3 Reds starting pitchers who will begin the 2024 season in Triple-A and 2 who won't

After the Frankie Montas signing, a couple capable starting pitchers will begin the season in the minors.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Andrew Abbott
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Andrew Abbott / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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The Cincinnati Reds, if healthy, have at least seven viable starting pitchers. If free agent signee Nick Martinez, as has been suggested by the Reds front office, will be in the mix for a spot in the starting rotation, that number goes up to eight.

The only problem with that is there are only five spots up for grabs. After the Reds signed Frankie Montas this past week, that number drops to just four. Hunter Greene, who signed a six-year contract extension last spring, will be part of the roster as well. That leaves just three spots for at least six pitchers.

According to Reds President of Baseball Operations Nick Krall, via MLB.com, there are going to be some guys who will be in Triple-A. Who those players are, and how long they'll remain in the minors is unclear. Let's try to shed some light on this subject. Who are the three Reds starting pitchers that will begin the 2024 season in Triple-A, and which two will be part of the big league ball club?

Reds RHP Connor Phillips will begin the 2024 season in Triple-A

Connor Phillips did not have the type of entrance in to the big leagues he'd have preferred. In fact, the right-hander has had all offseason to remember the horrific outing he put forth against the St. Louis Cardinals with the Cincinnati Reds' playoff hopes still alive.

Phillips has been the target of many trade talks this offseason. Phillips' name supposed came up during trade conversations involving Chicago White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease. However, with the 22-year-old still on the roster, it's apparent that Cincinnati views Phillips as part of their long-term plans.

There are scouts who believe that Phillips carries way too much reliever risk to include the right-hander in the team's plans for a future spot in the rotation. But the Reds are not going to let that deter them from giving Phillips every chance to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster as a starter.

Connor Phillips is way ahead of where many assumed he'd be at this point in his career, but the youngster still has some things to learn before he'll be counted on every fifth day. Look for Phillips to receive a real chance to land a spot on the Reds' Opening Day roster, but there's only so many spots up for grabs.

Reds LHP Nick Lodolo will begin the 2024 season in the big leagues

This seems rather academic, but a small chance exists that Nick Lodolo could begin the 2024 season at Triple-A. However, it seems unlikely. With arguably the best pitch-mix within the Cincinnati Reds organization, Lodolo should not only be among the five starters to break camp with the team, but could be under consideration to be the Opening Day starter.

Fans forget how good Lodolo actually is. His injury-plagued 2023 campaign was the big reason why. The left-hander started just seven games, and looked pretty bad even when he was on the mound.

Lodolo gave up a ton of hits last season. One has to assume to the lower-leg injury he suffered was the biggest reason for Lodolo's shortcomings. If he's fully heatly heading into Goodyear, Lodolo will likely assume his rightful spot atop the Reds rotation.

Last spring, there was a great debate among the Cincinnati faithful about whether or not Lodolo would beat out Hunter Greene for the Opening Day nod. In the end, Greene got the ball for Game 1 of 162, but Lodolo was the Reds' starting pitcher for Game 2.

Nick Lodolo just needs to stay on the field, and the results will come. If he's not healthy once spring training rolls around, the Cincinnati Reds have options. But Reds fans should look for the left-handed hurler to be one of the team's best starting pitchers in 2024.

Reds LHP Brandon Williamson will begin the 2024 season in Triple-A

Brandon Williamson was one of the biggest surprises for the Cincinnati Reds in 2023. The left-hander was in the mix to be part of the Reds rotation coming out of spring training, but struggles kept him off the Opening Day roster.

But once he was given the opportunity, Williamson never relinquished it. There's a very good chance that Williamson could emerge among the five pitchers named to the Reds rotation heading into 2024, but if everyone is fully healthy, Triple-A could be calling his name.

Some within the Reds fanbase have been calling for Williamson to be moved to the bullpen rather than begin the season in the minors. That's a measure of merit to this idea, as it would add another lefty to the relief corps, but Williamson offers far too much upside to move him to the bullpen.

No, his best spot is as the lefty in waiting at Triple-A Louisville. As Reds fans saw in 2023, pitching depth is exceedingly important. The Reds used an inordinate number of starters last season, but teams will regularly use upwards of eight starting pitchers each season.

Brandon Williamson will receive plenty of opportunities to make an impact in 2024, but don't look for the southpaw to open the season on the active roster. Williamson will be ticketed for Triple-A, though he won't stay there for long.

Reds RHP Graham Ashcraft will begin the 2024 in the big leagues

Graham Ashcraft took a monumental step backwards midway through the 2023 season. But after a stint on the injured list, the right-hander redeemed himself and was arguably the Cincinnati Reds best pitcher down the stretch.

Unfortunately for Ashcraft, a toe injury robbed the second-year hurler of the final month of the season. It's being reported, however, that Ashcraft is expected to enter spring training ready to go. Some may scoff at the idea of Ashcraft even being included in this list. Didn't Ashcraft do enough last season to make this argument moot? If you block out the seven-game stretch from May 7th through June 8th, yes.

But that rough patch that saw Ashcraft's ERA jump from 2.00 to 7.17. The right-hander allowed 49 hits over 29 innings and allowed eight round-trippers during those seven starts. Ashcraft's ERA during those seven games was 12.72 and his FIP was a ghastly 7.01. Opposing batters were hitting .374 off the right-hander.

Thankfully, Ashcraft returned to form in August and September. Ashcraft closed his sophomore season with six starts covering over 40 innings. The Alabama native owned a 3.32 ERA during those final six contests and walked just nine batters while allowing a .222 batting average-against.

If he's fully recovered from the injury that ended his 2023 campaign, Graham Ashcraft will be part of the Cincinnati Reds 2024 Opening Day starting rotation.

Reds LHP Andrew Abbott will begin the 2024 season in Triple-A

Let me be crystal clear here - Andrew Abbott will begin the 2024 season at Triple-A if, and this is a big if, Nick Martinez is one of the five players in the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation and every single one of the pitchers vying for a starting spot leaves Goodyear 100-percent healthy.

There are those who will read this and think that I have a low opinion of Abbott or I watched the 2023 season with my eyes closed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Personally, I believe Abbott is the best young pitcher in the Reds organization and will be the team's No. 1 starter by the end of the 2024 season.

But this is a numbers game. Unless the Reds are interested in entertaining the idea of a six-man rotation, if the quintet of Martinez, Nick Lodolo, Frankie Montas, Hunter Greene, and Graham Ashcraft are all healthy, Abbott is the odd-man out.

But, as fans plainly saw last season, injuries happen. Seeing as how Lodolo, Greene, and Ashcraft all spent time on the 60-day IL during their second big league season, you don't have to squint very hard to see an injury befall one of the Reds starters. Abbot would then be the next man up.

There's reason to believe that Martinez will enter spring training with the opportunity to start, but fail to impress. Perhaps Lodolo and Ashcraft aren't fully healthy after ending the 2023 season on the injured list. Any number of things will factor into David Bell's decision once the club arrives in Arizona next month.

Make no mistake, Andrew Abbott will be a huge factor for the Cincinnati Reds next season. Look for last year's rookie to start at least 20 games, and become a fixture in the starting rotation at some point next season.