Two on Two: 2006 NL Central Preview
By Rich Lederer & Bryan Smith
Today we return to our 2006 previews, staying in the midwest. In our first installment of this feature, Aaron Gleeman and Cheat helped us preview the AL Central. Here to duke it out with Rich and Bryan are two very talented writers, Larry Borowsky from Viva El Birdos (a Cardinals blog) and John Hill via the Cub Reporter. Enjoy the latest segment...
Bryan: It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Graffanino would simply be piling on top of Todd Walker and Jerry Hairston. It would really be odd if the Reds and Cubs entered the year with six combined capable (though that's a strong word for Tony Womack) second basemen.
John: Not at all, because the majority of Cub fans as I can see are at the very least satisfied with Todd Walker, who, while not great defensively and prone to saying a few stupid things, has a very solid bat for a second baseman.
Larry: But Dusty doesn't like him. Or doesn't seem to.
Bryan: I mentioned the Reds 2B problem, guys, and it's really just a bit in a damning resume that led to Dan O'Brien's firing. Before he left, he finally fixed the OF/1B logjam by acquiring mediocre pitcher Dave Williams, adding to the mediocrity and filth that makes up the pitching staff.
Rich: I'm not so sure O'Brien fixed that logjam. Cincy still has four outfielders plus it looks as if Scott Hatteberg might start at first base
Bryan: Any reason for optimism in Cincy?
Larry: Not for a while. They do have some of the most interesting young players in the division. Felipe Lopez looks good, ditto Edwin Encarnacion. Looks like Wily Mo Pena will be a good roto player if not necessarily a good real-life hitter.
Rich: I'm not high on Pena at all. He struck out 224 times while accumulating 42 walks in approximately 700 plate appearances the past two years. PECOTA can fawn all over him as it wants, but I think he is overrated and unlikely to become a star player.
John: I'm not entirely sure Felipe Lopez' bat is for real, given his historical propensity to strike out and he's also a butcher of a shortstop.
Bryan: If ever there was a team that should be willing to sacrifice some defense for some above-average offense, it's the Reds. As a hitter, it seems Lopez, Jorge Cantu and Jhonny Peralta all broke through last year and enter the year with a lot of doubts, despite solid (if stagnated) minor league records. He's a good offensive player that probably won't get better than he was last year.
Larry: Their players draw a lot of interest. Austin Kearns, Pena, Lopez, and Adam Dunn are all pretty coveted. And Dunn's contract is considered to be highly moveable. So perhaps there's an opportunity to restructure the talent on that team.
John: The changes for the Reds have to come first via the farm system, and the outlook on that front isn't particularly bright at all. Trading away Adam Dunn isn't likely to be a profitable move for them.
Larry: Anybody think they can move Ken Griffey Jr.?
John: If there's even a chance of it, the Reds ought to be all over it. He's expensive, awful defensively, and it's only a matter of time, surely, before he gets injured again.
Bryan: Yes, but I'm not sure the return will be worth it. Kearns needs to come out of the gate hot, and then Krivsky can trade him and insert Chris Denorfia into the outfield.
Larry: Bryan, what do you think of Homer Bailey?
Bryan: For the Reds to be successful, the changes need to come from the farm system, like Bailey. This team needs to find a way to keep young pitchers healthy, and maximize their potential. It has been awhile since they've done that. Bailey's arm is fantastic, but this organization needs to change its methodology before I'm a full-fledged believer.
Larry: They do have a new owner who has ties to the Cardinal organization. If nothing else, I think a change in philosophy is in the offing in Cincinnati. Whether or not they will execute remains to be seen, but I would expect a new process of decision-making at the very least.
Bryan: The Reds are, like a lot of teams in baseball, simply a few years away. That's really the easy way to conclude, right?
John: Do you think enough of the Reds' system to say that they're only a few years away, Bryan? Or, do you have faith in their new GM to maintain a strong lineup while simultaneously finding all the pitching, and that's essentially about nine or ten members of that staff, that they need?
Bryan: Well, I'm stretching the word "few," John. It's a weak system, and a creative GM will need to work a lot of magic to fix this team.
Larry: With the wild card, one only needs to cobble together 88 wins to make the playoffs. And that can be done with a couple of decent trades, one free-agent pickup, and an unexpected year from one prospect. I could easily see them being competitive again by 2009 -- why not?
Bryan: After seeing what Doug Melvin has done in Milwaukee, I'll believe anything.
Rich: Oh, the Reds can be turned around. But it won't happen overnight, and it won't be easy. It's gonna take time and patience. Unfortunately, most of the talent at the big-league level is at the wrong end of the defensive spectrum, the pitching staff could be the worst in baseball, and the minor-league system is bereft of talent.
Bryan: The Pirates are another team a few years away, but seem to be the opposite of the Reds. There is a lot of hope in a young pitching staff that showed promise in 2005, but the offensive foundation isn't there. Your takes on the Bucs?
John: Put it this way, I'd rather be the Pirates than the Reds right now.