Don’t Let Cincy Surprise You

Pretty much every year, there’s a team that the projection systems are optimistic about, relative to the general feel of baseball fans and analysts at large. This year, it looks like that team may be the Reds, who haven’t been seriously talked about as contenders by too many folks, but who look like they could be pretty good on paper.

Despite winning just 78 games last year, there’s quite a bit of talent on the roster. Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips are established All-Star caliber players, while Joey Votto certainly looks like a guy who should be able to perform at that kind of level, given how well he played in 2009. Beyond just those three, the roster is littered with upside.

Jay Bruce, as we’ve talked about, was a league average hitter despite a fluky .222 BABIP last year. His skill metrics suggest he’s a premium power hitter, and just needs more balls to find holes in order for everyone to realize it. Drew Stubbs has been regarded as an elite defensive center fielder since his days in college, and his first appearance in the majors did nothing to diminish that reputation. Chris Heisey and Wladimir Balentien have destroyed minor league pitching in the past.

Not even counting the useful Chris Dickerson or somewhat-less-useful Jonny Gomes, that outfield has a chance to be really good. And we’ve already mentioned three potential all-stars on the infield. Even their weak spots, catcher and shortstop, are manned by not-horrible players in Ramon Hernandez, Ryan Hanigan, Orlando Cabrera, and Paul Janish.

On the position player side of things, the Reds stack up well with just about any team in the National League. And while the pitching staff lacks an ace, the quartet of Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey are far from disastrous. As a group, they’re roughly league average. Micah Owings is coming off a bad season, but of course, makes up for some of his problems on the mound by hitting well, and few teams have a reliable #5 starter anyway.

I guess I’m just surprised at the level of, well, surprise surrounding talk of the Reds as contenders. They have some good hitters, some good fielders, and some good enough pitchers. They were nearly a .500 team a year ago while wasting at-bats on the likes of Willy Taveras, and he’s thankfully been excised from the roster.

The Reds have the makings of a pretty good team in 2010. We shouldn’t be all that surprised to find them right in the thick of things come September.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Joe R
Joe R

Here’s to being doomed to Dusty Baker praise

/chugs Everclear 190