Washington Nationals Series Preview: A Look At The Cincinnati Reds With Red Reporter

Joe Robbins

The Washington Nationals are set to face the Cincinnati Reds for the second time this season. We check in with Reds Reporter's Brandon Kraeling to see how things have been in Cincinnati since then.

There are currently four teams within one game of the NL Central lead. Obviously it's early, but are there reasons to be concerned not only with St. Louis but with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh?

I think the NL Central race will spread out throughout the course of the season, but which teams will fall back still remain to be seen. Pittsburgh certainly isn't bad (especially relative to the past few years), and Milwaukee's getting a lot out of a little. I still think St. Louis is the biggest threat here. Despite what looks like a weaker team as they've had in the past few years, from the way they're playing it looks like that luck will play out as it normally does. Should be tight all year.

Short term, Tony Cingrani seems like he can deal with Major League hitters. Long term, is there reason to be concerned with the team's depth in the rotation and ability to deal with injuries?

As far as rotation depth goes, I think once Johnny Cueto comes back, everyone will be breathing easier, but for now if someone goes down, the Reds are looking at Armando Galarraga in the rotation. That's certainly worrying, but it looks like Cingrani can hack it for now.

Although, I think it'll be curious to see what happens to Cingrani once he starts seeing these teams for a second time around. He's basically a two-pitch pitcher (with a fastball he throws 90% of the time), who relies on a deceptive delivery that makes his 91mph look faster than it is. When the league figures out his delivery, it could be a quick fall from grace, and that's what worries me most of all.

Shin-Soo Choo is off to a great start at the plate, reaching base over 50% of the time. Is he exceeding expectations? How is his fielding holding up in center field?

Choo is exceeding every expectation we had coming in and then some. Really, all we needed from him was an improvement from the league-worst OBP out of the leadoff spot, but coming up towards a month into a season, he might be your NL MVP. Having to sit through the likes of Drew Stubbs, Corey Patterson, and Willy Taveras there the last few years, getting a guy who can actually get on base is amazing. As for his defense, he's been fine. Not spectacular or anything, but certainly serviceable in CF. Other than taking a few odd routes to balls, we haven't seen anything worrying so far.

Joey Votto is off to a slow start by his standards - his slugging percentage is lower than his on base percentage - is there reason to be concerned with his lack of power?

I think there is, just a little bit. The question all off-season was if his knee had fully healed, and that was what allegedly sapped his power when he came back at the end of 2012. His power outage so far in 2013 doesn't bode well for that knee being 100%, and Joey would probably agree with that. He's been making up for it by walking a TON and hitting singles, but this issue paired with his rough end to the homestand (0-11 in the last two games with 4 K) means that you couldn't be seeing him at a better time if you're a Nats fan.

The Reds have two starters hurt, but their depth has them with more than adequate replacements, even though Chris Heisey is off to a slow start. Which injury hurts more: Ryan Ludwick's or Ryan Hanigan's?

I think it's a bit too early to tell, with Hanigan not even being out a week yet, but right now I'd probably still say Ludwick. Chris Heisey has been mostly abysmal in LF, and Dusty refuses to give Xavier Paul more than one game here and there. Don't laugh, Xavier Paul has been excellent in Cincinnati so far. Devin Mesoraco is the guy now that Hanigan's gone, and has already provided a spark into the lineup that we didn't previously see. The only issue here is how well Hanigan handled pitchers and threw out runners, but I don't anticipate a huge dropoff here once Devin gets his bearings as a starter a bit more.

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