2006 Reds - N. L. Central Preview

In the first in a series of team previews of N. L. Central clubs, we present the Cubs Opening Day opponents, the Cincinnati Reds. The Cincinnati Reds have announced their Opening Day 25-man roster, and while the Reds are being tabbed by many as one of the worst teams in baseball, even when they've had a bad team, they still seem to have a knack for beating the Cubs at the worst possible time. The 2005 Cincinnati Reds led the National League in runs scored, but they also led the National League in runs allowed and had the 4th-worst W-L record in the N. L. The 2006 Reds arenít much better than the 05 version. They are still a team in transition, which is to say, they are not very good in some areas. They have two or three good (OK) starting pitchers, but not much behind that. The bullpen has several veteran middle-relievers, but lacks a legitimate closer. And the defense is still below average. On the positive side, the Reds can and will score a lot of runs, although without Sean Casey and Wily Mo Pena in the lineup, probably not as many as last season. The Reds have a very fluid starting lineup. In fact, it might be different almost every day. During the off-season, the Reds traded their long-time #3 hitter (and Certified Cub Killer) 1B Sean Casey to the Pirates. This was done ostensibly to open up 1B for the defensively challenged Adam Dunn, but Dunn has been playing as much LF as he has 1B this Spring. That's because Scott Hatteberg (ex-A's) has had a good Spring, and should get a lot of playing time at 1B. The Reds also acquired veteran free-agent Tony Womack from the Yankees to play 2B and hit lead-off (sometimes), although Ryan Freel will still get a lot of starts in the lead-off slot. Freel will play often, but not at any one position. The athletic Freel will move around, playing crash & burn defense at 2B, 3B, LF, CF, and RF. Felipe Lopez has quietly developed into one of the best offensive shortstops in the National League. He will usually hit in the #2 spot, but sometimes will hit 3rd. He would look a lot better in Cubby Blue. The Reds started last season with veteran Joe Randa at 3B, but by mid-season, Randa was gone (traded to San Diego), replaced by rookie Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion was one of the Reds top prospects going into last season, and was given an opportunity to play every day after it became clear that the Reds were hopelessly out of contention. And Encarnacion had a nice rookie season. He has good power, and should grow into a middle-of-the-order run producer. He has had an outstanding Spring Training, with 6 HR and 20 RBI, and 9 2B. Like most Reds, he has some defensive shortcomings, but the hope in Cincinnati is that he will improve his ìDî with effort and experience. The oft-injured future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr returns in CF. How long he can last before his next hamstring tear is the big question. But if he can stay healthy, hitting in the middle of the order, he should hit 30+ HR and knock in 90+ runs. Adam Dunn has tremendous power (he is a potential N. L. HR champion) with outstanding plate discipline, but he is not a very good hitter and he is a poor defender no matter where he plays. 1B would seem to be his best defensive spot, but the Reds donít seem all that anxious to leave him there. Like many Reds, Dunn seems to have his best games against the Cubs. Austin Kearns was supposedly available for a pitcher during the off-season, but Kearns will still be in RF in Cincinnati on Opening Day. Kearns had a good rookie season, but he has regresed since then. Kearns is a better outfielder than Dunn, but lacks Dunnís extreme power and plate discipline. Of course, that doesnít stop Kearns from killing the Cubs at every opportunity. #1 catcher Jason LaRue had arthroscopic knee surgery (same thing Kerry Wood had) during Spring Training, and will start the season on the DL. Javier Valentin is the primary back-up catcher, although he is on the roster because of his bat off the bench, not because of his glove. Valentinís best defensive position is 1B (or DH!). David Ross (ex-Dodgers, ex-Pirates, ex-Padres) is a better defensive options behind the plate, and is out of options. So Ross will share the catching duties with Valentin until LaRue can return to action. Rich Aurilia will return for another season in Cincinati, and will be the primary back-up at 2B-SS-3B, and OF-1B Andy Abad and OF Chris Denorfia will be the other extra men. During Spring Training, the Reds traded OF Wily Mo Pena to the Red Sox for RHP Bronson Arroyo. The rubber-armed Arroyo was a so-called "swing-man" (starter & reliever) in Boston, but he is now the Reds #2 starter. In his last outing before the start of the season, Arroyo shutout his ex-team (the Red Sox) on only three hits over seven innings, with seven Ks. Arroyo is in a position to become a very reliable starting pitcher in Cincinnati, and possibly could be one of the a surprises of the National League in 2006. Aaron Harang is the Reds #1 starter, and he is very good. He might be more of a #2 guy on a contender, but he is the Redsí ace. He may not be in the class of a Zambrano, Oswalt, Sheets, or Carpenter, but relatively speaking, Harang is to the Reds what Zambrano is to the Cubs. Behind Harang and Arroyo, the Reds have Dave Williams (a soft-tossing journeyman LHP acquired from the Pirates in the Sean Casey deal), ex-Yankee LHP Brandon Claussen, and veteran LHP Eric Milton (who has devolved over the past few years into arguably the worst starting pitcher in MLB). Like the Cubs' Kerry Wood and Wade Miller, the Reds' former #1 starter (and one-time Kyle Farnsworth sparring partner) Paul Wilson is still in rehab mode in Extended Spring Training for another few weeks while recovering from shoulder surgery. He is expected back in May. The Reds have amassed a vast collection of middle-relievers in their 2006 bullpen, including veterans like David Weathers, Kent Mercker, Rick White, and Chris Hammond, and younger ones like Matt Belisle, Todd Coffey, and Mike Burns, but there isnít a true closer in the group. (Weathers will be the closer-by-default). One good thing about the bullpen situation is that contenders in need of middle-relief help will probably be calling on the Reds at the trading deadline. The Reds might do OK for a while, scoring a lot of runs, and playing exciting baseball. But below-average defense, the lack of quality and depth in the starting rotation, and the lack of a ìshut-downî closer in the bullpen, will result in mega-runs allowed, and they will not be able to compete with clubs that have better defense, more depth in the starting rotation, and a reliable ìshut-downî closer, over a full season. PREDICTION: .500 through first two months, a losing record in June, then free-fall after the All-Star break. 67-95 6th place in N. L. Central)


