The Cincinnati Reds have been rebuilding for a long time. Just ask Reds fans. The Reds have not won 90+ games in a season since 2013 and, outside of the COVID-shortened 2020 season, there have not been many reasons for optimism.
For the fans who had given up on the organization, especially after Phil Castellini’s comments last season, it is time to tune back in. Through the first 60 games of the 2023 season, the Reds have promoted three top-100 prospects to the MLB, according to MLB.com’s rankings.
Those three prospects are, in order of promotion: shortstop Matt McLain, pitcher Andrew Abbott and shortstop/third basemen Elly de la Cruz.
Each prospect has had a ‘wow’ moment almost immediately, as well. McLain won NL Player of the Week in just his second week in MLB. Abbott threw six innings of shutout, one-hit baseball against the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers in his debut. De la Cruz cracked a 112 mph double to right-center field in his second at-bat of his debut after drawing a walk in his first.
The starting lineup for Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers featured five players age 26 or younger. Those players: McLain, Jonathan India, De la Cruz, Spencer Steer and Tyler Stephenson. All but Spencer Steer are homegrown players for the Reds.
What does it mean for 2023?
In 2023, the Reds will still very likely finish below .500. However, the brand of baseball on display will be more exciting and will deliver flashes of the next contending Cincinnati team.
The youth movement does not stop at the players promoted this season either. Players like Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft in the starting rotation should be cornerstones. Alexis Diaz looks like one of the best relievers in all of baseball and is just 26 years old. Brandon Williamson has some promise in the rotation too.
Will Benson and Jose Barrero currently find themselves on the bench, but are both still very young with untapped potential.
All of the aforementioned players are gaining meaningful, major league experience now to better prepare them for next season. But the Reds’ rebuild is not with an eye on only 2024 either.
What does the future look like?
The Reds are building something sustainable and are willing to invest in their high-performance players. Hunter Greene inked a contract extension for six years and $53 million earlier this season. Other players who could be candidates for similar deals are Jonathan India, Matt McLain and, yes, Elly de la Cruz.
Look at what the Tampa Bay Rays did with Wander Franco. Shortly after the completion of his rookie season, the Rays signed Franco to an 11-year, $182 million extension. The deal was lauded for being team-friendly and also a win for the player who gets security for injury.
The Atlanta Braves have notoriously done the same thing over the years. Atlanta has signed young stars Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Michael Harris to large extensions early in their careers. It is not a coincidence that Atlanta and Tampa Bay are consistently two of the top teams in baseball. They have set the trend for extending stars early and it has paid off.
The Reds have acquired the requisite talent to replicate their processes. Now they just have to implement it properly. Not only do the Reds have an immense amount of young talent in the big leagues, there is still more to come. Christian Encarnacion-Strand has been hitting for power at an elite rate in AAA-Louisville and should earn a promotion quickly. Noelvi Marte is another highly-rated infield prospect who has been hitting well. Marte remains in AA-Chattanooga but has a chance to be on the ’24 Opening Day roster.
A couple other names to keep an eye on are Edwin Arroyo and Cam Collier. Both are top-100 prospects on MLB.com, but are still a couple years away from Cincinnati.
The young talent infusion has been impressive and intentional. One thing it certainly is not: Finished, yet.
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Featured image courtesy of Reds.com
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