3 Cincinnati Reds who will have a tough time competing for a 40-man roster spot

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama (4) watches the game from the dugout.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama (4) watches the game from the dugout. / Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content
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The Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster isn't completely full, but it's close. Add to the equation a number of non-roster invitees who will make a run at the squad and a couple top prospects who might appear on the Opening Day roster, and there's a handful of Reds players who might have a difficult time making the cut.

Last spring, Jonathan India earned a spot on the 40-man roster and went on to win NL Rookie of the Year. Tyler Naquin, Carson Fulmer, and Cam Bedrosian, all of whom were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training last offseason, were selected to the roster as well.

Players like Mark Payton, Kyle Holder, and R.J. Alaniz were shown the door. A similar fate likely awaits a few players currently on the Cincinnati 40-man roster. Unless these players show up big in spring training, their time in the Queen City may have run its course.

1. Reds OF Shogo Akiyama is clinging to a roster spot.

Two years ago, when Shogo Akiyama was signed to a three-year/$21M contract, it was assumed that he'd be sharing center field duties with Nick Senzel. As we look forward to the 2022, you could make the case that neither Akiyama or Senzel will be in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

Akiyama's major league career has seen its share of difficulties. The COVID-19 pandemic stopped spring training in its tracks two years ago, and the abbreviated 2020 season didn't really offer Akiyama the opportunity to showcase his talents.

Last spring saw Akiyama leave spring training to tend to his injured wife, and upon his return, the Japanese outfielder suffered a hamstring injury and began the season on the IL. The solid play of Tyler Naquin last season didn't help, and Shogo Akiyama was relegated to a utility outfielder. He finished last season with a -1.1 bWAR and a .535 OPS.

So why is Akiyama still on the Cincinnati Reds roster? The 33-year-old is owed $8M in 2022; the final year of his contract. Will Cincinnati hang on to Akiyama, knowing he'll be little more than a rotational outfielder? Or, will the Reds find a trade partner or perhaps just release Akiyama and absorb the hit? The Reds have other players who are more deserving of that spot on the 40-man roster.

Seattle Mariners right fielder Jake Bauers (5) takes a swing.
Seattle Mariners right fielder Jake Bauers (5) takes a swing. / Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

2. Jake Bauers has an uphill climb to make the Reds roster.

The Cincinnati Reds signed Jake Bauers to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. Bauers was a former top prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and was part of three-team trade in December of 2018 that sent the first baseman to Cleveland.

Bauers had a horrendous start to the 2021 season, and after hitting .190/.277/.280, Cleveland designated the 26-year-old for assignment. Bauers latched on with the Mariners and hit .220/.297/.275 in 75 games with Seattle. For his career, Bauers has a .655 OPS.

Jake Bauers has done nothing but get progressively worse during his time in the major leagues. Bauers' best season (2018) still only saw him post a .700 OPS to go along with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs.

Now, if you're looking for pop, Bauers has it. A seventh-round pick back in 2013, the California native has always had plus-power. While Bauers has a relatively high strikeout-rate (26.4%), it's not as if he's reaching Eugenio Suárez status. Geno has posted a 29.6% strikeout-rate over the last two seasons combined.

Still, Bauers has familiarity at first base and can play the corner outfield as well. But after Joey Votto's renaissance season in 2021, barring injury, it's hard to see the Cincinnati Reds' need for a backup at first base. Jake Bauers has an outside shot to make the ball club, but he'll have to impress once spring training gets underway.

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Ryan Hendrix (68) delivers the ball.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Ryan Hendrix (68) delivers the ball. / Meg Vogel via Imagn Content Services,

3. Will it be one-and-done for Reds RHP Ryan Hendrix?

When Ryan Hendrix made his major league debut, it looked as though the Cincinnati Reds had a gem in their bullpen. However, the shine quickly wore off, Hendrix struggled throughout the remainder of the 2021 season, and after being sent down to Triple-A Louisville, the right-hander never return to the bigs.

Hendrix didn't allow a hit in his first five appearances out of the Reds bullpen. Hendrix then got shellacked on May 8th at Cleveland. He gave up three runs on three hits in just 0.2 innings of work and didn't record a punch out.

The remainder of the season saw flashes from Hendrix, but the 27-year-old couldn't maintain consistency. It seemed as though Hendrix would have a terrific outing one night, only to turn around and surrender the lead during his next appearance.

Hendrix's inconsistency could be his undoing. There are other pitchers currently on the Cincinnati Reds roster and those in the farm system who could supplant Hendrix in the bullpen. The Reds already promoted Daniel Duarte and Alexis Diaz to the 40-man roster. Brandon Bailey has an excellent chance to make the Opening Day roster if he's healthy following Tommy John surgery.

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These players, and a few others, might have difficulty remaining with the Cincinnati Reds organization. A strong showing in spring training would certainly bolster their chances. We'll have to see how things unfold in the coming weeks.