Now at the onset of spring training, the first item on every team’s agenda is to determine who will be on their roster come opening day. Cincinnati once again returns a core of veterans so most of their twenty-five slots will be no surprise when they head north. There has been some turnover in the rotation and uncertainty in the bullpen, but here’s a best guess at personnel available when they host Pittsburgh in the season opener on April 6:
C: Devin Mesoraco
1B: Joey Votto
2B: Brandon Phillips
3B: Todd Frazier
SS: Zach Cozart
LF: Marlon Byrd
CF: Billy Hamilton
RF: Jay Bruce
Assuming no unexpected injuries this is the easiest portion of the roster to predict with seven regulars returning plus Byrd added to the outfield.
C: Brayan Pena
IF: Eugenio Suarez
IF: Kris Negron
OF/2B: Skip Schumaker
OF: Jason Bourgeios
At least three of the five spots here appear certain with a couple of holdovers and a Suarez who is capable of challenging for regular duty. No one is really known as a corner infielder, but Pena can play first and Negron has plenty of versatility in the field to give him an inside track on the second spot. The fifth outfielder job is up for grabs. Bourgeios didn’t make it up to the Reds until after roster expansion last season, but assuming Schumaker will be the fourth one, a right-handed hitter will might be preferred for the final spot. On the other hand, both infielders hit right-handed and Negron has played in the outfield before, so they may opt for another left-handed bat like Brennan Boesch.
Homer Bailey (DL)
Coming into the season it was known that two spots would turnover, but recent reports are that Bailey won’t be ready until after opening day so it’s likely that another one of the replacement candidates will have a spot. Obviously they want Bailey back ASAP, but it does give an extra pitcher a chance to make a case for taking ownership of the five-man job.
This is the most difficult portion to predict after the struggles of the unit last year. The Reds have high hopes that Badenhop will make a nice addition. If last year’s performance didn’t send Hoover back to Louisville, then a decent spring should get him more amnesty. Parra has another year on his contract which will probably give him an opportunity to return to 2012 form. Marshall’s health makes him anything but a certainty and if he isn’t ready then non-roster invite Jose Mijares might get an early shot. The biggest spring training opportunity for a new player to nail down a spot is Raisel Inglesias who could end up in the pen or even start, possibly making Cingrani available for relief duty if Marshall isn’t ready.
2015 could be a crossroads season in Cincinnati. From the number of veteran holdovers, it’s clear that the front office has intentions to return to contention despite the offseason deals for payroll relief. On the other hand, the question of availability hangs overhead after coming off an injury-ravaged season. A repeat of that could be disastrous as they are thin on depth and pitching won’t likely be as reliable.
Worst Case: Injuries rear their head again, Byrd is unable to hold off Father Time, and pitching turnover is too much to fill with adequate replacements. This could cause an early removal from contention which would trigger shopping Cueto and Chapman before the trade deadline; step one toward a more massive rebuild going into 2016.
In the middle of everything is second year manager Bryan Price. It’s no doubt the ascension into his first managerial job came from impressive results during his tenure as Cincinnati’s pitching coach. Now he’ll show how well he can sustain that success after personnel turnover. There’s a lot of innings up for grabs with the departure of top-rotation pitcher Mat Latos and all-star Alfredo Simon. It could be a bigger challenge depending on how long Bailey is out. He is expected to return sometime in April, but Cincinnati invested over $100 million in him before last season, so they won’t rush him back to the mound with any concerns on readiness. They return a dominating closer and it’s not a tall order to ask for bullpen improvement, but the team really suffered from the loss of reliability they enjoyed from this bunch in preceding seasons.
Meanwhile, he’ll also need to be effective pulling the strings to facilitate a resurrection in the offense. After high expectations one year ago no one in Cincinnati can be happy with his first-year results. He had no shortage of valid excuses; anyone could have predicted the offense would take a hit if they’d know that Negron’s home run total would match Votto’s. The front office has had an entire offseason to both deal with payroll constraints and eliminate excuses. If successful, Price will have a fuller deck to compete with and show that his promotion was the right decision.
Predicting the Reds' Opening Day Roster
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