15 questions/storylines for the 2023 Reds
When is it Elly Time? 21-year old Elly De La Cruz is a Top 10 prospect in MLB. He has just 207 plate appearances at Double-A. But he has answered the challenge at each level, so far. He oozes power, speed, charisma and a superstar vibe. How do the Reds navigate the line between his readiness vs rushing him? When he does arrive, this town will flip upside down.
Can the young trio of Hunter Greene (22) , Nick Lodolo (24) and Graham Ashcraft (24) avoid sophomore slumps and take the next steps? Can Greene (5.3%) and Lodolo (10.3) bump up the usage of/improve their changeup? Can Ashcraft increase the effectiveness of the slider and sinker? How much of an innings increase can each handle? In reality, the Reds will go as far as this trio of arms takes them…..this year and beyond.
Who rounds out the rotation from the grab bag of Connor Overton (remember him?), Justin Dunn, Luke Weaver, Luis Cessa and prospects like Brandon Williamson and Levi Stoudt? The 29-year old Overton got in the best groove of his ML career with a 2.73 ERA over four starts. Then he blew out his back. Dunn has battled a shoulder injury that seems to be on constant flare up. Weaver hasn’t thrown more than 66 ML innings since 2018. Cessa was decent in 10 starts at the end of last season. Did Williamson jumpe to the front of the line after being named starter for the Cactus League opener?
Can the bullpen build off last season's second half improvement (3.82) ERA? The pen has been among the worst in MLB over the last two seasons, consistently offering debilitating, meltdown performances. Already, Tejay Antone has suffered a setback and won’t be ready until at least the second half.
Tony Santillan's back is better, but he's behind schedule and likely won't be ready for opening day, as he builds up arm strength. Can the Reds really count on Lucas Sims?
Health: Injuries led to a franchise-record 66 different players being used in 2022. They were debilitating and frustrating, leaving the roster in shambles. GM Nick Krall spent the offseason building up organizational depth with a mass number of signings of fringe ML/4A players and offering spring training invites to guys around MLB and the globe looking for new opportunities.
Is this the final chapter of Joey Votto's career in Cincinnati? If so, how will it read? The 39-year old and coming off major left shoulder surgery. He’s also coming off his worst ML season. This is the final year of his contract, paying him $25M this year, with an option ($20M) or buyout ($7M) for 2024.
Which version of Jonathan India do the Reds get? The 2021 Rookie of the Year that became the only Reds rookie to ever produce at least 20 homers and 10 stolen bases? Or, the 2022 injury plagued version that saw a decline in all areas? He admits he went to camp heavier last year, looking for more power. It didn’t work and it got him hurt. Now, he’s more sleek and looking for more athleticism. Does 2B remain his position going forward?
How does the Stephenson Plan work out? David Bell says Tyler Stephenson will start 65 games behind the plate and split time at 1B and DH to get to around 140 games. Limited to just 50 games due to three IL stints last season, a healthy Stephenson would be a huge boost to the Reds lineup.
Do the offseason hitting adjustments of Jose Barrero click? He will be 25 years old in April and the clock is clearly ticking as he looks over his shoulder at multiple hard-charging shortstop prospects. He’s hit just .170 in three separate ML stints over three seasons and 298 plate appearances. The organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2021 has shown no clue on ML breaking balls. A broken hamate bone/surgery last spring training sidetracked his 2022 season.
Can Spencer Steer be the everyday third baseman? Acquired in the Tyler Mahle deal, he clubbed 30 doubles and 23 homers with 78 RB with an .879 OPS at three minor league stops last season. The 24-year old then showed brief flashes during his September call-up.
Can newly acquired OF Will Benson scratch past the surface of the skillset he flashed at Triple-A for the Guardians last season? The 24-year old, former 1st round pick (‘16) put up numbers to stare at and wonder: .426 OBP, 17 HR, 16 SB in 401 plate appearances.
Can free-agent signing Wil Myers have enough of an impact to bring a solid prospect at the trade deadline? The 32-year old former Rookie of the Year and All-Star received MVP just three seasons ago. Can GABP help push him into the 20+ HR range? He produced 28 and 30 long balls in 2016-2017.
Is THIS the season that Nick Senzel stays healthy AND produces a breakout season? I could have copied and pasted that sentence from the last several years. The former No. 2 pick overall in 2016 is now 27 years old. Good news last year: He played in a career high 110 games. Bad news: He produced an empty slash line: .231-.296-.306-.601. He’s also coming off toe surgery this offseason. He appears headed for a Jack-of-all-trades/utility role.
Will a camp surprise/off the radar player emerge? It was Brandon Drury in 2022 and Tyler Naquin in 2021. Don’t forget previous late camp adds/surprises like Dan Straily and Scooter Gennett.
How quickly do the other prospects come along/become ML ready?: Brandon Williamson, Matt McLain, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Levi Stoudt, Connor Phillips, Andrew Abbott, Noelvi Marte, etc…….