The Reds were at this same position last year. After their loss in the Wild Card game to Pittsburgh, the Reds made one big change. They relieved manager Dusty Baker of his duties after three playoff appearances in five years. It just so happened that in each trip to the postseason the Reds were bounced in their first series (or one game). Reds brass seemed to think a change at the top would be just what they needed to finally break through to the Championship Series and beyond. The Reds also made some big changes on the field. They conceded early in the Shin-Soo Choo sweepstakes as the talented Korean left for Texas. The other big loss was righty Bronson Arroyo who departed for Arizona. Though not always top flight, Arroyo was as steady as they come pitching 199 or more innings the past nine seasons. The Reds, unlike many of the teams below them on this countdown, have superb young replacements for these departures. Choo is likely to be replaced in centerfield and leading off by Billy Hamilton, the record holder for most stolen bases in a minor league season. Hamilton showed those skills off in his brief MLB debut last year by stealing 13 bases in 13 games (and only 19 at-bats). Hamilton also made a seamless transition from his original position of shortstop to centerfield during 2013. Arroyo's replacement in the rotation will most likely be 24 year old Tony Cingrani, who made 18 starts for the Reds a season ago. The hard throwing left-hander struck out over 10 per 9 innings and if he can keep his walks down could further ascend up the rotation. The middle of the lineup is still intact with former MVP Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips. The latter two knocked in over 100 runs while the former hit .305 and played all 162 games. Former Little League World Series hero Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart man the left side of the infield, both hitting double digit home runs in 2013. The Reds rotation may not have a superstar amongst its ranks but you may be hard pressed to find a 1-5 in the Majors as talented as it. Nobody had an ERA over 3.50 in 2013 and enter 2014 looking to repeat that production. What may hurt the Reds going forward though is going to be something that hurt to watch. I came up with this list before the events of Wednesday but losing a player, nevermind your closer, the caliber of Aroldis Chapman would damage any team's title hopes. I think the Reds can persevere while the Cuban fireballer recovers because of the other parts they have in their pen. Jonathan Broxton had success before closing in Los Angeles. Sean Marshall has limited experience as well as a fill-in. J.J. Hoover and Sam LeCure are also in the mix having both been granted save opportunities when Chapman needed a day off. All in all, the Reds are too talented to not make the postseason in 2014. Injuries always happen and it may be a blessing in disguise to Cincinnati that their big blow happened now (and is not season ending) and not in August or September.
PREDICTED RECORD: 90-72
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Brandon Phillips, second baseman; Joey Votto, first baseman; Mat Latos, starting pitcher
Image Credit: Reds logo (sportslogos.net)