Being a Cubs fan from Reds country, and therefore being forced to follow the Reds organization quite a bit, I think that analysis was dead on.

I agree about Harang (hes gonna be a good one) and I also think Arroyo could turn into a nice surprise for Cincy.

Very good job Phil.

Before the Adam Dunn comments begin, I'd like to take a moment to write a tribute to another player.

Though Wily Mo Pena will be in Beantown this year, I for one will miss hearing his name when the Cubs face off with the Reds.

I don't particularly like Wily Mo, I just like his name.

In fact, I'm going to start calling Matt Murton "Wily Mo" since it's such an awesome name. Wily Mo Murton anyone?

"The Reds also signed veteran free-agent Tony Womack "

AZ Phil,

The Reds acquired Womack in a trade with NYY for Kevin Howard and Minor league pitcher.

Today's line up:

CF Pierre
2B Walker
1B Lee
3B Ramirez
RF Jones
C Barrett
LF Murton
SS Cedeno
P Zambrano

Willy Mo's got nuthin on Rubby Perez.

#3 of 5: By chifan3887 (April 3, 2006 12:35 PM)
"The Reds also signed veteran free-agent Tony Womack "

AZ Phil,

The Reds acquired Womack in a trade with NYY for Kevin Howard and Minor league pitcher.


CHIFAN3887: Thanks! I'll fix that.

The Dude

what's the weather like down there? Are we going to see a game at all or is it going to be a Sunday night style rain delay??

I was doing something else, but did Ronny just say 'blow me'? LOL. He was talking about anyone who didn't think Marshall was good enough to be a #4, I believe. Sorry, I was writing a paper, but it sure sounded like it.

Only three errors of fact that I caught in Ronny's pre-game show. Looks like he did his homework all winter.

This is cool, mlb.com appears to be offering the press info on each game this year....all kinds of interesting facts and figures leading into each game. They did this several years ago and I loved it...then they stopped...leading me to love the stats the moderators here posted before each game.

