Western Brown’s Leto excels in Australia Rockets ready for 1st season in SBAAC Paddling, hiking activities available at Ohio State Parks SB Warriors get set to hit gridiron for 2nd year of varsity football Scotty W Johnson Glenna V Moertle Ricky L Hoffer Ruth E Ward David A Watson Janet L Dotson Vilvie S King Steven C Utter Cropper joins Fallis at Bethel-Tate Local kids find success in world of martial arts 13th annual Bronco 5K Run and Fitness Walk set for Aug. 5 Teams compete in memory of Randy Fulton Mike W Smith Roger Helton David A Borders Timothy E Argenbright Joseph W Sherrill Frances K Pedigo Cecil N Graham Sawyers charged in sex for heroin plot Group demands changes at ELSD Blanche Malblanc Pauline L Kirk Over 70 take part in 11th Joe Myers 5K Classic Lions Club 4th of July Festival brings outdoor fun to Ripley ODNR reminds visitors to swim safe this summer Changes in high school track and field/cross country rules include school issued and approved uniforms Betty L Philpott Judy B Williams Billie J Russell Remembering Ravye 25 attend volleyball camp in Fayetteville Western Brown hosts Pee Wee Football Camp Eugene L Baumann Kids enjoy a ‘Touch-a-Truck’ event in Mt. Orab New police chief takes over in Fayetteville BC Chamber moving forward on 2017 SummerFest Two killed in wrong way crash in Mt. Orab Jack Hamilton Charles L Glover Maxine M Stires Western Brown youth basketball camps a success Leto to represent Team USA in Australia Broncos hard at work in preparation for fall season Eastern approves bowling team Phyllis Ruth Lois A Manley Eddie L Carr Thomas L Carnahan Cameron Barkley Walter J McGee Gary J Graham George D Johnson Walter F Crawford Jr Charles E Meranda Jr Corbin testifies before Ohio Senate Five arrested in Hamersville drug bust Neil Diamond tribute band coming Hyde finds home at Midway Youngsters work to improve on hoop skills at Eastern basketball camps Sizer named All-District Honorable Mention Western Brown’s Barnes earns All-State, All-District honors Local players compete in SWOFCA Ron Woyan East/West All-Star Game 6th annual Ravye Williams Memorial 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament set for June 24 Clarence E Teal Rosie B Poe Monard C Boots James P Conrad James T Dinser Scott J Swearingen Eastern’s Farris earns award for top 2-point field percentage in Ohio Georgetown’s Seigla earns All-District honors OHSAA announces 2017 football regions and playoffs format Western Brown volleyball camps a success with over 100 in attendance Rigdon finishes high school running career with 10th place finish at state track and field championship meet Grace E Fite Women return to county jail as funds start to run low Georgetown Council takes action on vacant structures Veterans honored in Mt. Orab John McGee Timmy Burson Patricia A London Mary J Hall Kenneth R Behymer Western Brown’s Joe Sams commits to Marietta College WBHS to hold girls youth basketball camp Huseman signs with UC Clermont Day to continue baseball career on collegiate level at UC Clermont Western’s Pack signs with NKU WBHS to host youth boys basketball camp Eastern’s Rigdon, Hopkins are STATE BOUND James Ratliff Robert P Lesko Armstrong sentenced to twenty years on child porn possession charges Russellville hires new Village Clerk Russellville Council approves purchase of two ambulances

Positions for grabs as Reds open spring training

It’s finally here.

After a long offseason marred with trades of fan-favorite players, the Cincinnati Reds baseball team will return to the field for the first time in 2016 today in Arizona for the start of Spring Training.

I’ve written about my love of the sport of baseball several times, and I’ve spent a few paragraphs on the Reds’ prospects for this upcoming season as well. Neither of those two things have changed since the last time: I still love the sport and I still believe the Reds won’t be very good at it this season.

The key word in that sentence is “believe.” This is the time of year where it doesn’t matter what last season’s record was, every team and every player has to believe they have a shot this season. It’s a long campaign. Why would you bother pouring your heart and soul into something if you know you’re not going to win? There’s no point.

Every year at this time, media outlets all over the country of various size release their predictions for the upcoming season. For instance, earlier this week the USA Today predicted the standings for the entire league, and *spoiler alert* it wasn’t good for the Reds.

In their eyes, there are three teams who lose at least 100 games this season: the Phillies, the Rockies and the Reds. Cincinnati is predicted to come in fifth place, trailing the Brewers by three games.

These predictions are hard, and often incorrect. I made some last year, and I decided to go back and see how I did. Given the fact that I predicted a Dodgers/Blue Jays World Series and both of those teams lost in the postseason, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Then again, I picked the Nationals to win the NL East and said it wasn’t really close, so there’s some grey area.

Even actual professionals make bad predictions. The entirety of CBSSports last year whiffed completely on the World Series, with none of them picking either the Mets or the Royals to make the fall classic. One of the more enterprising writers chose a Pirates/Indians matchup that, while gutsy, required Cleveland to be good at a major sport, which isn’t a good thing to rely on.

Regardless, the 2016 season is not going to be a memorable one for the Reds in the standings. The important thing this season is to have growth from young players both in the mound and on the field.

Assuming he isn’t traded to the Baltimore Orioles or anywhere else before the opener, Jay Bruce will be in right field for the Reds in April. Joey Votto will be at first base, Brandon Phillips at second, Zack Cozart at shortstop and Devin Mesoraco behind the plate.

Billy Hamilton will also likely be in center field, but third base and left field are vacant at the moment. It’s logical to assume Eugenio Suarez did enough last season with his .280/.315/.446 line to play somewhere this year, but in his brief major league career he’s appeard in exactly three games at third base.

The situation in left field closely resembles a traffic jam in a major city: there are a bunch of people you probably don’t know very well jockeying for a very limited amount of space.

There are five outfielders on the Reds’ roster (not including Bruce or Hamilton) that could find themselves manning left field on Opening Day. You could also include Ivan DeJesus Jr. in that list, as even though he’s listed on the roster as an infielder he played 14 games in left field for the Reds last season.

From a strategic standpoint, putting six players in left field would certainly help defensively, but unfortunately it’s against the rules. The Reds have to decide which player, or combination of players, will be the best fit for the position. That’ll be interesting on it’s own, since outside of DeJesus Jr. the remaining outfield candidates have combined for fewer than 100 at-bats at the major-league level.

The situation on the mound is just as murky. Homer Bailey will be one of the team’s five starters, whenever he returns from injury. It’s logical to assume Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias have locked down two other spots. That still leaves two places in the rotation up for grabs in Spring Training.

Another question arose with the trade of Aroldis Chapman: who in the world will be the team’s closer? Will it be J.J. Hoover? Someone outside the organization? Who knows.

That’s the maddening thing about this spring: the Reds have more questions than answers. They’ll get things sorted out as the season draws closer, and while it may take a few weeks to match the names of the players with their faces, in the end, it doesn’t matter.

Baseball is back, and even bad baseball is still baseball. I’d rather have that than nothing at all.

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By Garth Shanklin

gshanklin@civitasmedia.com

Reach Garth Shanklin at 937-378-6161 or follow him on Twitter at @GNDShanklin.

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2016 News Democrat