The Reds are getting no love from Sports Illustrated in their preseason predictions. The Reds are predicted to finish dead last in the NL Central and are ranked 28th in Major League Baseball. The Reds rank ahead of only the Royals and Marlins.
It’s easy to see why their article assessment has us rated so low. Most of the article focuses on Ryan Freel and Eric Milton.
Freel, 30, emerged as one of the game’s better leadoff hitters in 2005, finishing with a .371 on-base percentage and 36 stolen bases from the one hole. He possesses all the attributes of a thinking leadoff man: He is willing to work the count, and he plays to his strength (speed) while minimizing his weakness (limited pop), hitting twice as many ground balls as fly balls. The 5’10”, 180-pound Freel has a prototypical small man’s game, regularly ripping his uniform on headfirst slides and sprawling catches. His aggressive style sent him to the disabled list twice last season.
But alas, we’ll see Tony Womack on Opening Day.
The Reds appear destined to play dozens of 10-9 games, and they won’t be competitive until they seriously upgrade their staff. Freel, who signed a two-year, $3 million extension in December, is a fine building block, a scrappy, multipurpose piece and a face for the franchise. But the talent gap between Cincinnati and the class of the NL Central is too great to bridge on hustle alone.
I agree about the pitching staff. I don’t think we’ve “seriously” upgraded our staff much from last year, but I feel we have made some improvements. I like Ryan Freel as much as anyone, but this article and assessment only mentions Dunn once, in one measly sentence (only stating that he’ll play LF now due to WMP’s departure), and never mentions Griffey, Kearns, nor Lopez. I think our offense is still a potential #1 in the NL. No wonder SI predicts the Reds so low. It’s as though Freel and Milton are it!
Of course it is still the preseason and I’m always optimistic at this time of year. Ask how I feel come July!