We are sitting in a foot of snow, but, believe it or not, Spring is here! Spring training starts in Arizona on Thursday for the Reds. The lineup, rotation, and bullpen are pretty much set. Long gone are the days of competition at 4 positions and three spots in the rotation. (Remember the Bowden days!) There is still a little competition. LF is wide open. And, the 5th spot in the rotation is available with at least 5 competitors. Here is what we do know...
C Hernandez, Hanigan
LF will most likely be a platoon situation. But, if one of the young guys comes in and blows the coaches away, they could earn the spot. Juan Fransisco (Left handed) has been playing LF in the Carribean but from the sounds of it, is still an adventure. He would certainly provide a power bat in the lineup. He hit 25 home runs in Single A, 23 home runs in Double A and 27 between AA and AAA last year but strikes out a ton! Chris Heisey (RH) flew under the radar until last year when he was the Reds minor league player of the year. He just turned 25 but was drafted out of college. He has hit for average everywhere, has a good glove and showed some power last year when he hit 22 home runs between Double A and Triple A. Todd Frazier (RH) is a natural infielder but has been working out in the outfiled hoping for a spot on the big club. He is 23 and only has 69 AAA at bats. He will probably need a little more seasoning but everyone expects him to be called up at some point this year. Wladmimir Balentien (RH), signed last year from the Mariners is still only 25 years old. He has shown great power and good bat control all over the minors but that has never translated to the majors. This might be his last shot and has a lot to prove after being a minor league star. Chris Dickerson (LH), Laynce Nix (LH), Josh Anderson (LH), and a darkhorse Yonder Alonzo (LH), are also competing for the spot. There are a lot of exciting prospects at this position. Personally I am hoping Chris Heisey plays well in Arizona and earns the right handed spot. Dickerson or Anderson would provide a nice left handed option at the position because of their speed.
The fifth spot in the rotation is up for grabs. Micah Owings filled the role last year, but he was given every opportunity to earn the spot last year when he went 7-12 with a 5.34 ERA, 64 walks and 68 strikeouts. I expect Owings to make the team as a long reliever and pinch hitter. My personal favorite for the position is left hander Matt Maloney. He has shown great control throughout the minors and pitched well when he was called up last year. He walks very few and shows great poise. Travis Wood will get a shot. He is a 22 year old who was absolutely tremendous last year when he was 13-5 with a 1.77 ERA between AA and AAA last year. But, he struggled the previous two years and will probably start the year in the minors. Aroldis Chapman has been written about everywhere. From everything I've read, he has a great arm. He can hit 100 MPH on the gun and has three good pitches but has to work on his control. He will probably start in the minors but with that arm and that contract, may not be there for long. Justin Lehr and Mike Lincoln, seriously, will also compete for the fifth position but I don't think anyone wants to see that!
It all starts Thursday...can't wait!