TJ Friedl. Photo provided

Matt's Take:

Cincinnati Reds face challenges ahead as injuries and suspensions threaten roster, but team still shows promise with solid bullpen and impressive performances in Spring Training. Debate continues over decision to let go of Joey Votto.

Remember when we were all freaking out about playing time and how much depth this team was filled with?  I鈥檇 like to go back to that time about now, as there are some real concerns with this roster going into the week before the regular season.  Cincinnati is now without TJ Friedl (Right wrist fracture), Noelvi Marte (PEDS Suspension), Nick Lodolo (Week behind roughly), and we can鈥檛 forget that Brandon Williamson, Nick Martinez, Alex Young, Ian Gibaut, Matt McLain, and Jonathan India have some injuries that they are working their way back from or dealing with as well.  A healthy rotation and a healthy roster is key to winning the National League Central and with the losses of recent, Cincinnati may need to be looking to add to this roster unless they are comfortable with Stuart Fairchild, Will Benson, or Blake Dunn taking over in centerfield.  The addition of Candelario certainly makes me feel a little better with the news from Marte, but his time in Spring Training has been less than stellar.  My fingers are crossed that this doesn鈥檛 turn into a 鈥淢oose contract鈥 as that still haunts the people of Cincinnati. 

Enough with the pessimistic attitude though, as this team is still playing .500 baseball in Spring Training.  We have a healthy Montas, Greene, and Ashcraft along with the hopes of seeing improvements in our star-studded young talent.  Luke Maile is knocking the cover off the ball with 11 hits (team lead), along with Stuart Fairchild impressing everyone in the organization.  Christian Encarnacion-Strand continues to show his power (3 homeruns), which is tied with Tyler Stephenson who is looking for a bounce-back 2024 season.  Our bullpen looks solid and I really think that could be the biggest strength of our 2024 Reds team.  Martinez, Pagan, Diaz, Antone, Cruz, Sims, Suter, and Wilson could be the best bullpen Cincinnati has put together in a decade if they stay healthy. 

No Slow Starts

For this team to be successful in 2024, they simply cannot have another slow start.  It feels like every year we put ourselves in a hole that we have to dig out of.  To begin last season, they went 12-16 throughout games in March and April.  Have you looked at the May gauntlet of a schedule Cincinnati has as well?  Having a winning record going into May is a 鈥渕ust鈥 if this team wants to be playing in the postseason, as May includes games against the Orioles, Diamondbacks, Giants, Padres, and Dodgers.  While there are some concerns, I think this team will have a winning record at the end of May and will start gaining some traction through the mid-part of the schedule.  The pressure is on in Cincinnati and many players are consistently stating that this is a playoff team and anything short of that would certainly be a failure.  Just as the Bengals did a few seasons ago, it鈥檚 time for the Reds to bring hope back into the baseball world of Cincinnati sports. 

There was Room

Back in November, Nick Krall made it known that there was 鈥渘o room for Joey Votto on this Reds roster.鈥  I will start by saying that I love what Nick Krall has done in Cincinnati.  He is a big reason why this team has turned into a flood of young talent.  However, I disagree with him that this roster didn鈥檛 have room for Joey Votto.  As he hit a homerun in his first at bat on the first pitch in his first Spring Training game, I couldn鈥檛 help but think, 鈥淲hat have we done?鈥  A Cincinnati icon is playing somewhere else, yet Nick Martini will likely make this roster?  A ridiculous OBP leader in the history of the game of baseball is going to be let go instead of rewarding him for all the years of uncompetitive rosters that this team put together?  I love the Reds, but with recent issues with Marte, Friedl, and others, I can鈥檛 help but think this was a mistake.  He wanted to be here and wanted to play here.  For me, I just can鈥檛 see why number 19 isn鈥檛 suiting up in Red, but I do wish him all the best.  Show Father time that it is no match, JDV!

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