3 players Reds' fans will have unattainable expectations for in 2024

That's a mighty high bar.

Cincinnati Reds infielders Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Elly De La Cruz
Cincinnati Reds infielders Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Elly De La Cruz / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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The Cincinnati Reds fanbase had very low expectations for their favorite team in 2023. The previous season had seen the Reds jettison their top two starting pitchers, the franchise icon undergo major surgery, and a slew of injuries befall the club's top two returning players from the the year before.

But a group of young and hungry prospects helped to change the narrative last season. Elly De La Cruz brought excitement, Matt McLain brought consistency, and Spencer Steer bought power back to the Queen City. While the Reds ultimately fell a few games short of the MLB Postseason, last year's team laid the groundwork for what many fans believe will be a contending club in 2024.

But with increased expectations can come increased disappointment if those lofty goals aren't met. Does Reds Country have some unattainable expectations attached to some of Cincinnati's young stars? Which players will struggle to meet the increased expectations heaped onto this year's squad?

1. Noelvi Marte

Noelvi Marte gave Reds fans a glimpse last season. The former Seattle Mariners farmhand received a late-season call-up, and after a brief struggle, became one of the most consistent bats in the Cincinnati Reds lineup.

Marte closed out his 2023 campaign with a 16-game hitting streak while posting a slash line of .316/.366/.456 while racking up three round-trippers, 15 RBI, six stolen bases, and an OPS+ of 120. By all accounts, Marte would seem to be the odds-on favorite to line up at the hot corner on Opening Day for the Reds.

But are fans putting too much stock into what everyone saw at the end of last season? Don't forget, Elly De La Cruz burst onto scene during the month of June only to fizzle out over the second-half of his rookie season. Could the same fate be on the horizon for Marte during what will be his first full season in the major leagues?

Cincinnati signed Jeimer Candelario this offseason, and while it was a curious signing to be sure, perhaps the Reds front office were hedging their bets in the event that Marte struggled in 2024. While the 22-year-old looks to be a cornerstone for Cincinnati moving forward, the fanbase's expectations might be a bit too high for such a young player.

2. Christian Encarnacion-Strand

Christian Encarnacion-Strand has already captivated the Cincinnati faithful with his brief appearance in the big leagues last year. His massive power was evident on several occasions, and in just 222 at-bats, Encarnacion-Strand walloped 13 homers and slugged .477.

But how will Encarnacion-Strand adjust once opposing pitchers make adjustments of their own? As was mentioned earlier with Noelvi Marte, Reds fans saw the struggles of Elly De La Cruz just last season, and that type of approach is shared by Encarnacion-Strand as well.

Encarnacion-Strand has the ability to hit 40-plus home runs while playing half his games in front of the home crowd at Great American Ball Park. But you don't expect him to blast 40 bombs in 2024, do you? Encarnacion-Strand smashed 32 big flies in the minors during his 2022 campaign and sent another 33 out of the yard while splitting time between Triple-A and the big leagues last season.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand has the power to match players like Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso, both of whom matched 50-plus homers during their rookie season. But to put that type of pressure on a player like Encarnacion-Strand might be unwise. While the Oklahoma State product will see plenty of opportunities, the Reds an inordinate amount of depth at the corners.

This isn't to say that Encarncion-Strand is going to hit just 20 home runs and watch his slugging percentage hover around .400; he's proven he can be a force in the middle of the lineup. But Reds Country should temper their expectations just a touch when it comes to the 24-year-old.

3. Andrew Abbott

Other than maybe Elly De La Cruz, there's not another player on the Cincinnati Reds roster with more pressure heading into the 2024 season than Andrew Abbott. The left-hander asserted himself almost immediately once he onto a big league mound, and the fanbase saw, what they believe to be, an ace in the making.

There's no denying that Abbott's potential is through the roof. While his stuff alone might not be the best among the group of Reds starting pitchers, Abbott possesses a set of traits that can't be taught. The southpaw has a stoic approach on the mound, effectively mixes his pitches, and understands that the art of pitching is about more than just lighting up the radar gun.

But is the Reds fanbase expecting Abbott to be an ace during just his second major league season? If so, they've already forgotten what happened just last year. Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft were all thought to be the strength of Cincinnati's club heading into 2023, but instead, the group struggled to find much traction.

Greene battled injuries throughout the season and struggled to find that third offering consistently, Lodolo spent almost the entire season on the IL after serving up batting practice to the opposition during his final few starts in 2023, and Ashcraft's roller coaster ride of a sophomore campaign saw the highs and the lows before coming to a halt following a season-ending injury.

So before the Cincinnati faithful annoint Andrew Abbott as the team's new ace, perhaps it's best to approach the 2024 season with some realistic goals for the left-hander. The Reds brought in Frankie Montas and Nick Martinez for a reason. While it's likely that Abbott is on the Opening Day roster, a small possibility exists that he could begin the upcoming season in the minors.

Abbott was gassed during the final month of his rookie season, and it showed in his performance. However, no one is going to fault him for giving it his all as Cincinnati made a play for a spot in the postseason. But Reds Country may need to be patient with Abbott, and the rest of Cincinnati's young core, as the team enters what many hope is a return to the playoffs.