Columnist-of-all-trades Joe Sheehan (, @joe_sheehan, plus archives at Prospectus, ESPN, and Rotowire) also publishes a regular (subscription) newsletter.  This week, he’s giving his bottom-to-top 2011 predictions.  Tonight, he released his top ten.

Already pleased that the Reds hadn’t appeared in the first two segments (teams 11-30), I just kept scrolling down farther and farther, trying to find them.  I passed everyone but the two mega-money teams, and saw this:

3. Cincinnati Reds (94-68, first in NL Central, 799 RS, 682 RA). They go one better than the Phillies in this regard: the Reds have six average or better starting pitchers, if you’ll grant me that a healthy Homer Bailey can reach that line. The young hitting talent is near or at its peak, they have tremendous pitching depth and they — when Paul Janish and Chris Heisey are on the field — may have the best defense in the league. The offense isn’t deep — the shortstops won’t hit, and they have some regulars with a case for being platooned — but the core is very good. The Reds’ value is that they just don’t have very many bad players. There’s no hole here on the order of the Phillies’ second baseman (without Utley) or the Braves’ center fielder or the Cardinals’ shortstop. The Reds’ bullpen was excellent over the second half of last season and will benefit from a full year of Aroldis Chapman — unless the Reds move him back to the rotation, something that another injury to a starter may push them to do. There’s just not very much downside here; some injury risk, some age risk, but nothing like what the other top teams in the league are dealing with. The Reds will end up as the best team in the NL. Hey, Cincinnati: show up.

The Enquirer/Gary Landers

Joe seems to always like (okay, overrate) the Reds in the pre-season.  Last year, he actually underrated them (predicting 86 wins — they actually won 91), but he expressly noted that they had 90-win talent (figuring only Dusty could drag them down).

Even if you discount for Joe’s standard pre-season optimism about the Reds, it’s hard to argue with his reasoning.  The Reds’ defense really stands out, especially in this division, and the pitching depth is a strength that will be leveraged as soon as this weekend.  I’m still terrified of a Rolen injury (let alone Votto or Bruce), but all things being equal, the Reds have as good an overall roster as anyone in the league.

Oh, and he picks a repeat of the 1975  World Series, and a certain Cuban lefty as ROY.  Yeah.  As he says, we should be buying tickets.

To subscribe to Joe’s Newsletter (I do), visit here.  It’s $29.95 for the full year (through January 31, 2012).  He writes somewhere between two to seven times per week.  It’s good stuff, and well worth the money.