The Cincinnati Reds should be ready to compete once again in 2014 with the St. Louis Cardinals and the fast rising Pittsburg Pirates in the NL Central. Bronson Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo are currently free agents, and there are doubts that the club will bring either one back. Billy Hamilton is currently the leading option to step in and replace Choo in CF. The starting rotation should be fine without Arroyo, as Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey will lead this staff. Mike Leake will slot in as the team’s #4 SP, and Tony Cingrani should fill the final spot in the rotation. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce are all still around to lead the offense. With a solid core already in place, this team should provide fantasy managers with plenty of options for their fantasy teams. Let’s take a look at the top 5 fantasy options on the Cincinnati Reds for 2014.
1. 1B – Joey Votto
The Red’s MVP first baseman has seen his power numbers go down over the past two seasons. After battling injuries throughout 2012, Votto accumulated just 14 HR’s in 111 games. Then, in 2013, Votto was able to play in 162 games, but only hit 24 HR’s on the year. The only year this All-Star has hit over 30 HR’s in his career was in 2010, during his MVP season. Maybe we should stop expecting him to ever get back to his lofty HR totals from 2010 and appreciate Joey Votto for what he is: a high batting average, 25 HR hitter in the middle of a great lineup that should continue to allow him to put up nice RBI and R totals. His overall stat line in 2013 was deceiving, and I expect the RBI totals to improve in 2014. The career .314 hitter should be in line for another classic Joey Votto season next year, and is still easily a top 5 fantasy option at first base.
2014 Projection = 575 AB, .309 BA, 27 HR, 94 RBI, 100 R, 6 SB.
2. OF – Jay Bruce
The power totals in baseball have been on the decline recently. Only 13 batters connected for at least 30 HR’s in 2013. And as the overall power totals in baseball continue to go down, Jay Bruce keeps getting better and continues to gain value. Bruce has averaged 32 HR’s over the past 3 seasons. In 2013, the slugger was able to eclipse the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career. In 2013, Bruce was tied for 12th in baseball in HR’s, 4th in baseball in RBI’s, and tied for 23rd overall in runs. He also chipped in 7 SB’s along the way. Oh yeah, and he will be turning 27 years-old in April. Many have been predicting the outfielder to take a step forward over the past few years and blast anywhere from 35 to 40 HR’s. I believe if everything breaks right in 2014, that season could be on the horizon for Bruce.
2014 Projection = 590 AB, .264 BA, 32 HR, 103 RBI, 90 R, 7 SB.
3. SP – Mat Latos
The top fantasy pitcher in Cincinnati continues to improve as he approaches the prime years of his career. Many were concerned that the move from Petco Park to the Great American Ballpark would hurt his fantasy value after the 2011 season. But in 2012, Latos started 33 games, threw for a total of 209.3 IP, and accumulated 14 W’s and 185 K’s. In 2013, Latos started 32 games, totaled 210.7 IP, and accumulated 14 W’s and 187 K’s. Not only did Latos dispel rumors of his inevitable decline, he also remained remarkably consistent over his first two seasons in Cincinnati. He also kept his ERA under 3.50 and his WHIP around 1.20 in both years. This hurler will turn just 26 years-old later this month, and will remain a great #2 SP option for fantasy teams in 2014.
2014 Projection = 205 IP, 14 W, 3.24 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 186 K.
4. 2B – Brandon Phillips
This second baseman has been a fan favorite in Cincinnati for years. But Phillips overall value has been driven by his ability to combine for a nice mix of home runs and stolen bases. The fantasy favorite is getting older, he will turn 33 in 2014, and his SB totals took a drastic hit in 2013. Phillips was able to save his fantasy value by racking up 103 RBI’s to balance out the lower SB totals. During the previous 3 seasons, Phillips never accumulated more than 82 RBI’s in a year. I don’t think we can count on him repeating his 2013 RBI totals, and the lower SB totals are worrisome. Phillips is still capable of producing like a top 5 fantasy 2B, especially in the Red’s loaded lineup. But the signs are all pointing in the wrong direction, as 2014 could be the season we see this fantasy mainstay take a huge hit to his value. Don’t avoid Phillips at all costs, he can still be a valuable contributor at a weak 2B position, but be aware of the risk that comes with drafting @DatDudeBP.
2014 Projection = 586 AB, .272 BA, 18 HR, 88 RBI, 86 R, 9 SB.
5. RP – Aroldis Chapman
The flame-throwing closer touches triple digits on the radar gun more often than anyone else in baseball. As a matter of fact, fangraphs put out an interesting article towards the end of the summer that you can find here. It actually talks about how Chapman threw about as many 100+ MPH fastballs as the rest of the league combined in 2013. Luckily, the Red’s pitching depth should allow Chapman to stay in the bullpen, as there has been constant chatter over the past few years that he could eventually move into the rotation. I think Chapman’s dominating performance as the team’s closer has helped to put those rumors to rest. Aroldis should be a shut-down closer for the foreseeable future, and the 2nd closer off the draft board after Craig Kimbrel.
2014 Projection = 68 IP, 3 W, 39 S, 2.32 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 109 K.
*Honorable Mention: OF – Billy Hamilton
The speedy outfielder made his debut at the end of the 2013 season. Hamilton showed off his wheels by stealing 13 bases in 14 attempts. While he could struggle in his first full-time role, he is also capable of putting up SB totals that we haven’t seen since Rickey Henderson. While there is a large range of possible outcomes for this young outfielder, he is a very intriguing SB option for 2014.
*Notable Omission: OF – Shin-Soo Choo
The free-agent outfielder isn’t expected back with the Reds next year. I would have slotted him in ahead of Brandon Phillips if he were still with the team. But it will be hard for Choo to find a situation as favorable as the one he had in Cincinnati. With the rumors pointing to a possible landing destination with the Seattle Mariners or the Chicago Cubs, his 2014 outlook would not be nearly as bright if he ends up with one of these clubs.
What do you think? Is everyone above listed in the correct order of fantasy value?
Did Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Todd Frazier, or Tony Cingrani deserve mention?
What would your Top 5 Cincinnati Reds Fantasy List look like?