Final Roster Spots

Cincinnati's has one of the easier opening day rosters to predict after returning most of their players from a 97-win season. Dusty Baker's management style utilizes all 25 of the active roster spots and there still is some competition for utility infield and bullpen jobs as the season approaches.

The original title of this article was "Predicting the Roster", but with the Reds in 2013 that would lack interest. They are returning most of their personnel and it does not take a genius to know they will be in Cincinnati come opening day, assuming no injuries or something else unforeseen. However there are a couple of jobs in periphery roles yet to be determined.

There is still a lot of spring training games yet to be played, but if history is any indication performance in those will take a back seat to role descriptions and MLB experience as they prepare to open the season. Why else would Todd Frazier be sent back to Louisville to start 2012 in favor of Willie Harris? Also, the status of the team influences decisions. The Reds have championship aspirations so they're not looking to watch rookies get their feet wet at the major league level but are instead built to win now.

The starting point is to identify what is needed. The evolution of the active roster has become very homogeneous around the league: eight regulars, five-man rotation, seven relievers, second catcher, two utility infielders, and a L/R duo of backup outfielders. Dusty Baker's management style utilizes all twenty-five men, which is very common across all of MLB with the emergence of the modern day bullpen. With primary roles already set he can be very specific on what he wants in the remaining spots.

Of course the lineup will be: Hanigan, Votto, Phillips, Frazier, Cozart, Ludwick, Choo, and Bruce. They didn't invested $21 million on Jonathan Broxton just to keep another set-up man in a deep bullpen so the cat is out of the bag on converting Chapman into the rotation where he'll join Cueto, Latos, Bailey, and Arroyo. Setting up for Broxton will be Marshall, Arredondo, and LeCure who are all coming off solid seasons spent entirely with the Reds. Long man Alfredo Simon was a pleasant surprise last year and he may force more action in tighter games in 2013. Chris Heisey also returns to his fourth-outfielder role.

Nick Masset appears headed back to the DL to start the season. Logan Ondrusek started off 2012 nearly unhittable before a rough August that included roster limitations forcing the use of a remaining option for an unexpected trip to the minors. Jack Hannahan brings a solid glove to Cincinnati and the Reds didn't give the veteran a multi-year deal to use it at the hot corner at Louisville.

Devin Mesoraco disappointed in his rookie season, but let there be no doubt, he's still figures prominently in future plans and will start the season once again backing up Hanigan. Every team will use a third catcher after roster expansion, if not before, so the Reds added veteran Miguel Olivo to take departed Dioner Navarro's spot.

Xavier Paul impressed after he arrived late in the season. He has little experience with the Reds who are the fourth organization for the 28 year-old, but there's not a lot of competition for the last outfield spot. Billy Hamilton will spend the bulk of his season at Louisville learning a new position, most of veteran farmhand Kristopher Negron's experience has been in the infield, and Yorman Rodriguez is on the 40-man to protect against Rule 5. Non-roster invitee Derrick Robinson is in camp and the switch-hitter can provide a left-handed bat. However, the Royals granted him free agency before he ever got a MLB debut and he's gone 2-12 against right-handed pitching thus far in the Cactus League.

That leaves only two jobs up for grabs: utility middle-infielder and final bullpen spot.

There are three candidates for the infield: Cesar Izturis, Emmanuel Burris, and Jason Donald. Based upon past resumes journeyman Izturis will get the nod. Their 40-man is full, and Donald already has one of the spots, but another could be opened if Masset gets DL'ed. It's been eight years since Izturis made an all-star appearance or won a gold glove, but the Reds will hope that Cozart and Phillilps will limit the amount of action for whoever gets the job therefore his age (33) won't be much of a factor. His .241 average last season was a little higher than the others and an improvement over departed Wilson Valdez. Prospect Henry Rodriguez's bat may force some action before the end of the season, but he's iffy at shortstop and will start the season hitting regularly against AAA pitching.

Finally, there's no shortage of competition in the bullpen. Even though the right-handed returnees fared well against left-handed hitters last season the need, whether real or perceived, for a lefty specialist will likely give Manny Parra the inside track. He held left-handed hitters to a .229 average in 2012 at Milwaukee and though his career was unimpressive with his previous employer, the same could be said about Simon one year ago.

Parra will force J.J. Hoover back to Louisville after an impressive rookie season. It's odd to imagine Mike Leake going to the minors since he spent no time there when he was fresh out of Arizona St., but there is no room. The Reds re-signed Leake for a $3 million, so he has a future with the organization. Right now it appears to be an insurance policy in case there are problems with Chapman's conversion or someone else in the rotation. Next year he may take a shot at Arroyo's spot after the 36 year-old makes $11.5 million in the last year of his contract. Southpaw Tony Cingrani shot up the system in 2012 from high-A to a MLB debut after roster expansion. However, comments from GM Walt Jocketty state they would prefer letting him continue developing as a starter and Parra's acquisition confirms that.

Of course the near-misses will be waiting in the wings in case someone falters. The lineup and bench have been upgraded and the pitching staff is coming off a stellar 2012 performance, so the pieces are in place for a deep postseason run. The main concerns appear to be Chapman's conversion, Choo's move to center field, and Broxton closing. Still, every team will have some questions coming into the season and the Reds have added veteran depth to address needs should they arise.

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