• Craig Edwards at FanGraphs shows how the Reds can win the NL Central. His basic premise: Combine the healthy best of 2014 (Cueto, Mesoraco, Frazier) with the healthy best of 2013 (Bailey, Votto, Bruce).

Last season, the Reds got a combined replacement level season from Jay Bruce and Joey Votto after getting more than 10 WAR from the duo in 2013. The Reds finished 2014 ten games under .500 and 12 games out of the Wild Card, but they were not that far away from contending. Continued success for Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier, a return to 2013 for Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and another Cy Young-caliber season from Johnny Cueto, and the Reds could pull off a great season.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote it [2013 + 2014 = 2015] six months ago.

The 2013 Reds, for example, not only didn’t have a healthy Johnny Cueto, they also didn’t have the new-and-improved Devin Mesoraco. That’s a Cy Young runner-up and an MVP-caliber hitter. That team won 90 games and made it to the play-in game. Imagine if they added 20-game winner Cueto and 25-homer Mesoraco. The 2014 team had a litany of injuries, most notably Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. But add also the important limitations on Homer Bailey, Mat Latos, and Aroldis Chapman. Mesoraco also missed time twice on the DL.

Add middle defense from Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips and Billy Hamilton and away we go!

• More love from FanGraphs. Eno Sarris has a terrific post about Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, specifically how respective leg injuries hampered their 2014 seasons. Sarris’ post includes plenty of insight from Votto and Bruce themselves about their swings and approaches. Definitely worth a read.

“I just couldn’t hit like myself,” Votto said of last season. “The reason I do the things that I can do is because I can spray the ball out and I hit the ball really hard, and I have a discerning eye when I have a good swing going. When all of a sudden the game is sped up and I lose that extra space, I’m rolling over a lot of stuff, means more outs and poor play by me.”

What was also remarkable was how quickly the pitchers noticed. In 2014, Votto saw more fastballs (60.5%) than he’d ever seen before (56.6% average). “It was unbelievable how much of a difference I saw in the way I was pitched,” Votto said. “I think the thing that made me most annoyed that nobody was afraid of me. It was constant attacking.”

If you missed it earlier this week, I wrote about what Reds fans can expect from Votto in 2015 (hint, think MVP).

• It’s the time of the year when analysts post their lists of top organizational prospects. MLB.com joins the party with their Reds’ Top-30 prospects. Jonathan Mayo wrote a companion post that elaborates on skill-set leaders.

Several players have made nice jumps forward to climb toward Stephenson, who joins Winker as the only Reds on the Top 100 Prospects list. Lefty Amir Garrett, finally putting his college basketball days behind him, went from No. 20 to No. 6 on this year’s preseason list. Outfielder Kyle Waldrop, who has sometimes played in Winker’s shadow, wasn’t on the Top 20 a year ago. A breakout season catapulted him to No. 14.

Also: Doug Gray’s take on the MLB list. C. Trent Rosecrans has a super, hot-off-the-internets post on Amir Garrett.

• Bryan Price will have plenty of options for his bench outfielders according to MLB.com Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon.

Bourgeois is on the 40-man roster and brings speed and versatility at all three spots. Boesch is a non-roster invite that brings something the bench currently lacks: power. He’s also left-handed and can play all of the outfield positions. Price has been impressed with Boesch’s play in center field, and he has also gotten some time to practice at first base — a versatility that could help his chances if something happens to regular first baseman Joey Votto.

We’ll give Mark a pass on the story’s headline, which he probably doesn’t write. Because “stacked outfield” is not the way I see it.

• Devin Mesoraco has been sidelined a few days recovering from a concussion he suffered taking a foul ball off the catchers mask. It’s his third concussion while playing in the Reds organization (C. Trent Rosecrans).

“The last one, I had more headaches and stuff, this one I’m more hazy, the more movement that’s going on, the more action, the hazier I get,” Mesoraco said Monday morning. “We’ll just go through the protocol that they do have and take it pretty slow.”

Mesoraco is exploring changes he can make to his mask to help limit his chances of a concussion, including a different type of mask with different material and also increase padding inside the helmet. He said he prefers the two-piece catching mask and helmet to the hockey goalie-style mask, and will continue to wear the two-piece.

Today’s update about Hot Mes is quite positive.

Kevin Michell explains what you can expect from the Reds catcher this year.

• Finally, pitcher Michael Lorenzen is making a big impression this spring. John Fay writes that Lorenzen has a shot at making the club as a reliever.

“He’s extremely intriguing,” Price said. “It’s a big arm with really good deception, because he throws the ball so easy and it just explodes out of his hand. He throws strikes and he has progressed as quickly as anyone on that roster as far as where he started as a college closer who played eight innings in center field and came in and closed out the games in college to Double-A starting pitcher who was much better than the league last year statistically.”

The 23-year-old is one of several relievers (Rasiel Iglesias, Nick Howard, arguably Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani) the Reds are trying to convert into starters. Lorenzen started in center fielder for his college team but came in to close the ninth. The Reds may face a dilemma whether to have him build up innings as a starter in the minor leagues or put his 96-mph fastball in the bullpen to help the Reds, possibly as a long reliever. Hal McCoy has a nice post on Lorenzen. And in case you missed it this winter, Lorenzen put together this remarkable video of his offseason regimen.

6 Responses

  1. WVRedlegs

    I hate to hear that about Mesoraco and concussions. The standard catcher’s mask is no more than a steel cage, some padding and a batting helmet. It is interesting reading the pros and cons of the standard mask vs. the hockey style mask. You’d think that MLB would borrow some NASCAR and IndyCar racing technologies and come up with a better two-piece system. The new racing car seats are made up of new energy absorbing composites that are said to be as strong or stronger than steel and are easily molded. There is new energy absorbing foam padding that newer child seats have, that were adopted from the racing technology. Marry these two tecnologies together and add a new type of energy absorbing composite helmet and padding for the catcher to wear, and a new two-piece system is born.

  2. gaffer

    I expected that Lorenzen and Iglesisus would end up in the bullpen. Neither can really be expected to be a starter, but I would rather Iglesisus (already being paid to be on the roster) relieve than Lorenzen. What is the value of a long releiver> Maybe 1 win over a season at most? Is that worth a year of Lorenzen not starting and free agent coming a year early? No thanks.

    • jim wright

      A good long reliever (Simon) takes the pressure off the Bullpen and means much more than one Game.

  3. RedInInd

    To merely say that I’m impressed with Lorenzen’s physical and spiritual regimens is a gross understatement.

  4. preacherj

    I cannot wait for my son to see this video. If he makes the club, I know who our favorite Red will be. Quite inspirational. The only parts of the video I can do is eat eggs and play catch…..and of course the Bible study and prayer. Beyond that, wow. Serious workout.

    • Grand Salami

      It’s hard not to root for a guy who has thoroughly dedicated his life to what he believes! He will be one of mine too.

      For those who say that baseball players aren’t as athletic as those in other sports, Lorenzen is a good case to argue that point.