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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3. Lyon Richardson

If you want to talk about a true dark horse to make the Cincinnati Reds 2024 Opening Day rotation, look no further than Lyon Richardson. The right-hander, who was the Reds' second-round pick several years back, was a surprising addition to the 40-man roster last offseason.

Many Reds fans were caught off guard when Cincinnati decided to add Richardson to the roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. After all, Richardson was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and his track record in the minors was spotty at best.

As it turns out, the Reds needed Richardson in 2023. The 24-year-old made four starts, and while his stat line is less than impressive, 16.2 innings pitched is not nearly enough to make an informed judgment about his future. Richardson posted a ghastly 8.64 ERA and 18.5-percent walk-rate.

But, during his stint in the minors last season, which included stops at Low-A Daytona, Double-A Chattanooga, and Triple-A Louisville, Richardson collected 24 starts and posted a 3.50 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 69.1 innings of work while only allowing two home runs. Opposing batters only hit .206 off Richardson during those games.

It will take a strong showing by Richardson during spring training in order to find his way onto the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster that's loaded with talented arms. But don't discount his ability to out-pitch the competition.

Being another year fully removed from elbow surgery may allow Richardson to showcase the immense talent that saw him taken with the 47th-overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and protected from the 2022 Rule 5 Draft.