Found August 02, 2012 on Three-Way Chili:

The Cincinnati Reds did make a relatively big move hours before the trade deadline on Tuesday – it just wasn’t the kind of move anyone predicted.

Rather than improving their situation in centerfield and at the leadoff spot in the batting order by trading for a player like Shane Victorino or Denard Span, the Reds decided to deal for relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton.

Broxton was having an excellent season as the Kansas City Royals’ closer and looked extremely impressive during his Reds’ debut on Wednesday when he pitched a perfect 8th inning and recorded a strikeout.

Broxton didn’t come cheap as the Reds gave up a pair of pitching prospects in the trade: left-handed reliever Donnie Joseph and right-handed starter J.C.Sulbaran. I had Joseph ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the Reds’ organization (behind, in order: Billy Hamilton, Daniel Corcino, Tony Cingrani, Robert Stephenson, JJ Hoover, Henry Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius and Nick Travieso). Sulbaran was not considered a top prospect by anyone (I had him ranked 17th in the Reds’ organization) but he’s not chopped liver, either (he’s more like diced liver).

Combined at Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville this season, Joseph, 24, had the following stats: 8-3, 1.72 ERA, 18 saves, 52.1 IP, 35 H, 17 BB, 68 K. Impressive to say the least. He was the Reds’ third-round draft pick in 2009 out of the University of Houston and has a fastball in the mid-90’s.

At Double-A Pensacola this season, Sulbaran, 22, posted the following numbers: 7-7, 4.04 ERA, 104.2 IP, 101 H, 54 BB, 111 K. If he can ever harness his control, the Reds will regret losing him. However, he’s never shown the ability to limit his walks in his brief professional career. The Reds drafted him in the 30th round out of the high school ranks in 2008.

As for Broxton, he’s a big boy and then some at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds. And he’s really not “fat” if you can believe that. He’s certainly not svelte, but he’s not someone you would describe as fat. He’s just a huge man. And happens to be one hell of a reliever with a power arm.

The former closer of the LA Dodgers came to Kansas City this season and revived his career. Broxton, who is only 28 years of age, had 23 saves in 27 attempts for the Royals this year. In 35.2 innings pitched, he gave up 36 hits, walked 14 and recorded 25 strikeouts. The K totals are a bit low for someone who regularly reaches 96 MPH with his fastball, but he does a good job of keeping the ball down and getting outs.

Broxton was one of the elite closers in all of MLB in 2009 when he put up these crazy stats for the Dodgers: 2.61 ERA, 36 saves, 76 IP, 29 BB, 114 K. Yes, 114 strikeouts in 76 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman territory, but it still illustrates how dominant Broxton was earlier in his career. And he’s still a young man.

Overall, I think it was a good trade for the Reds. I hate to lose Joseph, but the Reds weren’t going to get one of the best bullpen arms on the market without giving up something valuable. Broxton now gives the Reds a three-headed monster at the back-end of the ‘pen along with Chapman and Marshall.

Reds: Best Record In Baseball

Just has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

And the Reds aren’t merely tied for the best record in MLB any longer; they own the best mark by themselves. They are now 64-41 and stand 3.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the National League Central division. The St. Louis Cardinals are 7.5 games back of the Reds.

Yes, the schedule has been weak lately, but it’s still amazing the Reds are doing this with Joey Votto on the shelf. (Speaking of Votto, he won’t play in the Pirates series this weekend in Cincinnati, but should be ready by the following weekend. He is coming off of meniscus surgery, which is as minor as it gets when it comes to any type of knee surgery.)

To say the Reds have been hot wouldn't even be doing the situation justice. They have won 13 of their last 14 games, and 20 of their last 23. That's a staggering stretch of top-shelf baseball. 

Frazier Emerges As Rookie-of-Year Candidate

Everyone assumed for a while that Washington’s Bryce Harper would win the National League Rookie of the Year award. However, a small problem has arisen for the 19-year-old: He’s not putting up good enough numbers (.261 batting average, .762 OPS, 9 HRs, 29 RBIs, 13 steals in 322 at-bats).

Frazier, 26, is batting .275 with a robust .870 OPS. He also has 13 homers and 40 RBIs in just 247 at-bats. He’s been a savior for the Reds at the plate and in the field where he’s versatile enough to play third, first or left. And play them all well.

I think Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will win the award if I had to guess. Rizzo, 22, is batting .316 (.916 OPS) with eight homers and 20 RBIs. It’s a small sample size of 117 at-bats, but if Rizzo continues to play well, I expect him to take home the hardware. He plays in a big market and there’s been a lot of hype about him. Not “Harper hype” but there’s still been plenty of chatter about Rizzo and he hasn’t disappointed Cub fans to say the least.

But just the fact we’re talking about Frazier as a legit candidate for ROY speaks volumes since Frazier isn’t even an everyday starter for the Reds.

Another name to keep an eye on is Diamondbacks rookie pitcher Wade Miley. The 25-year-old lefty is 12-6 with a 2.98 ERA.

Cueto Continues To Make Cy Young Bid

Johnny Cueto is by far the best starting pitcher on the best team in the National League. As I blogged about recently, he’s definitely on the short list to win the NL Cy Young award this year and I think he’s suddenly emerged as the favorite. Not the runaway favorite, but the leader thus far.

Following the Reds’ 9-4 win over the Padres Thursday afternoon, Cueto moved to 14-5 with a 2.52 ERA on the season. R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets has similar stats (14-2, 2.83 ERA) but the Mets have quickly fallen out of the race. If the Reds make the playoffs, that will give Cueto an extra boost in the Cy Young voting. I also think Cueto has a better chance at maintaining his numbers than Dickey, although the knuckleballer has made a career out of proving people wrong.

Obviously, a lot depends on what happens from this point forward. But I think Cueto is the man to beat at this point. Others in the mix include: Matt Cain, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Vogelsong, but Cueto has them all topped as of now.

It's just too bad Cueto is getting up there in age. Nope, he's just 26. Feels like he's been around for a while -- and he kind of has after bursting on the scene in 2008 -- but he's still just 26.

THE BACKYARD
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