3 Reds players whose career in Cincinnati may be over after 2022

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Nick Senzel (15) throws to first base after fielding a ground ball.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Nick Senzel (15) throws to first base after fielding a ground ball. / Kareem Elgazzar / The Enquirer via Imagn
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The Cincinnati Reds will enter the 2022 season with more questions than answers. The front office has prioritized cost-cutting while trying to remain competitive. That's bold strategy that makes Reds Country uneasy.

Gone are Wade Miley, Tucker Barnhart, Michael Lorenzen, and likely Nick Castellanos. There's also rumors of Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Tyler Mahle being shopped this offseason. Cincinnati's 2022 roster will look far different than the one that won 83 games last season.

Still, there are several bright spots heading into next season. Joey Votto is coming off his best season since 2017, Jonathan India just won the NL Rookie of the Year, and the Reds have some very talented players ready to make the leap from the minor leagues to The Show.

But, there are some players who've been in the bigs for a few years and have yet to reach their potential. There is typically a make-or-break season for such individuals, and Cincinnati has at least three such players who will enter the 2022 season with the opportunity to cement their spot on the Reds roster moving forward or become a casualty during or after the season.

1. Reds OF Nick Senzel enters 2022 with a lot to prove.

I really don't know what to expect from Nick Senzel in 2022 other than perhaps a trip to the injured list. Not to beat a dead horse, but Senzel's inability to stay on the field has been the single greatest threat to the former first-round pick being a successful major leaguer or becoming another player who'll be a career bench player.

Senzel's ability is not in question. But in three major league seasons, the former University of Tennessee star has appeared in just 163 games. While the abbreviated 2020 season certainly factors into that number, Senzel played in just 23 of the 60 games that season.

When Senzel is on the field, he can be a difference maker. He is the prototypical five-tool player who has above-average speed, can hit for average and power, and plays solid defense. The biggest problem facing Senzel is that he's not a centerfielder.

Can he play the position? Yes. Can his body hold up to the rigors of being the Cincinnati Reds everyday centerfielder? I think the answer is no. Admit it. Every time the converted third baseman dives for a fly ball hit into the left-center field gap, you cringe and wonder if he injured himself on the play.

If the Cincinnati Reds want to see Nick Senzel succeed at the major league level, he needs to return to his natural position; third base. Unfortunately, Cincinnati has $27M tied up in two aging veterans (Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suárez) who are likely to be battling it out in spring training for the right to man the hot corner in 2022.

Next season will be make or break for Senzel. If the 26-year-old can stay healthy, I believe we'll see the promise that he showed as a rookie before succumbing to a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last month-plus of the 2019 season. If Senzel plays less than 100 games in 2022, I believe we'll have seen the last of the former No. 2 overall pick in the Queen City.

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett (50) smiles.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett (50) smiles. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2. Reds LHP Amir Garrett must return to form in 2022.

Amir Garrett is on thin ice. Honestly, I expected the left-hander to be a casualty of the non-tender deadline. AG's performance in 2021 was putrid. Yes, the velocity was still there, and that wipeout slider is virtually unhittable when Garrett is hitting his spots.

Unfortunately, that was not the case in 2021. Garrett went from the Cincinnati Reds closer to begin the season to not recording a single save after July 20th. Reds manager David Bell lost all confidence in AG, and frankly, I don't blame him.

Amir Garrett is a brash, confident hurler who wears his emotion on his sleeve. That's an admirable trait and can be infectious to one's teammates at times. However, you got to back it up on the field, and Garrett failed to do that in 2021.

AG posted a 6.04 ERA in 47.2 innings of work. Yes, the 61 punch outs were solid, but Garrett also allowed 29 free passes and nine round trippers. Those are the numbers that AG must fix heading into the 2022 season.

If I'm David Bell, I wouldn't give Garrett the ball past the sixth inning until he showed that he can handle it. Amir Garrett has the talent to be one of the best left-handed relievers in the league, but he sure as heck didn't show it last season.

AG is entering the 2022 season with what many estimate will be a salary just north of $2M. If Garrett plays up to his potential, that's a steal of a deal. If we see the same version of Garrett that we did in 2021, I can't see him returning to Cincinnati in 2023.

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino (44) flexes.
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino (44) flexes. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

3. Reds OF Aristides Aquino must assert himself in spring training.

What in the world happened to The Punisher? After breaking onto the big stage in August in 2019, Aristides Aquino has essentially fallen on his face. The 27-year-old has been part of the Cincinnati Reds organization for a long time, but if Aquino cannot produce during spring training, there may be no spot for him on the Reds Opening Day roster.

Aquino has one thing going for him heading into spring camp; Nick Castellanos is unlikely to be on the team. After a breakout season in 2019, Cincinnati signed Castellanos to a four-year/$64M contract. That deal moved Aquino from the team's likely starter in right field to a bench bat.

I'm not faulting the Reds one bit for signing Castellanos. That was a star player that fell into their lap after the market just wasn't there for the former Detroit Tigers outfielder following the 2019 season. But, with Castellanos in right field, Jesse Winker in left, and Nick Senzel up the middle, there was no room for Aristides Aquino.

Let's also not forget that Cincinnati signed Shogo Akiyama that same offseason. Thankfully the universal DH was adopted for the 2020 season, otherwise Aquino may not have even been part of the Reds roster in 2020.

After recording a .259/.316/.576 slash line in 225 plate appearances in 2019, Aquino has hit just .186/.300/.389 in 260 plate appearances during the 2020 and 2021 seasons combined. His 35.8% strikeout-rate in that timeframe is atrocious, but his 12.7% walk-rate has allowed The Punisher to keep his on-base percentage above .300 despite just 41 hits over the 107 games he's played.

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The power is still there. That's undeniable. And Aquino plays above-average defense and has a cannon for an arm. I really think that his performance in Goodyear is critical for Aristides Aquino. If Aquino can showcase his power and lay off the breaking ball, he'll make the roster. If he can't, Aquino's time with the Reds many be over before Opening Day.