Looking in on the Reds

Last summer when they acquired Scott Rolen, many observers wondered just what the Reds thought they were doing. Now 85 games into the season, we know just how serious the Reds were about competing in 2010. They have a 2 game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central and show few signs of slowing down. Edinson Volquez is on the mends and prepared to bolster a rotation that has benefited from the league’s best offense (424 runs scored, .345 wOBA). The unit is thin, leaning heavily on a front quartet of Aaron Harang (now on the DL with back spasms), Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto. Homer Bailey, Sam Lecure, and Travis Wood have filled out the fifth slot in the rotation. What’s more, Mike Leake has already fired 101.1 IP out of the approximately 175 allotted to him this year. Despite Volquez’s impending return, GM Walt Jocketty will probably have to acquire some starting pitching at the deadline.

With the chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 1995, Jocketty is undoubtedly working the phones looking to add depth and talent to the roster. The Reds have been connected to Cliff Lee and Dan Haren by the rumormongers. They may also consider adding a catcher if Ryan Hanigan’s rehab from a fractured thumb doesn’t progress. With Yonder Alonso blocked at the big league level by budding star Joey Votto, the Reds may have one of the best prospect bullets to fire in a deadline trade. Whether or not the Reds use Alonso to acquire an ace to head the rotation or settle for a cheaper mid-rotation patch remains to be seen.

What we do know is that former rotation ace Edinson Volquez is expected to make one more rehab start before rejoining the club. Volquez has pitched very well during his rehab assignment, combining to allow just 13 hits and 5 walks in 24 IP while striking out 19. The scouting reports have been positive citing typical velocity and movement for Volquez. In deciding to push Volquez’s return back one start, Jocketty noted some wildness in Sunday’s appearance. Stamina will likely be an issue in the early going and hopefully the Reds’ much maligned manager Dusty Baker is made aware of that.

What can the Reds expect from Volquez? Given his solid minor league performance and his past tendencies toward effective wildness (career 4.62 BB/9), it’s tough to narrow down exactly what to expect. It really all depends on how many guys he’s walking since by all accounts Edinson has his stuff back. Oliver likes him to post a 3.96 ERA with 8.5 H/9, 8.4 K/9, and 4.2 BB/9, good for about 1.2 WAR over 73 IP. The trio of fifth starters, Bailey, Lecure, and Wood have combined for .5 WAR in 95.2 IP so Volquez is expected to be almost a win better than those options. (To be fair, recent call up Travis Wood has been the best of the trio and is expected to put up a 4.27 ERA by Oliver).

The Reds find themselves in the drivers seat of the NL Central with one of the best trade bullets around and a potential ace in the hole one start away. If Walt Jocketty plays his cards right, the Reds could soon be sporting a fancy, playoff caliber rotation to pair with their dynamic lineup.

And no, I didn’t forget about the PED’s…

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