* Drew Stubbs – I have been skeptical of him. He looked good during his call-up last year and had a solid spring training. However, studying his minor league numbers, I thought Stubbs would struggle offensively this season and it didn’t surprise me in the least to see Chris Dickerson get the Opening Day start in center against a difficult right-handed pitcher like Chris Carpenter.
However, even a Stubbs skeptic like me can see this: Stubbs is on the verge of locking down the starting CF job all to himself. Manager Dusty Baker will likely continue using some type of platoon early in the season, but the smart money is on Stubbs to win the job outright before long.
* Bronson Arroyo – What a huge performance he had in the final game of the Cardinals series and it’s a shame he didn’t get the win. But the bottom line is that he pitched extremely well and the Reds were able to pick up their first victory of the season. Arroyo was the team’s best starting pitcher last year and he picked up right where he left off. And it was a day game! (Usually Arroyo pitches better at night.) I was even encouraged with what I saw from Aaron Harang and Johnny Cueto in their starts. If Homer Bailey pitches anywhere close to as well as he did at the end of 2009, and if rookie Mike Leake holds his own in the No. 5 spot in the rotation (he makes his debut against the Cubs on Sunday) then the Reds are going to have a hell of a starting staff this year.
* Aroldis Chapman – I know the Reds want to leave him down in AAA until June so they can avoid “Super 2″ status. However, what if he is dominant in the minors? Do they really leave him down there almost two months? The team has already proven they are not afraid to make a bold move when it comes to their pitching staff (Leake making the rotation before ever pitching an inning in the minors was about as bold as they come). Therefore, if Chapman proves he is definitely ready, there is a chance we’ll see him in Cincinnati before June. Not sure who he would bump out, but one of the starting pitchers is bound to get injured at some point. Or maybe someone is so ineffective that Chapman would take their job. Either way, the kid is going to be with the big club at some point before the All-Star break.
* Jay Bruce – He has to start hitting for this team to be successful. Even if Bruce does hit well this season, this team is going to struggle to score runs. Without him hitting, they stand no chance. It’s only been three games, so I am not down on Bruce. I think he’s extremely gifted and once (if) he learns better plate discipline he is going to be a tough out. Right now, he is very young and swings at too many bad pitches. He doesn’t need to hit for a high average for the Reds to be successful, but he does need to hit 30-plus home runs (which he was on pace for last year before his wrist injury).
* The Cubs – I could be way off here, but the Cubs are headed for a very bad year. They have wasted a ton of money on players that haven’t even come close to living up to expectations (Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Zambrano and the departed Milton Bradley). I don’t expect the Cubs to finish in the cellar – the Pirates still have the lease on that – but I don’t think the Cubs will be in the running for the NL Central championship or a wildcard birth. The Reds will find out first hand what the Cubs are all about when they begin a three-game series tonight.