2014 Cincinnati Reds Preview: Fantasy Baseball 30-for-30

2014 Cincinnati Reds Preview

The 2014 Cincinnati Reds had two of the top OBP men in the league in Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo, a rotation with no starter’s ERA over 3.80 and a lights-out closer in Aroldis Chapman.

However, the Reds did very little in the offseason to change the roster.

Their biggest “move” was losing leadoff man Choo and replacing him with young speedster Billy Hamilton. The remainder of the roster remains basically intact, led by new manager (and former pitching coach) Bryan Price.

Projected 2014 Cincinnati Reds “Go-To” Lineup:

Joey Votto, 2014 Cincinnati Reds Preview

Reds 1B Joey Votto is outdone only by Prince Fielder among first basemen in Head–to-Head leagues over the past three seasons. Photo Credit: Sports Crazy

  1. Billy Hamilton, CF
  2. Zack Cozart, SS
  3. Joey Votto, 1B
  4. Brandon Phillips, 2B
  5. Jay Bruce, RF
  6. Ryan Ludwick, LF
  7. Todd Frazier, 3B
  8. Devin Mesoraco, C

Projected Pitchers:

  • SP1 Johnny Cueto, RHP
  • SP2 Mat Latos, RHP
  • SP3 Homer Bailey, RHP
  • SP4 Mike Leake, RHP
  • SP5 Tony Cingrani, LHP
  • Setup: J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall
  • Closer: Aroldis Chapman

Lefty Tony Cingrani threw his fastball 81.8% of the time in 2013. He stood third in that category among starters behind only Bartolo Colon and Ross Detwiler. Cingrani’s deceptive delivery helps with his limited repertoire, but leaves him open to significant downside if hitters figure him out.     

Chapman is the lead dog as the closer, but he has numerous capable understudies including Hoover and Marshall.

Fantasy Studs: Joey Votto, Jay Bruce

Votto is never going to be the 40-HR masher that everyone wants him to be. His 2010 will be seen as an outlier for his career. That said, he brings 25-HR power and an OBP north of .400. He should come off the board early in all formats.

Bruce is the anti-Votto in many ways. He’s a low average masher who has hit 30-plus homers and 80-plus RBI in each of the last three seasons. He’s the kind of guy you take in the fourth round to balance out potential high-risk picks in the first three rounds. Consistency is undervalued and Bruce brings it for the Reds.

Breakout Candidate: Mat Latos

Latos seems to struggle each April (4.36 ERA in April, 3.35 for his career) and then turns it on for the remainder of the season. He has been able to keep his K/9 rate over 9.0 in those early summer months. He had offseason elbow surgery to remove bones spurs and I think that — along with another year of maturation — puts Latos at the front of the Reds’ starting pitchers.

Sleeper Candidate: Devin Mesoraco

Mesoraco is set to be the full-time catcher for the Reds in 2014 after the trade of Ryan Hanigan. He suffered through a miserable 2013 while playing about half of the time. However, it’s not too long ago that he was a consensus top-20 prospect in baseball and slashed .289/.371/.484 with 15 homers in 499 PAs at Triple-A. He has a friendly home park and he’ll likely go undrafted in most leagues. He could end up being a top-12 catcher in mixed leagues.

Aroldis Champman, 2014 Cincinnati Reds Preview

Reds closer Aroldis Chapman led all relievers with 112 strikeouts in 63.7 innings last season. Photo Credit: LiveResistance

Bust Candidates: Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart

Phillips is on the wrong side of 32 and has seen his OPS drop from .810 to .750 to .706 over the past three seasons. He’s penciled in to hit cleanup, so he should get his chances to drive in runs, but he’ll likely produce little else. He’ll be drafted as a four-category contributor in many leagues, but hasn’t been one since 2009.

Cozart is a starting shortstop who produces almost nothing (with a career .287 OBP, it’s not hard to understand why). He often hits second in the lineup, so you’d expect some runs and steals. However, he hasn’t produced them – he’s had 72 and 74 runs scored and four and zero SBs over the past two years. Any bid greater than zero will likely leave you disappointed.

Top Rookies: Billy Hamilton, Robert Stephenson

Hamilton (OF/SS) is slated to play CF and hit leadoff for the Reds. In 13 games in 2013, he had 13 SBs.  He’s going to run every time he gets on base. He’s a game changer in the stolen-base department (and should be a solid run scorer with Votto behind him). However, there are questions about his ability to hit as he slashed .256/.308/.343 at Triple-A prior to his September call-up. I can see him struggling for stretches at a time, as he adjusts to the majors.

Stephenson (RHP) had his fastball and curveball rated as the best of each in the Reds’ system by Baseball America. Stephenson tops out in the upper 90s with his fastball and he saw three levels of minor league play last year.

Without Dusty Baker, who wouldn’t play anyone under the age of 30, Stephenson has a chance to sneak into the 2014 Cincinnati Reds’ rotation by the end of the season.

What Should We Know?

The Reds have all the pieces to be a juggernaut Fantasy Baseball squad. I have faith in Bryan Price’s ability to get the most out of his pitching staff. However, if he doesn’t do more with lineup construction, the Reds will be doomed to a middling offense. His decision at the top of the lineup will determine the value of Votto and Bruce.

Chris Garosi has been playing Fantasy Baseball since 1994 with his focus on AL- and NL-only auction leagues. Over at TheFantasyFix.com, he currently writes the Closer Report and Daily Fantasy columns.

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