (RHP, 11-3 in 2011 with Brewers.)-TOR
Jake Ordorizzi Minor (RHP, 32nd Overall Pick 2008 Amateur Draft by MIL.)
Lorenzo Cain (OF, .348 OBP in 147 at-bats with Royals in 2011.)
Alcides Escobar (SS, 18 SB with Royals in 2011.)
Jeremy Jeffress (RHP, 16th Overall Pick 2006 Amateur Draft by MIL.)
Yuniesky Betancourt (SS, .277 OBP in 2011 with MIL.)-KC
Zack Greinke (RHP, 12-4 in 2011 with MIL.)-KC
Chris Dickerson (OF, .321 average with NYY since trade.) Sergio Mitre (RHP, 3.27 ERA in 33 innings with MIL)-NYY
Cutter Dykstra (Hitter, 22 years old.)
Nyjer Morgan (.350 OBP with MIL since trade)-WSH
Jeremy Reed (OF, 30 years old.) Future Considerations
Francisco Rodríguez (RHP, 3.52 ERA since trade.) 2 players to be named.-NYM
Erik Komatsu (23 year old hitter.) Jerry Hairston Jr. (.292 OBP with MIL since trade.)-WSN
In order to improve now they have given up a decent amount of prospects and in the coming years we are going to see how well they will be able to “Rebuild their farm”.2011 Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Affiliates (Thru 8/21/11)

Tm Lg Lev PitchAge R/G W L W-L% ERA
DSL Brewers DOSL FRk 18.5 4.08 44 27 .620 3.40
Nashville Sounds PCL AAA 27.4 4.73 65 64 .504 4.34
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers MIDW A 22.1 4.48 61 64 .488 4.04
Huntsville Stars SOUL AA 23.9 4.52 59 66 .472 4.09
Helena Brewers PION Rk 22.2 5.47 25 34 .424 4.59
Brevard County Manatees FLOR A+ 22.4 5.16 52 72 .419 4.74
AZL Brewers ARIZ Rk 21.6 6.27 14 35 .286 4.96
Affiliate Totals 4.83 320 362 .469 4.28
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2011.

Considering Prince Fielder is going to be a free agent at the end of the 2011 season, it appears the Brewers are trying to go all in this season because they are not sure if their big bat will be back in 2012.

Fielder’s ideal position is a Designated-Hitter in the American League as well because his lack of range playing first base.  Therefore it is even more likely that he will move to a new team.  With Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun needing larger long contracts it is going to be nearly impossible to keep those two and Fielder.

Rebuilding might take some time considering Baseball America’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects list has zero Milwaukee Brewers.  These trades and poor Player Development looks to me personally like the Brewers could possibly struggle in the coming years.

Related Readings:
Where Are They Now: The Zack Greinke Trade By:  Jim Breen
Milwaukee Brewers’ win-now plan is working By:  Lacy Lusk
Breaking down the Top 50 Prospects list By:  Jonathan Mayo
Mid-Season Farm System Reports: NL Central By:  Bradley O’Neill
Milwaukee Brewers 2011 Top 20 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review By:  John Sickels
Free-agent-to-be Prince Fielder talks DHing
Milwaukee Brewers-Cot’s Contracts

From Spring Training: Johnny Cueto proves again he’s a Legitimate Ace….When he Stays away from the Chicken Wings

Thursday afternoon Jonny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds went out threw seven shutout innings.  He only allowed three hits and two walks, while striking out a season high nine batters.

Coming into the 2011 season, back when the Reds playoff hopes seemed much brighter, many people thought the Reds were that big “ace” from being the National League Central favorites.  Hence the rumors of them trading for James Shields, Josh Johnson, or Ubaldo Jimenez.

But Cueto is proving he is in their category and earning that tag as well.  Cueto made his MLB debut on April 3, 2008 where he became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 10 batters while walking no batters in their MLB debut.

Though after his debut, the rest 2008 he looked much more like the rookie he was; finishing with a 9-14 record and 4.81 ERA.

Cueto has always had the stuff to be a top major league pitcher, but it takes more than just pure stuff to be great.  Year in and year out is littered with pitchers with great stuff that never reach their potential.

Something Cueto can really hang his hat on is the fact that you can argue he got better with every season of experience he has gotten so far.

