By Will Carroll
March 01, 2011
Dear Mr. Baker,

I was wrong. Last year, I looked at the rotation and saw a doom unlike any since Turin Turambar. (Yeah, I went there. Google it.) I expected a plague of locusts, for the Ohio River outside of right field to turn to blood and for the arm of Johnny Cueto to take leave of his body, scooting through the clubhouse and strangling those who weren't already on the DL. Instead, you took your team -- your team, not Ken Griffey's or Adam Dunn's -- all the way to the playoffs. Maybe you didn't disprove the theory that you can't win without the best player in the game on your roster, but maybe Joey Votto owes some of that MVP mojo to you, Dusty. I'm sure you look down the hall and are glad to see Tim Kremchek, Paul Lessard and his staff. Lessard's arrival from the Red Sox isn't just a coincidence, is it? Bryan Price sure seemed to help too, though I worried that his work in Seattle and Arizona didn't bode well for the young pitchers either. When I take a look at the injury stats from last year, they're better than in '09, but they're not so good that I think, "Wow, that has to be a fluke." Maybe you learned from the stops in San Francisco, where you ragged the 'pen, and Chicago, where you ragged the whole young rotation, and now, things come together in Cincinnati. You probably have a great quote about wisdom, age, and how things happen for a reason. I hope so, sincerely. While we've had our differences over the years, you've earned my respect. I just hope that you can prove to everyone else that 2010 wasn't a fluke. Cincinnati deserves that, as do the young pitchers in your toothpick ... I mean, hands. Good luck.Your pal, Will

P.S. I know you didn't ask, but please consider using Aroldis Chapman in multiple innings. I know you remember what Mike Marshall did for the Dodgers. That example might be a bit extreme, but Chapman went over 100 innings last year, even with you protecting him. There's no reason to think that he couldn't do it again, sensibly, and become the most valuable reliever in the game. Ignore the saves and the pundits. You like being the rebel, the innovator; this is your chance.

(HEAD TRAINER: Paul Lessard; FIVE YEAR RANK: 22; 2010 RANK: 12)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
1B Joey Votto
Votto is green and that's good. His ranking is a bit higher because of his time off a couple seasons ago, but that wasn't a physical issue and really shouldn't count. I don't like making data subjective so it's in there, but it's the reason I do these comments rather than just pumping out data. Context is key.

LF Jonny Gomes
Gomes has this by default. With Yonder Alonso' short-lived stint in left over, Gomes is what's available ... for now.

CF Drew Stubbs
Stubbs isn't young, but he is durable. That's a skill.

CL Francisco Cordero
He's a very high green (nearly yellow) and given his issues last season, it's surprising it's not even higher. Part of that is the regression in his innings expectation, which has as much to do with Chapman as it does with Cordero. If he can hold the position, he could be even more valuable, especially if the Reds see fit to turn Chapman into a multi-inning monster.

Also Green:
RF Jay Bruce
SP Bronson Arroyo
2B Brandon Phillips
Phillips' hand/wrist injury was almost as painful for the Reds as it was for Phillips at the end of last season. His loss of production was almost as costly as the more noticed loss of Scott Rolen. The System seems to be overestimating that injury as a sign of decline as a speed player turns 30.

SP Edinson Volquez
Edinson Volquez came back quickly from elbow reconstruction, but not ahead of schedule. He did show that control is the last thing to come. With a couple more months of rest and rehab, Volquez should be able to get back to form. Look to see that Volquez isn't wild early in camp. If you like what you see, he could be a steal come draft day.

SP Mike Leake
Leake was a textbook case of running into a workload wall. He was done at the 120 level and the Reds didn't belabor the point. Pairing him with Travis Wood another year would be a smart plan. Between the two of them (and the inevitable fill-in role for Wood), they could put up a solid 250 innings between them. If the Reds can keep Leake healthy and on a reasonable progression over the next two seasons, he could be a great No. 2 behind Cueto.
C Ramon Hernandez
Some catchers get a reduced rating because The System thinks they won't be back there enough to get hurt and it doesn't understand platoons that well. Platoons do reduce risk, but it's still the blind spot that bothers me most. That said, The System doesn't believe Hernandez can stay healthy. I reduced his playing time to just 100 plate appearances and he still came out red. The downside there is that it could overexpose Ryan Hanigan, who would be a red above 250 PA.

SS Edgar Renteria
There's an argument that Paul Janish should be here instead of Renteria. Janish's presence and glove probably make this playing time projection a bit high, but Renteria is 35 with a history of arm problems. He's risky, period.

3B Scott Rolen
Getting 500 PAs out of Rolen might have been the difference in the division last season. Counting on him to do it again flies in the face of common sense. If Rolen had been a bit healthier, we'd be debating his Hall of Fame chances now.

SP Johnny Cueto
Kung Fu Cueto was held to a reasonable level of innings by a suspension and a quick hook. He showed some development but wasn't overextended despite being the clear ace of a playoff team. That's admirable restraint and long term thinking. The biggest concern now is the declining K-rate. He's low in the red band, but still a risky pitcher for where he's going in most drafts.

SP Homer Bailey
Homer Bailey's shown over and over that he's neither consistent enough or healthy enough to stick in the rotation. He's out of options this year, so they'll have to hope that the talent shows for at least a while. If he can put up 150 innings of league-average work, the term "bust" should be pushed aside and replaced with "marginally useful while relatively cheap."

RP Aroldis Chapman
Ignore this rating. Just ignore it. I'd say the same thing if it was green, because there's simply no way to take what we know about pitchers and apply it to Chapman. 105? There's no one like him and the change of roles doesn't help narrow the possibilities, whether that means he stays in the 'pen (a change from his years of starting) or shifts back to the rotation (a change from his success in the pen.) Chapman might explode as spectacularly as Stephen Strasburg, Joel Zumaya, or the others in the Sidd Finch club, but maybe -- just maybe -- he's that special. The risk is off the charts, but so is the reward. There's going to be no more interesting guy to watch on draft days around the country.

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