It's the same old storylines when it comes to the Reds: How many games will the talented outfield of Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey and Austin Kearns play together? How much better can the starting staff, featuring newcomers Eric Milton and Ramon Ortiz, be than the patchwork staffs of the past few seasons? While the Cardinals are the prohibitive favorites in the division, and the Cubs should be in the running for the wild card, the Reds should be able to make a run at the Astros for third place.
Worth Every Penny
Put aside the fact that he set the all-time single-season strikeout record by whiffing 195 times last season, and take a look Dunn's success. The best part was that he played in all but one game after an injury plagued 2003 in which he hit a paltry .215. Dunn, who won't turn 26 until after the season, has oodles of talent that will continue to come to the surface once he cuts down the Ks with help from hitting coach Chris Chambliss.
About to Blossom
He won't break camp wit the big club, but Edwin Encarnacion is the real deal. He hit .281 with 13 homers and 17 steals at Class AA Chattanooga last year and plays a stellar third base. With only Joe Randa in front of him, it won't be long before Encarnacion, 22, reaches the Great American Ballpark. And once there, he'll stay a while.
Only Seattle's Jamie Moyer allowed more home runs than Milton's 43 last season while pitching for the Phillies. The Great American Ballpark isn't a forgiving venue either, so it's possible that Milton's problem will again rear it's ugly head. He did win 14 games only one year after serious knee surgery, but his ERA of 4.75 was not good. I'm not saying he won't do well, but he could be a high-innings, high-ERA starter.
Do You Feel Lucky?
I'm tired of writing about how lucky you'll be if Griffey can stay healthy. Instead, we'll go off the beaten path a bit. From 1999 to 2001, Rich Aurilia was the premiere offensive shortstop in the NL. After a couple of more average seasons with the Giants, Aurilia signed with the Mariners in 2004 and got caught up in their youth movement before ending the year as a utilityman in San Diego. Although he's not yet on the Reds 40-man roster, he'll likely be their shortstop and given 500 at-bats, could hit 15 home runs and drive in 60.
Ryan Freel didn't really have a full-time job when last season began, but somehow he got 505 at-bats and stole 37 bases. He's the odd man out again in the Reds lineup, but since NL bench players magically find their way into the lineup, he's worth having on your team -- just don't expect the same kind of numbers. Twenty steals is more likely.
If Something Should Happen To Danny Graves
As a rookie, Ryan Wagner looked like a sure-thing closer, but last season his career hit a hiccup. He was horrible in the first half, posting an ERA close to six. He may not be ready this season either, and based on his performance last season, the Reds are more likely to turn emergency save situations over to veterans Dave Weathers, Gabe White or Ben Weber.
Don't Forget About
Sean Casey, Kearns, Paul Wilson, Wily Mo Peņa
Don't Bother With
Randa, D'Angelo Jimenez, Aaron Harang, Jose Acevedo
David Sabino is the associate editor in charge of statistics at Sports Illustrated and the author of the book, Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League (Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade).