When it comes to the central division race in 2013 it will be a horse race between the Cardinals and the Reds from Cincinnati. The Brewers should be a distant third and the Pirates have a chance to be in the first division for the first time in many years, should follow the Brewers. The Cubs will be in the cellar.
I will be concentrating on the top two clubs in the division because of all the work; I still need to get done on my business. Next year I will do my prediction on all of Major League Baseball.
I am going to go through each position and rate each starter on his defense and offense. Then we will decide on which team is the best at each position.
Reds– Joey Votto is the main man in Cincinnati, he is the real deal! I think he is an excellent power hitter that uses the whole field. He is very difficult to pitch to, and is a professional hitter. The only negative is the condition of his surgically repaired knee. Votto is a capable first baseman and will always give a total effort.
Cardinals– Allen Craig is another professional hitter that uses the whole field. I saw him a couple of years ago in the AAA all star game and you could tell he was going to be a good hitter. Craig is an excellent hitter that thrives in the clutch. This position could open up to Matt Adams if a gimpy Beltran can’t answer the bell. Craig can play right field or left field adequately. Adams should get a minimum of 300 at bats when Matheny rests Holiday and Beltran. He will also get more playing time with the DH. The defense with both of these players are average at best.
Conclusion-There are so many variables with all the players involved, is Vottos knee sound and is Beltran able to play 140 games. Here is an article on the condition and latest on Votto. I am going to give the edge to the Reds at first base.
Reds– We start with the Cardinals favorite Red, Brandon Phillips. I say that tongue in cheek! Phillips is a fan favorite in Cincinnati; he is very approachable and does a lot for the community. On the field he is a serious threat at the plate to drive the ball and get the extra base. His OBP is not as good as it should be, because he rarely walks. In the field he is an excellent second baseman that turns the double play well and has a lot of range.
Cardinals– Matt Carpenter or Daniel Descalso it all depends on the health of injury prone David Freese. Carpenter is a favorite of mine and has been in the process of learning to play second base since the last game of 2012. My reports are that he is doing an adequate job and will improve with time. For more information on Carpenter go to some earlier Cardinal articles where I go into more detail. Descalso was having a poor season in 2012 until he got in the cage with Big Mac and John Mabry. They worked him real hard and found he was not following all the way through with his swing. After some work Daniel started to drive the ball like he did in 2011. He was an excellent late inning clutch hitter in 2011. The defense with Carpenter will be average at best and Descalso is above average.
Conclusion– I give the Reds the advantage because of the defense of Phillips and he has more of a history than the Cardinals players. The Cardinals need to keep Freese healthy so we can have the professional bat of Carpenter in the lineup.
Reds– Zack Cozart is the Reds shortstop and is a capable player. There is no real flash or anything that really sticks out. There is one thing that caught my eye is how can you hit 15 home runs and have only 35 runs batted in. He has way too many strike outs and not close to enough walks. His OBP is not good at all.
Cardinals– Pete Kozma was the Cardinals # 1 draft choice of 2007. When he was drafted the majority opinion on Kozma was the Cardinals had reached on this pick. His skills were rated as average or just above. His minor league record has been mainly disappointing and the Cardinals almost dropped him from the organization last summer. I have not been impressed with his talents in ST. Louis or in the minors. But something happened in late 2012 and spring training of 2013. His hitting stroke was refined and he now has a short, quick and compact swing. I don’t know who was responsible for working with him, Big Mac, Mabry, or the AAA hitting coach. When I first saw him last year, I mentioned to a baseball man that he looks like a totally different hitter. It was very obvious; he does not try to do much and is very short to the ball. I am going out on the limb, I think Kozma will be an above average shortstop for the Cardinals and the fans will be pleased!
Conclusion-I give the definite edge to the Cardinals because of the new Kozma.
Reds- Todd Frazier played third most of the time in 2012 because Rolen was injured for most of the season. Rolen is no longer with the Reds and is retired, or very close to calling it a career. Frazier is now the Red third baseman and it will be interesting to see how he follows up a good 2012 season. Todd seems to have some power but he needs to improve his OBP and get some more walks.
Cardinals– David Freese is the Cardinal World Series hero of 2011 and local boy. The problem with Freese is the injuries; he has had both ankles operated on and is now on the DL with a bad back. I have stated before is what the Cardinals need is a monster season from Freese and then a trade. I do not see him staying on the field for 150 games a season during the rest of his career. The Cardinals have the position covered with Carpenter and they also drafted three third baseman in the first two rounds, of the 2012 draft.
Conclusion– I give the edge to the Cardinals because I think Freese and Carpenter have a higher ceiling. I looked at the minor league career of Frazier and have determined he will not be an impact player.
