Spring Training: Cincinnati Reds
February, 17, 2013
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Cincinnati Reds filled a significant void in their lineup when they acquired outfielder Shin-Soo Choo in a three-way trade with Cleveland and Arizona in December.
Choo has a .386 on-base percentage in 100 career starts batting out of the leadoff spot. He'll be a major improvement over Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips, Drew Stubbs, Chris Heisey, Willie Harris, Xavier Paul and Wilson Valdez, who combined for a major league worst .254 OBP and a .581 OPS at the top of the order a year ago.
The Reds think at least two other hitters will benefit from their new-found stability with the arrival of Choo. Phillips, who has routinely bounced around manager Dusty Baker's batting order, will settle into the No. 2 hole. And Cozart, who was ill-suited for the leadoff spot but still started 101 games there in 2012, will probably bat seventh.
"I can see Phillips really taking off this year," said general manager Walt Jocketty. "We've had to move him around and he's been great about it. But this just sets up everything so well. We can go left, right, left, right all the way down the order. This really lengthens out our batting order."
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesBrandon Phillips was second on the Reds in runs scored (86) last season.
Phillips batted primarily second and cleanup in 2007, when he hit 30 homers, stole 32 bases and set career highs for runs scored (107) and slugging percentage (.485). His .322 career OBP isn't optimal for a No. 2 hitter, but he's fairly adept at putting the ball in play. He has surpassed 100 strikeouts only once in seven seasons in Cincinnati.
If Phillips had a choice, he said he would prefer to hit third, first, fourth and second -- in that order. But Choo is set at leadoff, and Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick are locked in behind him in the 3-4 spots.
"It's not about what I want," Phillips said. "If I really cared about where I hit, then I wouldn't be making these changes. They asked me to do it and I could easily say no. But I'm a team person, so I said yes.
"When you hit second, you're more of a team player. It's all about moving guys over. Hitting and running more. Playing small ball. Setting the table for the guys behind you. That's what hitting second really is. I'm a team player, so I can fit that role."