3 dark horse candidates for the last spot in the Reds' Opening Day rotation

Spring training will provide a proving ground for some under-the-radar pitchers to make a name for themselves.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Connor Phillips
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Connor Phillips / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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2. Connor Phillips

While Brandon Williamson has shown that he has what it takes to get big league hitters out, Connor Phillips still has much to prove. However, there might not be a pitcher in the entire organization with a better mix of pure stuff. But that alone won't get it done.

Phillips was a non-roster invitee to big league camp last year, but was optioned to the minors leagues before the 2023 season began. Phillips showed why so many coaches and evaluators within the Reds organization are so high on him.

The right-hander, who's viewed as one of the Top 100 prospects in baseball, has a developing four-pitch mix with a fastball that touches the upper-90s. If Phillips can continue to develop both his breaking balls and his off-speed pitch, the 22-year-old has an extremely high ceiling.

The problem, however, is Phillips' command. Some scouts have suggested that Phillips' ability to control his pitches is bad enough that he could wind up in the bullpen. That seems a bit extreme for a pitcher who's not even 23 years old. But when you see a walk-rate over 12-percent during his 24 starts in the minors, you understand what they're talking about.

Connor Phillips is certainly a dark horse candidate to make a run at the Opening Day roster. He has minor league options remaining, and with just 10 starts at Triple-A under his belt, the former Seattle Mariners farmhand could definitely use more seasoning. But, if Phillips is able to show an ability to get swings and misses without putting free runners on base, he's got an outside shot to slot into the Reds rotation.