A few years ago, while on the ESPN Reds board, I started making annual projections for Reds players. Generally, I'm way off on all but a few, but I did have some pretty remarkable success in 2010 (probably because I'm an unrepentant homer). I project offensive stats by using the "slash line," which is AVG/OBP/SLUG% for those familiar. The only counting stats I'll project are HR and SB, because it's pointless to try to predict runs and RBI. Generally, I assume good health in my projections, unless a player has a chronic injury history or is on the DL at the time of the post. I'll have analysis of each player, but since most of you probably don't want to waste your time with that, I'll put the actually projections in bold. By choosing to do this in January, there is a possibility that the roster for 2012 is not yet complete, but that's a chance I'm willing to take. Here goes...
Devin Mesoraco - We'll start off with a rookie whose performance this season will go along way in determining the success of the team. He'll be called upon to replace the .788 OPS and solid defense that Ramon Hernandez put up over 91 games in 2011. Mesoraco played in only 18 games for the Reds last year and he struggled to hit. He showed promising power, however, as five of his nine hits were for extra bases. I think Devin is due about 350 at-bats in 2012 at about .245/.330/.400 with 13 HR and 0 SB. Not bad for such a young catcher. Better days ahead.
Ryan Hanigan - I actually think Hanigan's playing time will decrease slightly in 2012, as the Reds view Mesoraco as more of a full-time catcher than Hernandez. Plus, Hanigan tends to wear down if he catches more than about 40% of the games, as evidenced by his dropoff last year. Hanigan is a great contact hitter and his career OBP is over .370. He doesn't hit for much power, but he's a fine complimentary piece in our lineup and a tough out every time. I'm giving him credit for about 220 at bats, at .280/.370/.380 with 5 HR and 0 SB. All in all, I think we'll be pretty satisfied with the overall offensive production from this position.
Joey Votto - Our MVP had his healthiest season in 2011, appearing in 161 games. He posted a gaudy .947 OPS and won the Gold Glove for 1B. We certainly can't blame the lackluster season on Votto. He's emerged as one of the best hitters in the NL over the last three years and is a model of consistency. I see no reason for any decline here. I'm putting him at .315/.420/.540 with 32 HR and 10 SB. With Pujols in the AL, I see no reason for Votto to lose his GG in 2012, assuming he fields at the same level. The only thing stopping Votto from being the undisputed best hitter in the NL is his relatively high K-rate. Other than that, he's as complete a player as you'll find.
Brandon Phillips - I'm interested to see what happens on the contract front. On one hand, he's earned an extension at fair market value. On the other, it would be pretty exciting to see what he could do playing for a contract. Last year, he won the GG and Silver Slugger, while posting career highs in batting average, OBP, and doubles. In my opinion, 2011 was Phillips's best season. I like the contact-first approach, and his .353 OBP is adequate for a leadoff man. He is 31, which marks the beginning of the typical decline phase for offensive stats, but Phillips is in great shape so I'll project only mild regression back toward his career averages. Let's put him at .280/.340/.445 with 17 HR and 10 SB. I'll go ahead and project him for a 4th GG (3rd consecutive) as well. Move over, Pokey Reese.
Zack Cozart - Here we have another rookie that's going to be difficult to project. His career minor league OPS is .753, which plays pretty well at SS if he can do it in the Majors. He has an interesting skill-set, with power, speed, and defense. The worry is that he won't be able to get on base enough to justify a spot in the lineup. His solid defensive ability works in his favor, and he's shown reasonable strike-zone discipline so far in his pro career. He's going to go through an adjustment period, but I'll go out on a limb and say he gives us better than Janish's .521 OPS last year (as a side note, Janish's OPS last year was lower than Joey Votto's slugging %... wow). Let's put the rookie at .250/.320/.410 with 14 HR and 16 SB. He's 26 already, so I don't think he's going to improve dramatically in the future, but an OPS above .700 and solid defense is adequate for a SS in my book.
Scott Rolen - Earlier I mentioned that I "generally" assume good health. Here's the reason that I didn't say "always." Look, I love Scottie. I think he's had a tremendous impact on our young players, and he's been a productive player for us on both sides of the ball. That said, he's going to be 37 this year, and his back and shoulder are chronic injury problems. It's been a long time since I played competitive baseball, but I remember having to use my back and shoulders a lot. Rolen's .676 OPS last year was a career-worst, and he missed nearly 100 games. Given his situation, I'm going to chaulk that up to decline more than just a bad year. It pains me, but, given about 350 at-bats, I'll put Rolen at .255/.310/.400 with 8 HR and 1 SB. What's worse is that I think he'll be posting those numbers from the cleanup spot. Here's hoping he proves me wrong, like he did in 2010.
