It is always difficult to speculate what players are going to be where when clubs announce their Opening Day rosters. The list of players below is our best guess of who the Reds will be sending our way the first week of April to open the season at Louisville Slugger Field.
Probable Position Player Starters
C - Corky Miller, 1B - Neftali Soto, 2B - Henry Rodriguez, SS - Kristopher Negron, 3B - Mike Hessman, LF - Ryan LaMarre, CF - Billy Hamilton, RF - Denis Phipps.
Probable Starting Pitchers
Right-handers: Daniel Corcino, Armando Galarraga, Chad Reineke, Pedro Villarreal. Left-handers: Tony Cingrani.
Right-handers: Nick Christiani, J.J. Hoover, Lee Hyde, Mark Prior. Left-handers: Wilkin De La Rosa, Chris Manno.
Top Prospects likely to begin year in Triple-A:
Center fielder Billy Hamilton is coming off seasons where he stole 103 bases (Dayton, 2011) and 155 bases (Bakersfield and Pensacola, 2012). The latter set a new professional baseball single-season record that had been held by a former Louisville Redbird, Vince Coleman, when he stole 145 bases with Macon in 1983. Baseball America rates him as the top prospect in the Reds organization for 2013 after rating him second in both 2011 and 2012. Because of Zack Cozart filling the Reds' starting shortstop needs, the former shortstop Hamilton moved to the outfield this past fall…. Southpaw Tony Cingrani made his ML debut in September 2012 and allowed only one run in five innings over three games with the Reds. He was 10-4 with a 1.73 ERA in 26 starts between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola prior to his September call. Cingrani is currently rated as the third-best Reds prospect by Baseball America…. Righty Daniel Corcino was 8-8 with a 3.01 ERA in 26 starts with Pensacola and threw eight no-hit innings as part of a combined no-hitter on June 16 against Mobile. Baseball America rates Corcino, a 2012 mid-season Southern League All-Star, as the fourth-best Reds prospect.
Other organizational prospects likely to reach Triple-A later this year:
Tucker Barnhart is touted as one of the best defensive minor league catchers. He was named the best defensive catcher in the California League in 2012 and was given the MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Award for catchers. He hit .247 with six home runs and 34 RBI between Bakersfield and Pensacola in 2012. The slugging 1B/OF Donald Lutz launched 22 home runs and knocked in 71 runs last year with the AZL Reds, Bakersfield and Pensacola. Baseball America rates Lutz, a 2012 mid-season California League All-Star, as the best power hitter in the organization.
Veterans to Watch:
Catcher Corky Miller will put on a Bats uniform for the ninth different season, a franchise record, and enters the campaign 70 games shy of tying the franchise record for games played held by Bill Lyons. He needs just 45 hits (currently has 427) and eight doubles (currently has 90) to become the franchise's leader in those categories. Infielder Mike Hessman is MiLB's active career leader in home runs with 384. He has 31 career home runs against Louisville, 12 at Louisville Slugger Field. He has four multiple-home-run games against Louisville, one of them a three-home-run effort in 2008.
Projected Team Strengths:
The Bats bring in a veteran manager with 12 years of ML experience in Jim Riggleman. He will be in his second year in the Reds organization, having spent 2012 managing Double-A Pensacola. Louisville will also have a surplus of speed on the basepaths. Along with Billy Hamilton, the Bats should return super utility man Kristopher Negron (17 SB in 2012 in 74 games) and could have Ryan LaMarre (30 SB in 2012). Outfielder Derrick Robinson (four years of 50-plus steals) was signed to a minor league contract in the offseason and could also spend time in the Derby City. Louisville will also be a very deep team with a solid mix of veterans and rising prospects.
Projected Team Weaknesses:
Stability may be an issue with the Bats in 2013, especially with the pitching rotation. Last year the Reds used only six starting pitchers the entire year--the sixth being Triple-A veteran Todd Redmond (now in the Blue Jays organization) making his ML debut as a taxi squad member during the second game of a doubleheader. Having five healthy starters the entire year is not easily doable nor repeatable. Teams cannot predict when injuries happen, but when they do, the Reds will have a number of options to fill spots waiting in Triple-A.
Special Items of Interest in 2013:
Riggleman will be the third Bats manager in as many years following the tenures of Rick Sweet (2005-2011) and David Bell (2012). Ted Power returns for his eighth straight season as pitching coach in Louisville and Tony Jaramillo makes the move with Riggleman from Pensacola to become the third Bats hitting coach in as many years following Smokey Garrett (2003-2011) and Ryan Jackson (2012)…. The Bats are coming off their first losing season since 2005 and have not had a winning month since April 2011 when they were 16-7. They finished with a .500 record in each of May, June and September of 2011 and finished every month of 2012 under .500…. During the offseason, the Bats and Reds extended their current player development contract two years. It was earlier set to end following the 2014 season and will now run through 2016…. Of note, there is a possibility that both Armando Galarraga and Jason Donald could be on the Bats roster. Galarraga, of course, while on the Tigers was denied a perfect game against the Indians on June 2, 2010 when Donald reached on an infield single with two outs in the top of the ninth. Umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe, though replays clearly showed he should have been called out…. The Louisville Bats will feature three bobble head giveaways in 2013: Corky Miller (April 6), Aroldis Chapman (July 27) and Billy Hamilton (August 10).