Another NL executive said not to count out the Cincinnati Reds, who have budding stars in first baseman Joey Votto and outfielder Jay Bruce, as well as a talented young pitching staff. Off the field, the Reds are guided by general manager Walt Jocketty, who led the Cardinals to the World Series title in '06, and are managed by Dusty Baker, the skipper for the '02 NL-champion Giants.
This winter, the Reds acquired veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez in a trade with the Orioles and signed pitcher Arthur Rhodes, adding the left-hander to one of the league's top bullpens from last season. Combine those moves with a promising rotation that includes Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and highly touted prospect Homer Bailey, and the Reds' future looks bright.
"The Cincinnati Reds are rising fast," the NL official said. "Walt Jocketty has already built a champion. Dusty has managed in the World Series. They may not be totally there yet, but the parts are coming together. The pitching has promise. The offense is strong -- Joey Votto and Jay Bruce will be stars.
"They may be a year away, but if everything falls right, they could be a surprise in '09."