Predicting a third or fourth place finish for the Reds is in my opinion already optimistic.

The key points, why the Reds won't be competive:

1) No solid starting pitching (2 starters even have yet to be named - Haynes was luckier but not better than in 2001 when he lost 17 games)
2) Only one durable starter (Dempster)
3) Average bullpen
4) Unproven closer (Williamson)
5) Best relief pitcher (White) likely to get traded to shed payroll
6) Average overall defense
7) Little team speed
8) No true leadoff hitter
9) Junior's production & health remain questionable
10) Offensive production from catchers have to improve
11) Team carries & pays two useless players: Castro & Stinnett

and at least for some here another negative point

12) Bob Boone is the manager
(maybe that's a good thing afterall?!)

The Reds rotation still needs a radical overhaul. Trying Graves as a starter is only the first step. Losing Dessens in combination with moving Reitsma to the bullpen places the Reds rotation among the worst in the NL. As long as no equal or better replacement for Dessens is signed/traded for, even the Pirates have a better rotation on paper.

The infield defense will be average at best. Larson is a downgrade compared to Boone at third base. Larkin's defense is fair, but his loss of range and not having a good throwing arm anymore will hurt the Reds. Larkin will have to stay healthy and put up good offensive numbers ... otherwise he will be able to watch Lopez play "his" position from the bench.

Speaking of second base, I doubt that Aaron Boone will have better defensive abilities in his first season there as Todd Walker. Hopefully groundball pitchers like Graves won't have to suffer too much through inadequate infield defense.

Overall the offense is a bit lefty heavy and relies too much on a comeback by Ken Griffey Jr. and also improvements by Adam Dunn. All three outfielders will have to stay healthy to create an offensive force, considering that the Reds have no idea what kind of production they will get from two other natural power positions; first and third base.

Especially the weak rotation makes me worry if the Reds can be a .500 team in 2003. Personally I doubt it. A fifth or last place finish in the NL Central is my projection.