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Fake Teams Interviews Red Reporter

A few weeks ago, I asked the SB Nation baseball blogs if I could interview them to ask them some fantasy related questions that could help our readers come draft day. Who better than the team experts to answer our fantasy questions. 

First up were the folks over at Red Reporter, SB Nation's Cincinnati Reds site. Here are the my questions and the responses from Red Reporter (aka RijoSaboCaseyWKRP) and BK:

1. Fantasy owners are still waiting for Jay Bruce to have that monster season that puts in the Top 20 picks talk. Is 2011 the season he goes 30-100-10-.275?

As a Bruce booster, I'd like to give an unqualified yes. Those who have been charting Bruce's development closely since the Reds drafted him would probably tell you - partly because they've spent so much time looking at one player that they feel entrapped - that last season's stat line could easily be the floor to his prime years. This is his age 24 season, so all signs point to continued ascent. It just might be a more gradual grade than we all expected.

If he plays 150 games or so this season, he's full capable of hitting 30+ HRs. And .275 is well in line with skills at the plate (he hit .280 last season and above .300 consistently in the minors). His ability to consistently make solid contact when he's not K-ing has begun to translate to the majors. He did have the highest BABIP of his major league career last year, but he posted consistently high BABIPs at lower levels, even for the minors. I know a lot of us saw him crushing the ball right at players while he was struggling in '09, and now he seems to be crushing the ball to open field, while becoming more comfortable at the plate.

His RBI opportunities will be constrained by where Dusty puts him in the lineup. I'm hoping this is the year he settles into somewhere between the #2 and #5 spots. But the wacky possibility has been raised of him hitting leadoff. And he has hit in the #6 spot behind Jonny Gomes quite a bit.

More from Red Reporter after the jump:

2. I see Francisco Cordero's K/9 have been dropping the past 3 years and his xFIP has moved in the other direction, and its not good. Does Cordero keep the closer job this season? if not, does the fireballing lefty replace him?

There was a lot of clamoring for Cordero to relinquish his spot last season when he was blowing saves. Dusty has held firm that Cordero is The Closer - and not much has changed in his rhetoric. Dusty manages quite a bit from the standpoint of  roles he has prescribed to players, which in many cases he keeps a white-knuckle grip on. Sometimes this helps players work through slumps in a positive way and regress (progress) toward whatever their true mean is. 

In the case of Cordero, he'll be 36 this year. He's not going to start powering it past hitters like he did 5 years a go. So about a 9.0 K/9 is probably the upper bound. He's had a problem throwing strikes and hitting his spots. If he can put more focus on control over his declining power, that should raise all ships - including his k-rate. He came into camp slimmed down and has pitched well so far. Taken with Dusty's full faith and credit, Cordero is going to stay the closer for the forseeable future. There's been hesitance to give Chapman that responsibility in his first full season. But I'd say both he and Nick Masset are next in line.

3. Drew Stubbs had a breakout season in 2010. Is this what we can expect from him going forward or was the power output a bit fluky, as he never really hit for power in the minors?

BK (Red Reporter writer who does a lot of coverage of the Reds farm system):
Stubbs' was scouted as having plus power coming out of college, so it isn't a huge surprise that he's hitting fingers now. Those scouting reports lead the Reds to bill Stubbs as having "light tower power. That's a line that gets repeated in Red Reporter game threads when Stubbs homers.

RSC: I think the Reds had been trying to mold him into a leadoff hitter. He has the speed traditionally associated with that role, but he's not a slap hitter and didn't take to trying to induce infield hits. 20 HR power better matches his skills, which is accompanied by a longer swing and more Ks. 

4. Yonder Alonso - trade bait or Reds left fielder in 2012?

BK: I think it depends on how he looks out there. I think it's interesting that coming into ST, we heard that he was greatly improved out there, but we haven't seen him play LF in a spring game yet.

I think this question won't be answered until May at the earliest. We'll have an idea based on where he;s used in Louisville, and if he isn't seeing OF time in AAA, I'd expect him to be traded at the deadline this year. Not sure they'll get the same value hanging on to him. 

RSC: I'm a skeptic on Alonso ever playing a position in the majors other than 1B or DH. The Reds started him at AA last season so that he could get some time in LF, but that doesn't seem to have been a successful experiment. It's telling that he's barely played there at AAA and there are no plans to get him reps there in spring training. Alonso is still valuable to the Reds as a hedge against Votto getting injured (which is probably impossible) or fleeing the coop. The Reds have a fourth option year on Alonso, so they can bide their time if they like. 1B/DH types are not a rare commodity on the market.

But as BK says, he's probably more valuable in trade than he is hanging out at AAA as a contingency plan. Maybe the Reds can convince a team he's a LFer. He's peaking as a trade showcase player - and the Reds may have a major need at the deadline.

5. Edinson Volquez returned from Tommy John surgery last year, with mixed results, which was expected. Will we see the 2008 Volquez in 2011?

We saw flashes of it last year. For Volquez, it will boil down to control. He was great in 2008, despite issuing 4 walks a game. He was only the slightest bit "lucky" that season - or thankful for defense or crossbreezes etc. He's able to miss a lot of bats and to induce a lot of weak contact thanks to in part to a superb change-up. He was even better at these two things (acc to K and GB rates) over a small sample last year. But his control was putrid at times. 

I expect him to improve on this. A return of the Volquez of late 2008 is a very reasonable expectation, but no one knows how long the tail will be on his recovery to the point where he becomes fully locked in again as he was during stretches of unhittability in 2008. He's been named the Opening Day starter for the Reds, suggesting a measure of confidence by the brass that he's ready to reassume the mantle of ace this season. Or whatever you do with a mantle. I put Christmas cards on mine.

For further reading on Volquez, check out your local Red Reporter archive. JinAz has a great scouting piece on him: