February 19, 2009
Team Health Reports
Head Trainer: Mark Mann
Trend: Neutral. The Reds haven't been above average in any of the past five years, but much of that has been a direct result of Ken Griffey Jr.'s presence on the team, as well as their having a tough time keeping pitchers healthy. Last season, despite Griffey not hitting the DL in Cincy, a number of fluke injuries, including two knee fractures to their shortstops, amped up their final tally as far as days lost. There were also a broad spectrum of injuries with no discernible pattern, both traumatic and non-traumatic, to pitchers and players. The team's risk profile is similar to last year's, so Mann and his staff will have to do a better job of staying ahead of the injuries if this team is to have any hope of competing in the division.
The Shape of the Season:
The Big Question: C. Trent Rosecrans from Cincinnati's 1530Homer asks: "If this team is counting on building around defense, shortstop is the key. That makes Alex Gonzalez [the subject of] my big question. He's a better defensive option than Hairston and Keppinger, and also clears Hairston to play more left instead of the Dickerson/Gomes platoon. Is he as key as I think?"
Without getting into the Keppinger side of this, I do believe that Gonzalez is a key part of the team, precisely because his presence gives them more flexibility. Hairston could be the multi-position player that Ryan Freel has been for the team, which is something Dusty Baker likes to have, but has never used effectively. Last year's injury stack at shortstop was as much of a fluke as you'll ever see, but the team's response showed that Baker (and Jocketty to some extent) were having a hard time thinking outside the box when the roster got thin. This team is in similar danger of early injuries to Gonzalez and/or Hairston, both risky players, and the situation could be the pin in their grenade.
Fantasy Tip: Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto aren't exactly Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, though it's easy to make the comparison. Certainly, Volquez and Cueto were in their first year in the majors under Dusty Baker, but remember, Wood had already broken down once before ever meeting Baker. Volquez is older, with his inconsistency making for some shorter outings that end up benefiting his health a bit, though you can hardly call that a positive. (People jokingly say that I think pitchers should be either bad or hurt when they're young, in order to save their arms.) While both come with severe risk, it's not a one-to-one comparison and shouldn't be treated as such. What is the same is the presence of Dusty Baker. We'll have to see how Baker adjusts, and if he might have learned anything along the way.
SS Alex Gonzalez: In addition to the issues addressed in today's Big Question, there's more that we know about Gonzalez. The compression fracture led to July micro-fracture surgery, a procedure that's becoming both more successful and more commonplace in sports. Mark Sheldon tells us that he's out taking grounders, but it's still very early. It's an odd injury and a risky surgery. Doctors and therapists I've spoken with say it's almost a binary injury situation, meaning that if it heals properly, he'll be fine, and if it doesn't, he won't. These are the same kinds of things they said about him last year around this time.
C Ramon Hernandez: I wish I had something more to say about this red, but Hernandez is an aging catcher, and that's the long and the short of the matter.
SP Edinson Volquez: No matter how you look at it, Volquez had a massive increase in his workload last season. What broke down at the end were his legs. That's not a very good sign, but it's not very bad either. He made adjustments throughout the season that allowed him to maintain his effectiveness, and Baker went easy on him to begin the season. He did go over 110 pitches in six of his last ten starts, so Baker's usage will be a major concern for Volquez this year.
SP Johnny Cueto: Unlike Volquez and his legs, it was Cueto's arm that broke down in August. A posterior elbow strain is better than some of the options, but it shows that there is a weak link there, and it's easy to see in his whippy and often inconsistent follow-through. Cueto really lacked efficiency, repeatedly getting to high pitch counts in early innings. Baker has always focused on the 120-pitch mark rather than 100, though as far as I know, he's never explained why. We'll see if those extra pitches hurt the inexperienced starter in his second season; the system says stay away. He's one of the five highest reds this year.
SP Micah Owings: This red is a tough one. Owings was essentially shut down by the Diamondbacks due to some minor soreness in his pitching shoulder, and because of the rules, his getting traded to the Reds dragged into September. The system doesn't know that, and assumes either a minor injury that took longer than expected to heal, or a more serious issue. As a fifth starter who's never established himself, he's risky... but red? I'm not sure. For those wondering, I did take his hitting ability into consideration, but it did not make a significant difference with the way that he's been used.
UT Jerry Hairston: Hairston will duel it out with Chris Dickerson for the left-field job, but given his career path and also weighting last season more than usual, there's little reason to believe that Hairston will remain healthy enough to lock down the position. He had hamstring problems last year, which never bodes well for this type of athlete. The injury struggles of his brother don't play a part in this rating, but they do remind us that genetics could be a big factor in all of this.
CF Willy Taveras: He broke down repeatedly during the Rockies' miracle season, but he was healthy during their 2008 demise. Coincidence? The Reds could live and die with his OBP, so his health will certainly factor in. His availability last season after a year ended early because of his leg injuries is a big positive in terms of anticipating his future health.
RF Jay Bruce: Bruce is a very low yellow here, largely because of his age, and because the Reds' center fielders haven't been able to stay healthy even when their last name isn't Griffey. Bruce isn't a Ryan Freel type by any means, and since he's moving to right field he should be even less risky. I wouldn't hesitate to take him at normal value.
2B Brandon Phillips: Phillips ended his season with a broken hand. That's traumatic, but it tends not to recur.
OF Chris Dickerson: He's in the mix for the starting job in left field, so the stress fracture and the resulting bone chip in his ankle could be a much bigger deal if he's going to get significant at-bats rather than just filling in. Even a semi-regular platoon role would get him nearer to yellow.
SP Aaron Harang: It's a bit of a surprise to see Harang in the green, but while it's a high green, there are reasons to believe that the system is seeing this accurately. Harang's problems were the result of fatigue, they appeared over an easily defined period, and he was fine before and after that time. Assuming that Harang is rested now and is not pushed to the breaking point again during the season, he's likely to come back to his true level.
SP Bronson Arroyo: There is value in consistency. A pitcher that goes out, takes the ball every fifth day, and goes deep has some value, but you'd rather that be your fifth starter than your second. If Arroyo is behind Cueto and Volquez, or even Micah Owings, he'll still be overpaid and overrated, but he can be useful.
CL Francisco Cordero: He pitched through much of last season with a bone spur in his foot. If the walk rate comes back now that he's had surgery, that's good. That there was no real negative impact on his arm is also good, but that the Reds took that kind of a risk is just stunning.