5 overreactions to first week of Reds' spring training: Frankie Montas is Cincy's ace

With the return of baseball comes many overreactions.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Frankie Montas (47) throws in the bullpen during spring training workouts.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Frankie Montas (47) throws in the bullpen during spring training workouts. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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The Cincinnati Reds are a week into Cactus League play and the early results are quite good. The majority of players in camp are healthy, and no one has been declared out of the mix for the Opening Day roster.

The expectations surrounding this year's Reds team seem to be growing by the day. The players themselves are extremely confident, the Cincinnati faithful are eager to fill Great American Ball Park on Opening Day, and even some of the national media is beginning to take notice.

But spring games oftentimes bring exaggerated projections and overreactions. Remember, Reds fans, it's barely March. With a week's worth of Cactus League games in the books, what four overreactions to the first week of Reds' spring training?

5 overreactions to first week of Reds' spring training

Reds SS Elly De La Cruz strikes out too much

Last season, Elly De La Cruz wowed the crowds at Great American Ball Park with his blazing fast speed, tremendous pop, and ridiculous arm strength. De La Cruz has the makings of a superstar, and almost every baseball fan can see it.

There is one problem though - De La Cruz struck out a ton during his rookie season. According to FanGraphs, De La Cruz went down on strikes 33.7% of the time in 2023. That's not good, and was a point of emphasis for De La Cruz this winter.

In the first week of spring training, it's been more of the same from the free swinging shortstop. De La Cruz, who's had his moments early on, has also struck out quite a bit. Last year's rookie phenom went down swinging three times against the Chicago Cubs earlier this week.

But don't let the first week of spring training cloud your judgment when it comes to De La Cruz. Pitchers are typically ahead of the hitters at this point in the spring. And while the Ks seem to be piling up early during Cactus League play, De La Cruz has appeared more patient at the dish overall.

It's easy to think that Elly De La Cruz's free swinging nature will be his downfall, but don't get sucked into the idea that the first week of spring ball is precursor for the rest of the season. If De Le Cruz can cut down on strikeouts by just a tiny amount, it will yield fantastic results in 2024.

Frankie Montas is the Reds' ace

The term "ace" is thrown about nowadays as if every team has one. There's probably 10-15 pitchers in Major League Baseball would deserve to be called an ace. Frankie Montas, the Cincinnati Reds' prized free agent signee has the ability to fit that role, but he's not there yet.

The Reds would love for Hunter Greene to achieve to such heights, but the former first-round pick needs to prove that he can stay on the hill for 30-plus starts before fans start attaching the term ace to their $53 million man.

Montas, however, has proven himself at the highest level. Though a shoulder injury slowed his ascension to the top of the major league ladder, the right-hander has the makings of a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

But there's a reason why Montas isn't making "ace" type money. Montas signed a $16 million contract with the Reds to prove that he can stay healthy over the course of a season. The last time Montas surpassed 150 innings pitcher was with the Oakland A's back in 2021. That season, Montas struck out nearly 10 batters per nine innings pitcher and made 32 starts and had over 200 strikeouts. That's an ace.

If Frankie Montas is able to find the magic that brought him that leve of success in 2021, then the Cincinnati Reds may truly have an ace in their rotation. While Montas oozes confidence and is ready to prove himself in 2024, he's got a long way to go before laying claim to the No. 1 spot in the Reds starting rotation.

Edwin Arroyo should break camp with the Reds

The talk of Cincinnati Reds camp has been Edwin Arroyo. Much like Christian Encarnacion-Strand last spring, there's sure to be some chatter about Cincinnati's top infield prospect making a play for the Reds Opening Day roster.

There are a myriad of reasons that this should, and likely won't, happen, the first of which being the already overwhelming amount of talent in the Reds infield. Encarnacion-Strand, Noelvi Marte, Elly De La Cruz, Jonathan India, Matt McLain, and Jeimer Candelario will already be battling for playing time.

Arroyo has barely set foot on the field at Double-A, and still needs some more seasoning in the minors before making the jump to the big leagues. But in his brief action during Cactus League play this spring, the young shortstop has shown himself to be elite with the glove.

If Arroyo's bat can catch up, a late season call-up wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities. That said, unless there's a catastrophic number of injuries that befalls this year's team, there's really no need for the Reds to even think about adding Arroyo to the roster.

In fact, the Reds don't need to add the slick-fielding shortstop to 40-man roster until after the 2025 season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The odds are good that Arroyo will make his big league debut before then, but the idea of the 20-year-old breaking camp with the Reds should be put to bed.

Reds OF Will Benson will be an All-Star in 2024

Will Benson took off last season. After struggling during his first stint with the club, a trip back to the minors led to a breakout season of sorts for the former Cleveland Guardians farmhand. Benson showed power, speed, and solid glove in the outfield.

So far this spring, it's been more of the same from the 25-year-old. Benson has hit the ball well thus far and showed off his wheels on the base paths. The Reds outfielder looks as if he could be building toward something special.

But let's pump the brakes before we roll out the Benson will be an All-Star talk. Though he showed flashes last season, the towering outfielder still struck out over 30% of the time and struggled when facing left-handed pitching. At the moment, Benson is still likely to be a platoon option, and not many of those players find their way to the Midsummer Classic.

That's not to say that Benson can't achieve such greatness in 2024. If there's one thing the former first-round pick showed in 2023, it's that you'd better not count him out. There was a stretch during last season when Benson was swinging the bat better than anyone on Cincinnati's roster.

Look for Will Benson to have a bigger role in 2024, and perhaps Reds manager David Bell will even give the left-handed hitting slugger some opportunities against southpaws. But until Benson become a regular in the Reds lineup, it's tough to see him actually receive All-Star consideration.

The Reds starting rotation will be the best in the NL Central

This has become a popular take. The Cincinnati Reds have an incredibly deep starting rotation. In fact, heading into Friday's game, none of the supposed eight pitchers who are vying for a spot in the Reds rotation have allowed a single run.

Brandon Williamson, Frankie Montas, Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott, Carson Spiers, Nick Martinez, and Connor Phillips have put up zeroes in every inning they've pitched. Top pitching prospect Rhett Lowder also pitched a scoreless outing as well.

But does that mean that Cincinnati has the best rotation in the division? They certainly have the deepest, but the best, that could be a bit of a stretch. Montas is returning from pitching in just one game last season, both Greene and Ashcraft spend time on the 60-day IL last season, Abbott ran out of gas down the stretch, and it's questionable as to whether or not Martinez is a starter or a reliever.

The rest of the NL Central do not have near the number of starting-caliber pitchers the Reds do, but Sonny Gray was a Cy Young finalist last season and just joined the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. The Chicago brought in Shōta Imanaga to a rotation that includes Justin Steele and Jordan Wicks. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates are trotting out a formidable group headlined by Mitch Keller.

The Cincinnati Reds starters look the part through the first week of spring training. But once the regular season begins, will they hold up. Can Greene and Ashcraft avoid the injured list? Will Nick Lodolo be ready for Opening Day? There are still plenty of questions after just a handful of Cactus League games.