After an off season that was rather quiet for the Cincinnati Reds, they head into the 2014 season with a new manager in former pitching coach Bryan Price. The starting line up for the Reds will look almost identical in 2014 as it was in 2013. The only major question surrounding the club is if young prospect Billy Hamilton can handle the duties in center field to replace Shin Soo Choo who left for the Texas Rangers. The Reds signed utility man Skip Schumaker, catcher Brayan Peña, and LHP David Holmberg.
The infield looks to stay the same as 2013, as all starting infielders other than catcher Ryan Hanigan are set to return. First, let’s look at first base.
First base: Joey Votto. After signing his long term contract last year, Joey Votto is going to be the face of the Cincinnati Reds for the next decade of his career. Votto is a fan favorite, and despite his 2013 production being slightly below average for him, I expect him to revive himself in 2014. He hurt his knee badly in June of 2012 and had to have two surgeries to recover from it. 2013 Was his season to recuperate and get used to his body again after surgery. Being a full season removed from surgery will give Votto the confidence he needs to get his groove back.
Second base: Brandon Phillips. Despite many rumors that Phillips would be leaving Cincinnati this off season, he is staying put, and much to my pleasure. Yes, Phillips is getting older and offensively his production is slowing down. But right now there is no one out there that can measure up to Phillips on the defensive side of things. Although there is some bad blood between Phillips and owner Walt Jocketty, I think they can put their differences past them and Phillips will continue to dazzle us with his defense and hit around .240 this season.
Shortstop: Zack Cozart. Like Phillips, Cozart has always been solid in the field. At the plate, not so much. I expected more of him last year in terms of offensive production and if he can improve upon that this year the Reds will have a much more dangerous line up with a guy who can hit in the bottom of the order.
Third Base: Todd Frazier. In 2012 when Joey Votto went down with his knee injury for the last half of the season, almost single handedly carried this Reds team. So at the start of the 2013 season, I expected big things out of him. However, what I got was great defensively (feel like I’m repeating myself here, we all know the Reds have great defense) but he was very streaky at the plate. The problem with streaky hitters is when they’re hot, they’re very hot, but when they’re cold, they’re ice cold. Frazier needs to find consistency and if he can do this he will be one of the best players on this team.
Outfield: Chris Heisey, Ryan Ludwick, Billy Hamilton, Jay Bruce, Derrick Robinson. The big question mark in this group is Hamilton. He’ll have a lot on his plate as he is expected to try and carry the offensive load that Shin Soo Choo carried in 2013. Bruce had one of his best offensive years last year because he was more consistent. In order for the Reds to make it to the playoffs again in 2014 he’ll need to keep that up along with his stellar defense.
All in all the Reds had a solid team in 2013 and did not change it much for this upcoming season. After firing Dusty Baker, the Reds also hired a new bench and hitting coach, and the fresh mentalities of these coaches may be just what the doctor ordered for the Reds to make a post season run in 2014.