MLB Team News & Rumors: Cincinnati

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Cincinnati Reds

Our expert from,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.

Cincinnati Reds Team Projection

The Reds have made it to the playoffs in 3 of the last 4 seasons, but they haven't made it to the World Series since 1990. Their success has been due to plus pitching (3.38 ERA - 4th in the majors). Just like the best pitching staffs in the game, Cinci allowed the 4th lowest amount of walks. Offensively, the Reds scored the 3rd highest amount of runs in the NL (698). However, they were league average in HR's (155) with short speed (67 SB's). Their big loss in the offseason was leadoff hitter OF Shin-Soo Choo (also lost P Bronson Arroyo to free agency). The Reds starting lineup will have the same cast of characters, with the addition of jackrabbit OF Billy Hamilton. Cinci signed C Bryan Pena, 2B Skip Schumaker, and IF Ramon Santiago for bench depth. Their starting rotation will be even stronger than last year if P Tony Cingrani can stay healthy all season (along with Johnny Cueto). Cincinnati's bullpen will be led by the electric arm of P Aroldis Chapman. The Reds have won over 90 games 3 times in the past 4 years. They need 1B Joey Votto to have a bounce back season and OF Billy Hamilton needs to make an impact at the top of the lineup. Overall, this team has enough talent to contend for a World Series Title.

1. OF Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton fantasy baseball

Hamilton is going to be an intriguing player during his professional career. He has dominating speed which should allow him to score 100+ runs in most seasons. Billy has 395 steals (82% success rate) in 2,015 at bats in the minors with a .280 batting average. His K rate (19.9%) is a bit high for his skill set, which may bring some batting average risk early during his career. Furthermore, his walk rate (9.5%) was just above the major league average during his minor league career. It is an important part of his skill set going forward as a walk can easily turn into a double or triple with his speed. Hamilton showed some growth in his K rate (18.6%) at AAA, but he took less walks (6.9%). This led to a shorter batting average (.256). His AVH (1.341) was almost the same as 2012 even with a bump in HR's (6), so his power isn't a factor in his equation. The Reds gave him a shot in September mostly as a pinch runner. Bill stole 13 bags in 19 at bats while hitting .368. It's too bad he won't qualify as a middle infielder in most leagues. During his minor league career, Billy was the same hitter against RH (.282) and LH (.281) pitching. Hamilton is going to ruin many pitcher's rhythm with his plus speed, especially late in tight games. His skill set will carry fantasy teams in the SB category, but he will also crush them if he gets hurt. I've never been a fan of Judy players, but his exceptional speed will be a huge edge. I'd love to own him, but his price point is probably going to be too high for me. If you don't draft him, you can still finish 2nd in steals with the right team structure. Hamilton has 100 SB upside in his first season and should have no problem scoring over 100 runs with 550 at bats. I see him as a neutral hitter during his first full season (.270 range). His value should be higher in auction leagues when you can build a better structure around him.

2. 3B Todd Frazier

Todd Frazier fantasy baseball

Frazier was a serviceable late round third baseman, but his batting average (.234) took a big hit, even with a decline in K rate (20.8%) and some growth in his walk rate (8.3%). Todd struggled against both RH (.233) and LH (.236) pitching, finishing with 9 HR's in 157 at bats against lefties (.471 SLG %). Frazier hit under .265 in every month of the season. He was career .280 hitter in the minors with 75 HR's, 300 RBI's, and 58 SB's in 2,008 at bats. Overall, I'm somewhat intrigued by Frazier in 2014. His skill set may be just high enough to bat 2nd in the batting order based on the lack of competition in the lineup. If the Reds continue to bat Phillips between Votto and Bruce, Frazier is my choice to bat 2nd. He has 20 HR power with some underlying speed. It would serve him well to hit in front of Votto. Todd had a career OP % of .353 in the minors, compared to .332 by Cozart.

