The Cincinnati Reds won the National League Central in 2012, but the team still has some weaknesses entering the 2013 season.
Coming into this offseason, the leadoff and cleanup spots were the biggest issues with this team. General manager Walt Jocketty re-signed left fielder Ryan Ludwick to fill the No. 4 hole and traded for Shin-Soo Choo to insert at the top of the lineup.
After dealing with two major issues, the Reds still have minor weaknesses they will need to overcome next season.
Moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation weakens the bullpen and will make it tougher for the team to shut teams down in late innings. Jose Arredondo and Sam LeCure will now face bigger roles, so it may be a struggle at first.
However, the team faces bigger weaknesses than middle relief.
Production from catchers
Behind the plate, Cincinnati had a great defensive combination. Ryan Hanigan is as good as it gets on defense, rookie Devin Mesoraco showed great ability behind the plate and Dioner Navarro did a good job when called upon.
Part of the problem with this lineup was the lack of production on offense from the catchers.
Hitting in the No. 8 spot, Hanigan had a .365 on-base percentage. That's a great sign, but he took a step back in 2012 despite playing a career-high 112 games.
The 32-year-old hit at least five home runs with at least 31 RBI in the previous two seasons but managed only two long balls and 24 RBI. He hit only .242 with runners in scoring position, which was over 30 points lower than what he did in 2011.
Mesoraco showed some pop by hitting five home runs, but he only drove in 14 runs. His .212 average kept him off the postseason roster.
Like Hanigan, the rookie struggled in clutch situations. Mesoraco hit only .111 with runners in scoring position in his first season, and four of his five home runs were solo shots.
Navarro hit two home runs with 12 RBI in limited action. He is now with the Chicago Cubs, so Hanigan and Mesoraco will need to step up on offense next season.
Catchers combined stats: .256 average, 9 HR, 50 RBI (one of the worst stat lines in baseball, according to MLB.com).
There will plenty of chances to drive in runs in 2013, so the production needs to be better.
Trading former center fielder Drew Stubbs helped upgrade the offense, but the outfield defense is now a major question mark.
Stubbs was a Gold Glove finalist last season. He had a good arm and could get to just about any ball hit near him. He made life easier for Ludwick and right fielder Jay Bruce, who was also a Gold Glove finalist.
Great American Ball Park does have a huge outfield, but the defense will also be tested in road games.
Choo was not a great defender in right field, so moving him to center will be an adventure. Like Bruce, he has a great arm. However, he is nowhere close to the defender Stubbs was. The team could move Bruce to center for a season until prospect Billy Hamilton gets to the majors, but it doesn't make sense to mess with a Gold Glove finalist in right field.
Ludwick is a solid defender, but there will be a lot more extra-base hits falling in the left-center gap without Drew Stubbs next season.
Chris Heisey has the ability to play great defense in center, so he gives the team options if anyone struggles on offense or gets hurt.
Speed in the outfield shouldn't be overlooked. Stubbs saved pitchers many runs by tracking down fly balls and keeping balls from dropping in for hits. The corner outfielders will now have to chase down more balls, and it will be interesting to see how Choo adjusts to center field next season.
Cincinnati addressed the team's biggest needs, so their weaknesses may not keep the team from returning to the postseason.
The club won 97 games with very little offensive production from its catchers. Outfield defense will be exposed in big ballparks, but it can be overcome by a more productive offense.
Look for a better season out of the catchers. If the Reds can get a more consistent offense in 2013, these weaknesses will not keep them from returning to the postseason.
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