There’s no doubt that the Cincinnati Reds are one of my favorite teams in baseball. They have so many players I enjoy watching, a nice ballpark, but most of all, I remember watching a certain number 30 drive long balls into the stands.
Ken Griffey Jr., will forever and always be my favorite athlete ever.
Because of that, the Reds will almost always have a special place in my heart, in both real life and fantasy. Coming off another impressive campaign where they won 90 games and clinched a Wild Card spot, the Reds are looking just a tiny bit different as we approach the 2014 season. So, what’s to like about Cincinnati’s fantasy prospects?
It seems appropriate to lead off with the leadoff batter (clever I know), so let’s dive into the ever-exciting Billy Hamilton. Many fantasy fans were praying that Hamilton would play more last season, but was obviously behind the impressive Shin-Soo Choo. Well, Choo is in Texas now, sliding Hamilton to the starting center field spot, as well as the top of the lineup. When you draft Hamilton, you know what you are looking for— steals. The guy should flirt with the league’leading number in stolen bases, possessing incredible speed and acceleration. In 13 starts last year, Hamilton hinted at the fantasy upside he has, batting .368 with two doubles and an RBI. However, he stole 13 bags during those 13 games, including four steals in his first game alone. Just thinking about what he could do with a full season makes me shriek like a girl. I mean, this is a kid who swiped a record 155 bags during the 2012 season in the minors.
Hamilton’s presence should also benefit those around him, especially Joey Votto, who may have been leaving fantasy owners wanting more lately. He hasn’t hit 30 home runs since 2010, and I just don’t think he’s that guy any longer. His 73 RBI were quite the letdown as well, but Votto is still a stud and deserves to warrant a top-20 overall pick. Outside of Miguel Cabrera, this guy may be the smartest, purest hitter in all of baseball. He’s scored 100 runs or more in three of the last four seasons because of his incredible plate discipline. In 2013, Votto led the majors in walk rate (18.6 percent), while also finishing second in that category in 2011. The guy walks more than anyone in baseball, resulting in a friendly on-base percentage of .419. With a guy like Hamiltonm who like Choo, can also get on base, Votto may see an uptick in RBI because Hamilton can run the bases incredibly fast, especially if he steals bases, which he will. He may not have the upside as a few other corner infielders, but Votto is certainly as safe as they come.
Because Votto led the league in walks last year with 135, guys like Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce saw plenty of RBI potential, both finishing inside the top-10 in the department in 2013. In a ballpark that saw the second-most home runs per game in each of the last two seasons, Bruce should flirt with flirt with 30 homers again, but keep in mind that he’s streaky. During the first month of the 2013 season, he sported a .252 average with just one home run and 11 RBI, but in the two months after, he hit 17 home runs and drove in 45 runs.
2013 was an injury-plagued campaign for Reds ace, Johnny Cueto. He started just 11 games, pitching just 60 2/3 innings last year as he dealt with an ongoing lat strain. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise for fantasy owners, as they can grab a top-20 caliber pitcher a few rounds later. Remember, Cueto went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 2012, so we know what this guy is capable of.
The most intriguing player in this rotation, however, is young Tony Cingrani. The guy can flat out sit batters down, as he posted an incredible 10.3 K/9 in just 104 2/3 innings last year. His fastball and changeup did most of the damage, but Cingrani stated that he is developing quite the slider, so if he implement some breaking stuff, his strikeout potential could go through the roof. Health will be key, but if these guys can stay on the field, this will be one of the deepest rotations in baseball.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.