3. 1B Joey Votto

Joey Votto fantasy baseball

Joey, Joey; what the hell happened to you when runners were on base last year Votto has been a 18.6% run producer during his first 6 seasons in the majors, but last year he had a lead off hitter RBI rate (12%). Maybe pitchers just didn't give him anything to hit with runners on base and he expanded the zone trying to drive in runs. Joey led the NL in plate appearance (726), walks (135), and OB % (.435). However, his slugging % (.491) was the lowest of his career. His walk rate (18.6%) was electric, but his K rate (19.0%) was shorter than his last 2 seasons (17.9%). Votto crushed RH pitching (.332 with a .501 SLG %), and even had power against lefties (9 HR's in 199 at bats). His lack of success hitting HR's was due a career low FB rate (29.2%), which has now declined in each of the last 4 seasons. His HR/FB rate (18.3%) was in line with his career resume (18.8%). Joey is one of the best hitters in the game. He is coming off of a down year, which makes him a very good buying opportunity. Votto has upside in 4 categories and will even throw in some steals. His power may be limited to 30 HR upside due to swing path. I wonder if Hamilton batting in front of him will create a higher rate of fastballs. I expect his RBI rate to rebound, making him a perfect .300, 30/100 player that will create a nice foundation for any winning team.

4. 2B Brandon Phillips

Brandon Phillips fantasy baseball

That settles it; Phillips is a 18 HR hitter. He has hit 18 HR's in each of the last 4 seasons. Last year, he ended up being the cleanup hitter, which led to a career high in RBI's (103). Brandon had a strong RBI rate (18%), but his success driving in runs was a result of plus chances (492). Joey Votto had a down year in front of him, but he was on base 292 times for Phillips to drive him in. His K rate (14.7%) was his highest since 2008, while his walk rate (5.9%) has been short during his entire career. Phillips is more of a GB hitter (46.3%) with a short FB rate (34.4%). His HR/FB rate (10.1%) has been between 10 and 11% during most of his seasons in the majors. Last year, he didn't run, which may have just been due to where he was hitting in the batting order. Cinci really doesn't have a #2 hitter and Phillips seems misplaced batting cleanup. He has a long enough resume to know what to expect from him. Brandon has 15 to 20 HR power and will deliver above average runs and RBI's for a second baseman. His batting average should fall in the neutral range. Lastly, he has double digit upside in speed, especially if he hit 2nd as he could be on the tail end of many double steals.

5. OF Jay Bruce

Jay Bruce fantasy baseball

Bruce is turning into a banger rather than an all around power hitter. His K rate (26.5%) was a career high in 2013, and has increased in each year over the last 4. His walk rate (9.0%) showed more upside earlier in his career. Jay came to plate with the 2nd most runners on base in baseball (500). Bruce set a career high in at bats (626), RBI's (109), and K's (185). He had plus power in May and June (.292 with 17 HR's and 45 RBI). While his approach improved slightly over the last 2 months of the year (31 walks - 8 intentional), he only hit .226. Jay had power against lefties (10 HR's in 203 at bats), but had a much weaker approach (12:58 - BB:K ratio in 203 at bats). Bruce surprisingly struggled at home (.224). Jay has been more of a FB hitter during his career, but his FB rate (39.4%) was a career low for a full season. However, his HR/FB rate (17.1%) fell in line with his career resume (17.2%). Overall, Bruce has been on a nice upward progression over the last 3 seasons, with his only negative being a rising K rate. At this point of his career, Bruce is a middle of the order thumper with some batting average risk. He has 40 HR upside with a little more contact and should have plenty of RBI chances with Votto hitting in front of him. He'll start the year in the prime of his career.

6. OF Ryan Ludwick

Ryan Ludwick fantasy baseball

Ludwick season probably ended on April 1st when he dislocated his right shoulder in the first game of the year. The injury forced him to miss 4 months of the season. When he returned in August, Ryan didn't play well (.240 with 2 HR's and 12 RBI's in 129 at bats). The Reds signed him to a 2-year, $15 million contract in 2013, so he should be in line to get the most at bats in left field. Ludwick has 20 HR power with possible 80 RBI upside, but he probably won't get 550 at bats. Possible backend option for power in deep leagues, but he isn't a lock to play everyday.

