Reds talking positive about 2023 season

Published 12:26 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

Members of the Cincinnati Reds sign autographs for fans during Thursday’s Winter Caravan stop at the Huntington Mall. From left to right, radio broadcaster Tommy Thrall, general manage Nick Krall, outfielder T.J. Friedl, infielder Nick Northcut and pitcher Casey Legumina. (The Ironton Tribune/Ryan Walker)

By Jim Walker

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — It has to get better, right?

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After losing 100 games last season and tying for last place with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Central Division, the Cincinnati Reds are hoping the experience gained by their younger players will pay dividends this season.

The Reds made very few offseason moves. The Reds released Mike Moustakas who never lived up to expectations and let Nick Castellanos walk before last season.

This winter, the Reds signed free agent outfielder Wil Myers and catchers Curt Casali — again — and Luke Malie to major league contracts.

“For this organization, we always have to build through scouting and player development,” said Reds’ general manager Nick Krall during the winter caravan stop at the Huntington Mall on Thursday.

“That’s going to be the core of what we’re doing. We had a solid group of kids coming up (in 2020). We’ve got a solid group of guys both on the big league club and in our minor league system.”

Despite the inactivity and a roster payroll of only $81 million, Krall is confident in the young but talented roster and he said “we expect to win.”

With three weeks until spring training, Krall said the roster is virtually set

With catcher Tyler Stephenson healthy, the Reds felt signing Casali and Malie would help lighten the workload so that Stephenson could play some first base or designated hitter and give him 15 to 20 games off from the grind behind the plate.

The catchers will be working with a young pitching staff that featured three rookie starters last season.

Hunter Greene — who was clocked at 101 miles an hour exit speed from his hand — is ready for a breakout season.

Nick Lodolo was the most consistent starter last season but missed time due to an injury. Graham Ashcroft was the surprise as he turned in a strong season.

The bullpen started to improve toward the end of last season after being a disaster for the first half of the year.

If Tejay Anton and Lucas Sims can bounced back from injuries, they could make the bullpen improve immediately. Tony Santillan proved to be the best reliever along with Luis Cessa and Buck Farmer.

Shortstop is an area the Reds are trying to solve and they are hoping Jose Barrero will make strides this season after a dismal performance last year. Prospect Elly De La Cruz could make a push for the job.

Joey Votto is healthy but could get a late start in spring training. Votto is 39 years old and represents the best power hitter the Reds have to offer.

Often-injured last season, 2021 National League Rookie of the Year second baseman Jonathan India should return to his rookie form, but there are other questions that need to be answered.

Outfielder T.J. Friedl was up and down early last season but was a mainstay the second half of the year. He said the large group of younger players who gained valuable experience last season has him very optimistic.

“I’m excited. A lot of young guys. The foundation of the group that we have are really close like a family,” said Friend.

“Guys like (Joey) Votto and other older guys we can bring into the mix and pick their brains and learn things from them on a daily basis to help us. It’s incredible. I’m really excited about this year. We’ve got a lot of young guys and a lot of hunger. “

Nick Northcut is a power hitting minor league first baseman and third baseman for the Reds who is from nearby Mason, Ohio. He wants to make the team and return the Reds to being a winner.

“That’s the goal. The goal is to come back to Cincinnati and start winning there and do something that hasn’t been done in a couple of years here,” said Northcut.

With Myers in the outfield, Friedl and Jake Fraley loom as the other starters unless Nick Senzel can stay healthy.

The Reds open the season on Thursday, March 30, when they host Pittsburgh.