Well, Reds fans, we know the rotation now. Barring injury, it will go Cueto, Latos, Arroyo, Leake, Bailey. Of course, where a pitcher is slotted is relatively meaningless. Except, that is, for what it tells us about how the organization feels about certain players.

What this lineup tells us is that Arroyo is not going anywhere. Or, at the very least, he’s going to be given every chance to prove there is still something in the tank. Bailey, it seems, is more on the bubble. Being slotted fifth in the rotation might mean nothing, but it might also mean that the Reds are just about out of patience.

One bit of speculation I have heard – and I have no problem with this – is that the rotation is set up to make it possible to easily skip Leake or Bailey and save some of those innings for later in the year. That’s something I can actually get on board with.

Also worth mentioning (I’ll talk about them a little more later on) are the backup options for the rotation – Aroldis Chapman, Jeff Francis, and hot young prospect Brett Tomko – wait, what? Oh, it’s 2012? Sorry about that.

So let’s start with Arroyo, what can we expect from him? Well, he’ll make all his starts and that isn’t without value. We should also expect some significant rebound from last year. I’m going to dive into some fancy stats here, so bear with me. I took a look at Pitchfx for Arroyo, and I can’t find much useful there. There have been some changes in his pitch usage, but they all occurred in 2010, which was a very good year for him. So, nothing to see there.

What is interesting is the difference between his FIP and his xFIP. The distinction between those two stats is that FIP assumes a pitcher has total control over his home run rate while xFIP assumes he doesn’t (it’s worth noting that xFIP predicts future ERA better than FIP or ERA). Anyway, xFIP sees Arroyo as exactly the same pitcher over the last three years (roughly 4.50 xFIP). If that happens we can expect him to post about 1.5 WAR over his standard 200+ innings. A big improvement over last year. I’ll be more conservative and call for him to be a 1.0 WAR pitcher next year.

Mike Leake, fortunately, is easier to deal with. Leake is a very good major league pitcher. Further, he should be mostly without innings limits this year and good to go for a full season. How good he is, exactly, depends a lot about what you think of that home run rate. He only has a season and a half of innings, so there’s reason to think it will regress from his 13.6 percent career rate. I have said before and will say again that I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Leake had a better ERA than Johnny Cueto this year. I’m not saying I think it’s the most likely scenario, but they are close enough in talent that it wouldn’t be a huge surprise. So, I’m going bullish on Leake and calling for 3.0 WAR.

Bailey is, well, you know. His peripherals are all good and you’d think he was going to have a lucky year eventually, but it hasn’t happened. To make matters worse, if there is a pitcher on the starting staff likely to miss time due to injury, it’s Homer. Pitching injuries are strange monsters, and I don’t feel comfortable at all predicting a full season for Homer. If I had to bet (and I sort of do since predictions are half of the point here). I’d figure him for around 20-25 starts. Basically, I think he’ll be who he was last year, but with a slightly better ERA because he was a bit unlucky. Figure him for 1.5 WAR.

Now, what about the rest? LeCure is good for a spot start in a pinch. Tomko is unembarrassing depth as long as he doesn’t have to pitch too much. Francis, however, is actually a good pitcher. He’s certainly better than Arroyo and he might be better than Bailey (like Homer, he’s had some bad luck, though his involves his strand-rate). If the Reds can possibly hold onto him, they should.

And that covers it.

I’m sorry, what? Oh yeah, that Chapman guy. Frankly, it’s all about control and durability. I think people forget that he started in Louisville when he was first signed, and hasn’t been a reliever that long. Preparing as a starter shouldn’t cause any issues and if his shoulder issues from the offseason don’t return, he will be somewhere between acceptable and holy *&@! on the goodness scale. It will all depend on the walks.

I’d bet on seeing him start a game for the Reds sometime this year, though not until a couple of months in. It seems possible to me that they’ll start him in the minors and work him lightly so he has plenty of innings left for when someone goes down. I do not think he will relieve this year, unless it’s in a playoff series.

So, how to project this? Basically, I’m going to take the bottom end guys from last year (Arroyo, Leake, Bailey, Willis, et al.) and compare them with the bottom end this year (Arroyo, Leake, Bailey, Chapman, et al.). I’m going to leave Francis out for now, because I’m betting he opts out if no one is hurt at the end of spring training. If that changes, I’ll update this projection when I wrap these previews up in a few weeks.

2011 Bottom Rotation WAR: 2.2

2012 Best Guess WAR: 5.5

Projected Difference: +3.3

2012 Floor WAR: 2.0

2012 Ceiling WAR: 11.0

Redleg Nation Position-by-Position Season Preview:

First Base
Second Base
Right Field
Center Field
Starting Pitching – Front End of the Rotation
Starting Pitching – Back End of the Rotation
Third Base
Left Field
Season Preview Wrap-Up