This off-season, many teams in the NL Central made moves to upgrade. The Brewers added Matt Garza as a final piece to a strong rotation. The Cardinals filled a huge gap in their lineup by signing Jhonny Peralta. The Reds on the other hand, have lost key pieces. Leadoff hitter Shin-Shoo Choo and rotation mainstay Bronson Arroyo are gone, and there will be pressure around the organization to replace them. Entering 2014 here are the five Reds who will be feeling the most pressure to perform.
#5 Brandon Phillips
While Brandon Phillips is one of the leaders of the team and a franchise cornerstone, if he does not produce he will feel the heat. The often outspoken Phillips has clearly stated that the contract extension of Joey Votto was a “slap in the face.” Many rumors circulated that Phillips was going to be moved this off-season, but the Reds made no such move.
If he does remain a part of the team, Phillips will need to produce. In the field, there is nobody better at second base. Phillips won his fourth Gold Glove this past season, and he holds a .988 career fielding percentage. At the plate last season, Philips hit 18 homeruns and drove in a career high 103 runs. However, Philips batted just .261 which was his worst since 2008 season. The team will need that average to improve heading into 2014.
#4 Ryan Ludwick
Last season, Ryan Ludwick got a pass while recovering from injury. Due to labrum surgery, Ludwick was only able to play in 38 games. His bat greatly suffered from the layoff as he was only able to bat .240 with just two homeruns. If Ludwick can be healthy, he is a legitimate double digit homerun threat. If he shows his age (he will be 36 in July) the Reds will need to look for other options.
#3 Johnny Cueto
When Johnny Cueto was on the hill during the regular season last year, he was dominant. He went 5-2 with a 2.82 ERA. However, Cueto was only able to make 11 starts due to injury. In the post season, Cueto appeared to be rattled by the Pittsburgh crowd as he was knocked around the park. He has the ability to be a Cy Young pitcher. With the loss of Arroyo, the Reds will need a healthy and steady Cueto heading into the 2014 season.
#2 Homer Bailey
This off-season one move that the Reds did make, was locking up Homer Bailey to a massive long-term contract. Bailey will make over 100 million dollars over the next 6 seasons. At times he has taken over games, as seen in his two no-hitters. Other times, he has pitched more like his first name as he has been hit all over the ball park. At 27 years old, he is entering the prime of his career. In order to live up to the jumbo-sized contract, Bailey will need to pitch like last season where he set career highs in many statistical categories.
#1 Billy Hamilton
In the loss of Shin-Shoo Choo, the Reds lost one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. In his absence, an unproven talent, Billy Hamilton will take over. While he is new to centerfield, Hamilton’s athleticism will have no problem covering ground in centerfield. However, there are question marks about his offensive skills. Hamilton has world-class speed, but he struggled to get on base in AAA last season. If he can get on base consistently he will have no problem scoring with Votto and Philips behind him.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference