General - The Reds were expecting a lot from their top salaried players Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Brandon Philips and Jay Bruce. Votto only played in 62 games, the season ended early for Bailey after 23 unimpressive starts, Phillips played 121 games but only hit .266 with very little power (.372 slugging) and Jay Bruce was a mess hitting just .217 with 149 whiffs. After reaching the playoffs for two seasons in a row the Reds were absent from the race last year and have now traded two of their starting pitchers, Matt Latos and Alfredo Simon to make room for a youth brigade of pitching that the Reds hope solve their starting pitching problems for years to come. It may take a year of maturity before that comes to fruition.
Key Additions - They traded one of their young surplus pitching prospects Ben Lively to get the aged bat of Marlon Byrd from the Phillies. Byrd is two years shy of 40 but still hit 25 homeruns last year. The trades of Alfredo Simon and Matt Latos got them youth that will not help them for 2016. Anthony DeSciafani, acquired from the Marlins in the Latos trade could compete for a starting rotation spot. Eugenio Suarez, who saw some time with the Tigers last year could win a utility spot. Not a lot has been done to improve the 2014 club.
Catcher - Devin Mesoraco may have had the best offensive year for the Reds. He hit .273 with 25 homeruns and a .893 OPS. The Reds are hoping to sign him to an extension to keep him around longer. They have defensive specialist Tucker Barnhart to compete with Brayan Pena for the back up job. Pena may have the edge because of the better bat and the ability to play first base.
First Base - The Reds signed Joey Votto to a multi year contract and they are already seeing the ravages of that long term deal come apart. He only played 62 games last year, hitting with little power when he played (.409 slugging). Votto does get on base a lot (.390 OBA) with walks and plays a good defense. If Pena makes the team he will be the backup, but Todd Frazier increased his versatility by playing a lot of games here. They also have the German Don Lutz who has a lot of pop, but a .176 average shows he is far from ready.
Second Base - Brandon Phillips is another player they hope will bring them a better year. A .678 OPS is not what they expected from Brandon when they signed him to an extension. Kris Negron did a good job as a utility player and can play here. Skip Schumacher is a more natural second baseman but is a little short with the bat.
Third Base - Todd Frazier had a break out year with his .273 average and 29 homeruns. The ex-Little League hero also stole 20 bases with an OPS of .795. The Reds hope to see the same kind of production from him in 2015. Negron showed the pop to play this position when Frazier was moved to first after the Votto injury. His bat was very productive against lefthanded pitching (.318).
Shortstop - Zack Cozart had an uninspiring year, hitting just .221. His defense is not at that level where he can battle the Mendoza Line to be effective. The Reds acquired Eugenio Suarez from the Tigers in the Simon deal to give them an alternative if Cozart continues his struggles. Suarez played 85 games for the Tigers last year but his bat would not be much of an improvement (.242) though he may have a flashier glove. The Tigers will probably have Suarez start the season in AAA and allow Negron to fill the shortstop hole when Cozart is not available, but Suarez will see any extended time.
Left Field - Marlon Byrd and his 38 year old legs will fill this hole. The Reds hope he can continue to send balls flying over the fence, despite the reality that most players lose their power after they pass 35 years of age. Byrd seems to be bucking that trend. Skip Schumaker will be asked to fill the position to rest the Byrd legs, but he is not really a permanent position here. Don Lutz needs to show he can hit if he wants to be put out here. His defense is no better than Byrd. Jason Bourgeois is on the 40 man roster and is an ideal defensive replacement, but he has been no better than a fourth outfielder for other teams.
Center field - Billy Hamilton did not wow the league with his speed stealing only 56 bases, but caught 23 times. It is difficult to steal bases when you don’t get on base (.292 OBA). The Reds hope to see some improvement in his second year. Schumaker is the primary back up in centerfield with Bourgeois also available. If Hamilton should struggle again the Reds have Kyle Waldrop or Yorman Rodriguez available for mid-season callups in the minor leagues.
Right Field - Jay Bruce needs to improve on his .217 average and .373 slugging percentage. He only hit .161 against lefties. This may be where the Reds get the bat of Kris Negron in the lineup against lefthanders. Schumaker and Bourgeois continue to be the backup alternatives but offer no long term hope if Bruce continues to struggle with the bat.
Starting Pitching - Johnny Cueto is the fifth highest paid Red and he earned his paycheck. If not for Clayton Kershaw he would have won the Cy Young award in the National League with his 20-9, 2.25 ERA. He got 23 second place votes and six third place votes. The Reds hope to get a complete season from Homer Bailey. He has fallen short of his first round draft pick status but makes a solid number two starter. There is a big drop after that with Mike Leake following him. Last year lefthanders hit .290 against Leake. The Reds were a little disappointed in the performance of their rookie phenom from last year Tony Cingrani. They hope to get a better year from him in 2015. He will be competing with a bevy of minor league pitching prospects as well as Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg for the final two spots. Myworld would take Cingrani and the pitching prospects. ERAs tend to be a little higher with the Reds park playing more as a hitters haven.
Closer - Aroldis Chapman is the closer premier with his 17.67 whiffs per nine innings. He saved 36 games last year. The Reds signed Cuban Raisel Iglesias, who also throws hard and pitched in the bullpen for Cuba, but the hope is to work him as a starting pitcher. The Reds do not really have a viable alternative, but Jumbo Diaz and his 315 pound frame and 18 saves last year in AAA.
Other Relievers - They did not get a lot of success from their bullpen last year. They have Sam Lecure coming back and Manny Parra will attempt to do a better job of getting lefthanded hitters out. Both had poor opponent averages (.277 and .283). The big boy Jumbo Diaz had some success last year and may see a more prominent role in 2015 as a setup man. He gets his fastball into the three digit velocity but at 315 pounds may not be that flexible off the mound. Spring training should be a battle of the other not so attractive options.
2015 Rookies - Pitchers who have a chance to win a staring role begin with the high 90s fastball of Robert Stephenson, who is probably the top prospect in the Reds. Expect more of a mid season callup from him. Anthony DeSciafani saw some time with the Marlins last year and would be the favorite to win the fifth spot if he has a good spring. He had some success in AAA but struggled when called up to start five games. Michael Lorenzen was a first round 2013 pick but is moving up the ladder quickly. Daniel Corcino is another option. He may also see a role in the bullpen if he doesn’t start. Raisel Iglesias is the Cuban reliever whose arm needs to be stretched out in the minors as the Reds seek to make him a starter. If he has success he could be up by midseason. On the non-pitching side Yorman Rodriguez could see some time in the outfield, especially if Jay Bruce struggles. Back in 2008 the Reds signed him to what once was the highest bonus signing of any foreign player. Kyle Waldrop is another outfield bat that may make an impression. Tucker Barnhart plays exceptional defense, so he could see a role as a backup. His weak bat prevents him from being a viable starter.
2015 Finish - The Reds still have a lot of work to do to see the playoffs in 2015. Their pitching is still young and they need to see better years from their four highest paid players to compete with the Cardinals and Pirates. Even the Cubs are getting closer in talent level to them.