That was Then...
The Reds made a huge deal in the offseason, sensing that the division was winnable, adding Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres, moving promising prospects Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal to acquire an ace.
Cincinnati had an even start to the season, posting an 11-11 record in April. After that, they had a winning record in every month, save for a three-game October. It took a while for the Reds to take the lead, but when they did, they took the ball and ran away with the division on their way to a 97-65 record, which was nine games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.
On the most impressive aspects of the Reds season is that a lot of their success came after the injury to 2011 NL MVP Joey Votto. Votto was tearing up the opposition and was on pace to hit 66 doubles on the season when he injured his knee. Two procedures and 48 missed games later, Votto returned to the lineup in September, but didn't hit a home run. In fact, the Toronto native's last home run in the majors was way back on June 24th.
The real strength of the Reds in 2012 was their pitching staff, which as a unit allowed the second fewest runs in the majors - only trailing the Tampa Bay Rays in that category. The Reds had all five of their starters: Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake make at least 30 starts in the regular season. Those five, along with fire-baller Aroldis Chapman who picked up 122 strikeouts in only 71 innings, were truly an outstanding unit.
The Reds faced the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, and held a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five, but an injury to ace Johnny Cueto spelled the beginning of the end for the Reds.
...This is Now
After two knee surgeries that sapped his power after he returned late last season, perennial MVP candidate Joe Votto looks to help the Reds get back into the post-season.
The Reds did not rest on their laurels in the off-season, re-signing setup man Jonathan Broxton to a three-year deal, which enables the club to seriously consider adding Arolidis Chapman into the starting rotation.
The Reds also added outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the Cleveland Indians and immediately decided to not only move him into the leadoff spot, but shift him over to centerfield. The club also re-signed Ryan Ludwick.
Offensively the club should be better with Choo and his high on-base percentage replacing Drew Stubbs, but the Reds offence could really come down to the return to health of Joey Votto. Despite his knee troubles, the 29-year-old still hit .337 with a .474 on-base and a .567 slugging last year.
The projected order of Choo, Brandon Phillips, Votto, Ludwick and Jay Bruce should be able to score a lot of runs in many different ways.
The pitching staff will once again be anchored by Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey. The intrigue during spring training was the debate about moving Chapman into the rotation to replace Mike Leake as the fifth starter. Manager Dusty Baker and Chapman both expressed the desire to keep in the closers role. They won out, keeping the lefty in the ninth inning, and moving Broxton down to eighth inning duty.
The Reds sense that their window of opportunity is now in the Central with the Cubs, Pirates and Brewers all clearly not as good right now, and the Cardinals having a few issues of their own. The Reds will have redemption on their minds after last year's playoff collapse and they should get a chance to avenge it in October.
Every year, we look for players 26-years-old or younger that could make an impact on their team in the upcoming season. The player might have already established himself with a regular role with the team, or he could make their mark later on in the season.
Past Picks: 2012 - Devin Mesoraco, 2011 - Drew Stubbs, 2010 - Aroldis Chapman, 2009 - Jay Bruce, 2008 - Johnny Cueto, 2007 - Homer Bailey, 2006 - Edwin Encarnacion, 2005 - Wily Mo Pena, 2004 - Ryan Wagner, 2003 - Austin Kearns
A 97-win team last year, the Reds have to be among those teams challenging for the NL pennant.
Canadian 1B Joey Votto is ranked 11th overall.
Cincinnati offers some premium talent and not just Votto, who rivals Albert Pujols for best at the position. 2B Brandon Phillips is still a top threat and, if he returns to the closer role, Aroldis Chapman is in rare company at that position.
OF Jay Bruce is good for 30-plus homers and Shin-Soo Choo is a 20-20 threat who will get on base and score runs. Starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos are both well above average while Homer Bailey, finally established in the bigs, offers some upside.
3B Todd Frazier and SS Zack Cozart have some potential to explore, but are still targets for deep leagues.
If Chapman does return to the bullpen, Jonathan Broxton's appeal obviously takes a hit because he won't be getting save opportunities.