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2007 Cincinnati Reds Preview

2007 Cincinnati Reds Preview

The Reds finished under .500 for the sixth consecutive season, but just 3.5 games behind the NL Central and World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. There is a reason for optimism in Cincinnati under new manager Jerry Narron, who joined new owner Robert Castellini and general manager Wayne Krivsky for their first season in Cincinnati. The Reds stayed in the race for most of the season and were on top of the Wild Card standings in august, but a 2-8 West Coast rip knocked them out of the lead for good. Injuries were a problem yet again as Ken Griffey was limited to 109 games and finished with 27 home runs and 72 RBIs. Krivsky made some big moves in July to bolster the roster. He signed Eddie Guardado from Seattle and made him the team’s closer. He sent Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner to the Washington Nationals for Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, Gary Majewski and two minor leaguers.

Cincinnati was moderately active in the offseason, with the addition of Gold Glove shortstop Alex Gonzalez, first baseman/outfielder Jeff Conine and lefthanded reliever Mike Statnton. All three are experienced veterans who know how to win and should accept their roles. The top offseason priority for Krivsky was avoiding arbitration with starting pitcher Aaron Harang, who was 16-11 with a .376 ERA and an NL-leading 216 strikeouts last season and appears to be headed for a big payday. Bronson Arroyo is back and better than ever as a pitcher after his 14-11 record and .329 ERA in 2006. Eric Milton, Kyle Lohse, Matt Belisle and Homer Bailey will compete to fill out the rest of the starting five, with Milton and Lohse most likely earning the Nos. 3 and 4 slots, respectively. Veteran David Weathers will lead a closer-by-committee.

David Ross returns at the catcher position after hitting 21 homers, second among NL catchers, despite his platoon role and an abdominal strain that limited him to 247 AB. Switch-hitter Javier Valentin also should get his share of at-bats after hitting .269 with eight home runs in 186 at-bats. With the signing of shortstop Alex Gonzalez, the Reds have one of the more athletic double play tandems in the NL with Gonzalez and second baseman Brandon Phillips. Phillips had a breakout season last year, hitting .276 with 17 home runs and 25 stolen bases, and he turned in some dazzling plays defensively. Veteran Scott Hatteberg and free agent acquisition Jeff Conine will get the majority of playing time at first base. Young Edwin Encarnacion will occupy third base. Encarnacion reached base in 98 of 117 games and led the Reds in doubles with 33. Alex Gonzalez led all AL shortstops last year with a .985 fielding percentage with seven errors in 475 chances. The infield will be the strong point for Cincinnati without a doubt.

There is no questioning the talent of the outfield either. They just have to stay healthy this season and pray that Ken Griffey can carry the team out in center. He is a question mark during spring training after sustaining a broken hand in an offseason accident at home. Speedy outfielder/infielder Ryan Freel is the motor behind the Cincinnati engine offensively and covers a lot of ground defensively. Leftfielder Adam Dunn has been the talk of many trade rumors but he is staying put this season. He can hit it out of the park with the best the MLB has to offer. We feel that offensively this team can compete with any National League team. Their pitching will make the difference whether or not the Reds have a chance to compete for postseason play. If they have the same ERA they did last season as a staff, there’s not a chance in hell.