Best Player According To WAR: SS-Zach Cozart; RP-Aroldis Chapman
Players of Interest:
Zach Cozart: A 26 year old shortstop, Cozart has hit well since his debut last year posting a .338 wOBA in 118 plate appearances. I expect that to come down a little bit as the league starts figuring out his weakness' as a hitter, but he should still hit enough to be an above average shortstop. For reference, last year the average shortstop had a .303 wOBA, so far this year .297 wOBA. Throw in his good defensive reputation and the Reds have found a pretty good option at short for the next several years. Here's what John Sickels and Rob Neyer had to say about Cozart.
Aroldis Chapman: I thought about skipping Chapman because I'm pretty sure most people are familiar with him, but he's off to a ridiculously good start out of the bullpen. That's right the Reds have made him a reliever for the time being. In 11.1 innings he has not allowed a run, walked two and struck out 20. He features a fourseam fastaball that averages 98.43 MPH and a slider that average 87.86 MPH. And he's not even the closer.
Sean Marshall: This is the Reds closer and he's not a bad option either. You may remember him with the Cubs the past few years, well now he's a Red and he's doing just fine and dandy. So far he's pitched 6.1 innings collecting four saves, while striking out 10 and walking two. He features four pitches he uses regularly, a fourseam fastball that averages 89.6, a cutter, a slider and, his best pitch, a curveball which he uses regularly.
Todd Frazier: The heir apparent to Scott Rolen, is a 26 year old third basemen who has spent significant time at first base and left field as well as third. In his six seasons in the minors Frazier batted .280/.353/.475. He's been in AAA since 2009, but that's probably mostly due to Scott Rolen being acquired by the team in 2009. Fortunately for us it appears Dusty Baker has about as much faith in him as Brad Mills has in Matt Downs so expect to see him as a pinch hitter.
Drew Stubbs: A RIchard Justice favorite, Stubbs has not had a good start to his season posting a .307 wOBA in 19 games. It appears though he's heating up, batting .382/.432/.559 in his last eight games. He's hit a little bit against the Astros in his career with a .246/.331/.437 line, in 146 PA. Expect the annual Stubbs article from Justice, sometime between now and Monday.
Devin Mesoraco: A 24 year old catcher, who according to John Sickels offensively is, "a pull hitter with above-average power." Defensively, "He'll make a few errors, but his receiving and leadership skills are well-regarded and he'll have no trouble holding the job defensively." For more about what Sickels has to say about him go here. So far Ryan Hanigan has gotten a majority of the playing time. In the time Mesoraco has gotten behind the plate he's batted, .280/.387/.320 in 31 plate appearances.
J.J. Hoover: Like Frazier, Hoover was recently called up to help out the Reds bullpen. He's a recently converted starter that has apparently found his niche as a relief pitcher. According to Sickels he may get an opportunity to start in the future, but for now it looks like the Reds will use him in relief. I'll defer to Sickels again, "Hoover is more diverse than most. He has a very good slider, and mixes in workable changeups and curveballs. Although none of his pitches are truly outstanding, none of them are bad, either, and the combination is quite effective, especially when his command is on. He is aggressive and seems to enjoy bullpen work, but there was nothing wrong with his approach as a starter." He's walked one and struck out none in his only inning, so far, this season. If you want to read more check out Sickels full article here.
Mr. Baggy Pants, Leake, has not pitched all that well this season. In 18 innings he's allowed 13 runs to score, all earned. He isn't walking people anymore than his career 2.56 BB/9, but he's striking out two less batters than his career 6.03 K/9. In his most recent start he gave up 5 earned runs on 10 hits and one walk in 5.2 innings pitched against the Chicago Cubs. He's a guy that's going to let hitters put the ball on play so this might be a good matchup for a team struggling to hit with men on second and third.
Cueto on the other hand is off to a fantastic start with a 1.78 ERA in four starts. He doesn't strikeout a ton of guys with a career 6.96 K/9, but he also doesn't walk a lot of guys either with a 3.01 BB/9. Both he and Leake could be a good barometer for whether or not this new found patience by the Astros is going to continue. Part of Cueto's success so far this season is his left on base percentage (LOB%) which is a tad bit high at 89%, average is around the mid-70 range. Throw in the fact that Cueto has struggled against the Astros in the past and this could be a perfect game for some regression in the Astros favor.
The Reds big acquisition this offseason has not pitched well. Leaving the confines of
the Grand Canyon Petco Park for Great American Launch Pad Ball Park has resulted in a 5.64 ERA in 22.1 innings. But it's not necessarily the ball parks fault. Latos is striking out fewer hitters and walking more hitters. Like just about any other pitcher leaving San Diego, people expected his numbers to regress a bit, but these numbers are a little extreme. In his most recent outing he pitched seven innings of shutout ball against the San Francisco Giants. As of Thursday the Astros and Giants shared a .319 wOBA so make of that what you will.
Prediction: I really want to call a series win, but I think the Reds are just too good and the offense hasn't been hitting as well as it should be. I do think there's potential that the trend of close games will continue in this series, however, I won't be surprised if the Reds blowout the Astros in two of the games.