The Cincinnati Reds were one of the best teams in the National League last season, winning the very top heavy NL Central. Although the team was anchored by Joey Votto – who is probably the best hitter in the National League – and a solid pitching staff, the Reds’ defense was also a main reason why they took control of the division. But thanks to the trade they made with the Cleveland Indians that brought Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati, that team defense will suffer greatly, which could cost the Reds the division.
Based on my own projection and evaluation system, I think the NL Central might be the best division in the National League in 2013, especially since the Houston Astros are now in the AL West. The Milwaukee Brewers were a very, very good team last season that was also very, very unlucky. And while the St. Louis Cardinals made the playoffs as a wild card team, they should have actually won the division based on their true talent levels and run differential. Therefore, every run saved and every individual win a player gives a team matters.
For all intents and purposes, Shin-Soo Choo was a shoddy rightfielder, seeing as his career UZR is -6.2, so a switch to a harder position isn’t going to help the Reds’ leadoff hitter. Even though Drew Stubbs couldn’t hit water if he fell off a boat, he could cover a lot of ground in centerfield. And I’m willing to bet, if Stubbs puts up a replacement-level slashline, he will have a higher WAR than Choo this season.
There’s no doubt the Reds improved their lineup with Choo, especially batting leadoff in front of Votto and Jay Bruce. But unless he gets a visit from the defense fairy before the season starts, the Reds might not get the improvement they think they are getting.
Spring training will be quite telling for Choo and the Reds.