Well we've got 23 days left until Opening Day, which means it's season preview time. We'll be running it down team by team, with an added new wrinkle this time around: the beer of choice for fans of the team to enjoy whilst watching their team take the field! Nothing like that to help get you through a baseball season, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. Up next: the Cincinnati Reds.
Lineup: There's definite bright spots here...and there's also some dismal bits. First, the good: Joey Votto is one of the best hitters in the NL, Brandon Phillips is a premier second basegentleman, Scott Rolen could well have something left in the bat, Jay Bruce is primed for a monster season, and Drew Stubbs has some real upside. Beyond that, they're hoping that some combination of Jonny Gomes, Laynce Nix, Wladimir Balentien and Chris Dickerson will make for respectable left-field production, that Orlando Cabrera has something left in the tank (he doesn't, really, but that makes him more or less league average, which isn't too bad for a SS), and that Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez are a capable catching duo (they aren't). So, yeah, there's plenty of star-level talent here, but there's not much depth, and there's potential for this to go downhill quickly.
Rotation: If only Edinson Volquez were healthy, this rotation would be, in a word, formidable. Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo can be counted on for league-average production with some upside on Cueto's part, Aaron Harang isn't far removed from Cy Young-level contributions, and the biggest difference between Micah Owings (Tulane!) and other fifth starters is that Owings' bat is phenomenally good for a pitcher. Homer Bailey is the wildcard here, as the former top prospect showed signs of finally putting it together at the Major League level last season. If he can fulfill his potential, then a rotation that would be in a holding patten until Volquez and Aroldis Chapman are ready to step in, becomes a real force.
Bullpen: We're big fans of this group. Fireballing Francisco Cordero is the big money name at the back-end, but guys like Nick Masset, Arthur Rhodes, Mike Lincoln, and Bill Bray are competent as well. Plus, they employ the 5'6'' Daniel Ray-Herrera, who we're sure goes by Daniel because Danny would sound too diminutive, who has become one of our favorite players. And, yes, we count a middle reliever among our favorite players. What of it?
Overall: There's so much to like about this team, and many people are touting them as sleepers this season. Which sort of defies the point of being a sleeper if you ask us, but there's plenty of reasons to be optimistic. They're loaded with young talent all over the diamond, giving them an enviable core of players that could compete for years to come in any division (ok, except the AL East). 2011 may be the real year for this team, but then people thought Texas wouldn't be good until 2010.
Predicted Record: 82-80, 3rd place NL Central.
Beer: Abita Amber. Caramel-kissed beers go very well with chili, which we're told is sort of a big thing in Cincy. Baseball, Skyline, and Abita? We're envious.