Staff writers for Redleg Nation offer their thoughts on the upcoming season, in 100 words or less:
Greg Dafler: The starting rotation’s health will again be the key to a successful baseball season in Cincinnati. Over the past two seasons, the Reds top 5 starters have made all but 25 of the team’s 324 starts. With Bronson Arroyo playing out west and the majority of the minor league calvary still at least a couple of years away, the top 5 will need to stay healthy again.
Richard Fitch: Bryan Price is the difference maker. 25 guys playing at a higher level under his command. The Knee is 100%, which means the hitting machine going by the name “Joey” is back. The Latos and Bailey arrows are pointing straight up. A stout bullpen will be a blessing early as LeCure, Hoover, et. al hold the fort until health returns. Cardinals have very good young, but unproven pitching and an unsustainable team batting AVG with RISP 50 points higher than the next team. The same offense hit .264 with RISP in 2012. All this adds up to 93 wins for the Reds and another Division Championship.
Doug Gray: The key to the Reds season is going to be health and that is on two fronts. Offensively, the Reds have Joey Votto, a big gap in talent, then Jay Bruce and then another big gap. Both must stay healthy. Last year the rotation had Tony Cingrani waiting in the wings to come up. This year, at least early on, that kind of backup plan doesn’t exist. Keeping everyone healthy there is a must. The team will need to win low scoring games. To do that consistently they need pitching and Votto and Bruce to carry the offense. Prediction: 87 wins.
Bill Lack: I would love to be optimistic about the season, but I prefer realistic. I believe the Reds decision to not replace Choo or Arroyo with proven major league caliber talent will hurt this team in 2014. I see the knee injury suffered by Mat Latos the day before camp opened to be a bad omen, which seems to have continued throughout spring training. Keys to the Season: Hamilton’s OBP; Cueto, Bailey, and Latos’ IP; Votto’s SLG; Mesoraco’s and Frazier’s OPS+; the health of and Price’s handling of the bullpen.
Jason Linden: I’ve already entered my prediction of 91 wins, and I’ll stand by it. I think there are three big keys to the season this year. First, the rotation has to stay healthy for at least the first half of the season. Given how Stephenson has progressed, I think he’ll be ready to help by then if needed, but not yet. Second, someone needs to step up offensively. It doesn’t matter. Except for Cozart, it’s conceivable that anyone in the starting lineup could have a better year than last year. Finally, Price needs to manage well. He and, by extension, the Reds need to be willing to cut bait if something is clearly not working. I’m think specifically of what the Reds might get from Ludwick or Hamilton. If those three things come together, it’ll be a good season.
Mike Maffie: Every spring, a good friend and I celebrate the coming season by toasting to what we believe will be the keys to the season. This year I am toasting to Devin Mesoraco. He showed serious potential in AAA when he hit .289/.371/.484 and whacked 15 home runs in 500 AB. He is just now turning 26, which is generally accepted to be the start of a player’s prime. The Reds need a big-time right-handed hitter near the top of the order, and I’m going with the Reds new starting catcher.
Steve Mancuso: You can disagree over whether the Reds lost ground or stayed the same this off-season, but no reasonable claim can be made that the Reds kept up with the Cardinals. That means even if the tissue-paper thin roster stays healthy, we’re staring down that coin flip play-in game to get to a post-season series. The starting pitching should be outstanding, the hitting below average and the bullpen average. I’ll be watching for Bryan Price’s influence to see if the Reds cut down on base running and fielding mistakes, hustle more and if they rise to the occasion in big moments.
Chris Wilson: One key for the Reds this season will be injuries. Can the main corps of guys stay healthy this season to lead the Reds to a playoff push? If they can, then the Reds will be contenders. If these guys begin to miss a significant amount of time, then 2014 could get ugly. The second key will be Billy Hamilton’s ability to reach base atop the batting lineup. Will we be watching Willie Taveras/Corey Patterson this season or someone who actually has value and can reach base consistently? If things fall into place, this is a 95-win team. If not, then reaching 81 wins may be difficult. So I’ll split the gap and say the 2014 Reds win 88 games and are wild card contenders.