The positional breakdown has now moved into the field. The Reds infield is fairly set with the only variable being injuries and Dusty Baker's stupidity. These two are very similar because they can be unpredictable and cause great anger to Reds fans everywhere. Let's hope the injuries don't creep up because Dusty's ignorance is unavoidable and will probably be enough to drive most fans to drinking. I have already started. Here is how the infield breaks down by position:
Starter: Ramon Hernandez (.257/.308/.406, OPS+ of 86)
Backup: Ryan Hanigan (.271/.367/.365, OPS+ of 91 in only 85 AB's)
In the offseason the Reds made one trade. That trade sent oft-injured and useless Ryan Freel to Baltimore for the oft-aloof and useless Ramon Hernandez. Seems like a case of both guys needing a change of scenery. Hernandez was criticized last season for seeming disinterested and not trying his hardest(Adam Dunn behind the plate). This may have had to do with the fact that Baltimore's best prospect was goign to take his spot behind the plate very soon. He still managed to put up pretty good numbers in the toughest division in baseball. Instead of facing 4 of the best rotations in baseball(Tor, NYY, Bos, TB) he gets to feast on some of the worst (Pit, Mil, Hou). I would also hope that a new team with great young Latin talent would get him excited about playing again. Not to mention our manager and his ability to get the best out of players. If he can improve to a .270/.320/.420 he would be the best catcher the Reds have had since Joe Oliver. Ok, that may be a stretch but I just wanted to give a shout out to the fromer World Series Hero. Hanigan played well in his September callup and is a much better defensive catcher then Hernandez. He will need to show he can hit everyday in the majors before he takes over the job. A year of backing up/spot starting would be a great way to break him in.
Starter: Joey Votto (.297/.368/.506, OPS+ 124)
Last season's Rookie of the Year Runner-Up solidified his spot here for years to come. He started in a platoon with Scott Hatteberg (Thanks Dusty) but soon proved he needed to play every day. The key to him is that he was able to hit the same whether it was a RH or LH pitcher. He drew walks and hit to all fields which made him very dangerous. His defense was very up-and-down, mostly down, but he improved as the year went on and will hopefully continue that. He is only 25 and should be a staple of the Reds for a long time. Or at least until he gets too expensive and moves to a team that has money.
Starter: Brandon Phillips (.261/.312/.422, OPS+ of 92)
Brandon's stats declined a little last season from his OPS+ of 105 in 2007. This is partly because he was moved to cleanup hitter and asked to hit homeruns. This didn't work. So what does Dusty do? Put him back at #4 this season. Brilliant. He OBP has never been great but last season he drew more walks in fewer AB's and cut down on his strikeouts. If he can return to '07 form, he could be good again. His defense is his strength. A former SS, his range in unbelieveable and, if not for a ridiculous '07 vote, he would have 2 straight gold gloves. He has been trying to become a leader, even attending the Reds caravan, something usually given to rookies because it takes away from time on the golf course. The question is whether his teammates will follow his lead. The best way to get the respect is to play and play well. Winning would also help.
Starter: Alex Gonzalez (.272/.325/.468, OPS+ of 99 all in 2007)
Gonzalez is back and said to be 100% after missing all of last season after having knee surgery. '07 was a great year for him at the plate but his defense and playing time were down. This could have been because his child was suffering from medical issues and took his focus off the game. This season, everything is good and he should be ready to go from day one. If his defense returns to what it was a few years ago and his batting stays strong he could be one of the better SS's in the national league. Before the injury, he was widely regarded as one of the best defensive SS in the game. His '07 year at the plate was also one of his best. His health and return to form will be a major factor in whether the Reds can improve and possibly contend this season.
Starter: Edwin Encancion (.251/.340/.466, OPS+ of 106)
Edwin regressed last year, both at the plate and in the field. His explanation for his struggles at the plate was kept trying to pull the ball out of the ballpark. This season he is going to try and spray it to all fields which should help his average. He still draws a ton of walks, much to Dusty's chagrin, and has the power to hit 20 HRs. Still young at 26 he should improve at the plate and on the field. His defense was atrocious last season but was pretty good the year before. I'm sure his actual ability is somewhere in the middle. He should continue to hit and put up a solid OBP. Improvement in the fielding and throwing would boost him to the top tier of NL 3rd basemen.
All positions-Jeff Keppinger (.266/.310/.346, OPS+ of 70)
SS, 2B-Jerry Hairston Jr. (.326/.384/.487, OPS+ of 124)
Keppinger is a serviceable utility man who can hit when healthy. His numbers last season were down but that is partly because he was rushed back from a knee injury and played at less then 100%. At full strength his OPS+ is about 100 but his range at short is very limited. Hairston is in the battle for LF but can also play CF, SS, and 2B which makes him very useful. He can also serve as a leadoff hitter and the Reds were very good when he played last season. Of course, last season was a career year for him which he attributed to being 100% for most of it. Unfortunately that didn't last long because he was back on the DL a few times. The Reds will need him as a backup and spot starter and if he can stay healthy, a big if, he will be a solid RH bat off the bench.
One other player in the running for the utility spot is Wilkin Castilo, a player acquired in the Adam Dunn trade. He is only 24 and can play all IF spots including C. He received 30 AB's last September but will probably start the season back in the minors until his hitting improves or someone gets injured.
The infield is a solid hitting bunch with the corners being the strength and the middle being average to above-average. The defense, other then 2B, is a big question mark. Gonzalez is older and coming off a season ending injury and the corners are young and error-prone. If they improve and Gonzalez is back to his old form, they could be good. If they don't improve and Gonzalez is limited, the Reds will once again be at the bottom of the NL in terms of defense. Let's hope for the former and not the latter.
21 hours ago