The Cincinnati Reds have certainly had an interesting 2022 baseball season. It all began when the team, led by owner Bob Castellini, began in the words of GM Nick Krall, “aligning their roster to our resources.” The team committed itself to yet another rebuild, despite an 83-79 record and 3rd place finish in 2021, and a Wild Card appearance in 2020.
In response to that press conference, the Reds made many moves in the offseason. In November 2021, the Reds traded long-time catcher Tucker Barnhart to the Detroit Tigers for a minor leaguer and lost pitcher Wade Miley on waivers to the Cubs. In March, Sonny Gray was dealt to the Twins for 19-year-old pitcher Chase Petty and fan favorites Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez were dealt to the Seattle Mariners for a haul that included pitcher RHP Justin Dunn who was on the injured list, and OF Jake Fraley, and Baseball America’s #5 ranked and top 100 prospect LHP Brandon Williamson and a player to be named later, which turned out to be the Mariners Baseball America’s #15 prospect RHP Connor Phillips. Finally, closer Amir Garrett was sent to the Royals for Mike Minor.
The Reds, Major League Baseball’s oldest franchise, started the season on the road for just the second time since their last World Series title in 1990 when they swept the overwhelming favorite Oakland Athletics. They had to open against the World Series Champion Atlanta Braves, at Truist Park in Atlanta. The Reds took games one and four in a series split with the champs. Then the Reds returned home to open the season at Great American Ballpark to face in-state rivals the Cleveland Guardians in a battle for the Ohio Cup (awarded to the series winner each year). Seemingly, this is where the wheels started to fall off for the Reds. Prior to the game Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini, in response to a question about fan loyalty uttered his famous lines, “Where you gonna go?” The Reds then proceeded to tie the 2003 Detroit Tigers for the worst start to a season going 3-22 (.120) for the whole month of April.
While their current record, 55-80, all but eliminates them from playoff contention. There may be hope for Reds fans in the future. The Reds are playing close to .500 baseball since their horrid start.
The Reds have an almost identical record as their division rivals the Milwaukee Brewers. Also, what might be even more impressive is the fact that the Reds have put up better records than the New York Yankees in July (14-12 to the Yankees 13-13) and August (11-17 to the Yankees 10-18). The trend has also continued to start the month of September, entering play tonight the Reds are 4-2 and the Yankees 4-3.
While, in the end, the Yankees will be in the playoffs and are legitimate contenders for the World Series title, the Reds have found a way to fight their way out of the cellar, in a reflection of the “never say die” attitude of their manager David Bell. At one point the Reds were on a historic pace for the worst all-time record in MLB history but they have clawed their way to fourth place in the National League Central, just two games behind the Chicago Cubs.
The Reds have been decimated with injuries this year, having every position player in their starting nine spend time on the Injured List. Jonathan India, Nick Senzel, Mike Moustakas, and future Hall of Famer Joey Votto have had multiple stints on the IL, with Votto being lost for the year with a torn rotator cuff injury. Their star catcher Tyler Stephenson also had multiple stints on the IL and he, like Votto, is out for the season with a broken clavicle. They have started seven different catchers. Their top bullpen arms have spent time on the IL including Tejay Antone, who underwent Tommy John surgery, and Lucas Sims who has been sidelined most of the year with back injuries.
However, through it all, there is hope. Rookie Alexis Diaz, younger brother of New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz, has dominated hitters this season and may just have stolen the closer job from Antone. Jake Fraley has hit well since coming back from the IL. What will give the Reds fans the most to look forward to in 2023 is their three-headed rookie monster starting rotation, led by young fireballer Hunter Greene (5.26 ERA and 127 strikeouts), crafty lefty Nick Lodolo (3.95 ERA and 91 strikeouts), and the surprise of the group Graham Ashcraft (3.97 ERA and only 23 walks). Greene and Lodolo are currently on rehab assignments and are set to rejoin the big club soon.
Pitching is not the only area where they will get help either. The Reds have future star SS Elly De La Cruz tearing up the minors and he could very well supplant Jose Barrero as the starting shortstop next year. 2021 first-round pick SS Matt McClain was among the final cuts last year and could very well start next year with the Reds as well. Spencer Steer, #7 on MLB.com rankings, recently made his Major League debut, homering in his first at-bat. He can play all four infield positions and also played RF in the minors. Along with McClain and Steer, the Reds #2 ranked prospect according to MLB.com, Noelvi Marte, acquired from the Mariners in Luis Castillo deal, and their #6 prospect LHP Williamson both project to make their MLB debuts next year. The Reds also have other young players coming that will allow them to build around 2B India and C Stephenson as well.
The Reds will have some tough decisions to make this off-season as they look for their rebuild to come full circle in 2024.
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