The Cincinnati Reds took to the field for the first time in 134 days on Friday, February 22nd, and the team has certainly come a long way in terms of “Spring Training battles.” A few years ago, a guy Mike Leake would have been fighting for the two or three slot in the rotation; this year, he looks to be the odd man out.
With the roster seemingly set give or take a player or two, there are still plenty of interesting storylines to keep tabs on in regard to the Reds.
How will center fielder Shin-Soo Choo adjust to a new team and new position? Will Joey Votto regain the form he had pre-knee injury? Who will get the nod in a tightly contested bullpen battle? Can Aroldis Chapman convince even the stoutest of naysayers that he belongs in the starting rotation?
Got all of that?
While results aren’t necessarily all that important during Spring Training, there are still worth following if you are in need of a baseball fix. Let’s take a look at the three most intriguing of the four keys this spring.
Shin-Soo Choo: Choo’s ability to play center field has been critiqued ad nauseam since the Reds acquired him back in December. So far, so good. Choo hasn’t been tested too much to this point, but he hasn’t made headlines for negative reasons, either.
Offensively, one thing is clear: Choo presents the potential for a drastic shift from just one year ago via both the center field and leadoff positions. The former Cleveland Indian has a .385 on-base percentage, and while this isn’t jaw-droppingly good, it is certainly a marked improvement over Drew Stubbs and the hole in his bat.
Joey Votto: To put it simply, Joey Votto was not the same player late last season once he returned from a knee injury that sidelined him in mid-July. The most noticeable absence from Votto’s game was his power.
Votto’s spring still started as many would expect, recording an RBI-single on a line drive up the middle. (Some things just never change.) In terms of power, Votto recorded his first homerun in over eight months this past week (going opposite field, for what it’s worth), and he currently has an OPS of 1.083. No time to make rash conclusions, but Joey Votto may be back to being Joey Votto.
Aroldis Chapman: Aroldis Chapman electrified the MLB last year, putting up stunning numbers as a closer. Subsequently, many have balked at the thought of taking him out of the role he has been so dominant in. This spring will be crucial if Chapman is to take the next step and become a starting pitcher.
Chapman pitched for the first time this week, and needless to say, the Cuban lefthander impressed. Chapman threw two scoreless innings, recorded a strikeout, and displayed a wide range of velocities from the high 70s to the low 90s. He wasn’t throwing his customary heat, but Chapman did what he will have to do over an extended outing: locate his pitches with pinpoint accuracy.
Opening Day is only a month away. Get your Reds-helmet-full-of-nachos ready.
Simply confirm your registered email address below and click "Reset Password." We will immediately email you a link back to the site where you can enter a new password for this account.
We've found your existing Cincinnati Magazine Insiders account. Please login below to complete the Facebook login process.
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.
In partnership with Marketron Interactive