In my view, four of the rotation spots are locked in with Harang, Arroyo, Volquez, and Cueto. The big question is....who is going to be #5. There are a lot of candidates. Can it be Micah Owings, Homer Bailey, Daryl Thompson, or maybe even a lefty longshot like Matt Maloney. Homer has major issues with putting major league batters away. Let's hope he gets that worked out and his arm talent matches up with his pitching talent. Micah Owings started 2008 looking like a fantastic starter but fell off with some injury issues. Daryl Thompson came up and looked like a instant hit in his first game getting a W over the Yanks. He quickly fell back to earth after a few starts. Spring in Sarasota should be fun. Dusty has said that he'd like a lefty thrown into the rotation. Matt Maloney has look great at times in Triple A. Slowballer Adam Pettyjohn might also be a lefty possibility after starting a game late in the season. Hopefully, one of these guys steps up.
Looks like Sean Casey will be hanging up the cleats. Casey was a Reds favorite from 1998 to 2005 after coming over from the Tribe. He was never known as a home run hitter but did hit over 20 for the Reds in three seasons. He was a contact hitter and pretty good glove. I was a little surprised to see he'd never had a season with a OBP of over .400. He struck out rarely and walked rarely too. His best season of his career came in Cincy when he went .332/25/99 and added 42 doubles. He'll retire as a .302 lifetime hitter and fan favorite in Cincinnati.
The Reds Caravan hit Louisville last night and we were at Slugger Field to check it out. It was pretty uneventful. It's usually held at the Louisville Slugger Museum but it was moved due to a renovation. Players Chris Dickerson, Jerry Hairston Jr, and Yonder Alonso all attended. Jerry Hairston Jr. seemed very happy to be back in a Reds uniform.
Hopefully Yonder Alonso will make a quick climb up through the minors. He seemed a little overwhelmed by all the people but seems like a really nice fella. If you have time, check out Baseball America's 2012 projected lineup. It Yonder as the current #1 prospect and the 2012 first basemen with Votto in left.
The Reds defense was absolutely awful last season with the lone exception of Brandon Phillips who was electric at times. The personnel has changed a bit, especially in the outfield which will be much improved on the defensive side. With Willy Taveras patrolling center, Bruce in right, and most likely Chris Dickerson in left, the outfield D will be greatly improved.
The infield defense however, has a ton to prove. Phillips was very good. Edwin Encarnarcion was one of the worst defensive 3rd basemen I've seen in my lifetime last season. He's got a mental block when it comes to throwing the ball to 2nd. He loves to throw it towards the outfield wall. He had 23 big errors and only a .930 field percentage. Compare that with Phillips' .990 percentage and only 7 errors. Votto had only 11 errors but I thought he played relatively poorly in the field. He needs to take control of many situations and field the baseball. Keppinger made 8 errors from the SS position. He'll see action at numerous of positions again this season. When Gonzalez returns from injury, the middle will be pretty safe with he and Brandon turning a ton of 4,6,3s.
At catcher, Ramon Hernandez threw out about 25% of basestealers last season in Baltimore. He also had 10 passed balls. That D will have to improve. Young Ryan Hanigan threw out a little better percentage, getting 8 out of 33 runners.
If Edwin can cut down on his errors, and Votto continues to progress at a steady rate, the Reds D should be much improved but..................that's not saying much.
The Reds have signed Jonny Gomes to a minor league deal and will invite Jonny to Spring Training next month. Gomes coming off a down year with the Rays is hoping to make the Reds roster as an additional outfielder. The Rays decided not to resign him and pretty much left him out there for the picking and with the numbers I am reading $600,000 is less than half what the Rays paid him last season.
Gomes is 28 and could have some pop left in his bat as he did in 2005 his best in the bigs where he hit .282 and 21 HR's. Not sure this is the big right handed bat the fans were looking for the Reds to sign this off season but let's hope he turns out to be the biggest bargin in baseball this season. Chris Dickerson seems to be the man the Reds aren't totally counting on just yet. The sample size was small but I really liked how he played the game last September and I think he wins this battle for the LF spot.
A lot of questions face the Reds in 2009. Up first: Chris Dickerson
Can Chris Dickerson take over full time in left field? I sure hope so. Dickerson came up towards the end of the 2008 season and absolutely lit it up. Dickerson batted .304 with a .413 OBP in 102 at bats for the Reds after leaving AAA Louisville. In 31 hits, Dickerson had 17 for extra bases which showed in his .608 slugging percentage. Now, it's time for Dickerson fight to patrol left full time. The position is his for the taking but he'll have to prove it in Spring Training. I think the Reds still question whether he can do it. One thing for sure, the Reds defense will be much improved with Dickerson in left as opposed to The Donkey lumbering around out there.
The Reds still need to add another outfielder or utility type player. Right now on the 40 man roster, the Reds have only Willy Taveras, Jay Bruce, Jerry Hairston Jr., Chris Dickerson, and Norris Hopper in the outfield. Hairston Jr. may be called on to play SS in the absence of Gonzalez, who will probably start the season injured. I still don't know if the Reds are sold that Dickerson can take over full time in left. He came up at the end of 08 and really lit it up.
It will also be interesting as to who will play back up to Joey Votto at 1B. Keppinger is really the only person that I see that can fill that role at the moment. Kepp will apparently be that utility player who will fill in at SS, 1B, and 3B throughout the season. Catcher Wilkin Castillo will also serve as a backup to Brandon Phillips at 2nd.
The Reds Caravan will be rolling around next week to Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana. I'll be in Louisville Thursday at Slugger Field to see Yonder Alonso, Jerry Hariston Jr., Dusty Baker, Walt Jocketty, and Chris Dickerson.
MLB rumors have the Reds interested in free agent Bobby Abreu. I myself don't see the Reds needing another left handed bat and this might keep them from offering Abreu as much as it might take to get him.....if he has other suitors looking at him, if he doesn't have much interest who knows. The Reds really could still use some power from the right side but as always don't seem to want to spend what the going rates are today for top of the line talent with power. It's also been reported the Reds showed mild interest in Pat Burrell but let him slip away to the Rays for the aforementioned reason. So stay tuned and see if the Reds actually spend some of the money they are saving by not having Jr. and Dunn on their rosters in 2009.
It sounds like the Reds may possibly be finished making moves for the 2009 season before training camp opens when pitchers and catachers report on Valentines Day. Yesterday, the Reds added Jerry Hairston Jr. back to the mix. He may start at short but if Alex Gonzalez is healthy in time, he could also start in left. Personally, I'm hoping Chris Dickerson has a great spring and gets the nod in left field.
The Reds are going to have a ton of speed but maybe not much pop in the lineup. I'm hoping Mr. Phillips doesn't continue to think of himself as a home run hitter and go back to hitting two-base gappers like he should be doing. Bruce and Votto's power numbers will have to increase as the lineup stands now.
Finally, the Reds have signed Jerry Hairston Jr. for the 2009 season. Hairston played 6 positions in 2008 for the Reds and batted .326. He'll be a candidate to start the season at short and I'd expect to see him in the outfield also. This is a huge signing for the Reds. This team is coming together nicely.