Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here
Overall – 76 points (16th MLB, 9th NL)
Starting Rotation – 27 points (19th MLB, 11th NL)
Line-Up – 31 points (19th MLB, 11th NL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 16 points (T-5th MLB, T-3rd NL)
Offseason Additions – Francisco Cordero, Jeremy Affeldt, Edinson Volquez
Offseason Subtractions – Josh Hamilton
Biggest Strength– Bullpen (in theory)
The Reds bullpen killed them last year, and they did a lot in the off-season to improve it. They made a big splash by signing (and overpaying) the 2nd best save guy in the NL last year, Francisco Cordero. They already had a decent closer in David Weathers, who will now move to 8th inning role, suddenly giving the Reds one of the best 8th-9th inning pairs in the NL. They also added a good lefty reliever in Jeremy Affeldt, who posted a 3.51 ERA in 71 games last year. If Jared Burton can continue to pitch well (2.51 ERA in 47 games) and take over the 7th inning role, it will take the pressure off of veteran relievers Mike Stanton and Gary Majewski, who are both better pitchers than they showed last year. They also have a sleeper in Bill Bray, who has really good stuff when healthy.
Biggest Weakness– Back-end of Rotation (in theory)
It seems as though you really could say that this is a weakness for 80% of MLB teams. Going into spring training, it looked like the back-end of the rotation was going to be Matt Belisle, Homer Bailey and Edison Volquez. However, only Volquez has pitched well enough to earn a spot. Both Bailey and Belisle have pitched themselves out of the rotation and will likely be replaced by Johnny Cueto (1.00 ERA in Spring) and Josh Fogg (2.08 ERA in Spring). While it could very well turn out to be a positive thing, Volquez and Cueto have a combined 17 ML starts and Josh Fogg always has had an ERA around 5.00.
Key Player in ’08– Ken Griffey Jr.
I think a big factor this year will be if Ken Griffey Jr. can have one final, fully healthy season. The Reds have a solid line-up, but if Griffey is a threat, it makes it a lot better. He played 144 games last year and contributed 30 HR and 93 RBI. His SLG% was down but that is to be expected for a 37 year-old. If he can give them 30 HR, 100 RBI, and a near .400 OBP, the Reds could surprise.
Player to Keep an Eye On– Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey
Bruce is widely considered to be the best prospect in the minor leagues. He has dominated at every level and will be the Reds starting center-fielder sooner rather than later. He has a great chance of being this year’s break-out star like Ryan Braun was last year. Bailey was once considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball but struggled greatly after he was called up last year. He will likely start off the season in the minors, but if he puts it together, he could provide a huge boost to the Reds rotation around mid-season.
Outlook/Prediction– 2nd Place, NL Central. I picked the Blue Jays as my potential “surprise team” in the AL and here is why I’m going to pick the Reds as my potential surprise team in the NL. They have a very solid line-up with Dunn and Griffey providing the power, one of the most underrated players in the game in Brandon Phillips at 2nd, and a lot of young talent including Edwin Encarnation at 3rd, Joey Votto at 1st and Jay Bruce in CF. They have a really good 1-2 in their rotation in Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. As I stated above, their 3-5 is unproven, but judging from the spring, Cueto or Volquez could very well surprise, and if they don’t, Homer Bailey might be able to put it together in the minors. As I also stated above, their bullpen is much improved over the squad that lost 31 games for the Reds last year. If everything falls into place, I think the Reds will be the surprise wild-card contender this year, much like (but not quite as good) as the Rockies last year.