PRESEASON PREVIEW: Cincinnati Reds

Milton is now the undisputed Ace

Another injury-ridden season struck again for the 2004 Reds. They're now crossing their fingers that the team can stay healthy enough to at least make a nice run at the division title. They're also hoping that their new additions can help spark some wins.

ADDITIONS:

INF Rich Aurilia (free agent – minor league contract); INF Juan Castro (free agent – 2 years with club option for third); C Bobby Estalella (free agent – minor league contract); INF Luis Lopez (free agent – minor league contract); LHP Kent Mercker (free agent – 2 years); LHP Eric Milton (free agent – 3 years, $25.5 million, with a player opt-out provision for 2007); INF Joe Randa (free agent – 1 year); LHP Jeriome Robertson (free agent – minor league contract); RHP David Weathers (free agent – 1 year with club option for 2006); RHP Ben Weber (1 year); LHP Ben Kozlowski (claimed off waivers from Texas); C Corky Miller (claimed off waivers from Minnesota); RHP Ramon Ortiz (trade).

LOSSES:

SS Barry Larkin (retired); SS Juan Castro (free agent – Minnesota); OF Jermaine Clark (free agent – Oakland); LHP Mike Matthews (free agent – New York Mets); RHP Aaron Myette (free agent – signed in Japan); LHP Phil Norton (free agent – Houston); RHP Juan Padilla (free agent – New York Mets); RHP John Riedling (free agent – Florida); OF John Vander Wal (free agent); LHP Gabe White (free agent – Atlanta); OF Darren Bragg (free agent); INF Jacob Cruz (free agent); RHP Josh Hall (released); RHP Dustin Moseley (trade); RHP D.J. Mattox (free agent).

PROJECTED LINEUP:

1: 2B D'Angelo Jimenez

2: 3B Joe Randa

3: 1B Sean Casey

4: CF Ken Griffey, Jr.

5: LF Adam Dunn

6: SS Rich Aurilia/ Felipe Lopez

7: RF Austin Kearns

8: C Jason LaRue

D'Angelo Jimenez had 152 hits in 152 games for the Reds in 2004. He hit .312 with runners in scoring position. D'Angelo has some pop to all fields and has a good arm and great range on the field. He seems to have finally found his place with Cincinatti.

Joe Randa had a another solid season for the Royals in 2004. He was sidelined for about a month in midseason after having arthroscopic surgery to clean out his right knee. He became the first player in American League history to have 6 hits and 6 runs in one game when the Royals pounded the Tigers 26-5 on September 9. Randa is a patient hitter who uses the whole field and has a quick reflexes and an accurate arm at third.

Sean Casey was an All-Star for the third straight year and was the Red's most valuable player. He is third on the NL list for hardest to strikeout (he had 36 in 571 at bats). He is an average first baseman with eight errors in 2004. However, he is good at picking balls out of the dirt. He should continue to be a great asset to the Reds.

Ken Griffey, Jr. had yet another season hampered by injury. This time, he had to have season ending surgery on his torn hamstring in the second half. He managed to get 300 at bats in which he got 20 homers and 60 RBIs. He became a member of the 500 homerun club on June 20. The Reds are just hoping that Griffey can stay healthy this season. They know that a healthy Griffey is capable of producing 35+ homeruns and at least 100 RBIs.

Adam Dunn had an All-Star caliber season for the Reds in 2004. He led the team in games (161), starts (156), runs (105), total bases (323) HR (46) and RBI (102) walks (108) and intentional walks (11). He did all of that despite setting the Major League record for strikeouts in a single season (195). At 25, Dunn looks to be a strong addition to the Reds for years to come, but the Reds do hope that he can limit his Ks.

