5 bold predictions for the Cincinnati Reds 2024 season

It's never too early to offer some bold predictions for the upcoming season. How will the Reds 2024 campaign shake out?

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Elly De La Cruz (44)
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Elly De La Cruz (44) / Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
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Expectations are heightened for the Cincinnati Reds heading into the 2024 season. After overcoming the odds in 2023 and winning 82 games with a roster comprised of mostly first and second-year players, the Reds are not sneaking up on anyone next season.

Little-to-nothing was expected from Cincinnati a year ago. They'd just traded their two top starters (Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle) the summer before, Joey Votto was on the injured list, and their biggest free agent signing was Wil Myers.

Fast-forward to the upcoming season, and Reds Country has their sights set on Cincinnati winning the National League Central. That's a bold prediction in and of itself, but one that's certainly attainable given the current state of the division. Let's look at a few more bold predictions for the Reds as they're set to embark on spring training ahead of the 2024 season.

Reds infielder Noelvi Marte wins the NL Rookie of the Year Award

Let's start out with a bold, but not extremely bold prediction. Noelvi Marte ended his 2023 season with a 16-game hitting streak and his rookie status intact. While the Reds infield depth raises questions about whether or not Marte will begin the 2024 season in the big leagues, the 22-year-old will let his bat do the talking.

Jeimer Candelario's presence may push Marte off the hot corner to begin the 2024 season, but the skilled infielder will receive plenty of playing time next season. And unlike the group of rookies from last season, Marte does not face competition from his own teammates.

Matt McLain, Spencer Steer, and Elly De La Cruz all received votes from the BBWAA, and quite frankly probably hurt each other's candidacy for the award. Ultimately, no one was going to catch Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll, but perhaps either McLain or Steer would've received more votes if they'd been the sole rookie contributor for their team.

Surely, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto will be in the mix, as will Miliwaukee Brewers' budding star Jackson Churio. Paul Skenes (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Pete Crow-Armstrong (Chicago Cubs) will get some consideration as well. But in the end, look for Marte to be hoisting the trophy next fall.

Reds starter Nick Lodolo is a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award

Most baseball experts and pundits would probably go with Hunter Greene as the Reds' best young starting pitcher. But all too soon they forget about another former first-round draft pick - Nick Lodolo. The left-hander missed almost all of last season with a lower leg injury, but Lodolo expects to be fully healthy when called upon this season.

Lodolo's stuff is flat-out nasty, and if healthy, is arguably the Reds best starting pitcher. His fastball plays up to mid-90s and his breaking ball may be one of best in the game, especially against left-handed hitters. But Lodolo can also spin that breaking ball inside to right-handed batters and make them look foolish.

Lodolo lost some of his luster last season after his numbers dipped and he eventually landed on the injured list. There was an outside chance that Lodolo was going to return near the end of the season, but the southpaw suffered a setback, and was sidelined for all but seven starts.

There's plenty of competition to be sure. Obviously, Atlanta Braves' ace Spencer Strider, San Francisco Giants southpaw Logan Webb, and last year's rookie sensation Kodai Senga of the New York Mets will all be in the mix for the award as well.

But every year there's a surprise or two who emerge as a contender for the award, and in 2024, that pitcher will be Lodolo. Look for the lefty to put forth a strong campaign during the upcoming season and make a run at the NL Cy Young.

Reds send five players to the All-Star Game

The talent is there. We've been touting it all offseason. The Cincinnati Reds are one of the youngest teams in all of Major League Baseball and most of players have at least some measure of big league experience heading into 2024.

Five is a big number, but last year, the Texas Rangers sent five players to the All-Star Game, as did the Toronto Blue Jays. On the NL side, the Atlanta Braves had eight players named to the All-Star squad, while the Los Angeles Dodgers had five of their own.

The trick, however, when it comes to All-Star voting, is the fans. Do the Reds have enough pull, being a small market team, to reel in enough fans to push a couple players into the starting lineup. In 2021, Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos did enough to grab starting spots. Those top vote-getters typically are electric, charismatic players with a flair for the dramatic. Sound like someone you know?

If Elly De La Cruz plays up to his potential, the Reds shortstop will be in the mix for a spot on the NL All-Star roster. Players like Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who possess big-time power, also tend to excite baseball fans. A big first-half for the Cincinnati slugger could see him participate in the Midsummer Classic as well.

A few other names to keep an eye on will be infielders Matt McLain and Noelvi Marte, and pitchers Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Alexis Diaz. The Reds have the talent to send five players to the 2024 All-Star Game in Arlington, but the young players will have to play up to their potential in order to receive the accolades.

Elly De La Cruz plays 30-plus games in the Reds' outfield

When will the Reds begin to think about the big picture? Cincinnati has far too many shortstops in their farm system, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, at some point, those youngsters are either going to need a roster spot or be traded for future assets.

Cincinnati's farm system is home to several talented middle infielders. Edwin Arroyo, Carlos Jorge, Sammy Stafura, Sheng-En Lin, and Ricardo Cabrera are all slowly making their way up the ladder and will be knocking on the door to the big leagues before Nick Krall and Co. are able to blink.

Elly De La Cruz is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. The 22-year-old possesses the quickness, speed, and arm strength to hold onto the position for the next decade. However, at 6-foot-5, he's a bit tall for shortstop, and didn't exactly have the best defensive showing during his rookie season in 2023. De La Cruz committed 13 errors while playing the position last season.

Could De La Cruz follow in the footsteps of Fernando Tatis Jr. and make the switch to the outfield? There's certainly a section of the Reds fanbase who believe it's only a matter of time. If that's true, why not now?

The aforementioned Reds prospect Edwin Arroyo is viewed by many within the organization as the best defensive shortstop in the farm system. If his bat catches up, the Reds will have no choice but to give Arroyo a chance in the major leagues. While Reds Country may not see De La Cruz designated as an "outfielder" per se, look for him to make several starts in the outfield at some point next season.

Catcher Tyler Stephenson leads the Reds in home runs

Didn't see that one coming, did you? In all seriousness, this is quite bold. While Great American Ball Park can make light-hitting players look like perennial All-Stars, Tyler Stephenson might be No. 8 or 9 on the list of Reds players who you'd expect to lead the team in home runs next season.

But Stephenson is primed for a bounce-back season. He'll be over a year removed from the broken clavicle he suffered in 2022, and will not have to compete with two other catchers for playing time. Nick Krall has taken the kid gloves off, and is handing Stephenson the keys to be the Reds everyday catcher.

After injuries reduced his playing time to just 50 games in 2022, the Reds adjusted Stephenson's role last season. But it became apparent rather quickly that first base was not Stephenson's forte. However, the Reds remained steadfast in their commitment to keep him from squatting behind the plate every day, and alternated Stephenson between catcher and DH.

But with the Reds showing Curt Casali the door, Stephenson will only be competing with Luke Maile for playing time next season. Now healthy, with a regular spot in the lineup, look for Stephenson to start 110-plus games in 2024.

Stephenson's OPS during his first two seasons was sitting at .823. Last year, that number dropped to .696. The 2024 season is a prove-it year for the 27-year-old. While Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Noelvi Marte all have arguably more power than Stephenson, look for a bounce-back year for the Reds' backstop in 2024.