Reds: 3 little known players who’ll make a big impact in 2021

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Max Schrock (32) dives, but is unable to catch up to a ground ball.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Max Schrock (32) dives, but is unable to catch up to a ground ball. /
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A detail view of a Cincinnati Reds red and glove against the Minnesota Twins.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 27: A detail view of a Cincinnati Reds red and glove against the Minnesota Twins. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Riley O’Brien, Reds right-handed pitcher

Riley O’Brien has already been optioned to Triple-A Louisville, so don’t expect the 26-year-old to make his Reds debut on April 1st. However, there’s a strong possibility he’ll be one of the first bullpen arms called up if a reliever suffers an injury.

O’Brien was traded to the Cincinnati Reds from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Cody Reed last season. Reed had been ineffective for years after being one of the key pieces in the trade that sent Johnny Cueto to the Kansas City Royals. The only player who the Reds received in return from that trade still on the roster is Brandon Finnegan.

O’Brien, however, has a chance to be part of the Cincinnati bullpen in 2021. Reds GM Nick Krall has talked about the need to have pitchers with minor-league options available, and O’Brien fits that bill. The right-hander has yet to make his big league debut, so he has three options remaining.

A two-pitch hurler, O’Brien has a nice fastball/ curveball combo and has three scoreless outings this spring with five strikeouts over 2.1 innings of work. O’Brien’s fastball sits in thee mid-90s, but he has the ability to rare back and deliver that pitch at about 98-MPH if necessary.

Predicting the Reds Opening Day batting order. Next

Riley O’Brien is a lanky 6-foot-4, so it’s unlikely he’ll make a play as part of the Cincinnati rotation. But, the Reds’ No. 16 ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline is likely to make his debut this season as part of the relief corps. With so much uncertainty in the Reds’ bullpen this season, it’s easy to see O’Brien sticking around for 30-plus appearances in 2021, setting himself up nicely to have a more solidified role out of the pen in 2022.