2008 22 CIN 9 14 4.81 31 31 0 0 174.0 178 101 93 29 68 1 158 14 1 6 769 92 1.414 9.2 1.5 3.5 8.2 2.32
2009 23 CIN 11 11 4.41 30 30 0 0 171.1 172 90 84 24 61 0 132 14 0 4 740 95 1.360 9.0 1.3 3.2 6.9 2.16
2010 24 CIN 12 7 3.64 31 31 1 1 185.2 181 79 75 19 56 5 138 9 2 5 780 113 1.276 8.8 0.9 2.7 6.7 2.46
2011 25 CIN 7 5 2.06 17 17 3 1 113.1 83 37 26 6 35 0 69 6 1 4 454 193 1.041 6.6 0.5 2.8 5.5 1.97
4 Seasons 39 37 3.88 109 109 4 2 644.1 614 307 278 78 220 6 497 43 4 19 2743 108 1.294 8.6 1.1 3.1 6.9 2.26
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/11/2011.
From 2008 to 2010 Cueto decreased his ERA each and every year.  He also went from under a .500 winning percentage in 2008 to a .500 percentage in 2009.  Then went above .500 in 2010.  You can contribute the drop in ERA and and better winning percentage in large part to his yearly drop in walks, home runs allowed, and hits per nine innings allowed.  Less hits and walks allowed means less base runners hence his lower WHIP each year.  If you can lower your WHIP you will almost certainly lower your ERA as well therefore give your team a better chance to win.A better chance to win, isn’t this really all you can ask for from a pitcher?  Sure they can help themselves out with their glove and bat, but a pitcher who can’t pitch is not going to stay in the majors long, as a pitcher at least, for their hitting and defense.  Clearly I am not overlooking those tools, because a guy like Greg Maddux helped himself out greatly throughout their career with good defense and not being a wasteful out at the plate.  But Micah Owings (ARZ) can hit, and he is in the bullpen and Casey Coleman (CHC) is in the AAA because their pitching was not up to par.Cueto’s success in 2011 though has been a huge leap forward from even what he did in 2010, where he was not having a great year, but he was effective nonetheless.

In 2011 Cueto appears to come to the realization that living around 91-92 mph with movement and superior location is preferred over a 95-96mph fastball that might end up in the middle of the plate.  He can still crank it up there when need be, but he is working deeper into games at almost seven innings per start on average and staying out of the middle of the plate in general.

Cueto has turned to more of a sinker baller  philosophy throwing more 2-seam fastballs rather than 4-seem fastballs.  According to Fangraphs, his ground ball percentage (Ground balls/Balls in Play) has jumped from 41.7% in 2010 to 53.4% thus far in 2011.  His strike out rate is down from years past as well.

Cueto also has a new delivery he started doing against the New York Yankees in June where he turns his back a lot farther where his chest basically faces center field,  kind of like a torpedo you have the new Johnny Cueto of 2011.

His confidence seems at an all-time high as well.  He does not appear to get rattled and he appears to believe he can make any pitch at any time.

Since he missed time at the beginning of the year he never qualified for the ERA lead in the NL until late July.  But all year he has kept the Reds in the game, 15 of his 17 starts have been quality starts.  So even when he does not have his best stuff on a given day, he has found a way to get the job done.

The only major blemish on his game log in 2011 is his start he made at Wrigley Field on August 6.  Cueto allowed a season high 5 runs while only registering 3 2/3 innings.

Aug 6 5 3.2 7 5 5 3 2 1 2 2.06 22 80 43 11 6 8 7 2 1 26 0 0 0 17 3 0 0 1 0 0 1.06 -0.408 -3.85
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/12/2011.
Cueto was reported to have had an upset stomach brought on by some bad chicken wings during the game.  He felt sick to his stomach but wanted to continue pitching.But he definately bounced back Thusday and so far this year the only thing that seems to be able to stop Johnny Cueto is a poultry treat.  So as long as Cueto stays away from chicken wings on days he is going to start I wish could luck to any batter that has to face Cincinnati’s emerging ace.

From Spring Training: Warning National League-Cincinnati is for Real

In 2010 the Cincinnati Reds made their way to the playoffs for the first time since 1995.  This was not a fluke, in 2010 they allowed only 4.23 runs per game, a total of 685 runs.  This is the lowest output since that 1995 season when they allowed 623 runs.  Compare that to the 827 runs per year they allowed from 2003-2009 (2003 was their first year in Great American Ballpark).

The Reds turnaround in 2010 was centered around placing more of an emphasis on pitching, defense, and playing small ball rather than just trying to out slug their opponents.  The Reds were second in the National League in team fielding percent at (.988).

Cincinnati did not lose very much this off-season, but yet they did not add a lot either.  But the off-season was still a success, they were able to lock up both Jay Bruce and Joey Votto.  These deals look very good on paper as of now, because Votto and Bruce would demand more when they hit free agency.  They signed them to contracts the Reds could afford now while keeping the duo happy.

At first base the Reds are returning 2010 National League MVP, Joey Votto.  He is the centerpiece and leader of the Cincinnati Reds lineup.  Last season he not only was in the upper echelons of all the triple crown categories, Votto also brought a very impressive glove to the park.  As an everyday first baseman he only had 5 errors and had a .996 fielding percentage.  So he is one of the most complete players in the MLB when you look at all the qualities he brings to the ballpark each and everyday.

Brandon Phillips has been a Reds starter since since 2006 and he is returning at second base again in 2011.  2010 was a funny year for Phillips.  After batting third and fourth for much of the prior 2 seasons he played more games batting lead-off and second than he had in a few years.  I personally did not like the idea of Phillips as an everyday  cleanup hitter.  I felt he was unable to utilize his above average speed and other assets in the middle of the batting order.  He scored 100 runs for the first time since 2007 while setting a career high .332 OBP.  Phillips is one of the best defensive second basemen in the game, when his head  is in the game.  I look for him to to have another good year with the Reds in 2011.

