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MLB season preview: Things don't look bright for the rebuilding Reds

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Over the past few years, the Cincinnati Reds have chipped away at a roster that was once a World Series contender. Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier were all traded. Last month, Brandon Phillips joined them, getting shipped to the Atlanta Braves.

So it’s time to wonder: Have the Reds reached rock bottom? Joey Votto, Billy Hamilton and a bunch of young guys. Is it all upward from here?

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The Reds lost 94 games a year ago and, on the surface, things don’t look particularly brighter this season. They can hope for growth from Brandon Finnegan and Jose Peraza, wonder what Homer Bailey’s return looks like and see whether first-half Adam Duvall or second-half Adam Duvall shows up. Does that equal a record closer to .500? In the NL Central, that’s no easy task.

At least this much seems clear: the Reds have turned the corner that separates tear-down from build-up. (Mike Oz)

ADDITIONS & SUBTRACTIONS
Additions:
Drew Storen, Desmond Jennings, Scott Feldman
Subtractions:
Dan Straily, Brandon Phillips

There’s not much to get excited about with Cincinnati’s additions. Both Storen and Jennings are players who had a lot of promise at one point in their careers, but they’ve lost momentum in recent seasons. Storen could wind up playing a big role in the team’s bullpen if last year’s brief resurgence in Seattle was for real. Jennings is probably a fourth outfielder at this point in his career.

While the Phillips subtraction stands out, it was for the best. Trading Phillips allows the Reds to get both Dilson Herrera and Jose Peraza in the lineup. Peraza dazzled in a brief stint last year, hitting .324/.352/.411 over 356 plate appearances. Herrera has been an exceptional hitter in the minors, though has struggled in two brief major-league appearances. He deserves a chance to get an extended look in the majors, and should be able to do so this year. (Chris Cwik)

Will the Reds be better than their 94-loss season in 2016? (AP)
Will the Reds be better than their 94-loss season in 2016? (AP)

KEY PLAYER
Could it be anyone but Joey Votto? The Reds may be rebuilding, but Votto is there for the long haul. If you remember, Votto started 2016 playing fairly poorly, finishing May hitting .213/.330/.404. But what came next is why he’s still the most important player on the Reds. After May 31, Votto hit .378/.482/.619 through the rest of the season. His ability to do that at age-32 is significant: the man is constantly working to get better in any and every way possible. Fans might not like that he’s so patient the plate, but Votto doesn’t care. It’s part of his game, and it’s what makes him such a great player. It’s not just about hitting, it’s about everything else in between. (Liz Roscher)

PROJECTED LINEUP & ROTATION

Lineup:
1. Billy Hamilton, CF (.260/.321/.343, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 58 SB)
2. Zack Cozart, SS (.252/.308/.425, 16 HR, 50 RBI)
3. Joey Votto, 1B (.236/.434/.550, 29 HR, 97 RBI, 101 R)
4. Adam Duvall, LF (.241/.297/.498, 33 HR, 103 RBI)
5. Scott Schebler, RF (.265/.330/.432, 9 HR, 40 RBI)
6. Eugenio Suarez, 3B (.248/.317/.411, 21 HR, 70 RBI)
7. Jose Peraza, 2B (.324/.352/.411, 3 HR, 25 RBI)
8. Devin Mesoraco, C (.140/.218/.160, 0 HR, 1 RBI)

Rotation:
1. Scott Feldman (7-4, 3.97 ERA, 77 IP, 56 K)
2. Brandon Finnegan (10-11, 3.98 ERA, 172 IP, 145 K)
3. Rookie Davis (NA)
4. Amir Garrett (NA)
5. Bronson Arroyo (2014: 7-4, 4.08 ERA, 86 IP, 47 K)

Brandon Finnegan: Ace in the making? (AP)
Brandon Finnegan: Ace in the making? (AP)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The short-term outlook remains bleak as the Reds attempt to rebuild the minor-league system. Not helping matters is that they share a division with the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates. A winning record in the division doesn’t seem remotely possible, meaning the best-case scenario might be equaling last season’s 68 wins. (Mark Townsend)

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
We’ve established it’s going to be a struggle again this season With several long-term core players now gone, the Reds are a definite candidate for 100 losses. (Townsend)

PRESSING FANTASY QUESTION
With Brandon Phillips getting shipped to Atlanta, the Reds are handing over the second base job to Jose Peraza, who’s primed to make a major fantasy impact thanks to his speed. The 22-year-old held his own against major-league pitching as a rookie (103 wRC+), and while his .324 BA can’t be counted on to repeat, he attempted 31 stolen bases over just 241 at bats. Peraza currently projects to hit second, right ahead of the patient Joey Votto, so 40+ steals are certainly attainable. He’s eligible at 2B, SS and OF and sports an ADP outside the top-200, so Peraza is someone to target, especially as the league continues to shift more toward power, with steals increasingly harder to come by. (Dalton Del Don)

BEST FOLLOW
Second baseman Dilson Herrera hasn’t made it to the bigs with the Reds yet, but he will. So why not get familiar with him?

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While Herrera primarily posts in Spanish (though on Twitter, those can be easily translated), he enjoys posting videos of himself doing weird, relatable stuff (like sprinkling seasoning onto an entree), and pictures of himself with his teammates. So give Herrera a follow and get to know him and other future Reds. Because when the rebuild is over, they’re the ones you’ll be seeing every day. (Roscher)

The Reds have some good giveaways. (AP)
The Reds have some good giveaways. (AP)

BEST REASON TO ATTEND A GAME
The play on the field isn’t going to be all that great, so you might as well take home a free souvenir if you attend a game. The Reds’ Theme Ticket Packages seem like the perfect opportunity to do just that. The Reds have a number of cool giveaways connected with Theme Ticket Packages this season, including two Marvel Superhero giveaways, a Star Wars bobblehead and an Elvis bobblehead. If bobbleheads aren’t your thing, you can try and get a 1975 replica World Series ring in September. You have to sign up for the Theme Ticket Packages in order to receive one of these unique giveaways, though, so you might want to plan ahead. (Cwik)

ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!