Cincinnati Reds: 2024 Season Preview

Despite only three winning seasons over the last 10 years, the Cincinnati Reds are on the rise. However, according to PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’s projection system, the Reds are not as good as their hype, and a 78-84 record should be expected.

What happened in 2023?

82-80 record (Third in the NL Central)

The rollercoaster of Cincinnati’s season started with a fast downhill from an Opening Day defeat by the Pittsburgh Pirates and continued for the next 68 games. It wasn’t until 16 June that the Reds finally had a .500 record (35-35), and as if to demonstrate the weakness of the NL Central, this pushed them into second place in the division.

Upsetting all preseason projections, the Reds, inspired by a conveyor belt of rookies, took the lead in the division three days later and held onto to first or second spot for the next ten weeks.

The lack of ambition to bolster their depleted pitching staff at the trade deadline meant the Cincinnati fairytale drifted to a damp squib of a finish.

Notable comings and goings

The big acquisition is former Yankees and Athletics pitcher Frankie Montas. In six years with Oakland, covering 89 starts, the right-hander posted a 3.70 ERA with 9.30 SO/9. Injuries spoilt his opportunities in the Big Apple, but the 30-year-old is focused on taking the ball every fifth day, and, as the Reds’ Opening Day starter, he could offer that missing piece of veteran stability for the young rotation.

The other big name arriving in Cincinnati is corner infielder Jeimer Candelario. The 30-year-old enjoyed a resurgent season (119 OPS+) split between the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs, and should see everyday at-bats despite the Reds crowded infield.

Areas of weakness requiring attention

With eight infielders for five spots, you would imagine that the front office has tried to move at least one hitter, but it looks like the Reds will start the season with no clarity over playing time. Spencer Steer is expected to shift to the outfield, and maybe Jonathan India will get some starts out there as well. Of course, Noelvi Marte will help the situation by missing the first half of the season with a PED ban, and it’s possible that Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and/or Elly De La Cruz could be sent down for “seasoning” if they get off to a poor start.

One to watch

It has to be Elly De La Cruz. In my recent article, I referenced the similarities between Bobby Witt Jr.’s and De La Cruz’s rookie campaigns. Even if the Reds’ shortstop does not make the stratospheric improvements that Witt Jr. produced, he could still be one of the most exciting and productive players in the game.

The 22-year-old’s MLB career does not even stretch to 100 games, yet he is a one-man highlight reel. 

2024 prediction

The NL Central is weird. No one expected the Cardinals 2023 capitulation, and according to PECOTA, they are projected to win the division this season, despite any high-profile additions. The Brewers have given away their ace, and the Cubs seemed reticent to re-sign Cody Bellinger, their best hitter of last year.

The Reds rotation has the potential not only to be the best in the division but possibly the best in the NL. For sure, they don’t have starters of the quality of Zack Wheeler or Aaron Nola, but in Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott, and Frankie Montas, they have five starters who could finish as Top 20 pitchers by the end of the season. Few rotations can claim the same.

Absent any genuine superstars, the Reds hitters are a solid group without any obvious weakness. It would not be surprising if all seven infielders and Will Benson, TJ Friedl, and Jake Fraley all posted above-average stat lines. Actually, that’s it; that’s this year’s hot take. The Reds will have 10 hitters with at least 110 OPS+.

To make the postseason, the Reds need everything to go right, which suggests another third or fourth place finish is more likely.

Featured image of Alexis Diaz by Emilee Chinn/Cincinnati Reds/Getty Images

Article by @GavTramps. Want to share your baseball opinions in 2024 with a Bat Flips & Nerds audience of 10,000+? Click on the “Write for us” link above.

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