Scott Rolen was quite a surprise in 2010.  I honestly was one that doubted the trade that sent him to Cincinnati for Edwin Encarnacion.  I just did not see the rational of trading a young, but struggling third baseman, for an older one who had a bad back and a much larger contract.  I did not see the leadership he would bring at a level that would offset those downfalls.  But boy was I wrong.  Rolen played a very good defensive third base in 2010 while hitting 20 home runs for the first time since 2006.  His .285 average was not too shabby either.

Shortstop is a position that has yet to be answered for the Reds.  Right now they are saying it is Paul Janish’s job to lose during Spring Training, basically.  Janish hit .270 in 2010 with his limited number of at-bats.  But over the last three seasons he has had much more success as a good defensive “super sub” rather than with his bat.  In fact, he was supposed to be the starter coming into 2010 as well, but he lost his job to Orlando Cabrera who had a very good 2010 with the Reds.  But he wanted too much money from the Reds, for them to bring him back.  As evidence that he still remains unsigned one week away from spring training by all teams.

The Reds combination at catcher in 2010 of Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.  The catchers for the Reds led the National League with a .292 position average.  The Hernandez/Hanigan combination is a lethal combination.  There really is not a top catcher, rather they have a “first catcher” and a “one-A” catcher.  They both handle the pitching staff good.

The Reds outfield is stapled by the 2 young guys Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce.  Both of which cover a lot of ground defensively.  In fact, if three center-fielders did not seem to win the three outfield gold gloves every year Jay Bruce might have won the gold glove in right field.  Drew Stubbs is one of the fastest, if not the fastest player in the majors today and he covers a ton of ground in the center field of Great American Ballpark.  The weak point defensively in the outfield is starting left fielder Jonny Gomes.  But Gomes is kept in the lineup with his bat not his fielding.

These three starters in the outfield are all good hitters as well.  Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs are young and maturing with every at bat.  Stubbs struck out way too many times in 2010, and he needs to work on some flaws keeping him away from being a consistent hitter.  Jay Bruce made great improvements last season hitting .281 which is much better than his .233 from 2009.  Bruce is beginning to show the promise he had coming up the minors as one of the best hitting prospects in  baseball.  Jonny Gomes struggled the second half last season but his first half numbers were outstanding.  His overall season was a definite success.

I might have listed pitching after the starting everyday players, but that does not make it any less important.   The Reds are blessed with a young core of good young pitchers that many of which proved in 2010 were already ready to play in the major leagues.

The Opening Day starter will probably be Bronson Arroyo.  In 2010 Arroyo had an ERA of 3.88 and won a career high 17 games while losing 10.  Arroyo is one of the best inning eaters in the majors.  He has been a workhorse since coming to Cincinnati from Boston in exchange for Willy Mo Pena in the off season between 2005 and 2006.  In fact he has not started less than 30 games since 2004, when he started 29 games for the Red Sox.  He has not pitched less than 200 innings in any season since 2004 as well.  To go along with his pitching accolades he won his first gold glove in 2010 as well.  He is also a career .140 hitter with 5 career home runs, all with Cincinnati.

The Reds also hoping for Edinson Volquez to return to his 2008 form when he pitched 196 innings and went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA.  In June 2009 Volquez was put on the 60-day DL needing the dreaded Tommy John Surgery.  Tommy John Surgery usually takes a year of healing before players are able to pitch again, but most of the time players come back just as strong if not stronger after this surgery.  Volquez made his return back to the MLB in 2010, but was up and down when he came back.  He never consistently seemed to have control and could not get in front of enough hitters to make them swing and miss his dirty off speed stuff.

Johnny Cueto broke into the majors in 2008 when he started 31 games for the Reds and finished with 9 wins.  His ERA has gone down each season over his career with the Reds from 4.81 in 2008, to a 4.41 in 2009, then a career low 3.64 ERA in 2010.  Cueto was a amateur free agent signing of the Reds in 2004.

The Reds have three pitchers they can easily plug into the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation.  Many people see it coming down to Homer Baily in the four spot and Travis Wood finishing off the rotation.  Mike Leake is the third of these young guns that could end up in the mix along with others.

Homer Bailey was the 7th overall pick in the 2004 first year player draft by Cincinnati.  He has yet to turn his potential into actual results.  He steadily worked his way up the minors and debuted June 8, 2007.  In 2008 Baseball America had him as ninth overall best prospect, and the best prospect in the Reds organization.  Bailey had seemed to piece together his talent at times in 2010, He set career bests in K/9 and BB/9 in 2010, but still finished the season 4-3 with a 4.46 ERA in 19 starts.  He did look very good out of the bullpen in the 2010 postseason, and it is where I seem possibly pitching down the road someday if he cannot get better control specifically.