7. C Devin Mesoraco

Devin Mesoraco fantasy baseball

Mesoraco set career highs in just about every category, but his batting average (.238) continues to be a problem. His K rate (17.3%) has shown growth over the last 2 years and it is in a strong enough area where his batting average should at least fall in the neutral area. However, his walk rate (6.8%) was a step down last year. Devin was a solid hitter against LH pitching (.321), but he only had 78 at bats. So far in his major league career, he has only hit .199 against righties. He tends to be a GB hitter (45.1%). His slider rate (22.1 %) is also rising, which means he can't improve without better contact against that pitch. Mesoraco is a career .268 in the minors with 59 HR's and 233 RBI's in 1,606 at bats. Devin should get a nice bump in playing time this year. He has a 26 HR season on his minor league resume and his approach is strong enough where he could pop this year. I'll set the bar at a 15/60 skill set with 450+ at bats. I think his batting average should trend upwards this year.

8. SS Zack Cozart

Zack Cozart fantasy baseball

Cozart has come in flat over the last 2 seasons. His K rate (16.5%) has improved, but he doesn't take any walks (4.2%). Zack has a 30 SB season on his minor league resume in 2010, but he didn't attempt 1 steal in 2013. Cozart only has a .287 career OB %, so he doesn't look like a top of the order hitter. His power did decline, but he had 10 sacrifice flies (led the league). Last year, he spent half the season batting 2nd (.254) and the other half batting 7th (.255). His GB rate (50.3%) spiked up by 20% in one season, which led to a huge decline in his FB rate (31.6%). Overall, Zack doesn't have a great minor league resume (.270 with 50 HR's, 225 RBI's, and 55 SB's in 1,940 at bats). He flashed a much higher walk rate (11.6%) in AA, but his approach has faded at AAA and the majors. The real question for fantasy owners is if he is really worthy of batting 2nd in the Reds lineup. His OB % says no way, but his minor resume suggests the door isn't closed all the way. Cozart should have a 15/15 skill set and his production in runs and RBI's will be determined by his slot in the batting order. When I look at his path, I want to write him off, but I also get the sense that he could pop.

9. OF Jesse Winker

Jesse Winker fantasy baseball

The Reds really don't have any upside players ready to make the step up to the majors this season and most their bench options are weak. However, Winker has a chance to make an impact in the near future. He has had a plus walk rate (13.5%) in his first 2 seasons in the minors and his K rate (16.4%) is in a good area (improved last season). Winker has a nice batting stroke that will offer upside in batting average, but he has limited speed with only 20 HR power at this point of his career. His skill set may work well as the #2 hitter for the Reds in the future. Jesse is expected to start the year at AA and could force his way to the majors if the Ludwick and Heisey combo doesn't work out. His timetable looks like 2015.

10. C Brayan Pena

He is expected to be the backup catcher in 2014. Pena is a career .258 hitter with 18 HR's and 120 RBI's in 1,113 at bats.

11. 1B Neftali Soto

He is a career .271 hitter in the minors with 105 HR's and 405 RBI's in 2,786 at bats. Soto is a first baseman by trade, but he is blocked by Votto. The Reds tried to play him at third base last year. His only chance at playing time may be left field.

12. 2B Skip Schumaker

He will be the utility infielder/outfielder with the Reds this year. Skip is a career .285 hitter with no power or speed.

13. SS Ramon Santiago

Cinci added another low value veteran middle infield bat. Santiago has no upside in any area.

14. CO Chris Nelson

He will compete for a backup 3B job with Cinci and offers some depth at 2B. Nelson is a career .268 hitter with 16 HR's and 93 RBI's in 761 at bats.

15. OF Chris Heisey

His career path is moving downward. Heisey showed some power in 2011, but he has faded over the last 2 seasons. Chris is a career .265 hitter with 42 HR's and 125 RBI's in 1,051 at bats. He will compete for playing time with Ludwick in left field.

16. OF Roger Bernadina

He hit his way out the big leagues last year (.181 with 4 HR's and 11 RBI's in 227 at bats). Roger was signed to a minor league contract and will compete for a backup role this year.


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