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Reds on the rise: Preseason expectations after surprise 2023 season

There is much to be excited about for the Reds’ faithful in the 2024 season.
There is much to be excited about for the Reds’ faithful in the 2024 season.

As Lefty Gomez, a pitcher for the New York Yankees in the 1930s, used to say, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” 

The same could be said of the 2023 Cincinnati Reds roster. A combination of talented young players and an overachieving roster, the Reds outplayed their underlying metrics and outsider expectations to an 82-80 record.

After shocking not just sportsbooks, which predicted the team would win about 66 games, but even the most optimistic fans, there is much to be excited about for the Reds’ faithful in the 2024 season.


The excitement starts with the young core that came up through the Reds minor leagues. Leading the group is the man who took Major League Baseball by storm with his massive home runs, exciting base-stealing and rocket arm– infielder Elly De La Cruz. The 22-year-old was dynamic, finishing with full-season averages of 21 home runs, 58 steals and 73 RBIs.

Despite fading as the season went on, the raw tools are impressive. According to, De La Cruz has a 98th-percentile arm, and his sprint speed makes him the fastest man in baseball. He also has multiple home runs over 440 feet. The fact that he is one of the youngest players in baseball still puts the ceiling for him in a stratospheric realm.

Another new player in 2023 is fellow infielder Matt McLain. Despite only playing 89 games, McLain finished fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

His full-season averages are jaw-dropping for a player who is only 24 and had zero games played at the major league level before the 2023 season. He put up almost 30 home runs, nearly 200 hits and 25 stolen bases. That pace isn’t just All-Star worthy: if he continued to play like that through a full season, he would’ve received Most Valuable Player (MVP) votes. 

Many others look to be massive contributors to the lineup. Utility player Spencer Steer is a flexible player, with the sixth-place recipient of Rookie of the Year starting games at six different positions while still hitting .266 and 18 home runs. 

Adding to positional flexibility, the Reds signed former Chicago Cub Jeimer Candelario. 

Candelario, who has played first and third base, has been taking reps at second base during spring training to add to his repertoire and adds a veteran presence with a great bat, hitting 22 home runs in 2023.

Fellow rookie Christian Encarnacion-Strand can also play first and third base, and that doesn’t include rookie Noelvi Marté, suspended for 80 games due to performance-enhancing drugs, who hit .316 and stole six bases while playing primarily third base in 36 games. 

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There are plenty of other people who will make an impact: center-fielder TJ Friedl, corner outfielder Will Benson and infielder and former Rookie of the Year Jonathan India. All of them will make this one of the deepest, yet youngest, lineups in baseball, as the oldest player among the group is 29.

Starting Pitching:

The pitching was a massive struggle for the Reds. Fringe major league players such as Ben Lively, Luke Weaver, Luis Cessa and many others combined to make almost 50 starts for the Reds. Their cumulative earned run average (ERA) was north of 6.00 when the major league average was 4.33

Injuries wrecked the starting rotation early and often. Top-of-the-line starters Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft spent time on the injured list. These circumstances forced into action multiple rookies such as Connor Phillips, Brandon Williamson and Lyon Richardson, who all showed flashes of promise. However, of those rookies, Andrew Abbott stuck out the most. 

Abbott became the first MLB pitcher to throw three scoreless starts of at least five innings since 1893, when the mound moved to its current distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. Although he faded much the same way De La Cruz did due to the amount of baseball he was playing, he still finished with a 3.87 ERA with 21 games started.

There is much to be excited about with the previously mentioned pitchers and the signing of pitchers Frankie Montas and Nick Martinez. Montas got hurt almost all last year, but when healthy, he can be a number-one pitcher. Martinez has shown he is very effective from both the bullpen and starting, pitching 63 games and starting nine games. 


The biggest surprise of the season came from the bullpen, who arrived into the season a much-maligned group. 

It started with the continued emergence of the only All-Star on the roster, closer Alexis Diaz. He had 37 saves and a 3.07 ERA last season. Diaz looked like the best closer in baseball during the first half of the season and will only improve upon his numbers with additional bullpen depth and not having to pitch 71 games, which tied for 11th most in the MLB.

The midseason addition of Oakland Athletics pitcher Sam Moll gives the Reds an additional standout arm out of the bullpen and another left-handed option other than Alex Young, who pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 63 games. In the 25 games pitched with the Reds, Moll has a 0.73 ERA.

Another leader in the bullpen is right-hander Ian Gibaut, who tied for fifth in games pitched with 74. Despite being asked to pitch almost every other day, Gibaut had a 3.33 ERA and was the leader in innings out of the bullpen.

Multiple other pitchers, such as Fernando Cruz, Derek Law and new addition (and Cincinnati native) Brent Suter all look to make this a top 10, and even potentially top five, bullpen in the league.

Reds fans have much to look forward to in the 2024 season. They possess the third-best odds to win their division after the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. Those are odds anybody in Cincinnati would be happy to take as they look to go from, “Oh, what a fun story” to significant contenders.