Rich Aurilia is on the Red's projected lineup, but Felipe Lopez might be the reality at shortstop. Aurilia, who was signed as a minor league free agent, had a less than stellar season splitting time with the Mariners and the Padres in 2004. He was plagued with a sore groin and side for the better part of the season, which may have caused the decline in his numbers. If he is healthy and shows that he can be a consistent hitter and reliable shortstop, the job could be his. Lopez showed some inconsistency in 2004. He has a lot of talent, he just needs to work out the kinks. He had 15 errors in 292 chances last season. He often swings out of the strike zone and doesn't have a good feel for breaking balls. If he shows more consistency, the shortstop position could be his.

Austin Kearns is a promising player, if he could only stay healthy. He spent most of 2004 on the disabled list with a broken forearm and a thumb injury that required surgery. Kearns has the arm strength and range needed to play all three outfield positions. He has the power to hit to all fields, but he has yet to play a complete season to prove that. Cincinnati is hoping that he can stay healthy for them in 2005.

Jason LaRue had a great personal season for the Reds in 2004. He had career highs in RBIs (55), batting average (.251), hits (98), and doubles (24). He also had a strong finish batting .280. His defensive skills still need a little work (he was charged with 15 passed balls last season) but he is becoming a reliable backstop. The Reds think that if LaRue can keep up his second half success, he can be a more productive hitter in their lineup.

BENCH:

OF Wily Mo Pena

OF/INF Ryan Freel

INF Anderson Machado

C Javier Valentin

Wily Mo Pena emerged as a great asset to the Reds while he filled in for the injured Griffey and Kearns. He was second on the team in homeruns (26) and fourth in RBI (66). Pena, 23, is a streaky hitter who is still baffled by the breaking balls. He is a great power hitter, though. His defensive tools are exceptional with a powerful throwing arm and excellent range. If Griffey's 2005 is like his last couple of seasons, look for Pena in center field.

Ryan Freel made 128 starts at five different positions for the Reds in 2004. He led the team in triples (8), stolen bases (37), sacrifice bunts (8), infield hits (22) and bunt hits (8). Freel is an excellent outfielder, but can also hold his own in the infield. He is a patient hitter and a good fastball hitter. The Reds are hoping that the rest of the team can stay healthy, so they can use Freel as a utility player, instead of an everyday player.

Anderson Machado made his Reds debut and first major league start in September 2004. His first three Major League hits were doubles. He was hitless in his last 12 at bats of the season. He injured his knee in the offseason while playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, so it is unclear whether or not he will be able to start the season with Cincinnati.

Javier Valentin made 44 starts as catcher for the Reds in 2004. He caught 2 of the staff's 5 complete games and 2 of their 8 shutouts. He is a decent catcher and has some bat power. He made 3 starts at first base for the first time in his career. He is a good backup for LaRue.

ROTATION:

LH Eric Milton

RH Paul Wilson

RH Ramon Ortiz

RH Aaron Harang

RH Luke Hudson

LH Brandon Claussen/ Josh Hancock

Eric Milton was the most reliable pitcher for the Phillies in 2004. He led Philadelphia in victories (14), starts (34), innings pitched (201.0) and strikeouts (161) while the team was 20-14 in his starts. Milton is generally a flyball pitcher with a curve, a changeup, and a 92-94 MPH fastball. He should be a good number 1 starter for the Reds.

Paul Wilson's 11 wins led the Reds in 2004. He missed part of the season with lower back soreness. He was the Reds most reliable starter, which is why he is in the number 2 spot. He has good movement on his cutter and sinker, to go along with his changeup and fastball. The Reds are hoping that he can start the 2005 season like he started 2004 (with 7 wins) and continue the success throughout the rest of the season.

Ramon Ortiz went from starter to bullpen pitcher for the Angels in 2004. It was no secret that he disliked his demotion and wished to be traded. Ortiz has good stuff, but he lets things get to him mentally. He throws a low to mid 90s fastball and a pretty good slider when he's on his game. The Reds are hoping that he can stay consistent for them in 2005.

