Can the Reds rebound?

Is the team stacked to make an postseason run in 2014?

2014 is our year. Were not gonna let it slip away

2014 is our year. We’re not gonna let it slip away

The snow is melting, spring is in the air, and the baseball diamond is finally ready for playing. These are all signs that the 2014 Cincinnati Reds season is almost upon us!

I’m expecting this season to look really different than what most Reds fans are used to.

This is our first season since 2005 without workhorse starter Bronson Arroyo, who went his entire eight year Reds career without missing a start or going on the disabled list, and going at least 200 innings in seven of his eight years with the team. Speculation of a possible Reds return ended when he signed a 2-year $23.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It will also be tough for the team to adjust without Shin-Soo Choo in the leadoff spot. Choo was an on-base machine last season in a position that was just a black hole for the team in recent memory.  In his lone season with the team he hit .285 with a .423 OBP, compared to the league worst .254 OBP in 2012. He too went his separate way when he signed a 7-year $130 million deal with the Texas Rangers.

The most notable difference between this year and last is probably the surprising firing of manager Dusty Baker and appointing pitching coach Bryan Price in his place. The move was especially surprising since the Reds had just come off a third playoff appearance in the last four years, but in all three they have gone down without advancing past the first round, prompting a management change.

The empty rotation spot left by Arroyo will probably be filled by promising left-hander Tony Cingrani, who is expected to become a staple in a rotation also featuring ace Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake.

The leadoff spot is now officially Billy Hamilton’s to lose. The rookie phenom made noise two years ago by setting the minor league record for most stolen bases in a season with 155 in 2012, and has been the main buzz surrounding the Reds clubhouse in the offseason. Hamilton is the future of the team both in centerfield and in the leadoff spot.

I couldn’t be any happier with Price taking over Baker’s position as manager. I have a lot of faith in Bryan Price because he knows the team, he has the respect of all the players, and he knows how the team is built, so it’s not like we’ll see a whole lot of change from a coaching perspective, and hopefully we’ll see big changes in the playoff department.

As far as the rest of the team goes, Joey Votto had a down year in 2013, but if he can get his RBI totals back up and continue to take walks on a daily basis, then I believe he can definitely return to his MVP 2010 season form.

Brandon Phillips has to show this year that he is still one of the top second baseman in the league after reportedly almost getting traded to the Yankees this past offseason. He had a disappointing 2013 season and hopefully the return of Ryan Ludwick in the cleanup spot can allow Phillips to move into the two hole in the lineup where he thrives best. This could be his last chance to show the team he is still productive before they start looking elsewhere.

Todd Frazier is my comeback player of the year. The biggest disappointment of last season, he fell well short of expectations as Scott Rolen’s long term replacement at third base, hitting just .234 with 19 home runs in 150 games at the hot corner. Frazier is still my guy long term at third base and his Frank Sinatra walkup music can back him up on that.

I went around and interviewed a few baseball fanatics at Elder and got some good opinions on how they see the Reds doing this upcoming season.

Junior Ethan Duwell told me that he is hopeful about the team’s chances this year.

“I would like them to make the playoffs obviously and go to the big game, but with the talent emerging from the NL it’s tough to say that we will make the playoffs. I think Hamilton will be a big improvement with his inside out swing, so he will be on base more than most, and his speed will make up for any mistakes that he has. It was time for Arroyo to take his talents elsewhere. I didn’t really like Choo since day one so I’m thinking us losing him won’t do any harm,” said Duwell.

Junior Mark Meier told me that that he thinks the team will do about the same as last year.

“While I’m optimistic about the 2014 season, I think that they will finish about the same as last year. Billy Hamilton will add great speed on the bases and will be a huge asset. The loss of Shin-Soo Choo was a huge blow because of his ability to get on base frequently. I think that losing Bronson Arroyo was not hurtful to the team due to his inconsistency as a pitcher,” said Meyer.

Junior Jimmy Dowd is very confident in this year’s team and thinks they have what it takes to go all the way, and sees the LA Dodgers as their only real threat.

“This is the year of the Reds. In my opinion I believe that they are World Series bound. With the firing of Dusty Baker they can only get better. Dusty struggled with the ability to pull pitchers from the game when they were in trouble, which cost them a lot of games. Although I believe that they will be the force to be reckoned with in the national league they have to overcome losing Shin-Soo Choo. He provided the Reds with an abundance of offensive force last season, and I don’t believe that Billy Hamilton will be able to fill his shoes.”

“Although Hamilton is a speed demon, his power just isn’t there. Outside of Hamilton, I believe that this will be one of the best offensive years for the Reds because this year is in a sense a year of redemption for the team. Votto, although he put up good number last year, I feel, will showcase his potential this year by swinging the bat more often instead of looking for walks every time up. Brandon Phillips, I feel, will also be a strong offensive force because he is going to have to look forward in his future with all of the trade rumors coming out about him. If he wants to be sent to a contender either at some point during the year or after, he will have to put up strong numbers.”

“Overall though I feel that the only thing standing in the Reds way of making it to the World Series is the LA Dodgers and their overpaid team of all stars that are under much more pressure to perform. I believe that the Reds will outperform the Dodgers however because the Dodgers may have more offense than the Reds but their pitching depth is nonexistent. They have Kershaw and Grienke . The Reds have Cueto who is looking to have himself a big year after disappointing fans last year, Mat Latos, who should remain dominant, Homer Bailey who has only been improving and is looking for his third no hitter this year, Mike Leake who is solid and Tony Cingrani, who is looking to make an impact his rookie year. And on a side note it will be a Cincinnati Reds vs. Tampa Bay Rays World Series…you heard it here first,” said Dowd.

Get ready for baseball Reds fans, because 2014 is the year we will go all the way and show the doubters that we’re for real!