I am in the minority with the opinion that the Reds should have (and should still) use closer Aroldis Chapman as a starting pitcher. While many hate the idea of moving a proven closer to the starting rotation, I could have seen Chapman having a season similar to that of Chicago's Chris Sale last year. Sale at age 22 in 2011, went 2-2, 2.79 in 58 games (0 starts), striking out 79 in 71 IP. Last year, Sale went 17-8, 3.05 in 30 games, 29 starts, striking out 192 in 192 IP. Of course, Chapman was much more dominant last season, going 5-5, 1.51 in 68 games (0 starts) with 122 Ks in 71 1/3 IP. Chapman is more of a dominant pitcher than, lets say, Joba Chamberlain or Neftali Felix. For that reason, I think it could be beneficial to both the Reds and Chapman to at least check it out. The Reds re-signed Jonathan Broxton (4-5, 2.48, 27 saves in 60 games) to be their closer and still have Sean Marshall (5-5, 2.51, 9 saves, 10.9 Ks/ 9 IP). But both Chapman and the Reds have decided to stick with him as the closer, something that should still turn out to help the team.
Chapman heads a bullpen that not only has Broxton and Marshall, but has pitchers Jose Arredondo (6-2, 2.95), Logan Ondrusek (5-2, 3.46), Sam LeCure (3-3, 3.13) and Alfredo Simon (3-2, 2.66). Nick Massett, who pitched in 74+ games for the Reds from 2009-2011, should rejoin the pen this season. Of course, Chapman at the back makes this possibly the best pen in all of MLB. While many may disagree, I still think the Reds have a top bullpen with Chapman in the starting rotation.
Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78) and Mat Latos (14-4, 3.48) head a rotation that will still be solid. The Reds return the same rotation as last season with Homer Bailey (13-10, 3.68), Bronson Arroyo (12-10, 3.74) and Mike Leake (8-9, 4.58) scheduled to round out the five. All five made just about all their starts last season, and only 1 start was made by an additional Reds pitcher, Todd Redmond (August 18th in the second game of a double header). By the way, Redmond is now in the Orioles organization. I concede that conventional wisdom would be behind Chapman relieving and the same five pitchers starting. However, injuries do happen and odds are the Reds will need another starting pitcher at some point in 2013. I understand why Chapman may not start, but still feel it should be considered at some point.
The Reds added OF Shin Soo Choo in a trade with the Indians. Choo (.283, 16, 67, 43 2Bs, 150 Ks) moves over to play CF in place of Drew Stubbs (.213, 14, 40, 13 2Bs, 166 Ks). Clearly an upgrade. Star 1B Joey Votto (.337, 14, 56, 44 2Bs, 1.041 OPS) only played in 111 games due to injury. A healthy Votto is a favorite for the NL MVP this season. Jay Bruce (.252, 34, 99) and Ryan Ludwick (.275, 25, 80) flank Choo with All Star 2B Brandon Phillips (.281, 18, 77) giving the Reds a top middle of the order. Toms River's own Todd Frazier (.273, 19, 67) gets his first full season as the team's 3B, with SS Zack Cozart (.24, 15, 45) and C Ryan Hanigan (.274, 2, 24) rounding out the lineup. I'd set them up like this: Choo CF, Phillips 2B, Votto 1B, Ludwick LF, Bruce RF, Frazier 3B, Cozart SS, Hanigan C to separate the three lefty hitters. 25 year old Devin Mesoraco (.212, 5, 14) could be a sleeper this season as he has more of an offensive upside than Hanigan. OF Chris Heisey and 3B Jack Hannahan could be starters on a number of teams but instead will lead a strong Cincinnati bench. Top prospect Billy Hamilton will not be 23 until September 9th, and is probably blocked for this season with the depth the Reds have in the outfield. Choo is set to be a free agent after this season.
The Reds 97 games last season and should be on the same pace for this season. The question is whether the Reds will take the next step and make it to the World Series. Vegas was low on the Reds this season, putting their over/ under at 88 1/2. To me, it is an easy over as I have the Reds finishing the season at 96-66, 1st place in the NL Central. Dusty Baker has one thing holding him back in the discussion of the games top managers. He has not won yet. A Pennant with the Reds will certainly help.