Travis Wood was Cincinnati’s second round pick in 2005.  He fought with Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman for the fifth starting spot in 2010 Spring Training, but did not make the cut at the time.  He debuted in July and did not turn back.  Wood showed impeccable control while only walking 26 batters in 102.2 innings.  He went 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA.  He also pitched 3.1 scoreless postseason innings.  On July 10, he went head to head against Roy Halladay while throwing a one hitter.  The Reds lost the game, but Wood still impressed.

Mike Leake was very impressive in 2010 as well.  Leake made the leap to the majors in 2010, without ever making an appearance in a minor league game.  This is quite an accomplishment, because not many players do this.  Leake, went 6-1 with a 3.53 ERA in his first 17 starts, before the Reds messed him up in my opinion.  He was on a season long inning count that he reached fast, in large part because how efficient he was at times.  At times it was almost a lock he would give you 7 innings.  Once the leash was tightened and a small injury concern Leake finished the season going 2-3 with a 6.91 ERA in his last 7 appearances (5 starts).

Whichever way the Reds choose the set up their rotation they should be set up for a solid season from their starting pitchers.  Other players like Aroldis Chapman, Matt Maloney, Dontrelle Willis, Daryl Thompson, and Sam LeCure could easily start during the 2011 season as well.  Very rarely, if ever, will a team use only five pitchers to start every game for them during a long 162 game schedule; so look for those players to be in the mix on days the Res are in need of a starter.

The bullpen includes the likes of Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek, Jared Burton, Billy Bray, Francisco Cordero, Carlos Fischer, Daniel Ray Herrera, Dontrelle Willis, and Jordan Smith.  Chapman, Bailey, Wood, Maloney, Thompson, LeCure, could also appear out of it.  Jose Arredondo also is making a comeback in 2011.  Arredondo missed the entire 2010 season after Tommy John Surgery.  It was not too long ago he finished 2008 with a 1.62 ERA while going 10-2 in his rookie year.  He followed that up with a disappointing season in 2009.  In 2009 he went 2-3 while seeing his ERA rise up to 6.00 while pitching with less velocity and control.  According to he was pitching with 1.5mph less on his fastball in 2009 compared to that of 2008.  The Reds are hoping that he regains his 2008 form giving them another arm in the bullpen.

The Reds also signed Dontelle Willis November 23, 2010.  He has been a total mess the last few years, there is not much of a nicer way to put it.  Since 2005 when he finished second in Cy Young voting he has only went 25-36 with an ERA of 5.02, and over the last 3 seasons (2008-2010) he has only gone 3-9 with a 6.86 ERA.  He has been known for his jerky delivery which early in his career did not cause him as many problems.  But this is the center of his criticism, now because from 2008 through 2010 he has averaged 8.7 BB/9.  You simply cannot win with that many free passes.  He is most certainly a project, that the Reds signed with little risk.

The Reds bench and higher level prospects could include the likes of:

Juan Francisco is between a minor league player and a major league player.  He has basically ackomplished his seasoning in the minors, but yet he does not have an open spot to fill in on the big league roster at this point.  Right now he is a power bat off the bench, and can spell Rolen for rest.  Then maybe if he improves his defense he will find more playing time down the road.  Corky Miller is the third catcher at this moment.  He only will play in situations where both Hanigan and Hernandez cannot.  But behind him is the Reds top draft pick in 2010 Yasmani Grandal and former draftee Devin Mesoraco.  Both of these catchers are 2 key prospects in the Reds farm system.  The future catching job is probably up to Grandal to lose in a few years.

Chris Heisey was a 17th round pick of the Reds in 2006.  He debuted May 3 last season.  He hit eight home runs while battig .254 in 201 at-bats.  He and Laynce Nix were two of Dusty Baker’s favorite batters off the bench last season, and each could hold up as starters as well.  In fact they were both upgrades defensively in left field over Gomes.  They also did not lose much in terms of batting.  But now Nix is gone, but the Reds signed Jeremy Hermida, a former first round pick of the Florida Marlins on January 4, 2011. Hermida is a career .259 hitter with 63 career home runs in six seasons.  But he has had problems since his best year in 2007 (.296avg, 18HR, 63 RBI).  In 2010 he spent time with both Boston and Oakland.

Fred Lewis could also buy for time in the outfield.  He is a fast player who can cover ground in the outfield.  Also he can bat lead-off if the Reds need him their on a given day.  He stole 17 bases while batting .262 in 2010 with Toronto.  But many National League fans might remember him from his time with San Francisco from 2006-2009.   Edgar Renteria also comes to Cincinnati hoping for a repeat of the World Series he won in 2010 with the Giants.  He won the MVP of the World Series in 2010 while hitting 2 home runs and hitting .412 in his 17 at-bats.  He only hit 3 home runs during the entire regular season and hit .276 in 72 games.  He is not the player he once was, but he could end up starting at shortstop if Janish does not keep the starting position this spring.

