Reds Building Another Machine
Okay, it’s probably way too early to dub the 2009 Reds as the next Big Red Machine. But with the amount of young stars in their system and on their major league roster- and with their trading away of veteran stars Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn- these Reds are young and full of upside. And if any young team in the majors has the potential to become what Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion and Tony Perez were in the 1970s, it’s this one.
Jayson Stark’s article today suggested a changing of the guard in Cincinnati, and tend to I agree with him. Off-season acquisition Jonny Gomes has compared his new team to the Tampa Bay Rays- a young, talented team that came out of nowhere to challenge for a World Championship. With the older stars gone, the younger stars can now take over and stamp their identity on the team.
While they may not play for the World Series this year, the Reds certainly have the pieces in place for future contention. The rotation is led by Edinson Volquez, who was traded two seasons ago from Texas for Josh Hamilton. Volquez brings mid-90s heat to go along with a change-up that can be up to 20 MPH slower, to go along with a curveball that is still a work-in-progress but still a good-enough compliment to the rest of Volquez’s top-of-the-rotation arsenal. His skills translated to a breakout season in 2008, going 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 196 innings. Though his command faltered over the course of the second half, he’ll enter the 2009 season as the Reds’ ace. If he can improve upon last season’s 93 walks, he could be even better than he was in 2008. Here are some highlights from Volquez’s 2008 season:
The Reds also boast another potential ace in 23-year-old Johnny Cueto, who struck out 10 in his major league debut and lost a perfect game in the sixth. He has a similar arsenal to that of Volquez, with an A-list fastball that can reach the high 90s and a plus changeup. He’ll need to refine his slider a bit more- considering how much he throws it already- to take his game to the next level, but the upside and mechanics are already there. Comparisons to Pedro Martinez may yet be premature, but in a few years could prove to be accurate. Here are some highlights from Cueto’s 2008 season:
As for the Reds’ lineup, there is an abundance of young stars there as well. Edwin Encarnacion is currently their third baseman, but due to defensive struggles could move to the outfield. He is a very aggressive hitter who proved in 2008 to be rather streaky, but over time could prove to hit for a higher average with 25-homer power. Joey Votto has been highly-touted for some time now, and had a breakout season of sorts in 2008 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI as he took over as the starting first basemen. But if he can cut down on the strikeouts and put it together for a full season, Votto could be looking at a .300-30-100 type of season, a real breakout.
The biggest rising star in the lineup, however, is outfielder Jay Bruce. The 12th overall pick in the 2005 draft, Bruce boasts an elite power ceiling along with above-average speed, making him a budding five-tool superstar. Despite hitting just .254 in his first Major League season, he still hit 21 home runs in only 108 games and should be able to hit over 30 in 2009. His ceiling puts him in 50-homer territory, which would easily make him one of the game’s top hitters. He also has the speed to steal a dozen bases and cover significant ground in center field, making him one of the top all-around prospects in all of baseball. In a few years, we could be talking about Bruce as the best player in the game. Check out his effortless-looking swing in this video:
There is plenty to love about the 2009 Reds. With the team being officially handed over to Volquez, Cueto, Votto, Bruce and the rest, maybe they can begin to fulfill the promise that has been surrounding them in recent years. Cinncinati for now can have hope they have built another Big Red Machine.
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