With Spring Training right around the corner, what better time to start looking at all 30 MLB teams for the upcoming 2014 season? This will go alphabetically through the teams over the next 10 days before wrapping up with my final season preview that will include standings, playoffs World Series, award picks and Top 50 prospects. Next: Cleveland Indians.
2013 Record: 90-72 (Third in NL Central, Wild Card)
Key additions: Traded for LHP David Holmberg, Signed 2B Skip Schumaker, OF Roger Bernadina
Quick winter recap:
It was very quiet for the mid-budget contender. Holmberg will be a nice piece and Schumaker represents a utility player for the bench. Trading Hanigan hands the backstop duties to Devin Mesoraco. The New York Yankees reportedly turned down an offer for Brandon Phillips, but the Yankees refused to give up Brett Gardner, who would have replaced Choo.
Farm system outlook:
Billy Hamilton will have a chance to make an impact in the top spot of the order and replace Choo if he can hit and get on base. He hasn’t shown the ability to hit at the upper levels, struggling in Triple-A in 2012. In 19 at-bats with the Reds he hit .368, but he’ll find himself down if he struggles. Righty Robert Stephenson helps give them a good front end look on the farm. He has an invite to Spring Training where he’ll get to showcase his 2013 progression. Beyond them the system is relatively unseasoned, but that will bode well moving forward for a pretty young team.
Most intriguing player:
Homer Bailey. Bailey has had a strong showing over the past two years and made major steps in the final months of 2013. He pitched at the level of an ace and finished his second straight season with a WAR similar to staff ace Mat Latos. Bailey has been up and down wit the team since 2007 and started showing this potential with good FIP numbers in 2010. The transformation last year was found almost solely in his fastball, which was at an average of 92.4 (four seam and two seam) in 2012. In 2013, his four seam jumped to 94.1 and his two seam to 93.7. It’ll be interesting to see if Bailey can make more progress and do it for the entire season in 2014, setting himself up for a potential long-term deal.
Due for a better year:
Todd Frazier. After making a valiant run at top rookie honors in 2012, Frazier was a mostly a disappointment in 2013. His average dipped nearly 40 points and his power stuck at 19 rather than breaking into the 25 range as was hoped. Frazier’s tough go produced a higher WAR from 2012, but his ISO fell from .225 go .173. His lack of power was evident in his batted ball stats. Frazier’s line drive rate dropped from an above average 22.4 percent in 2012 to 18.1 percent. His fly ball rate went from 44.7 to 39.7 and his ground ball rate made a significant jump from 32.9 to 42.2. Expect Frazier to adjust and hit more fly balls this year and climb back toward his 2011 and 2012 stats.
Due for a worse year:
Phillips. For the Reds to want to trade a guy that has played in at least 141 games since 2006 at a premium position and coming off a 103-RBI season, they may be recognizing the start of his decline. Phillips has ht 18 home runs for the past four seasons and his RBI numbers jumped by 36 in a year’s span. What we also saw was his lowest WAR since 2006, an increased strikeout rate and an average that dropped 20 points. There’s no telltale sign that he’ll decline harshly anytime soon and remains one of the top defensive second baseman. That said, last year was the first time in he joined the Reds that Phillips failed to steal double-digit bases (finished with five) and his slugging dropped below .400 for the first time in that span.
The Reds will contend in the NL Central again but will see stiff competition. The most glaring holes on this team is how some down 2013 seasons get turned around. They’ll be relying on Frazier, Mesoraco and others to step up in 2013, the same goes for young guns in Hamilton and Tony Cingrani.
Prediction: 87-75 (Second in NL Central, Wild Card)