The Reds got a lot out of Miguel Cairo last year, in terms of a veteran presence but even more surprisingly with his bat.  Cairo hit .290 for the season and played a very good first base in late spring/early summer when Votto was out.  He played 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B at one time last year.  It is hard pressed to think that he will be able to reproduce his offensive numbers.  Chris Valaika also came up and spent some time in the majors last season, and he could be a band aid at second base between Brandon Phillips and Billy Hamilton; if Phillips leaves when his contract is over and if Hamilton is not ready.  But Hamilton is expected to be the Reds lead-off hitter of the future playing second base.

Yonder Alonso is a big question mark for the Reds….but in a good way.  It is a good problem to face when you have a top tier hitting prospect blocked by the National League MVP Joey Votto.  There is talk that Votto might eventually move to left field where he did show up a few times in his first stint with the big league club in 2007.  But I am not sure how good of an idea this is.  The Reds defense was one of the best in the National League in 2010 and Votto could have made a good case to win the gold glove at first with his MVP.  Alonso apparently from what I hear is not a very good defender.  He would not play in the outfield at a quality defensive level.  With him and the great depth of young pitching look for the Reds to be able to make a huge trade at the trade deadline if needed to make a run, without leaving their farm system in total shambles.

The Reds were able to sign Votto and Bruce to deals that should be fair for both sides at this time.  They are going to demand a lot when they hit free agency, but the Reds locked them up for a more reasonable amount.  They are paying them a little early and hopefully will be able to keep them.  I am not too sure how much they want to keep Phillips long term.  I keep hearing lots of Billy Hamilton talk, but while the Reds’ farm system is in good shape, I do not see too much at shortstop right now.  Maybe they should try to give Hamilton a try at shortstop and keep Phillips.  They were unable to re-sign Arthur Rhodes, a key player in last year’s run but their bullpen should still be one of the best in the National League.  They also locked up Cueto for 4 years, but Volquez turned down a longer term deal resembling that of Cueto for a one year deal.  I think he is looking to have a good year like that in 2008 and demand more money.

Either way the Reds are in great shape now and I am not sure if there is a better General Manager in baseball right now than Walt Jocketty.  He was able to keep St. Louis in contention year in and year out with a smaller budget resembling that of Cincinnati and he seems to be building something special in Cincinnati right now too.


Reds starting shortstop during the 2010 season, Orlando Cabrera, has signed with Cleveland after the publishing of this article.

From Spring Training: My Pitching Rotation Rankings (1-5)-National League Edition

It is never too early for a little baseball talk.  Given that, I am going to rank every MLB team’s 5 man Pitching Rotation.  Some teams might have a dominate ace, but a poor three through 5 (Mariners), and others might not have had an All Star from their rotation, but depth one through five (Reds).  But I am trying to be as fair by balancing the complete rotation one through five in my opinion.
National League
1.) Philadelphia Phillies
Roy Halladay
Cliff Lee
Roy Oswalt
Cole Hamels
Joe Blanton

2.) San Francisco Giants                                                               3.) Cincinnati Reds
Tim Lincecum                                                                                   Bronson Arroyo
Matt Cain                                                                                            Johnny Cueto
Jonathan Sanchez                                                                            Edinson Volquez
Madison Bumgarner                                                                        Travis Wood
Barry Zito                                                                                             Leake/Bailey/Chapman/LeCure/Maloney/Thompson

4.) St. Louis Cardinals                                                                  5.) Los Angeles Dodgers
Adam Wainwright                                                                                  Clayton Kershaw
Chris Carpenter                                                                                     Chad Billingsley
Jaime Garcia                                                                                          Ted Lilly
Jake Westbrook                                                                                     Hiroki Kuroda
Kyle Lohse                                                                                             Jon Garland/Vicente Padilla

6.) Milwaukee Brewers                                                                 7.) Chicago Cubs
Zack Greinke                                                                                        Carlos Zambrano
Yovani Gallardo                                                                                    Matt Garza
Shaun Marcum                                                                                     Ryan Dempster
Randy Wolf                                                                                            Randy Wells
Chris Narveson                                                                                    Carlos Silva/Andrew Cashner

8.) Florida Marlins                                                                            9.) Atlanta Braves
Josh Johnson                                                                                      Tim Hudson
Ricky Nolasco                                                                                      Tommy Hanson
Anibal Sanchez                                                                                     Derek Lowe
Javier Vazquez                                                                                      Jair Jurrjens
Chris Volstad                                                                                        Mike Minor/Brandon Beachy

10.) San Diego Padres                                                                     11.) Arizona Diamonbacks
Mat Latos                                                                                                Joe Saunders
Clayton Richard                                                                                     Daniel Hudson
Wade LeBlanc                                                                                       Ian Kennedy
Aaron Harang                                                                                         Zach Duke
Dustin Moseley/Tim Stauffer/Cory Luebke                                       Barry Enright

12.) Colorado Rockies                                                                     13.) Pittsburgh Pirates
Ubaldo Jimenez                                                                                     Ross Ohlendorf
Jorge De La Rosa                                                                                  Paul Maholm
Jhoulys Chacin                                                                                      James McDonald
Aaron Cook                                                                                             Scott Olsen
Jason Hammel                                                                                       Kevin Correia/Jeff Karstens/Charlie Morton/Brad Lincoln

