A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE REDS
I like their position players—good defensive team, got speed, got power. But I'm worried about their pitching.... Devin Mesoraco is a star. He'll probably exceed the 25 homers from last year.... I'm a fan of Billy Hamilton. I think he can get up to a .330 OBP, and if he does, he'll steal 60 bases. He has the wheels to steal 100, but if he did, he'd probably be one big scab.... It's hard to find a prototypical third baseman, a guy who hits 20-plus home runs but isn't so big that he can't field his position. Todd Frazier is one of them. I've seem him barrel up pitches I thought were going to hit him.... Jay Bruce only missed 14 games last year when he had surgery for a torn meniscus. That's not a good idea. He probably said, "I'm O.K.," but he wasn't O.K. That's why the homers were down.... This team could lead the league in home runs, even if it looks like Joey Votto is still hitting without his legs, which is a problem.... Johnny Cueto is fabulous. He's able to drop and drive and make the ball come up through the zone, kind of like Tom Seaver did.... I'm not sure about the rest of the rotation. Mike Leake is good, but he's probably a fourth starter. Anthony DeSclafani, he's a No. 5. They need somebody to step up.... Robert Stephenson, their top prospect, is exactly what you look for, 6'3", slender, arm works great. I think he'll be up halfway through the year, even though he's only 22. He'll have to be—look at these other pitchers.
Up against payroll restraints, the Reds traded away Mat Latos to free up salary for a hitter, then acquired 37-year-old Marlon Byrd from the Phillies. A team desperate for base runners needed to do better than add an aging player who had a .312 OBP last year and who hasn't been above .340 since 2010. Stuck in an increasingly robust division, with a newly thin rotation and a middling offense, it's hard to see the Reds as better than a fringe wild-card contender. It's time to shift gears and plan for the future, and that means trading away impending free agent Johnny Cueto. Cueto, 29, had a 2.25 ERA last season and has a 2.48 mark over the past four seasons. He's a No. 1 starter who can swing a division race for a contender, which means the Reds can extract a high price for him—but they should act quickly. Every start Cueto makes chips away at his trade value to a new team and diminishes the potential return.
LEAGUE RANK 11
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE 2ND SEASON WITH REDS
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (VOTTO)