Today, Baseball Prospectus hits the NL Central in its off-season Transaction Analysis.  I believe this is behind the subscriber wall (and a good reason to subscribe), so I’ll only hit the highlights. 

Surprisingly, the overall tone is mildly positive.  Christina Kahrl has bashed Wayne Krivsky pretty good, at least since last July, but the verdict here is that the Reds might contend “as long as nobody else in the division takes a step forward. That should make Krivsky look good while he overhauls the player development system.”

Some other notable points (after the jump):

  • On the rotation:  “For all of the activity, it’s hard to discern a plan.  Even with the decision to discard Claussen (a very defensible choice), there’s a four-way fight [plus Homer Bailey] for the fifth starter’s job.” 
  • On the ‘pen:  “Similarly overstocked, with bodies if not talent.”  Kahrl questions the need for so many lefties (Bray, Stanton, Cormier, plus Guardado at some point).  Verdict”  “Not a bad pen, but it also isn’t an especially great one.”
  • On Conine: Low-cost, but “he’s not much of a lefty thumper or an anybody-thumper, and he should only be used in the outfield in emergencies.”  She says that Conine’s not really insurance for Hatteberg, as much as a placeholder who’ll allow them to resist rushing Votto.
  • On Hamilton:  “Nothing if not interesting,” and suggests that his knee rehab should allow them to stash him in the minors until they can work out a deal with Tampa.  (Elsewhere questions whether Krivsky’s complaints to the commissioner about Tampa – which led to Livingston’s acquisition) might queer that deal.  Points out that Hamilton will be 26 in May, and hasn’t played above A-ball since 2001.
  • On Keppinger:  A generous view is that he’s ” a nice singles-on-demand bench player.  But between Keppinger, Juan Castro, and Bellhorn, you’ve got a trio of utility infielders without a lot of utility.”
  • On Denorfia:  The announcement that Jr might move to RF is a sign that Deno might finally stick.
  • On the rest:  Points out that there’s a good deal of “slack” in the 40-man roster, and no shortage of competitors for the last bench spots.  “The danger is that they’ll do things like keep Chad Moeller or Bubba Crosby, which in addition to Castro would make for a really weak bench.”

Verdicts on the rest of the division:

  • Cubs:  Still have lineup questions, but if Prior rebounds to Prior Form, they’ll be the favorites.  If not, they’re in a big pack with everyone but the Pirates.
  • Astros:  Haven’t fixed their back-of-the rotation problems, and still have lineup issues.
  • Brewers:  Deep roster gives them “a far more stable shot at contention than their division rivals.”  Ben Sheets’ ability to return to form will be more important than the Suppan acquisition.
  • Pirates:  Improved, but not enough to contend.
  • Cardinals:  (Did you know Ryan Franklin is penciled in as their #5 starter?)  “The team increasingly resembles a disjointed collection of compromises and place-holding solutions, instead of a concerted effort to give Albert and Carpenter a top-shelf supporting cast. The trophy’s nice, but this team might not match last season’s 83 wins, and the rest of the division didn’t sit still.”