14.) New York Mets                                                                          15.) Houston Astros
Mike Pelfrey                                                                                            Brett Myers
R.A. Dickey                                                                                             Wandy Rodriguez
Jonathan Niese                                                                                    J.A. Happ
Chris Capuano                                                                                     Bud Norris
Dillon Gee/Oliver Perez                                                                       Ryan Rowland-Smith/Nelson Figueroa/Jordan Lyles

16.) Washington Nationals
Livan Hernandez
John Lannan
Jordan Zimmerman
Jason Marquis
Ross Detwiler/Chien-Ming Wang/Luis Atilano/Craig Stammen/Tom Gorzelanny

The Phillies were a very easy pick as my number one best rotation in the National League.  There is lots of talk that they might have the best rotation in the history of baseball.  Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt would be a nice one-two combo if I offered it to you right?  Well that is Philadelphia’s third and fourth pitcher in the rotation.  Cliff Lee has some of the best all-time postseason statistics ever.  Also in 2010 he had the second best strikeout per walk ratio in MLB history at 10.27 strikeouts per walk.  I have yet to even mention the staff ace, Roy Halladay.

Halladay threw a no hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 postseason.  In Halladay’s first complete season in the National League he went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA while throwing 250.2 innings, while never failing to get through 5.2 innings.  The biggest question in the Phillies rotation is the dreaded choice between Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton.   That right there shows you are in very good shape if it is coming down to them two for the final rotation spot.

San Francisco also has a very deep rotation.  Tim Lincecum is a 2 time Cy-Young winner in his young but successful career.  Lincecum is followed by Matt Cain in the rotation.  Cain has a career 57-62 Win-Loss record but yet a 3.45 ERA.  His win-loss  is not a clear cut sign of how good he has been in his career.  In Cain’s 170 career games started he has received little run support.  San Francisco batters have only gotten him a career 3.8 runs/game.  The major league average over that time is 4.7 runs/game.

After the Giants’ top two pitchers the rest of the rotation is filled out with Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, and Barry Zito.  Sanchez might have led the majors free passes, but a the same time he allowed the least amount of hits per nine innings allowed.  Sanchez already has a no-hitter to his name and Bumgarner pitched 111 innings in his rookie season.  He was a crucial part of the Giants comeback to win the NL West.  In September he had finished the regular season with a 1.13 ERA in his final five starts.  Then pitched 20.2 innings with an ERA of 2.18 in the 2010 postseason.

Barry Zito also had a relatively good year too, although he seemed to fad in the 2nd half; his ERA in the second half of the season was almost a full run higher than his first half.  He did not make the playoff roster but still Zito is a valuable commodity in baseball (maybe not to the contract he has).  He probably will never gain back the Cy-Young winning stuff he had in the early 2000s, he is one of the most durable pitchers in the Majors.  He goes out and eats eat innings.  From 2001 through 2010 Zito never pitched less than 180 innings.

I have the Reds third.  If five years ago you told me the Reds would have this much young pitching depth I would have thought you were crazy.  The Reds are full of not just good pitching, but good young pitching.  I believe the Reds could become the dominate team of the National League over, whatever you call this next decade.  This is centered around all their young position and pitching players, who are already winning at a fairly young age.

The Brewers also acquired Zack Greinke which skyrocketed their ranking.  I believe Greinke is the 2011 Cy Young favorite in the National League.  They also have added Shaun Marcum to go along with Yovani Gallardo.  This top three is very good.  The Cubs also brought in Matt Garza; at the expense of their minor league hitting and pitching players of the year.  The NL Central might have the best group of rotations in the Majors at the top, if you take away Houston and Pittsburgh.

I also look for the Padres to pitch and field their way into playoff contention this year even without Gonzalez.  It might be hard, but I think this added pressure will help their pitchers pitch to a little higher level.  The New York Mets are a complete mess right now.  This does not exclude a horrendous pitching staff.  After Mike Pelfrey they will be piecing a lot together and it should be a tough year.

But no team in the National League is worse off than the Washington Nationals right now, starting pitching wise.  They do have a fairly decent bullpen on paper, but bullpen success is hard to predict on a team level.  Their rotation just is in shambles without Stephen Strasburg.  Even with Stephen Strasburg they would still be lower tier team in this ranking.  But I find it hard to believe that they will not finish last place in the National League East this season behind their poor pitching staff.