Juan Francisco - Between playing LF, 3B, and pinch hitting, I think Francisco will see over 300 at-bats this year. I hope so, because it's time to find out what we have. He plays poor defense, never walks, strikes out a ton, and has an injury history, but he sure can put on a show in batting practice. This guy's power is legit an any level. We'll go with .240/.285/.400 with 12 HR and 2 SB. I know the slugging % is way out of line with the OBP here, but I really think that's the kind of hitter Francisco is. All or nothing. Probably a lot more nothing. 3B is not a strong position for this team.
Chris Heisey - I've been waiting for three years to find out if Heisey can play every day. It looks like I'll finally get my chance, as he gets his in 2012. Personally, I'm a believer. He fields the position well and his power plays very well at GABP. He's a smart baserunner and high-effort player. Of course, he strikes out in bunches and hasn't hit lefties at all at this level. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt on the latter, hoping that a larger sample size will curb his lack of production against lefties. Put him down for .250/.310/.460 with 24 HR and 10 SB. Like I said... Unrepentant homer.
Drew Stubbs - During the last two months of the 2010 season, Stubbs looked like the next Eric Davis. 16 months and 200+ strikeouts later, and he's running the risk of being replaced by Ryan LaMarre in 2013. What a difference a season makes. Stubbs declined in pretty much every phase in 2011. He K'd at a higher rate, hit for a lower average, hit with less power, and played worse defense. Not a big endorsement for a 27-year-old entering his "power prime." To be honest, I'm at a total loss for what to do here. Was 2011 a sophomore slump? Was is a trend? I'm less sure about this set of projections than any other. Let's say... .250/.330/.390 with 17 HR and 36 SB. Or way better than that... Or way worse...
Jay Bruce - This guy seems to get a lot of flak from Reds fans and I'm really not sure why. It's not his fault that the scouts said he was the next Larry Walker at 19-years-old. If you remove all of the hype and expectations, what you have is a pretty solid player. He hits for power, plays excellent defense, and gets on base at a respectable clip. He posted career highs in HR, RBI, and walks in 2011, and did so despite a drop off in batting average. I think that Bruce is our best "breakout candidate," but I'll temper my expectations to .275/.355/.495 with 34 HR and 6 SB. Nothing wrong with that at all, and it's pretty much in line with his current development curve. He doesn't turn 25 until April.
Johnny Cueto - I'm holding out hope that his injury problems last year were an aberration. He's held up pretty well apart from 2011. Oh, yeah, he also broke out and posted a 2.31 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP last season. To be honest, those numbers don't quite line up with the advanced metrics, but even so, it's safe to say that Cueto has arrived. The days of comparing him to Edinson Volquez are over. He has great command, and has improved dramatically in terms of pitch efficiency, allowing him to work deeper into games. I'll say he goes 14-8 with a 3.25 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, over around 190 IP.
Mat Latos - Say what you will, I love this guy, and that was a true statement long before he joined the Reds. He has #1 stuff, and his advanced numbers are absolutely phenomenal for his age. If he inproves along a typical development curve, while staying healthy, he'll be a Cy Young contender and an All-Star sooner rather than later. He'll need a year to adjust to pitching at GABP, since he's a bit of a fly ball guy. His win total will skyrocket in front of this offense. I'll say he goes 14-10 with a 3.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, over around 200 IP.
Mike Leake - 2011 was a long, strange journey for Leake. He made the rotation out of Spring, was demoted to the minors for the first time, and finished the season as the 2nd best starter on the staff. He also got some new shirts, as you may have heard. After the ASB last year, Leake made 11 starts, and averaged nearly 7 innings/start. He posted a 3.33 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and had a 3.5 K/BB ratio. As a 3rd-year starting pitcher, he's a breakout candidate for 2012. That said, I wouldn't expect a ton of improvement, given the type of pitcher he is. Sign him up for 12-11 with a 3.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and around 175 IP.
Bronson Arroyo - I've read that Bronson is coming into 2012 with the idea of hitting the weight room to improve his velocity. He'll need to. I like Arroyo, but color me skeptical. Bronson turns 35 in February, so I don't think it's a stretch to say his best days are behind him. He gave up more earned runs and homers than any pitcher in the NL last year, and failed to reach 200 innings for the first time since 2004. Sounds like legitimate decline to me. I'll say 8-11 with a 4.90 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and about 180 IP.
Homer Bailey - When taken as a whole, Bailey's last few years have actually been fairly decent. He just can't seem to stay healthy. I think he'll start the year with the #5 spot, and hold it down until Chapman is ready to make a run in the 2nd half. I'll go with a 6-6 record, 4.40 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 110 IP.
Aroldis Chapman - I think there's a possibility that he'll end up back in the bullpen. It's hard to be a successful starter if you throw 25 pitches/inning. 2-4 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and about 90 IP, some of which will be as a reliever.
So... I know that our starters won't all hold up and make every start. I can only go off of the information that I have. I have our rotation putting up a 56-50 record, and I think out bullpen is slightly above-average (moreso if we add a closer). I'll say that this team, in its current contruction goes 86-76, which may or may not be enough to win the Central.
Now... I'd like to see YOUR projections. Lay 'em on me.