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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Robert Stephenson, rhp|
|2. Raisel Iglesias, rhp|
|3. Jesse Winker, of|
|4. Michael Lorenzen, rhp|
|5. Nick Howard, rhp|
|6. Anthony DeSclafani, rhp|
|7. Amir Garrett, lhp|
|8. Nick Travieso, rhp|
|9. Aristides Aquino, of|
|10. Yorman Rodriguez, of|
The Reds head into 2015 with a lot of opportunity, and a whole lot of uncertainty on the horizon.
After topping 90 wins and reaching the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, the 2014 season was a disaster in Cincinnati. First baseman Joey Votto spent months on the disabled list, and when he went down the Reds quickly demonstrated they didn't have a viable option to replace him in the lineup. Breakout seasons by third baseman Todd Frazier and catcher Devin Mesoraco weren't enough to make up for an unproductive outfield.
At the all-star break, the Reds had gone 51-44 and trailed the National League Central leaders by just one and a half games. They went 25-42 from that point forward, resorting to playing Brayan Pena at first base, pitching Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg in the rotation and rotating a cast of underperformers in left field.
Cincinnati has gone through this before. After winning 91 games in 2010 and being swept in the NL Division Series, they fell back to 79 wins in 2011. The Reds made additions at that point, most notably trading first-rounders Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal to the Padres for Mat Latos, and the club returned to its winning ways.
With an owner, Bob Castellini, who wants to win now, especially with the All-Star Game coming to Cincinnati in 2015, the Reds will try to prove that 2014 was another brief detour.
Cincinnati has retooled for 2015. By trading away arbitration-eligible righthanders Latos (to the Marlins) and Alfredo Simon (to the Tigers), the Reds have ensured that four of the club's five starters won't hit free agency at the same time after the season. Now they must worry only about ace Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake.
The same issues that undermined the 2014 club's success still rest just under the surface. The Reds need a full, productive season from Votto because they do not have a viable replacement for him. They have filled their left field solution by acquiring Marlon Byrd, but they will be counting on production from an outfielder who will turn 38 during the season and they don’t have many big league ready backup plans.
Cincinnati could contend again in 2015 while retooling on the fly. They have an impressive amount of pitching depth at Double-A and Triple-A that could begin to help the club soon.
But over the long term, it's going to be hard for the Reds to keep up with the Pirates, Cardinals and Cubs, given their payroll obligations to Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips.
In 2017, the Reds will devote roughly $70 million to four players. For a team that saw its payroll max out at $114 million in 2014, and was under $100 million just two years ago, it's going to be tough to figure out a way to make those numbers work.