The expectations for the Cincinnati Reds heading into 2024 are sky-high. But are Reds fans being too optimistic? Every fanbase typically takes a glass half-full approach prior to Opening Day. Heck, even the Pittsburgh Pirates look like they'll be fielding a decent roster next season and most baseball pundits foresee a fifth-place finish for the Buccos in the NL Central.
But in David Bell's most recent conversation with MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, there was a phrase the Reds manager used twice that really stuck out. On two separate occasions, Bell referenced taking the pressure off.
Last season, there were virtually zero expectations attached to the Reds. Most experts, and even the most optimistic fans, assumed the worst. As it turns out, the Reds had a 22-game turnaround and were in the playoff hunt until the final few days of the regular season.
David Bell's comments suggest growing pains could be on the horizon for the Reds young players
David Bell, who signed a three-year contract extension last season, has been around the game of baseball for quite some time, so he knows a thing or two about how young players have a tendency to press. Reds fans saw it up close and personal in 2023 when Elly De La Cruz tried to turn his electric month of June into an electric rookie season.
Instead, Cincinnati's shortstop went into a massive slump that torpedoed the second-half of his first major league season. During his first month in the bigs, De La Cruz hit .307/.358/.523, but after that, he saw his slash line dip to .213/.284/.377. How many others will endure a similar slump in 2024?
There's a lot of pressure on a pitcher like Andrew Abbott, who had tremendous success last season. The talent is there, and the bar has been set relatively high for a young pitcher who's barely pitched over 100 innings in the big leagues.
Noelvi Marte is seen as one of the top young talents in baseball and ended his 2023 campaign on a 16-game hitting streak. As is the case with Abbott, the skillset is through the roof, but can Marte live up to those high expectations?
Bell views the veteran additions of Frankie Montas, Nick Martinez, Jeimer Candelario, and others as a means to help limit the growing pains heading into what most Reds fans feel could be a special season in Cincinnati.
Adding veterans in every phase of the game will help to offset any shortcoming that may befall the Reds young core in 2024. Bell has a tough task ahead in 2024. Exceeding expectations when the bar is set so low, as was the case in 2023, can be easy. But meeting expectations when the bar is set so high, as it will be in 2024, could be an uphill climb for this young Cincinnati squad.