3 Reds position battles that will be impacted greatly by abbreviated spring training

Cincinnati Reds center fielder Jose Barrero (38) hits a single.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder Jose Barrero (38) hits a single. / Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content
3 of 3

Not every spot on the Cincinnati Reds roster is a sure thing. Several positions will be up for grabs during spring training once the owners and the Players' Association have a new collective bargaining agreement in place.

Joey Votto and Jonathan India are sure to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day. Jesse Winker, if fully recovered from his intercostal injury, will be the Reds starting left fielder once the season gets underway. But there are other spots in the starting lineup that aren't as clear cut.

1. The position battle for the Reds starting shortstop.

We've discussed this ad nauseam, but it's likely to be the most hotly contested position battle during spring training. No matter which side of the argument you come down on, every Reds fan will have their eyes fixed on the battle for the starting shortstop position between Kyle Farmer and the Jose Barrero.

Most fans would assume that the delayed start to spring training would favor the incumbent Farmer, but I'm not completely sold on that theory. Yes, you would assume that Farmer's performance last season gives the former Los Angeles Dodgers' catching prospect a leg up on Barrero, but it's not as if the Cuban infielder was inactive all of last season.

Barrero dominated the competition at Double-A Chattanooga last season and was quickly promoted to Triple-A Louisville where he was even better. In all, Barrero hit .303/.380/.539 in the minors last season. Farmer, at the big league level, played fine defense for the Redlegs, but outside of one fantastic month at the plate, he posted rather pedestrian numbers.

Whether Farmer or Barrero hit the cover off the ball in spring training is irrelevant. It's good to see, but that's not the only determining factor when it comes to deciding who'll line up at shortstop on Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds.

The delay to spring training probably favors Kyle Farmer, but Jose Barrero put in enough reps during his time in the minor leagues last season that the postponement of games won't adversely affect the 23-year-old too much. This will be the position battle to watch during spring training this year.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Reiver Sanmartin (52) returns to the dugout.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Reiver Sanmartin (52) returns to the dugout. / Sam Greene/The Enquirer via Imagn

2. The position battle for the Reds fifth starter.

While the contest for the starting shortstop will be the most watched position battle this spring, I think the fight for the fifth starter in the Cincinnati Reds rotation will be much more entertaining. The delay to start spring training games may affect this position battle even more than the one for the starting shortstop.

If no trade take place after the new collective bargaining agreement is signed, you have to assume that Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, and Vladimir Gutierrez will all be part of the Cincinnati starting rotation.

That means the final spot in the rotation will be between Reiver Sanmartin, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene, and Riley O'Brien. Only Lodolo and Ashcraft are receiving reps with the Reds coaching staff as both are part of the minor league spring training roster but have yet to be added to the 40-man roster.

The loss of spring training games may affect Greene's ability to land a spot in the rotation more than anyone else's. The flamethrower put up impressive numbers in Double-A last season, but his ERA jumped to above 4.00 after being promoted to Triple-A Louisville.

Ashcraft is probably a year away, as the former sixth-round pick hasn't yet set foot on a Triple-A field. Lodolo's injuries from last year seem to be behind him, but the Reds coaching staff may still want to see the southpaw gather more experience at Triple-A before making the leap to The Show.

That brings us to the only two on this list who have major league experience; Sanmartin and O'Brien. Sanmartin shined in his two starts to end the 2021 season while O'Brien's performance was an utter disaster. Right now, Sanmartin may have the advantage, and the delay to spring training games will only help his cause to land the No. 5 spot in the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation.

Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shogo Akiyama (4) reacts after making a catch.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shogo Akiyama (4) reacts after making a catch. / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

3. The position battle for the Reds starting centerfielder.

While it may be a bit under-the-radar compared to the other position battles, it'll be interesting to see who lines up in center field for the Cincinnati Reds on Opening Day. There's at least three, if not four, possibilities.

Let's get this out of the way first; if Nick Senzel is fully recovered from last year's knee injury, he'll be in center field on Opening Day for the Reds. The front office made the decision prior to the 2019 season that Senzel was moving to outfield, and Nick Krall seems to have dug in his heels as far as that's concerned. Don't look for Senzel to try his hand as an infielder in 2022.

That said, the former first-round pick has never played more than 104 games in a season, and there's no way David Bell can rely on Nick Senzel to be an everyday player in the Reds lineup. That's why a platoon of Senzel and the combination of Shogo Akiyama and TJ Friedl could work.

Both Akiyama and Friedl play above-average defense up the middle. Friedl's speed can be an asset on the base paths, and last year's rookie has decent pop in his bat as well. Akiyama, on the other hand, has proven to be little more than a slap-hitter.

Another name to consider is Aristides Aquino. The Punisher might be entering his final spring in Goodyear unless things turn around. Aquino is out of minor league options, and the 27-year-old is hoping to be a regular in David Bell's lineup.

While perhaps a bit out of his comfort zone, Aquino has shown in the past that he has the speed and the arm strength to hold down the position defensively. And no one is going to question The Punisher's power. The problem is, Aquino hasn't shown the ability to hit the breaking pitch. If he was able to work on that over the offseason, Aquino may be in line for time in center field as well.

Reds OF prospect robbed of spot on 1st-team All-Defense. dark. Next

All of this talk is for naught if the Cincinnati Reds sign another outfielder after the lockout concludes. If the front office adds a corner outfielder via trade or a free agent signing, Tyler Naquin would then slide over to center field and likely platoon with Nick Senzel.