2023 Cincinnati Reds Season Preview — Building Back Up

Members of the 2023 Cincinnati Reds pitching staff watching a spring training drill.
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Baseball season is finally upon us! The Cincinnati Reds have finished their spring season with a 15–14–1 record. They still have a lot of work left to do if they want to break onto the scene, though. This year’s team is predicted to win a measly 65 games, marking them close to 100 losses for the second consecutive season. That may not be true for this young Cincinnati team though, as they are close to capitalizing on a fantastic rebuild. We will go over the lineup and the pitching staff outlook for this season, so buckle up!

The Pitching Staff

Starters

It’s no secret that the Reds have struggled to put out a dependable rotation for some time. However, there are three young guys looking to change that. The young phenom Hunter Greene will get the start for Cincinnati on Opening Day. He is looking to build upon a strong finish to 2022 and came into the spring looking great. His fastball is one of the elite pitches in baseball, as he broke numerous velocity records last season. He also started to figure out his secondary pitches late in the year, as he dominated through the end of August and September. He finished the spring with 17 1/3 innings pitched, a 3.12 ERA, and 14 strikeouts.

The next two young starters help make a promising top three in the Reds’ rotation. Nick Lodolo dealt with some injuries last year, but looks primed and ready to become one of the top left-handed starters in baseball. He ended his spring with 16 2/3 innings pitched, a 2.16 ERA ,and 22 punchouts. His fastball combined with his wipeout slider have stymied players this spring. Graham Ashcraft rounds out that aforementioned top three for Cincinnati. Ashcraft is the bulldog of the three pitchers but doesn’t shy away from the spotlight either. His spring was just as good as Lodolo’s, posting 17 1/3 innings, a 2.60 ERA, and 25 strikeouts.

Bullpen

While Cincinnati has seemingly started to figure out the starting rotation, much about the bullpen remains in question. The only guaranteed lock is Alexis Diaz, brother Mets closer Edwin. Diaz has been nasty all spring and even competed in the World Baseball Classic, where he also excelled. Other than that, the bullpen raises a bunch of questions. Lucas Sims will be back, but it remains to be seen if he can remain healthy all season. He missed all but six games in 2022 with a bulging disk in his back. If he remains healthy, though, he will be the perfect compliment to Diaz at the back end.

Aside from those two, the rest of the bullpen needs to be figured out. Tejay Antone is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery and will not be available until after the All-Star Break. That leaves a cast of pitchers who had an up and down ’22 season and could cause some issues for Cincinnati when they try to get to the back end.

Lineup

After purging the lineup from the 2021 season, it was evident the Reds missed those bats. They scuffled to a 3–22 start, struggling at the plate mightily. Some of that original core is still here, but it still looks very different as Cincinnati awaits the arrival of its young stars. It was released Monday that Joey Votto will miss the start of the season, snapping his 14-year Opening Day starter streak. Votto is still recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery in September and will get some at-bats in Louisville at the start of the year. In what could be his final season, the 16-year veteran hopes to remain healthy and be a force in the middle of the Reds’ lineup. Also hoping to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2022 is former Rookie of the Year Jonathan India.

India will be joined by fellow youngster Tyler Stephenson, who dealt with his own injuries in ’22. Both are needed on the field for Cincinnati, as they represent the future core of players joining the team. Stephenson will split catching duties with Curt Casali, who rejoined the team this year after playing in San Francisco. It’s possible Ty-Steve could also see time in the DH spot or at first base to preserve his health but keep his bat in the lineup. One of the surprises this spring is rookie outfielder Will Benson. Benson was received in a trade with the Guardians in the offseason and had a great spring. In 17 games, Benson hit .327 with a .327 on base percentage. He was named to the major league roster to finish out the spring. The lefty will feel right at home in the confines of Great American Ballpark.

Players to Watch

One of the players to watch this season will be TJ Friedl. Friedl broke onto the scene last year and did a good job filling in for the oft-injured Nick Senzel. TJ also had a great spring and will be a welcome addition to the top of the Reds lineup. He will especially excel with the new bases, as he is one of the few for Cincinnati who will be swiping bags this season. Another player to watch is offseason acquisition Wil Myers. Myers signed a one-year deal and will hopefully be this year’s Brandon Drury. This was a Cincinnati specialty last season, bringing in players on prove-it deals and flipping them for valuable prospects at the deadline. Myers struggled this spring, but will be one of the important bats in the middle of the lineup this season for some time.

We are only a few days away from the first pitch of 2023. Every team starts with a clean slate, and the Cincinnati Reds are no exception. This franchise is trending upward and will look to be as competitive as they can be this season. That starts with the young rotation, and is followed by the lineup producing in key moments. Cincinnati, as usual, will start at home on Thursday against Bryan Reynolds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. First pitch is at 4:10 pm Eastern. That will kick off their 162-game trek, one that will no doubt produce some surprises and some good moments.

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