Thursday, February 24, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
He may be the reigning NL MVP, but that doesn't assure he will have another year as good as 2010. That is one of the reasons I think his play is so important to not only the Reds, but himself as well. 

Votto was a very good hitter in his first two seasons, but last year was head and shoulders ahead of his first two. He made a run at the triple crown, and pretty much put the team on his back and carried them to the playoffs. That was after not even being voted to the NL all star team.

Things will change this season for the 27 year old Canadian, he is a known commodity and will likely be pitched around throughout the season. The question is, will he be able to put any hoopla behind him and just play baseball?

I think he will be able to do so, but not to the level of last season. He will be a top 5 hitter in the NL and he will win plenty of games for the Reds, but triple crown threatening seasons don't happen very often. For Votto, another .300, 30 hr, 100 rbi year is on its' way, but not a whole lot more, but if thats the case the Reds will need all of it.

Votto is in the middle of a good lineup that has plenty of power, he is different though because he adds a good average as well. Having a player of his caliber hitting 3rd or 4th makes their lineup go from mediocre to very good, and the upside of being great. 

Votto's abilities are only matched by one man, Albert Pujols...the best player in baseball. Some may argue that Votto is better right now, I'll disagree with that, but he is no doubt the difference between the Reds being a contender and them being a .500 baseball team. That though assumes he can have another MVP Caliber season, which I think he will be close to, but just short of.

Others Considered: Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce are two young guys that the Reds have seen do great things. Last season each of them played full seasons and had great numbers, the two of them join an already young strong lineup that is becoming one of the best in baseball...Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez: The two young starters have shown flashes of dominance at times, but then other times have looked awful. Both have control problems, but if they are able to find the strike zone consistently they will be a dominant one two for years to come.

Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore
Just 2 seasons ago Sizemore was coming off a 33 homer, 38 steal season, and was primed to go after the elusive 40-40 mark. His effort never got going and it was a short-lived season for him, playing in only 106 games and hitting just 18 home runs and stealing 13 bases. He followed that up with a 33 game season in 2010 and has pretty much been left for dead.

Sizemore is only 28 years, but had micro-fracture knee surgery which may delay his return to the lineup. His doctors do expect him to be ready to start the year, but being a base-stealer he will need to be near 100 percent if he wants to be valuable.

The Indians are not likely to compete for a playoff spot this season, but if they can figure out what they have in Sizemore going forward. He could easily be a player who finds his health and gets back to his power-speed combo, but there is just as good a chance he never recovers and has no future with the Indians.

Sizemore's season is important to the Indians because he could very well be a key to them turning things around in the wide open AL Central. No team in their division is a power house, meaning if the Indians can have guys like Carlos Santana and Matt LaPorta develop quickly, add in Shin-Soo Choo and their lineup could be one of the best in the division.

For that to happen though, Sizemore needs to become the player he once was, and that has to happen this year or he is likely not going to be given another chance. The Indians are a bad team, but they do have some young talent that would benefit from seeing a guy like Sizemore be successful.

Others considered: Carlos Santana is coming off a major knee injury that halted his rookie year, if he can get back to where he was last year, he would be one of the best hitting catchers in the game...Matt LaPorta  was disappointing for the Indians last year, but the highly touted first basemen needs to rebound this year and be a big bat in the middle of a bad lineup.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs


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