By: Brent Raines ~Sports Editor~
Even with one of the best hitters in baseball manning first base, the Cincinnati Reds are probably going to be one of the worst teams in baseball this year. While most fans will turn away from a team likely to drop 90 games, the hardcore fans will still tune in to Fox Sports Ohio to watch the Redlegs battle for fourth place.
In honor of MLB finally allowing the Reds to retire Pete Rose’s number, here are 14 things to watch this season.
1.When most folks had moved on to football season, Joey Votto wrapped up one of the best half seasons ever. His .535 OBP after the All-Star break was the fifthbest ever, behind only all-time greats Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Roger Hornsby.
2. Continuing the theme of great second-half performers, Anthony DeScalfani was in line to start opening day before an injury gave the start to Raisel Iglesias. DeScalfani moved away from relying on his fastball in the second half of the season, showing a lot of promise with a 5.5 strikeout to walk rate.
3. Iglesias had his own run of success, including a streak of three straight 10-strikeout games, which was the first time a rookie had completed the feat since 1995. The 26-year-old Cuban is drawing comparisons to ex-Reds ace Johnny Cueto and had an effective start on Opening Day.
4. Longtime Reds Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips are on the roster now, but will they be in August? The Reds tried to trade both but couldn’t find takers for the struggling Bruce, while Phillips used his no-trade clause to veto a couple of potential deals.
5. Many fans wanted manager Bryan Price fired after a second straight 90-loss season, but he’s back for his third go-around. The Reds knew this would be a down year, so are they letting Price take the fall for a rough season in order to hire Hall of Famer Barry Larkin for 2017?
6. Billy Hamilton can run fast. It’s time for him to show if he can hit enough too.
7. Devin Mesoraco was an All- Star in 2014, while Zach Cozart had a shot to reach the game last year. Can they both rebound from major injuries to be the players they once were?
8. Plenty of rookies will get their first taste of the big leagues this year, none more highly regarded than pitcher Robert Stephenson. With several injuries to the pitching staff, Stephenson will be forced to prove he’s worth the hype much earlier than the Reds would have liked.
9. As the Reds entered a fullblown rebuild, many of their established veterans were sold off for prospects. The Reds have done fairly well in these types of trades over the past few seasons, and we’ll get a look at some of the guys that the Cueto, Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman trades brought to Cincinnati. Two to keep an eye on are Scott Schebler and Jose Peraza, both pieces in the Frazier trade. Schebler is a corner outfielder coming off a fantastic spring and should be in line for regular playing time right away. Peraza is a middle infielder who was once one of the top prospects in all of baseball. While his star has faded, his potential was great enough for the Reds to give up an All-Star and fan favorite. Peraza will start the year at Triple-A and will likely stay there until Phillips or Cozart either get traded or injured.
10. After years of being banned from doing so, the Reds will finally be able to honor the Hit King by inducting Pete Rose into the Reds’ Hall of Fame and retiring his number in June.
Even if Great American Ballpark won’t be hosting a quality team, there’s still plenty to watch for if you are a Reds fan.
Oh, expecting four more? In honor of Pete Rose, we lied and there are only 10 things to watch instead of 14. It’s OK, we won’t be banned from baseball for this.