3 storylines to keep an eye on in Reds camp

February 14th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon's Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Another trip around the baseball sun began Tuesday when Reds pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. There will be a lot for the club to sort through over the next six weeks ahead of Opening Day.

Cincinnati has 62 players in camp, and they will be put through workouts and exhibition games to help the team decide who comprises the best 26 players for the active roster.

As everything gets rolling, here are three key Reds storylines for the spring.

1. Who will make the rotation?
It’s a deep list of contenders, 10 total. The club has returning starters in Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Andrew Abbott, Brandon Williamson and prospects Connor Phillips, Carson Spiers and Lyon Richardson. None have made 30 starts in a big league season.

The Reds, who ranked 28th in rotation ERA (5.43), fortified their starting depth by signing Frankie Montas to a one-year, $16 million contract and swingman Nick Martinez, who will compete for a spot after he signed a two-year, $26 million deal. Montas was limited to one relief appearance last season with the Yankees while recovering from right shoulder surgery.

The hope is there is enough talent and depth to form a playoff-caliber rotation.

"There's going to be competition coming into camp, and somebody is going to end up going to Triple-A or going to the bullpen, that might have pitched well last year," president of baseball operations Nick Krall said. "I think we're going to have to make those decisions at the end of camp.”

2. How will the infield come together?
Even before the offseason, the Reds appeared to have plenty of infield depth. Then they added even more. Corner infielder Jeimer Candelario inked a three-year, $45 million contract on Dec. 11. On Feb. 6, veteran Josh Harrison was brought in as a non-roster player.

The expectation had been that several infielders will be moving around multiple positions this spring and likely this season. But on Tuesday, the club noted that Elly De La Cruz will see most of his time at shortstop and Matt McLain will most often play second base.

Jonathan India, who has played exclusively at second base in the Major Leagues, is expected to see time at first base, third base and outfield. Christian Encarnacion-Strand will likely be at first base and rookie Noelvi Marte will be prepared for third base while Candelario plays both first and third base.

3. Can they build off of 2023?
The Reds far exceeded outside expectations by contending in 2023, which was supposed to be a continuation of a rebuild. But a young new core arrived quickly and an exciting chemistry of good players and good character meshed together to help Cincinnati win 82 games following a 100-loss 2022 season.

However, the club fell just short of making the postseason.

Most of that core is back, along with the new veteran free-agent additions. This time, the Reds won't be a surprising team but they will try to contend while maintaining a close-knit group.

“We’re already in a really good position with the character in our organization," Greene said. "I can’t think of anyone who could steer us off the wrong path. And if that happens, there are enough guys in here to check that guy. But I can’t think of anyone who could hinder us from that standpoint."