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 2010 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2010 Reds Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Reds Reporter.
1) This is the year Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey make good on all their promise, right? Please. Lie to me, if need be.
I sure hope so. Jay Bruce had somewhat disappointing season last year (0.223/0.303/0.470), certainly below most people’s expectations. As a result, he seems to have slipped a bit in a lot of people’s estimations. There were some other troubling aspects of his performance last year as well, like his 13% line drive rate (though this is not a particularly stable stat for most hitters). Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism. Most importantly, he’s entering his age-23 season with two years of MLB under his belt. Not many players have done that and shown the kind of power Bruce has; that’s part of the reason that Barry Bonds is listed as his most similar player (by age) at baseball-reference. Second, his BABIP was unbelievably low last season. Part of that may be a function of his low line drive rate and excessively high fly ball rate. But part of it may just be bad luck. He’s a nice kid with sky-high talent, so everyone’s hoping he can take a big step forward next year. To do so, however, he’s going to need to show much better plate discipline than he has in the past. Sometimes he gets into funks where he seems to swing at just about anything the pitcher throws his way, and the result is a lot of weakly hit balls that will do his BABIP no favors.
As for Bailey… He reportedly made a meaningful adjustment to his mechanics last offseason, and the result was a 3 mph uptick in his fastball velocity. That’s massive, and it’s the main reason that I think what he showed over his last 9 starts (58 IP, 1.70 ERA, 53/24 K/BB) might be predictive of a quality season from him next year. The only problem with that statement is that he had the same mechanical adjustment and velocity increase over his first 11 starts too (55 IP, 7.53 ERA, 33/28 K/BB). But, maybe he just needed some time to find himself. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
Clearly, this is a huge year for both of them. With their talent, it’s probably not a “make or break” year. But I think it’ll go a long way in telling us what sorts of careers these guys are likely to have. … though I probably said the same thing last year.
2) My free Chinese calender says it’s The Year of the Tiger (and Tuesdays are “Lo Mein, Low Prices” Day). But something tells me it’s The Year of the Votto. What’s your prediction for him in 2010?
For some reason, I’ve always been a little skeptical on Votto, and he’s always proven me wrong. But I think we’re going to see Joey Votto regress a bit. I think he’s going to be a nice hitter, but the guy had an 0.372 BABIP last year. That’s hard to maintain. Most projections have him in the 0.300/0.385/0.525 range, and I’d be thrilled to get that from him again next year–especially if he can conquer some of the anxiety issues that surfaced last year and start 150+ games. He was able to play through the anniversary of his father’s death over the last part of the season last year, so that’s a good sign.
3) Let’s play, Over/Under. Next year, Drew Stubbs — 400 ABs, .240 average, 10 homers, 35 steals. Feel free to expand on why you think he’ll be over or under on each.
Tough, as that’s about right. I’ll take the over on the average and AB’s, and the under on the steals and homers. I really don’t know what to expect from Stubbs, because his success in the majors last year–8 HR in 180 AB’s–goes completely against what his minor league numbers tell us to expect. He “should be” a patient hitter who strikes out a lot and gets a lot of value from walks, speed, and fielding. His fielding was as brilliant as advertised, and that along with the Taveras trade should keep him in the lineup as long as Chris Heisey doesn’t go crazy on us or something. 10 HR is clearly not out of his reach, and he’s always been a guy that the Reds expected to hit for at least decent power. But I think pitchers are going to pitch him differently this year, which might prevent that kind of power success again. He hit more than 7 home runs in a season just once in the minors, and that was in Low-A Dayton. Steals…well, it will depend on how often he gets on base. Dusty will likely hit him near the top of the lineup, though, because Dusty always leads off with a CF or SS…and Cabrera’s “a #2 hitter.”
4) In 2010, Johnny Cueto will pitch more like how he did in the 1st half or the 2nd half of 2009? And why?
My hope is like the first half, though the safe answer is somewhere in between. One thing about Cueto last year is that he had pitched in both winter ball (against the Reds’ wishes IIRC) as well as the World Baseball Classic. People already worried about his ability to hold up to workload given his fairly small frame (5’10″ 185lbs), and it’s reasonable to think that he might have just gotten really tired in the second half last season. But it’s also the case that on June 1st, his ERA was 2.53 but his FIP was 4.02 and he had a 0.234 BABIP. So part of it was just regression. I hoping for 180 IP with a 4.25 ERA or so, but I’m not sure if I’ll get it.
5) When do you think we see Aroldis Chapman with the Reds? Is there any truth to the rumor that Aroldis Chapman signed with the Reds because Dusty Baker’s concern for pitchers was most akin to Fidel Castro’s concern for human rights?
It’s hard to know. I initially figured he’d start somewhere in A-ball and quickly work his way up if he showed he was ready. But the initial reports from the Reds’ pitching coach were glowing, indicating much better command of his offspeed pitches, for example. He might start the year in the high minors and be with the big club by mid-year. Or, he might struggle. It’s pretty hard to know without any minor league game data to work from. I like tall left handers who throw 100 mph, though.
As for Dusty…Aside from the Harang stupidity in 2008, I think he’s been pretty good with the pitchers. Especially the young ones. Cueto, for example, never threw over 112 pitches last year, and only 5 times threw 110 or more. Volquez threw 121 once in 2008, but never went over that mark. I don’t think Dusty is breaking pitchers, at least not any more.