Aaron Harang had a good first full season with Cincinnati. He set career highs in most statistical categories in 2004. He finished second in the organization in wins (10). Harang has pretty good control of his pitches and is looking to add a two-seam fastball to his repertoire. Harang is in the running for one of the two spots open in the rotation, and his chances are looking good.

Luke Hudson is also competing for a spot in the rotation. He is one of the most promising pitchers for the Reds. In 9 games with Cincinnati he had a 4-2 record, only allowing more than three runs in one outing. He did not allow a run in four of his outings. He has a fastball that is known to hit 95-97 MPH and a big, powerful curve. He'll give the other competitors a run for their money, if nothing else.

Brandon Claussen and Josh Hancock are the other two pitchers competing for the two open rotation spots. Claussen was 2-8 in 14 games in 2004, often coming up empty despite giving up only three runs or less. He has a good strikeout slider and good potential on the mound. Josh Hancock had success in his 11 starts for the Reds, with a 5-2 record. He has good movement on his fastball, a good slider, and a useful changeup.

BULLPEN:

Closer Danny Graves

RH Setup man Ben Weber

LH setup man Kent Mercker

MR/LR Jose Acevedo

MR Joe Valentine

MR Ryan Wagner

David Weathers

All-Star Closer Danny Graves had a pretty good 2004 outing with 41 saves on the season. He got a little tired in the second half, but still proved that he was an effective closer. He only throws in the low 90s but has a great sinker that fools many batters.

Ben Weber spent most of the 2004 season in AAA or on the disabled list for the Angels. He suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and went only 0-2 with an 8.06 ERA in 18 appearances. The Reds are hoping that he can be healthy enough to be their right-handed setup man.

Kent Mercker had an overall good season with the Cubs, despite recurring back problems last season. He features a 90 MPH fastball that often cuts and sinks along with a curve and a changeup. As long as his back holds up, he looks to be a good lefty setup man for the Reds.

Jose Acevedo didn't have much luck when he began the 2004 season as a starter, but was a pleasant surprise in the bullpen near the end of the season. He led the Reds in losses with 12. From the bullpen, he didn't allow a single run in 17 innings. The Reds will keep Acevedo where he is most effective and hope that he can continue the success.

Joe Valentine was 2-3 with a 5.22 ERA in 24 games with the 2004 Reds. He became the closer late in the season when Danny Graves was down with strep throat. He had 4 saves in 4 chances. He should workout out to be a short inning reliever for Cincinnati.

In 2004, Ryan Wagner was used as mostly a middle relief pitcher while posting a 3-2 record in his first full year in the bullpen. He has learned to trust his mid-90s fastball, but needs to know when to use his slider. He also needs to work on his walks to strikeout ratio after posting only 10 more strikeouts (37) than walks (27).

David Weathers bounced from the Mets to the Astros to the Marlins in 2004. He was 7-7 with a 4.15 ERA in 66 games, including 2 starts. He has a good sinking low-90s fastball an effective 82-84 MPH slider that works on batters from both sides of the plate.

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK:

Can Griffey (and frankly everyone else) stay healthy?

This is the question every year for the Reds. Griffey has rarely been the standout player of his younger years for the past few seasons. A healthy Griffey can help produce in the lineup, but a healthy team, all together, can help keep you in contention.

BREAKOUT PLAYER:

RHP Todd Coffey, whom the Reds think is ready for the big leagues. Competition in the bullpen is fierce, but expect to see Coffey in the mix of things sometime during the season.

PROJECTION:

The Reds had a lot of injured players last season, which would make it difficult for any team to have a winning season. They are in a division with the defending NL Champion Cardinals who won 105 games, the Wild Card winning Astros, and the ever-competing Cubs, which will make it hard for them to get past fourth place in the division. So far, they look pretty good on paper, but the unexpected injuries have almost become expected. The best Cincinnati can hope for is fourth, unless another team falls out of contention for third.

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