17 thoughts at the halfway point of Reds’ camp

March 6th, 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. -- We've reached about the halfway point of Reds Spring Training.

I'm taking a few days off from camp to recharge my batteries. For now, here are 17 things I've been thinking about as camp rounds the corner toward Opening Day on March 28.

1. The Reds have yet to reveal their Opening Day starter. Based on what I've seen, Frankie Montas would be my bet.

2. Speaking of Montas, and I've already written about it, he's fitting in very nicely on the team. He has a presence among the pitchers and that kind of leadership is useful for a crew that lacks service time.

3. Others in the rotation mix looking very good, regardless of their stats: Andrew Abbott, Graham Ashcraft and Nick Martinez.

4. Nick Lodolo was scheduled to see a specialist about his problematic left leg. Lodolo has looked very good pitching, but it has to be concerning if he's not completely through the woods after nearly a year. His readiness for the start of the season is in question.

5. TJ Friedl looks poised to pick up from where he was last season. Third basemen occasionally play in on the grass when Friedl bats to respect his ability to bunt. But he has also picked up several nice hits, has stolen some bases and looks like he'd be a strong tablesetter from the leadoff spot.

6. Speaking of leadoff hitters, Jonathan India (left foot) hasn't gotten into a game yet. I've seen India take grounders and do work at first base and, of course, at second base. He also has shagged flies in the outfield. It's almost time for him to get into games. I must admit it’s weird seeing him somewhere other than second base, but I’m also very interested to see if he can succeed in what appears to be a “super utility” role.

7. Christian Encarnacion-Strand's power remains intact. Last Thursday, he muscled a triple off the wall in center field. Against Oakland on Monday, he hit an opposite-field homer to right field and smoked a triple to right field.

8. So far, so good health-wise for Tejay Antone. If Antone can stay healthy and become durable, he would be a big bullpen asset based on his track record.

9. Elly De La Cruz made offseason hitting adjustments and they seem to be taking hold. Although De La Cruz is still striking out a bunch, he's also hitting to all parts of the field. He can still pull the ball, as he demonstrated with a mammoth 470-foot homer on Saturday vs. the Rockies and a two-run triple down the right-field line vs. the A's on Monday.

10. Outfielder Will Benson has been hitting the ball hard against both righties and lefties. Benson is trying to make himself a complete player so he can be in the lineup regularly rather than in a platoon situation.

11. Of the prospects in camp, shortstop Edwin Arroyo has earned the most buzz. As advertised, Arroyo has shown why he might be the best fielding shortstop in the organization -- including the big leagues. He also has shown he can hit and his bat has some pop.

12. Other prospects in big league camp who have been impressive: Rhett Lowder and Chase Petty.

13. From the Minor League camp, third baseman Sal Stewart, the Reds’ No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, got into a Cactus League game on Friday vs. the Diamondbacks. Stewart made a couple of really nice plays and notched a hit.

14. The next few days will be pretty big for Matt McLain, who had a scare with his right oblique in the early days of camp. McLain could soon get into games and he will be watched closely for signs of soreness. He's been swinging without issue the past few days, but the club will make sure that he doesn't overdo it with his preparation.

15. In terms of position battles, I haven't seen too much that has me altering my previous Opening Day roster prediction (injuries aside). Two players who could change that are non-roster invitees Josh Harrison and Tony Kemp. Both are very well-liked veterans who would help the younger players and both are versatile.

16. Not to make anybody envious, but the weather in Arizona during camp this year has been nothing short of fantastic. Not one lousy day. Last year was unseasonably cold and dreary. It's no small thing that workouts haven't had to be curtailed or moved indoors.

17. Best Mexican food in greater Goodyear? Still has to be Raul and Theresa's. It's an easy choice and less than 10 minutes from Goodyear Ballpark. The address is 519 W. Main St. in Avondale. I say this with 14 years of experience eating there each Spring Training, you won't regret going.