Reds-It looks like to me the Reds are going to have ex Cardinal Ryan Ludwick as their regular and Chris Heisey filling in as the fourth outfielder. Ludwick had a monster of a season with the Cardinals in 2008 and then was traded to the Padres in 2010. Since the trade away from the Cardinals, Ludwick has had a couple of bad seasons. He bounced back last year with a good season for the Reds and was rewarded with a two year contract and a mutual option for 2015. Ryan is a good baseball player that will bust his rear on the diamond. He can be pitched to and has some holes in his swing. He is a very good defensive outfielder with a good arm.
Cardinals– Matt Holiday is a good baseball player and can hit the ball as hard as anyone. Matt is what I call a driver and not so much a home run hitter. He will get his home runs but he will hit a lot of real hard singles and doubles. His stats were elevated when he played for the Rockies, but with the Cards you can figure 25-30 home runs, about a 300 average and about 100 runs batted in. He is rated as above average on defense in left field.
Conclusion– The Cardinals have a pretty good edge at the left field position.
Reds- Shin-Soo Choo is the new Red center fielder replacing wiff king Drew Stubbs. “I would love to work with him” I do not know much about Choo, he played for the Indians and was a pretty decent player.
Cardinals– Jon Jay is the Cardinal center fielder for 2013 and is one of my favorites! He is a very sound player on the fundamentals and is a good teammate. For some reason Jay was an awesome hitter at home but was terrible on the road in 2012. In 2011 he hit a little bit better on the road, than at home. Jay is a slap hitter that uses the whole field and can hit the left-handers as well as the right-handers. He does have the ability to nail one over the fence from time to time. He is a well above average center fielder and always goes all out and is never in the wrong position or throws to the wrong base. He is just a good baseball player.
Conclusion– I have to give the nod to Choo and that is just by the past stats from Choo when he played for the Indians.
Reds– Jay Bruce is a power hitting outfielder with a very good arm. He will make some errors but will also throw out a lot of runners going for the extra base. His batting average is usually around 250, but it is a hard hitting 250. Bruce is just twenty six years old and I expect him to become an even better hitter over a period of time.
Cardinals– Carlos Beltran is a gimpy leg right fielder that is just a shadow of his old self. He is a huge liability in right field and I expect to see a change at the position real soon. He was gimpy last year and now he has a broken toe. This position soon will go to future star Oscar Taveras or Allen Craig and then insert Matt Adams at first base. I prefer the latter because of my desire to work Taveras to be a centerfielder.
Conclusion– This position has to go to Bruce. There is a good chance this will change when the Cardinals move Beltran out of right field. The best place for Beltran to continue his career is in the AL as a DH!
Reds-The Reds have a share situation with Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco. They are both capable catchers though the Reds are hoping that Mesoraco will be their long time catcher for the future.
Cardinals– Yadier Molina is an excellent catcher and has been a very good hitter the last two years. He reported to camp in great shape and was a little lighter. He was always a little plump but he is now in very good playing shape. If Yadi continues in the direction he is going, he will be a Hall of Famer!
Conclusion– Molina is the winner at the catching position hands down!
Reds- All that is needed is for this article to be read. The Reds are extremely talented on the mound and have quality on the whole staff. http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/sports/baseball/reds/the-reds-have-the-best-pitching-staff-in-baseball
Cardinals– The Cardinals have a very young and talented pitching staff. The starting staff is lead by Adam Wainwright who has just signed a five year extended contract for the big bucks. The rest of the starting staff features, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook, and Shelby Miller. The rest of the staff is young but very talented. The Cardinals closer is Jason Motte, but he will be sidelined for a while with elbow problems. Next in line to close is Mitchell Boggs, who was the eighth inning man last year. I think he will handle the job but if he falters they have Trevor Rosenthal in the wings. He is a stud that throws in the upper nineties and will nail one hundred miles per hour at times. Then you add in a nasty curve and you have a potential lights out on the opposition in the 9th inning.
Conclusion– The Reds are the winners when it comes to pitching. I think the Cardinals staff will be good but the veterans and the talent of the Reds gives them the edge over the Cardinals.
Prediction– The teams split on the position players, with only a big edge at catcher for the Cardinals. The other positions were close and with some circumstances like right field. The rating could change over to the Cardinals if Craig needs to be moved to the right field position. I give a slight edge to the Reds because of their superiority on defense and on the hill. This should be a real close race for the top spot. The Cardinals could gain on the Reds if they see that Beltran has no business in right field. If Beltran cannot get better in the field. The move to make would be to bring up Oscar Taveras and hope that he can play a solid center field. Adams would be at first, Craig in right field and Jay would be the 4th outfielder. Beltran needs to be sent to the AL for his benefit and the Cardinals. He will have some value in the AL and the move could extend his baseball career.
Ryan Ludwick will be out for 12-16 weeks with a dislocated shoulder! Chris Heisey will replace Ludwick. This will help the Cardinals, but I think with the pitching of the Reds, they should win the division.