From Spring Training: My Pitching Rotation Rankings (1-5)-American League Edition

It is never too early for a little baseball talk.  Given that, I am going to rank every MLB team’s 5 man Pitching Rotation.  Some teams might have a dominate ace, but a poor three through 5 (Mariners), and others might not have had an All Star from their rotation, but depth one through five (Reds).  But I am trying to be as fair by balancing the complete rotation one through five in my opinion.
American League
1.) Chicago White Sox
John Danks
Mark Buehrle
Gavin Floyd
Edwin Jackson
Jake Peavy-Out until around Memorial Day

2.) Oakland Athletics                                                                3.) Tampa Bay Rays
Trevor Cahill                                                                                     David Price
Dallas Braden                                                                                 Wade Davis
Gio Gonzalez                                                                                   James Shields
Brett Anderson                                                                                Jeff Niemann
Brandon McCarthy                                                                         Jeremy Hellickson

4.) Boston Red Sox                                                                   5.) Los Angeles Angels
Jon Lester                                                                                        Jered Weaver
Josh Beckett                                                                                    Dan Haren
Clay Buchholz                                                                                  Ervin Santana
John Lackey                                                                                    Joel Pineiro
Daisuke Matsuzaka/Tim Wakefield                                            Scott Kazmir

6.) Detroit Tigers                                                                        7) New York Yankees
Justin Verlander                                                                            CC Sabathia
Max Scherzer                                                                                  Phil Hughes
Rick Porcello                                                                                  A.J. Burnett
Phil Coke                                                                                        Ivan Nova
Brad Penny                                                                                    Garcia/Colon/Mitre/Chamberlain/Betances/Prior?

8.) Minnesota Twins                                                                  9.) Texas Rangers
Francisco Liriano                                                                            C.J. Wilson
Carl Pavano                                                                                     Colby Lewis
Brian Duensing                                                                               Brandon Webb
Nick Blackburn                                                                                Derek Holland
Scott Baker                                                                                      Scott Feldman

10.) Toronto Blue Jays                                                            11.) Seattle Mariners
Brandon Morrow                                                                             Felix Hernandez
Ricky Romero                                                                                 Jason Vargas
Kyle Drabek                                                                                     Erik Bedard
Dustin McGowan                                                                            Doug Fister
Marc Rzepczynski                                                                           Michael Pineda

12.) Cleveland Indians                                                            13.) Baltimore Orioles
Fausto Carmona                                                                            Jeremy Guthrie
Justin Masterson                                                                            Brian Matusz
Mitch Talbot                                                                                     Jake Arrieta
Carlos Carrasco                                                                            Brad Bergesen
David Huff                                                                                       Chris Tillman

14.) Kansas City Royals
Luke Hochevar
Vin Mazzo
Kyles Davies
Danny Duffy
Sean O’Sullivan

So why is Chicago my number one rotation and why is Boston my number three?  Especially since most people are in fact choosing Boston as having the best AL rotation!  Here is why.  Jon Lester may have my preseason Cy Young Prediction, but after that they can be extremely up and down at times.  Clay Buchholz has very good stuff, but he is still very young and I highly doubt he will repeat his 2.33 ERA.  He will still be very good and one of the better number twos in the AL, but I see his numbers slightly decreasing.

Josh Beckett is also a lot more like A.J. Burnett than people give him credit for.  Both when they get in trouble become throwers rather than pitchers.  When they do this they just start firing the cheese to the catcher and become highly predictable to the hitters, they also start losing their movement and control.  Beckett is still better than Burnett, but at the same time when Beckett gets in trouble he becomes very similar to his former teammate.

I also think John Lackey’s best days are behind him and I expect him to stay fairly close to his production of last year (14-11, 4.40 ERA).  He will still be able to get up and have a big day, but I believe him, Beckett, and Matsuzaka bring more of a name factor than they will production at this point in their careers.  Matsuzaka walks too many batters to be consistent enough, which just adds to how exceptional his ERA and W-L record was in 2009.  But eventually free passes will come back to bite you in the butt.  Tim Wakefield will be a serviceable spot starter like he has been, at worst, throughout his major league career.

But when I look at the White Sox rotation I see a very good top five.  Mark Buerle is a pitcher that any team would love to have, with his combination of pitching smarts and durability.  Also the fans like the days he pitches on hot July afternoons with how fast he gets the job done.  John Danks has surpassed Buehrle as the team’s ace.  These top two lefties are good, but probably not as good as that of Boston.

But her is the difference.  I see Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd, and Jake Peavy being a much better three-four-five than that of Boston.  Peavy will be out until about Memorial Day, so the fifth spot will be up for grabs during Spring Training.  But he should be back for most of the season, if everything goes according to plan.  He will not be his old self that people remember him from in San Diego.  But I still think he will be able to pitch to about the 3.70 ERA area, give or take a little either way.

Oakland gets the nod over Boston too.  Their pitching rotation is probably the most underrated in the Major League.  Their 3.56 ERA led the AL in 2010.  This is 0.22 better than the second place Tampa Bay Rays.  I believe the Rays will be able to, repeat a very good pitching year as well, even without Garza.  They got the Cubs hitting and pitching minor league players in return for him as well.  The Rays might take a step backward as a whole this year, but they show promise to return back to their dominate self in 2012.

Just a few days ago Andy Pettitte announced his retirement.  Many people think this makes their pitching staff a huge weakness.  But while I still do not believe it is a strength, it really is not that bad.  CC Sabathia is a top tier MLB starter and I do not expect that to change in 2011.  Phil Hughes really could be a future Cy Young winner at the two spot.

