By: Brent Raines ~Staff Writer~
The season may only be a week old, but the Reds seem poised to surprise many of the experts.
Cincinnati was a popular pick to finish last in the strong National League Central by media powers like ESPN and Sports Illustrated (who must not have realized that the Indians are in Cleveland when they picked them to win the World Series).
Even though they have cooled down from their 4-0 start, the Reds have shown that last year’s fourth-place finish might have been a fluke.
First baseman Joey Votto and right fielder Jay Bruce have returned to form after an injury-riddled 2014 season, and third baseman Todd Frazier has shown off the power that sent him to the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby last July.
However, the Reds’ most important player might be their thinnest, as center fielder Billy Hamilton has reached base frequently enough to wreak havoc on the basepaths.
We knew the top half of the rotation and the back of the bullpen would be strong. Fortunately, the back-end of the rotation has also held up its end of the bargain.
Starters Anthony Desclafani and Jason Marquis gave the Reds decent starts while Raisel Ilgesias showed promise.
For the Reds to stay in contention until the end of the season, the bullpen will need to improve before the ninth inning.
While he once was a successful closer, the bespectacled Kevin Gregg’s advanced stats show that he has never so much as an average reliever. Fan-favorite Jumbo Diaz has tried and failed to bridge the gap from the starter to Chapman.
Two of the Reds first three losses could be directly pinned on these two relievers, and their teammates in the bullpen have not performed much better.
Iglesias and other top prospects should be called up to reinforce Chapman in the bullpen, even if the Reds believe they should be starters down the road.
The Reds believe they have the pieces to contend, and so far most of them have held up their end of the bargain.