By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
The most powerful thing in sports medicine isn't money. It certainly isn't research. It's trust. Find that, between a staff and a player, between a doctor and a team, and things tend to go well, even if everything else works against them. It certainly works for a team and its manager, as Dusty Baker's ebb and flow is precisely in relation to just how much "trusty" is left in "Dusty." I spend more time around the Reds than any other team because of my location, which gives me a chance to observe them more. Watch any of the key people -- Baker, pitching coach Bryan Price, Head Trainer Paul Lessard and Team Physician Tim Kremchek -- and you'll see a team that trusts the people they're supposed to trust. Good, bad, whatever -- this team is set up well. A couple years ago, I was up in a suite with a radio crew I used to work with. They were a Reds affiliate that year and were given the suite as a thank you. At some point in the evening, Bob Castellini, the owner, walked in and he pointed out some of his favorite things about the Reds park. He noted these small red panels that covered the concrete of the stadium's skeleton. I hadn't noticed them, but I had noticed that the stadium looked better in '09, somehow freshened and better. It's a small thing, but sometimes, the small things make all the difference. This franchise doesn't let many details get by them.

Health Keys: They need to keep their older stars healthy while integrating their younger players. Figuring out Aroldis Chapman would be a bonus.

(HEAD TRAINER: Paul Lessard; FIVE YEAR RANK: 22; 2011 RANK: 10)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
RF Jay Bruce
Bruce has taken increased workloads in stride, popping up his counting stats along the way. Still only 25, he actually still has some upside, which is aided by his durability. Quick tip: best seats in Great American Ball Park are along the first base side, where you can see just how strong Jay Bruce's arm is and watch Aroldis Chapman warm-up. There are also some amazing ribs at the Smokehouse, which isn't much further down the RF line.

SP Bronson Arroyo
Arroyo pitched through mononucleosis last year. That's pretty impressive on its own. His durability is his best asset at this stage and while his numbers were off, his stability is invaluable to the staff.

Also Green:
2B Brandon Phillips
CF Drew Stubbs
C Ryan Hanigan
Hanigan would be riskier if he didn't figure to be a placeholder. He's like the cheese on a cheeseburger. Important, but not the main focus. He was helped by splitting time with Ramon Hernandez; now he'll do the same with Devin Mesoraco, who could end up with the lion's share of the playing time.

1B Joey Votto
Votto is yellow by a point, and even there, I don't like the ranking. The comps aren't good here -- Jeff Bagwell and Todd Helton -- but that's hardly destiny. Like most, he could do with some rest, but one of the good things that Dusty Baker does is manage superstars. Votto's as good as they come and at his peak.

LF Ryan Ludwick
Ludwick is always a health risk, but paired with Chris Heisey in a straight platoon, he's a tolerable one. The two should be fine, but an injury to Ludwick would expose Heisey and vice versa.

SP Mat Latos
Cueto and Latos are interchangeable as P1/2, but given the price paid for Latos, I'll tip him the slot. Latos' performance will be watched closely in the new park, but watch more closely for his efficiency. He wore down at the end of his first couple seasons but last season went the opposite way. If a few more homers lead to a few more long innings, those innings totals won't show it. I don't believe in pitch counts in isolation, but I do think pitch totals could be an interesting thing to look at in the future. Latos is headed to a make or break year for durability. It's not a bad thing if he's a 175-innings guy, but that's not an ace, especially for Dusty Baker.

RP Sean Marshall
Marshall could close, or start, or stay in the setup role he's been good in. His versatility works against him in this rating since it looks at what he's done. The System is a stickler for consistency. It's a pretty low yellow anyway.

CL Ryan Madson
Madson's had some odd injuries, like a broken toe he suffered after kicking a cooler after a bad game. His hand injury last year is a bit more concerning, both physically and temporally. He came back fine and fell into the Reds lap after the closer market collapsed. Madson has a temper and this will put him on blast. We'll see if it's opposing hitters or Madson than gets the worst of it.

SS Zack Cozart
Cozart had one of the uglier injuries of 2011, having his elbow nearly pulled from his body on a slide. His elbow hyperextended, popping the UCL and various and sundry other parts inside. Kremchek did a more involved Tommy John surgery to keep everything in place, so while infielders can come back more easily from Tommy John than pitchers, this isn't the typical Tommy John. Cozart also had an ankle surgery, since he wasn't doing anything else. He should be ready for spring training, but it's hard to call him anything but very risky until he proves he's all the way back. Paul Janish is a tolerable insurance policy if Cozart isn't quite ready.

3B Scott Rolen
The Reds might be driven by Votto's bat, but Rolen could be the key to the Reds this season. If he's healthy enough to play 120 games and hit like he has in the slow twilight of his career, the Reds are a huge favorite in this weakened division. At 37 and coming off a Mumford on his shoulder, that's going to be a tall order and a lot of hard work for the medical staff.

SP Johnny Cueto
Cueto had a great season in between shoulder injuries. He started the season with a dead arm that can easily be explained by a high-stress '10. The lat strain that ended things is a bit more concerning in the long term, but the Reds watch him closely. I'm not overly concerned and think this red rating is a bit high. Just a bit.

SP Mike Leake
Leake took another 30-inning jump last year and improved as it went on. He got much more efficient at the end of the season, though some of it was the quality of opponents. If that sticks, this red is a big mistake. The 190-inning hurdle is a tough one, and Leake's size is always going to be held against him, but if the Reds are looking to get back to the playoffs, they'll need Leake to be a valid P3 -- or better.

SP Homer Bailey
I'm not sure what it says that last year's numbers were Bailey's best for his career. I'm also not sure what more I can say about Bailey that isn't summed up in the baseball term "lacks work ethic." His shoulder hasn't held up to a full season and that's not likely to change. Bailey could be pushed to the pen if Aroldis Chapman sticks as a starter, but that's a whole different kettle of red fish.

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