Spencer Steer photo by Major League Photo Day

by Chris Ball

There Are Plenty of Interesting Players To Watch As the Reds’ Season Gets Going

Loveland, Ohio – There was no question that this year, the Reds’ success would hinge upon the progress made by some of its youngest members. Although the average age of the Reds players is 28 years, good for 17th in Major League Baseball, perhaps no other team has asked so much of its newest major-leaguers. With so much pressure and the highest of expectations on their shoulders, it’s going to be important to be patient with the likes of Elly De La Cruz, Andrew Abbott, Hunter Greene, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. The hope was that additions of veteran players like Jeimer Candelario and Frankie Montas, and the retention of Jonathan India would provide a stable core that might lead this team while its young players fought to adjust.

While the results have been wildly varying across the board, the sample sizes are exceedingly small in terms of the entire big-league season. It’s therefore impossible to draw any lasting conclusion about how various players will perform based on the statistics as they stand now, but it is very interesting to see just who is starting off the season strong and who might be falling behind.

Elly De La Cruz, for example, is one of the most polarizing players on the Reds’ roster and will likely remain so for quite some time. Early on, many fans noted his inability to hit any sort of breaking ball, and his reluctance to swing the bat at all. His inexplicable errors in the field at shortstop didn’t make his critics any quieter. However, it almost seemed to go unnoticed that during the course of this perceived struggles he consistently got on base (albeit not with flashy homeruns) and continued to create chaos on the basepaths. As of the writing of this article he’s been on base in 18 straight games and has a .318 average with 3 home runs and 7 runs batted in. In recent games he’s started hitting for power once again with several home runs and even one inside-the-park that showcased his exceptional speed. Many of De La Cruz’s loudest critics on Twitter and Facebook have suddenly gone very quiet as he’s improved with each week of the season. Elly’s talent and the hype surrounding hm will unquestionably lead to overreaction (both positive and negative) to every play he makes (or doesn’t make), but the most important factor to remember is that he is a young player with immense potential, and who deserves fans’ patience as he works to unlock his full potential.

Hunter Green photo by Major League Photo Day

In much the vein, Hunter Greene is a pitcher who faces tremendous expectations after being drafted second overall in 2017. He was awarded a 6 year 53-million-dollar contract in 2023 and while that deal is but a drop in the bucket compared to other marquee pitchers in the league, for a team like the Reds it is still a significant investment that shows how the Reds value Greene as a key part of their rotation going forward. Over his last 33 starts, Greene has pitched 175 innings with a 4.01 ERA and 240 strikeouts. While that is not necessarily “ace” material it is the mark of a solid starter at the major-league level and shows tremendous improvement over the prior seasons Greene has had. Even though he has been pitching for a few years, he is only 24 years old and has much to learn and plenty of time to develop. The pitcher Hunter Greene is now is not necessarily the player he will be in years to come. If he continues to improve as he’s shown so far, he could be a key piece to the Reds’ rotation in the future, despite the occasional rough outing.

On the flip side, Jeimer Candelario has struggled mightily to start the year. He’s batting only .152 through 12 games and has not looked comfortable at any point since signing a 3 year 45 million dollar contract this offseason. While Christian Encarnacion-Strand has also had his difficulties at the plate, he has at least shown some signs of life. Candelario has shown no such flash thus far, and Reds fans are understandably worried. The team will need much more from Jeimer if they are going to contend this year.

Spencer Steer photo by Major League Photo Day

No early season discussion about the Reds would be complete without lauding the play of Spencer Steer. Of all the Reds’ young players, Steer seems to get less consideration than others, but this year he has outperformed them all. He was named the National League Player of the Week recently and is currently batting .372 with 3 home runs and 15 runs batted in. He’s been a consistent MLB leader in WAR and has also proven that he can play left field very well given that it is not necessarily the position where he’s most used to handling. He’s a threat to get a big hit any time he steps up to the plate, and he’s carried the Reds in games where others were underperforming at the dish. There is simply no question that without Steer, the team would be nowhere close to where they are in the standings.

The first few weeks of the Reds’ season has provided plenty of highs, highlights, and frustrating moments. This team is going to have to fight and scrap for every win while the likes of McLain, Friedl, and Marte are unable to play, and that is exactly what the Reds are doing. If players like Candelario can get hot, this team can become even more of a threat to make a big push before they get some of their best players back on the diamond.


Christopher Ball is a longtime Loveland resident and an attorney. He graduated from Loveland High School in 2003 and was a member of the football team before going on to become a coach’s assistant at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He has been following and rooting for the Reds and Bengals since the early 1990s and has been through the many ups and downs that fandom has wrought over the years.

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