3 Reds storylines to watch in spring camp

February 7th, 2023

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.

CINCINNATI -- There’s just one week to go until Reds pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz. The long and mostly quiet winter is nearly over.

A rebuilding club not anticipated to be contenders, Cincinnati is hoping to defy low expectations while seeing some of its younger talent flourish at the big league level.

Hope is never in short supply for teams -- and their fans -- when it comes to the start of Spring Training.

Here are three Reds camp storylines to watch:

1. The battle at shortstop
I discussed this at length in a recent newsletter. If Jose Barrero can show consistent improvement after he made approach adjustments at the plate during the offseason, he has a great chance to land the everyday job. Cincinnati acquired veteran Kevin Newman from the Pirates and he would be more than capable to fill the role.

The X-factor is Reds No. 1 prospect Elly De La Cruz. Although he has limited experience above the High-A level, things could get interesting if the 21-year-old blows everybody’s doors off this spring.

2. What is Joey Votto’s status?
Votto, 39, is entering the final year of the 10-year, $225 million contract extension he signed in 2012. He’s also coming off the worst season of his career and is still rehabilitating from surgery that repaired a torn rotator cuff and biceps in his left shoulder.

At Reds Caravan last month, general manager Nick Krall didn’t expect Votto to be full-go for the start of camp. The club still wants to get eyes on Votto and his progress in Goodyear before determining his timeline for the regular season.

3. The back of the rotation
The Reds are depending on young pitchers Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft to front their 2023 rotation and will certainly be hoping all three take steps forward in their sophomore seasons. But what about the final two spots?

Four pitchers will be the primary candidates: offseason signing Luke Weaver, plus Luis Cessa, Connor Overton and Justin Dunn. Two prospect candidates will also be in the mix in lefty Brandon Williamson and right-hander Levi Stoudt. A big key for whoever gets the spots will be the ability to provide innings.

Storylines worth mentioning:
The battle for left field and center field; Nick Senzel’s health and readiness; the bullpen’s makeup and the team’s preparation to play under several new rules in place for the 2023 season.