Well, rather than be all negative, I'm going to take a positive approach and say that depending on what I saw the second half and what I think/hope will happen in the offseason, I see the Reds being the surprise team in the Central next season and here's why:
1. Adam Dunn. They will pick up Dunn's option and he will have a career year. He is in his prime and will be showcasing himself for free agency. The Reds may bite and try and sign him longterm, but he will still have a career year. Also, the lineup around him will be one of the best since he came up which will also help protect him and make him that much better. Plus, my gut feeling is that Adam is maturing and trying to become a better fielder and hitter based on his second half.
2. Griffey's last season. The move to RF helped his health for the most part. I think he will have a solid season being his last season. The big question will be - will he retire at the end of the season or will he move on to another team? Will he try and prove he can stay healthy 2 seasons in a row and still produce - putting up good numbers or will he decline with age and be ready to call it a career? Also, we will have decent enough backups to spot him once or twice a week if the new manager dares to sit Junior here and there to keep him fresh. Personally, I'd play him 3 games, then sit him, 3 more games, then sit him, to keep him fresh. That means he plays approximately 120 games.
3. Josh Hamilton. He has a year under his belt. Should he come back healthy, I think he has 30 HR 100 RBI potential. I think if he can stay healthy, he will have a huge impact next year, if he's not traded for starting pitching. Still wouldn't surprise me to see Josh traded for a quality starting pitcher and Norris Hopper inserted in CF to become our leadoff hitter. If Junior or Dunn goes down with injury, they bring up Bruce.
4. Brandon Phillips. Showed he can be our RH power hitter between Griffey and Dunn. Showed at a young age that he has a promising future and appears to have the right attitude.
5. Edwin Encarnacion. Showed offensively in the second half that he is the real deal. He's still young, and still around. His defense has improved drastically, and I look for a breakout season from him next year. He will hit 20 plus HR's.
6. Alex Gonzalez. Was solid. It was a shame he was injured and had the problems with his son. But what we saw of him was about what we expected or more. He could probably hit 20-25 HRs in a full season of play.
7. Jeff Keppinger. Proved he is more than a utility player, but probably will be a oft-played utility player next year. And a solid one at that. Good hitter. Solid fielder. A guy that paid his dues and appears to be not looking back at the minors for once in his life. If anyone gets injured, nobody on this board will be complaining having to play Keppinger at any infield spot for anytime unless he hits some major slump, which appears unlikely. Good player to have. Versatile. Glad WK found him. It was a good season to find this guy and know what we have for next season. Gives us the option to save money by releasing guys like Castro and trading maybe Freel.
8. Joey Votto. Well it's a small sample to project big things for him, but I look back at the mediocrity that Denorfia showed and have seen a much better indication that Joey Votto can be a solid major league player. My gut feeling says he is here to stay and will be solid next year, which gives us options with Hatteberg to possible save money considering Keppinger is basically the same player that Hatte is except for being a righthander.
9. David Ross. Not sure what to think about this guy. If he could hit .250 along with 20 HR's, I would take that because of his ability to throw out runners. But I'm not sure he has it in him. I think they give him another season to prove himself as a better hitter. Otherwise, it may be his last with the Reds as they try and upgrade.
10. Aaron Harang. No reason to think he won't keep up his career numbers since they've all been accomplished at GABP. #1 starter.
11. Bronson Arroyo. It's been pointed out that if you eliminate two early bad outings for Bronson that his e.r.a. decreases into the 3.70 area. He suffered from a lack of run production, thus his poor win-loss record. I have confidence in him and noticed that when they don't overpitch him, he has seemed to do better. A good bullpen would help his won-loss record, for sure.
12. Homer Bailey. All indications are that they plan on him being part of the starting rotation next year. Alot of my positive attitude will hinge on this guy being a solid #3 starter. If he fails, so might the Reds. If he can give them 5-6 solid innings, that's all we need. An era under 5.00 would be a good start considering GABP and he's still a rookie.
13. Johnny Cueto. I heard Mo and Greg talking about him and saying that some in the Reds organization say he's ready for the big leagues now. Based on those comments, I am going to be positive and believe he is also a huge factor in the Reds season next year if he gets it done.
14. Tom Shearn. He finally had a bad outing, but I still think between Livingston/Shearn/Belisle or possibly a trade, the 5th starter will be determined. Especially if they would trade Josh Hamilton for a starter.
15. Bullpen. Burton, Bray, Weathers are a good place to start. I'm not sure about the others. I'm hoping they delve into free agency and spend some money in this area. This team needs starting and relief pitching and it will contend. I have faith that WK will do this is the offseason with money saved from Milton and releasing/trading other high priced backups.
I just think this team is on the rise and due to surprise. Look! I made a rhyme!