We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2009 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2009 Reds Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of On Baseball and the Reds.
1) Jay Bruce. How excited are you about him for 2009? What are you expecting? Feel free to use exclamation points and run-on sentences.
….You know, I’m probably not the best person to ask this. The reason is that, somehow, I’ve never been quite as excited about Bruce as everyone else. The guy clearly has amazing talent, with great ability to hit the ball often, hard, and far. He’s also a solid defensive outfielder with a plus arm. He’s got a great personality, and even has this cool punch thing he does with his left arm to adjust his shirt sleeve when he’s waiting for a pitch. He’s a superstar in the making. But he also is a fairly impatient hitter, walking only marginally more often than Brandon Phillips last year and not a whole lot more in the minors. And he strikes out a lot, mostly because there are times when he’s just up their hacking away at anything. I think he absolutely has an opportunity to be spectacular, and maybe even will do it this year. But it’s also the case that his lack of patience and tendency to strike out (~25% of PA’s in the minors) may make it hard for him to employ all of his talents against major league pitching. Maybe I’m just letting my pessimism about the Reds invade my evaluations of Bruce, though. I sure hope he mashes this year.
2) Same question as number one, but now Joey Votto.
Votto was everything you could ever hope for last season. He was billed as a Justin Morneau player with a tad less power, and that’s essentially what we got–except that Votto is better defensively that Morneau. Fangraphs actually has them valued as almost exactly the same last season, with a slight edge for Votto (3.5 wins above replacement for Votto, 3.3 WAR for Morneau), mostly due to their defense (Morneau is absolutely the better hitter). Seems about right to me. The question with Votto is whether he can improve on his 2008 performance. I tend to think that what we saw from him is about what we can reasonably hope to get, and some of the better projection systems (CHONE, in particular) agree. If he can do what he did in 2008 every year for the next 5 years, I’ll be ecstatic.
3) I think in 2009 Cueto is going to be better than Volquez. Agree or disagree? Why?
I’ll disagree, but only marginally. Volquez was unbelievable last year, and while I think he’ll regress a bit, I still think he’s going to be a very good pitcher for us. Cueto should also improve–he all but skipped AAA and turned in a pretty decent season with good k/bb numbers. If he can avoid home runs a bit better this season, he could be right there with Volquez. … He does seem to be a fly ball pitcher, though, so homers are always going to be a problem. Especially playing in GABP. But when you add that pair to Harang and Arroyo, the Reds could very well have the best rotation in the division. My hope is that it’s a bright spot on the team. … mostly because that’s about the only spot I think we can reasonably hope to be bright.
4) After owning Aaron Harang on a few fantasy teams last year, I’m still walking like I was just jumping hurdles. Will Harang bounce back in 2009?
Not sure. I sure hope so. All of Harang’s peripherals slipped last season. I tend to believe the explanation that he was pitching through a hidden injury for at least a month, and he ultimately did have to go on the disabled list. A lot of people blame Dusty for that… I remember voicing some concern about bringing Harang back so soon after his relief appearance, but I think everyone (Dusty included) just figured Harang was a beast and could handle 239 pitches in three outings over eight days. Nothing we’d seen before then indicated that he was human, after all. He did finish strong (with the exception of that last start), which makes me feel optimistic. I do think he’ll be better in 2009. But I also think that the days of challenging for the league strikeout lead might be behind him. The guy’s going to be 31 in May. Most projection systems have him around a 4.10 ERA in 180-190 IP’s, and that seems like a reasonable hope to me.
5) If you overheard someone say, “Dusty Baker really knows how to manage a pitching staff.” Which mental disease would you think this person suffered from? Feel free to go into detail.
Nice. I do think that Dusty is really good at handling personalities in a clubhouse, including pitchers. So from that perspective, I guess this could be sort of true. And he’s probably better at managing the bullpen load than some other recent Reds managers (not saying much–some have been really bad at that). But there’s good evidence that he tends to push his starters pretty hard (the Reds had 4 guys in the top 30 in pitcher abuse points last season–though good pitchers tend to get a lot of PAP’s), and there are a fair number of arm injuries on his watch. Harang’s (hopefully) minor breakdown isn’t all his fault though–the rest of the organization had to be on board with letting him start that game so soon after his relief appearance. But it fits the general pattern we worried about when Dusty was hired, too. It’s also worth noting that Jeremy Affeldt, who last season was one of the team’s best relievers, pitched in an astonishingly low number of meaningful situations (pLI=0.56). It’s as if Dusty decides that a player will fill a particular role–in this case, middle relief/mop-up–and then can’t change his mind about it. Corey Patterson as a leadoff hitter is another example of the same problem…