Anyway it's odd...my whole life I used to be giddy on opening day after counting down the days remaining in the off season. But today it's odd...I almost feel a little bit of dread that I am going to get stuck in the emotion of another 162 game season...when my priorities should be elsewhere.

oops, here is the press pass link.

I root for Brandon Claussen whenever he plays anyone but the Cubs. He once stuck me out 3 times in one game. He was a nasty HS pitcher.

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  • Hmmm, my math might be fuzzy but if he retired 3 batters with 3 pitches, how did he get a 1/1 GO/AO ratio?

    bradsbeard 30 min 51 sec ago view
  • Pls DFA Peralta when Richard comes back. Richard 1 IP, O R, O ER, 0 BB, 2 Ks in first rehab appearance. We really need to trade for a LHRP.

    chitownmvp01 48 min 7 sec ago view
  • "The Boston Red Sox were banned from signing any international players for the next year and had five of their teenage prospects declared free agents on Friday after a Major League Baseball investigation showed they circumvented signing-bonus rules last year, a source familiar with the situation told Yahoo Sports."


    Rob Richardson 4 hours 27 min ago view
  • The thing with Heyward is its not just free agency. He is way under performing his career #s. He's making the same % of contact but his soft contact is much higher and hard contact much lower than all his previous years so there is something very specifically going on this year causing the issues. Chances are he will eventually get back to his previous #s and it's better to get the slump now and get that hot run later but I wish I knew what is different about this year. He's either just not seeing the ball as well or a swing change is causing it.

    johann 4 hours 42 min ago view
  • Only 3 pitches for Leathersich. Not much of a rehab outing.

    Thanks for the reporting Phil.

    QuietMan 4 hours 54 min ago view
  • He's the nastiest pitcher I've seen in awhile. I'm gonna give them all a mulligan on this one.

    Coghlan's strike out was more disappointing. He was fighting off a lot of pitches and not swinging at crap, and on the last pitch, he swung at stuff he was laying off, and struck out.

    And Heyward, too. I don't blame Heyward - I blame free agency. I hate it. You almost never get a valid return on the investment.

    I look forward to the day when ball players own the teams. The current economics are not sustainable.

    Old and Blue 5 hours 55 min ago view
  • Oh, I'm sure you're right. He's not 27-27 in saves for nothing. But, man, I hope they learned last night that he didn't throw a single pitch in the zone to KB, Contreras or Baez, and they all just kept swinging.

    billybucks 8 hours 3 min ago view
  • Sounds like a much better game than last night's fiasco in Flushing.

    Old and Blue 8 hours 20 min ago view
  • I'm pretty sure it looks like a sweet pitch on the way in. How many sinkers like that are there at 98 mph? I agree that they should just do a Lackey and stand their with their bat on their shoulders until he throws a strike next time, but I can see how that's hard to do.

    The bullpen, on the other hand, is a mess, and Heyward is starting to piss me off.

    Old and Blue 8 hours 21 min ago view
  • I noticed that too. He's getting to everything, but when he gets right under it on a high flyball he looks uncomfortable

    cubbies.4ever 16 hours 55 min ago view
  • Did you expect anything different?

    billybucks 17 hours 25 min ago view
  • Wow, did they blow this game. Stupid plays by the kids in the 7th -- Almora throwing to 3rd instead of 2nd to keep the DP in order (when a DP probably wins the game) and Baez throwing to 3rd (to a backpedalling KB) instead of getting the easy 2nd out at first - cost them the game. Also, Contreras almost throws the ball into RF on a nonexistent pick-off play. And Maddon, for using Peralta in the first place. Did they do a bunch of shots in the dugout before the 7th? Unbelievably bad baseball. I thought Almora had a high baseball IQ?

    billybucks 17 hours 47 min ago view
  • men on 2nd/3rd, 0 out...and nothing.

    cubs lose :(

    crunch 18 hours 20 min ago view

    crunch 18 hours 30 min ago view
  • Getting tired of this Heywood weak sauce

    jacos 18 hours 41 min ago view
  • Yep, can't say I disagree with that. His first batter and resulting walk was just brutal. Reminded me of a bit of Jacque Jones spiking his throws into the ground from RF.

    Eric S 18 hours 49 min ago view