The Cincinnati Reds were not good in 2022. The Reds finished joint bottom of the NL Central – both they and the Pittsburgh Pirates had 62 wins and 100 losses – finishing a full 31 games behind the division-winning St. Louis Cardinals. There were only two teams with worse records than the Reds, and they will need to improve drastically to be involved in the playoff conversation in 2023.
The Reds do at least get to start the new season at the friendly confines of their Great American Ball Park. They face the Pirates in their home opener on Thursday, March 30, the first game of a three-game series against their fellow cellar dwellers last campaign. They then immediately take on the Chicago Cubs – another NL Central team with a losing record last season – in another three-game series the one beginning on Monday, April 3. There are also April home series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers, with the Reds playing a bunch of series at home in the early going.
Here are three questions for the Reds ahead of the 2023 season.
Three Key Questions
Will the young pitchers progress?
If you are going to have a down year like the Reds did in 2022 then you are better to do it with emerging youth than declining veterans. While there were elements of both on the Reds roster, it is quite clear that there were three young, exciting starting pitchers breaking through that could become the core of this team’s rotation if they progress as expected. Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft all debuted on the big stage between April 10 and May 22. We have seen young pitching staffs rise together before and create something to build around. The Reds need to see progress from all three in 2023.
Is the lack of spending an issue?
You can Moneyball your way to success in this league. The Reds will be hoping that they are on that path as they are the fourth lowest spenders in MLB in terms of team payroll. That payroll budget even includes the $22 million that they will be paying Mike Moustakas not to play for them, with the third baseman sitting on a heavy contract and not producing at the plate. There were a couple of signings – Kevin Newman came via trade from Pittsburgh and Wil Myers is an outfielder/first baseman who was bought in for the San Diego Padres – but there are no splashy moves here. If it is Moneyball at its finest the Reds will be better. If it is just a base of a team not willing to keep up with the rest of MLB then it will be a disaster.
When does Elly De La Cruz get the call?
The Reds No. 1 minor league prospect is shortstop Elly De La Cruz. At 6-foot-5, De La Cruz is massive for a shortstop and he is the most exciting prospect that the Reds have had in their farm system in years. He has yet to play above Double-A ball, and the Reds want to get him time in Triple-A before promoting him to the main roster. It feels like a case of when rather than if in 2023, so keep an eye on this one to see if the Reds give De La Cruz the call before the All-Star Break to see if he can become the star that most experts predict.