That means the Reds will have to straddle the line a bit in 2010. The young talent is impressive, but might not be quite enough to get things done on their own yet. Depending on how the veterans fare, the Reds will have to decide at some point whether they should put all their chips on the table and make a run for it in '10, or whether they should throttle back and aim for another year down the road.
Regardless of exactly how things play out, players like Bruce, Votto, and Chapman (assuming he arrives in the big leagues at some point this summer) make the Reds well worth keeping an eye on this season.
Coming and Going
In: Aroldis Chapman, LHP (free agency); Orlando Cabrera, SS (free agency); Aaron Miles, INF (trade); Kip Wells, RHP (free agent)
Out: Willy Taveras, OF (trade); Adam Rosales, 3B (trade)
Around the Horn
Replacing Volquez ...
When Edinson Volquez had Tommy John surgery late last summer, it was a huge blow to the Reds rotation. Since then, the Reds have signed Aroldis Chapman and watched Homer Bailey ended 2009 with some sizzle (1.70 ERA in his last nine starts with 8.2 K/9 with a respectable 3.7 BB/9 rate). There's still some question about whether Chapman will be ready for the big leagues right off the bat, but he'll almost certainly make his way to Cincy at some point in 2010 and he, Bailey, and Johnny Cueto form an impressive, young 1-2-3 combination to on which to build.
The Old Horses ...
Of course, everything is not entirely dependent on Chapman and Bailey. The hope for success lies every bit as much on the two veterans who've anchored the Reds' rotation for several years -- Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. Harang has now followed two outstanding seasons with two disappointing ones, following up his 2008 struggles with a 6-14 record, a 4.21 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. But all's not lost for him; his peripherals were very good last year (his FIP and xFIP, which estimate ERA based on strikeouts, walks and home runs, three factors a pitcher can control, were much lower than his ERA last season) and with a little luck he could be in line for a serious bounceback season in 2010. Meanwhile, Arroyo put up a monstrous second half (a minscule 2.07 ERA in his last 16 starts) in 2009 and shouldn't be overlooked either. Arroyo and Harang are can provide the depth necessary if this team is truly going to surprise people.
Bruce's Breakout ...
Even though it feels like Jay Bruce has been around forever, he won't turn 23 until the Saturday before the season opens. After a brutal start to the 2009 season and a wrist injury that wiped out most of July and August, Bruce came back with a vengeance in September, hitting .326/.426/.642 in the season's final 18 games. The Reds offense was pretty terrible last year and a full, good season from Bruce could help them improve.
The Vets ...
Just like Harang and Arroyo in the rotation, Scott Rolen and Orlando Cabrera are hugely important to the Reds' chances of contending. Rolen is coming off of three straight injury-marred seasons with the Cardinals and Blue Jays and hasn't played 150 games since 2003. He hit well when he was healthy in Toronto, though, and a lineup with Votto, Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Rolen could be downright scary. Cabrera isn't much of a hitter at this point in his career, but he did show some pop with the Twins (.430 slugging percentage in 59 games) after a disastrous start with the A's, and a move to the National League may do his bat some good.
Projected Opening Day Roster
A lot of people have the Reds on their sleeper short-list in 2010, and there's certainly enough talent here to warrant that. Still, there are a lot of things that have to fall in place for that to actually happen. They need big years from Harang, Arroyo, and Chapman, they need a healthy Rolen and a resurgent Cabrera, and they need Votto, Bruce, and Johnny Cueto to continue developing into above-average major leaguers. Of course, the latter three and Chapman are most important for the Reds this year; if they all perform well but the old guys falter and miss the playoffs, the Reds will still be in good position for the future.