After that is where the staff gets a little sketchy.  In 2010, A.J. Burnett became the first pitcher in Yankee history with 15 losses and an ERA above 5.00.  He did have a horrendous, he takes pride in his play and should come in ready to play in 2011.  He still has arguably the best curve ball in the Majors when he is on and throwing strikes to get ahead early.  That is his major problem, because a 1-0 and 0-1 count have a totally different approach to hitters and he is pitching on the defense instead of the attack to much.   I expect him to go about 13-9 with a ERA around the 4.50 area in 2011.

Ivan Nova is still unproven but I do not doubt his stuff and composure.  He looked like a veteran during his 7 starts in 2010, composure wise.  He appears to be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher down the road.  But in 2011 I would see him as a very solid number 5.  But as of today it appears that he will be a number 4.  This is a little worrisome that the number four starter is so inexperienced.

Also the biggest story of the 2010-2011 winter was the “Where will Cliff Lee go” story.  The Yankees were thought to be the favorite, but after he left over $20 million on the table to go to Philadelphia the Yankees have been criticized for putting all their eggs into one basket.  This is somewhat true to a point.  With the retirement Pettitte, the Yankees are currently without a certain starter at the fifth spot in the rotation.  Possibilities include:  Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain, Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, prospect Betances, but the favorite as of now appears to be Freddy Garcia.  Garcia pitched a decent 2010 with the White Sox, but I do not see him as a long term fix.

The Yankees will probably use Garcia until the trade deadline where they will probably go after another pitcher, if they can stay in the playoff race.  Some not-huge name players I see them going after could include:  Fausto Carmona, Armando Galarraga, Scott Kazmir, Joe Blanton, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano, Brett Myers, Ross Ohlendorf, Aaron Harang, Barry Zito.

The Indians should probably be out of the race so they might shop Carmona.  Same thing about Arizona with Galarraga and Livan Hernandez..  Kazmir and Zito are on good teams, but both have underperformed their current contracts.  The Yankees could take on their salaries, while the Angels and Giants replace them with less money, and similar production.  Joe Blanton could be the odd man out in Philadelphia if Kendrick takes the fifth starters spot.  This would put him on the block.

Aaron Harang could be a small risk player to trade for from San Diego.  Brett Myers’ might be the only reason Houston has to trade him at this point.  They should fall out of the race, but they could hang around the NL Central.  He also just signed an extension.  Ross Ohlendorf, former Yankee, had a 1-11 record in Pittsburgh in 2010, but received poor run support.  His 4.07 ERA should equiv late to a better record on a better team.  He finished the year with a 2.68 ERA in 2010 in his last 11 starts as well.

Zambrano has worn out his welcome in Chicago as well.  Many people fail to realize how strong he finished the year too.  He will probably be on the block if Chicago is out of the race.  Maybe someone could get a bargain for his talent, because of his baggage.

Stay tuned for my NL Rotation rankings within the next couple days.

From Spring Training: First Official Post-My Quick MLB Early Preseason Preview:

Alright first of all let me welcome you to my new web site.  I hope you enjoy it.  I have linked out to some interesting web sites that I enjoy.  For my first post I am not getting into as much depth.  I am going to pick my division winners, dark horses, and a few other things.

Now lets get started!

AL East:  Boston Red Sox
AL Central:  Chicago White Sox
AL West:  Texas Rangers
Wild Card:  New York Yankees
Dark Horse:  Oakland A’s

NL East:  Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central:  Cincinnati Reds
NL West:  San Francisco Giants
Wild Card:  Atlanta Braves
Dark Horse:  Chicago Cubs (Note:  My definition of a Dark Horse is someone most people are not picking.  If I had to select my NL Central I would say 1) Reds 2) Cardinals 3) Brewers 4) Cubs as of today.  I am just saying I believe the Cubs have a shot at coming out of nowhere and maybe making a run and/or winning a Wild Card/Division.)

AL MVP:  Robinson Cano/Josh Hamilton….injury concerns about Hamilton so I am leading toward Cano.
NL MVP:  Joey Votto/Albert Pujols….whichever wins the Division so I am leaning toward Votto.

AL Cy Young:  Jon Lester…dominate stuff and chance for lots of Wins
NL Cy Young:    Zack Greinke…Dominate stuff, fairly weak hitting division, first year in NL so many hitters haven’t seem him live.

AL Rookie of the Year:  Desmond Jennings….Pretty much guaranteed At-bats with lots of speed.
NL Rookie of the Year:  Aroldis Chapman…Arguably the world’s hardest thrower ever…105mph FB & 91mph Slider. It’s his to lose.

AL Manager of the Year:  Joe Girardi…If he can lead the Yankees to the playoffs with a rotation of :  1) CC 2) Hughes 3) Burnett 4) Nova 5) Garcia/Prior/Joba/ Mitre/Colon/Betances/Banuelos you’ll have to give him props.
NL Manager of the Year:  Mike Quade…Chicago could make a big turnaround, voters like this.