2010 NL Central Preview: Cincinnati Reds

What they did in 2009: 78-84, fourth in the NL Central. 13-5 vs. the Pirates.

How they spent the off-season: Their main move was to surprise everyone by signing Aroldis Chapman to a six-year/$30 million contract. They also signed Scott Rolen to an extension and failed to trade Aaron Harang and/or Bronson Arroyo.

Lineup: There’s a lot of room for variability here. If Scott Rolen is healthy and Jay Bruce breaks out, they could have a pretty nice lineup with those two, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips. Bruce is the one to watch here; he absolutely tore through the minors and made his debut with Cincy shortly after his 21st birthday, but he’s hit a bit of a snag since then. Before his injury last year the power was there for him, but his average and OBP were incredibly low. He mashed the ball after he came back at the end of last season, and it seems to me like 2010 could be a bit of a breakout season for him. Even though it seems like he’s been around a while, he’s only 23 and was drafted one pick behind Andrew McCutchen in the 2005 draft.

Pitching: Even with Edinson Volquez out most of the season after Tommy John surgery, the Reds rotation has the potential to be quite good this year. Aaron Harang has struggled in the past two seasons, but his FIP and xFIP have both been much lower than his ERA in both seasons and his peripherals truly haven’t been that bad. Bronson Arroyo dominated over the second half of last season. Johnny Cueto had a nice season last year despite an awful stretch in the middle and is just 24. Homer Bailey was excellent after mid-August, finally shaking his control problem down the stretch last year. And of course, then there’s Chapman. No one really knows what he’s capable of, but his spring training starts were electric and there’s a really good chance that he’ll be in Cincinnati, maybe as early as mid-season.

What they can expect in 2010: The Reds are a lot of people’s sleeper pick for the division, but I’m just not convinced they’re there yet. A lot of things have to go right, between veterans staying healthy and continuing to play well or bouncing back from bad seasons and young players continuing to develop or breaking out, for them to really stay in contention this year. That doesn’t mean that they can’t have a good season even if that doesn’t happen. As long as Bruce, Chapman, Cueto, Bailey, and Drew Stubbs continue to make progress, this will be a good year for the Reds even if it doesn’t end with their first playoff appearance since 1995

Blogs: Red Hot Mama, Red Reporter, Redleg Nation, Church of Baseball, Chris Sabo’s Goggles, Diamond Hoggers

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.