Another Cincinnati native recently joined the team on a minor league deal with a chance to prove himself during spring training. Infielder, Josh Harrison and former UC Bearcat looks to make a splash over the next month and a half to make the roster and he certainly is capable of doing so. In his career, he is a .270 batter, holds a .316 OBP, and is a 2 time All-Star. With these stats, you might be asking why he is on a minor league deal, but in 2023 he had the worst year of his career with a batting average of .204 and he is approaching 37 years old. However, he looks to bounce back this season and add veteran presence that is much needed to this ballclub.
I find myself looking at this crowded infield and wondering what is going on, but it is good to understand that we drafted and picked up middle infielders with the plan of them being athletic enough to move around and play different positions. Barrero, Candelario, De La Cruz, Encarnacion-Strand, India, Marte, McLain, Steer, and even the young guys such as Arroyo will be displaying their abilities this Spring. Being able to utilize some of these players in the outfield will only benefit the player with more playing time, just as it benefitted Spencer Steer in 2023. As I look across these names, Barrero certainly sticks out to me. He has so much potential, but Cincinnati has given him so much time to prove himself as a big league player. I have to think that if he doesn’t perform at a very high level in early March, he might be one of the odd-men out on this young and talented roster.
While everyone was excited about the call-ups of last season including Elly, Matt McLain, Noelvi Marte, Andrew Abbott, Connor Phillips, and others, it feels like we have forgotten some of the bright young stars who certainly might debut in 2024. Edwin Arroyo (SS), Rhett Lowder (RHP), and Blake Dunn (OF) are three individuals that I think could make an impact on this team sooner rather than later. Arroyo batted .252 in 2023 with 13 homeruns and 29 stolen bases. He played 4 games in AA and many believe he has the capabilities of being an All-Star. Rhett Lowder turns 22 in just a few weeks and was drafted in 2023 with the 7th overall pick. Lowder will have a chance to show off his arm in Spring Training and if the injury plague occurs again, I can see him making his debut in the first half of the season for Cincinnati. Blake Dunn is probably the most MLB ready player that we have in our system. He is 25 years old, batted .312 in 2023 and .332 in AA alone. With Cincinnati needing a right handed bat in the outfield, his play in Spring Training could determine whether or not he will make the roster. I believe Blake will be on the roster to begin the official Reds 2024 campaign on March 28th.
Pitchers & Catchers Report
While we don’t have game action yet, we have officially made it to the week of pitchers and catchers reporting. Compared to last season, the pitching staff appears to be far better. Cincinnati’s pitchers that should get starts in Spring include:
Out of the bullpen in Spring, we will have familiar faces and some new additions to take this team to another level including:
Tyler Stephenson and Luke Maile are the pair of catchers Cincinnati plans to use throughout the season and for this team to be successful, Stephenson will need to return to being the batter that he was before 2023 (And I think he will do just that). We should also get to see some action from Austin Wynns, PJ Higgins, and Michael Trautwein, as this team certainly needs ensured that they have a viable option should Maile or Stephenson miss any time in 2024.
This column appears in several newspapers in southwest Ohio.