CINCINNATI -- With 54 players set to be in camp as 2021 Spring Training workouts begin, the Reds began their quest to reach the postseason again after losing in the National League Wild Card Series last year.
As is always the case, there are new faces in the clubhouse, new position battles on the field and plenty of decisions ahead for general manager Nick Krall, manager David Bell, the coaching staff and the front office to make.
Here is the first attempt at predicting Cincinnati’s 26-man Opening Day roster. We will periodically update the selections as camp rolls on.
Catcher (2): Tucker Barnhart, Tyler Stephenson
A 2020 NL Gold Glove winner, Barnhart is back as part of a likely tandem situation with the rookie Stephenson. During his brief call-ups last season, Stephenson showed some right-handed power with two home runs, and the club liked his improvement behind the plate at the alternate training site.
First base (1): Joey Votto
Now 37, Votto made a late-season adjustment and hit for more power, with eight of his 11 homers in 2020 coming in the final 28 games. He has three guaranteed years and $75 million left on his contract.
Second base (1): Mike Moustakas
Signed to a four-year, $64 million contract prior to the 2020 season, Moustakas didn’t have a great offensive showing last year, but he came on with some big hits late in the season. He immediately became an unquestioned team leader with his ability to bring everybody together. Moustakas could move over to first base at times to give Votto a break.
Third base (1): Eugenio Suárez
Suárez often struggled to find his groove at the plate as he batted .202 with a .781 OPS in ’20. He slugged 15 homers in 57 games after he hit a career-high 49 in ’19. Suárez is signed through 2024 and is also a key leader in the clubhouse.
Shortstop (1): Kyle Farmer
José Garcia, who went from Class A Advanced to the Majors in 2020, could benefit from more time in the Minors and will likely get it. Krall was unable to sign a free-agent shortstop in the offseason and a trade for an established player has yet to materialize.
That leaves a wide-open competition among Farmer, Rule 5 Draft pick Kyle Holder, Alex Blandino and non-roster invitee Dee Strange-Gordon. Farmer showed some strong skills at shortstop last season that impressed Bell. If the lefty-hitting Holder can make the team, he could be a part of a platoon. Strange-Gordon hasn’t regularly played shortstop since 2013.
Outfield (5): Shogo Akiyama, Nick Castellanos, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino
Without a designated hitter, Bell will have to find creative ways to give several players enough at-bats to be productive. That could include returning to a platoon of the lefty-hitting Akiyama and righty-hitter Senzel in center field. If the DH returns, Winker or Aquino could be top candidates to fill that spot.
Utility (2): Dee Strange-Gordon, Alex Blandino
Strange-Gordon -- the active MLB career steals leader -- will bring speed to the club and some versatility. He can play second base, shortstop, third base, center field and left field. Blandino can play every infield position and spent time with the Reds in 2018 and ’19, but he spent ’20 at the club's alternate training site.
Starting pitchers (5): Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Wade Miley, Michael Lorenzen
The Reds will need to replace the innings of departed free agents Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani, but it won’t be easy for any pitcher to do what Bauer achieved during a superlative 2020 campaign. Gray and Castillo are a strong top two to begin with, however. Mahle is a lock to rejoin the rotation full time after he stepped up when there were injuries last season. Lorenzen wants another crack at the rotation after two strong starts in ’20, and him being a starter could open up chances for him to pinch-hit and play the outfield on days he doesn’t pitch.
Relievers (8): Sean Doolittle, Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims, Tejay Antone, Jeff Hoffman, José De León, Sal Romano, Noé Ramirez
Doolittle, Garrett and Sims will compete for the closer’s role, but Bell could also opt to dispense with the role and go by matchups or use his best relievers in high-leverage situations earlier in the game. Doolittle, a two time All-Star, is the only one with significant closing experience. Garrett and Sims both broke out last season as highly dependable relievers, and Antone was strong as a rookie last season.