A rival scout sizes up the Reds
This is a good team, and they're going all in.... Joey Votto is one of the better hitters there is. He'll hit lefthanders, he hits for average, he's a gamer, and he catches the ball at first. Every year he's going to be in the talk for MVP. With Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols gone to the AL, it's pretty clear who the best first baseman in the league is.... Jay Bruce could have a huge season. He's a big, physical kid, could be a 30-homer and 100-RBI guy every year.... Devin Mesoraco, who's just 23, could be one of the better catchers in the big leagues, and soon. He'll come close to 15 homers, doesn't swing and miss a whole lot.... It's almost impossible to get a young, potential Number 1 starter, and they gave up a lot to get Mat Latos from the Padres. But it's a premium arm. The knock on him: He had a bad attitude. But he had a bad year last year, and he still struck out almost a batter per inning. If this guy ever wants to work at it, he'll be big time.... Homer Bailey threw [close to] 100 mph out of high school. When you throw like that, you don't have to learn how to pitch. He's low 90s now, but he's only 25, and he could still be an O.K. Number 3.... I can't believe the stuff Bronson Arroyo flips up there—lollipop curves. But the team's so good, if he gives them five or six innings and they get to that bullpen, he gets the win.... And that's some kind of bullpen, with Ryan Madson, Sean Marshall, Nick Masset and whatever they do with Aroldis Chapman.... Chapman might be the greatest arm in baseball. I think he's become enamored with how fast he throws. He's just one pitch away—a decent changeup—from being a great starting pitcher.
With 2011 Statistics
MANAGER DUSTY BAKER
5th season with Reds
NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE
The Reds' fielding independent pitching ERA last season, worst in the NL. High walk and home run rates drove up Cincy's FIP, which measures how effective a pitchers would be with a league-average D. Two Reds, Mike Leake (4.24) and Bronson Arroyo (5.70), were among the 94 starters who qualified for the FIP lead. They finished 73rd and last, respectively.
By trading for an ace in Mat Latos, the Reds showed they're serious about getting back to the top of the NL Central. But unless they address the top of the order, the acquisition of Latos will be for naught. Drew Stubbs wasn't the solution at leadoff: He had an OBP of just .321 and struck out in 30.1% of his plate appearances last year. Brandon Phillips patches the hole and hit .350 in the leadoff role last year, but he is more of a .270 average, .320 OBP guy, and that's not enough for the job. It's radical, but the Reds should consider pushing 21-year-old shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton to the majors. Hamilton is the fastest man in the minors: He had 103 steals with an 83.7% success rate at Class A in 2011, making him the first minor or major leaguer to steal a hundred since 2001. Hamilton committed 39 errors, has almost no power and strikes out enough to make even Stubbs raise his eyebrows—but he has had a .353 OBP over the last two seasons. It's not that Hamilton's ready now, but he could be by June. Keep a close eye on his first half, because his second could come in a pennant race.
BRAD MANGIN (LATOS)
BILL MITCHELL/FOUR SEAM IMAGES (HAMILTON)