What's the ideal Cincinnati Reds lineup with the likely addition of the universal DH?

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6) reacts after hitting a home run.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6) reacts after hitting a home run. / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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We saw the National League adopt the universal DH in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but things returned to normal last year. However, Major League Baseball and the Player's Association are locked in negotiations right now and about the only thing the two sides agree on is the implementation of the designated hitter.

Sorry, baseball purists, but it looks as though the DH is on its way to the NL in 2022. I know, I don't like it either, but it's happening. While I'm not the biggest fan of the addition, it will certainly help the Cincinnati Reds next season. What might the team's everyday lineup look like with the addition of the designated hitter?

1. Jonathan India, Reds second baseman

Leading off for the Reds will be second baseman and reigning Rookie of the Year, Jonathan India. The infielder broke onto the scene during spring training last year and performed so well in camp that David Bell shuffled his infield.

Mike Moustakas went from second base back to the hot corner, Eugenio Suárez returned to the days of his youth and manned the shortstop position, while India became the Cincinnati Reds starting second baseman. Injuries and poor performance forced Bell to shuffle things once more, but India remained entrenched at the keystone.

Eventually, Bell made a decision that would change the course of Cincinnati's season when he inserted India atop the Reds batting order. Once the 25-year-old became the team's leadoff hitter in early-June, the Reds vaulted into playoff contention. India hit .274/.382/.480 with 17 home runs.

I don't see any way that Jonathan India is not batting first for the Reds in 2022. India endeared himself to the fanbase in 2021, and sure to receive a huge pop on Opening Day when he steps into the batters' box. Get out your permanent marker and write India's name atop your scorecard.

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jesse Winker (33) hits a base hit in the first inning.
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jesse Winker (33) hits a base hit in the first inning. / Albert Cesare / The Enquirer via Imagn

2. Jesse Winker, Reds left fielder

Batting second will be Cincinnati Reds' outfielder Jesse Winker. Unfortunately, Da Wink ended his All-Star campaign on the IL with an intercostal strain. Had Winker been healthy down the stretch, I really think the Reds would have made a better push for that final playoff spot in the National League.

While some might argue that Winker would be a great candidate to be the team's designated hitter in 2022, Cincinnati doesn't really have a player who's better suited to play left field. No, Winker will never win a Gold Glove, but he plays good enough defense to be on the field every day.

Winker broke out in big way last season. After showcasing his ability to have success versus left-handed pitching in 2020, Winker dominated both right-handers and left-handers in 2021. Da Wink hit .305/.394/.556 last season and posted a career-high 24 round trippers.

With the likely departure of slugger Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker will have a bigger role to fill in 2022. The Reds will be counting on Winker to stay healthy and provide some pop behind the table-setter, Jonathan India.

Winker is entering his second year of arbitration, and the fanbase is hopeful that he and the team are able to work out a long-term agreement prior to the start of the 2022 season. Winker has the potential to be the face of the franchise once Joey Votto rides off into the sunset.

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) hits a home run in the seventh inning.
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) hits a home run in the seventh inning. / Meg Vogel / USA TODAY NETWORK

3. Tyler Stephenson, Reds catcher

Surprised? Don't be! With Nick Castellanos unlikely to return to Cincinnati, David Bell will be looking for a right-handed bat to follow the left-handed swinging Jesse Winker in the batting order. With Tucker Barnhart off to Detroit, the full-time catching duties now fall to Tyler Stephenson. Last year's rookie should occupy the No. 3 spot in the batting order.

Stephenson played in 132 games last season while platooning with Barnhart and he also saw some time at first base. With the absence of a true backup for Joey Votto at first base, there's a good chance that Stephenson will see some time at first base again in 2022.

However, the majority of his playing time will be behind the plate. Stephenson could be a real weapon for the Reds next season. The number of impact bats who can also don the tools of ignorance are few and far between.

Stephenson played solid defense behind the dish last season as well. While his pitch framing could use a little fine tuning, in limited action, Stephenson posted three defensive runs saved and has yet to commit an error.

Tyler Stephenson burst onto the scene in 2021, but I think bigger things are in store for the Reds' catcher next season. Look for Stephenson to be mentioned in the same breath as J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith, and Omar Narvaez; some of the best hitting catchers in the league.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) reacts as he runs the bases.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) reacts as he runs the bases. / David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

4. Joey Votto, Reds first baseman

Votto still bangs! Wow! What a 2021 season it was for the Cincinnati Reds first baseman, huh? Joey Votto looked rejuvenated and we saw an improved approach at the dish as well. The rumors of Votto's demise were greatly exaggerated, but will the six-time All-Star be able to duplicate his performace in 2022?

That will certainly be the question on the minds of Reds Country as we get closer to Opening Day. Votto received MVP consideration last season for the first time since the 2017 when he should have walked away with is second trophy.

Joey Votto sacrificed his once-patient approach for a most aggressive technique. While Votto's on-base percentage dropped a touch, his slugging percentage skyrocketed and Votto put on a performance during the second-half of the 2021 season that we hadn't seen from him in years.

Votto had a stretch of seven consectuive games with a home run in late-July and was a couple feet away from a record-setting eight straight games with a round-tripper. During that stretch, Votto hit .385/.485/1.423. My goodness, that was impressive.

Votto yo-yo'd between hitting third and fourth in the Cincinnati Reds lineup, but it seemed as though David Bell was perfectly fine with the veteran batting in the cleanup spot. I expect the same will be true when the 2022 season begins.

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez (7) runs the bases.
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez (7) runs the bases. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

5. Eugenio Suárez, Reds third baseman

If there's one player in the Cincinnati Reds lineup who must improve his performance from last season, it's Eugenio Suárez. The Reds' third baseman was atrocious throughout most of the 2021 season, and a repeat performance would doom Cincinnati's chances of competing in 2022.

However, if Geno gets hit groove back, the entire NL Central better watch out. Suárez has proven in the past how good of a hitter he can be, but a shoulder injury prior to the pandemic-shortened 2020 season seems to have really affected Suárez's swing.

The right-handed hitting third baseman has always been among tops in the league when it comes to strikeout-rate, but last year's numbers were appalling. Suárez struck out nearly 30% of the time he went to the plate.

Now, that's not too far outside the norm, as his career strikeout-rate is 25.6%. But, prior to last season, at least Geno could boast a decent slash line. Before last season, Suárez had a combined wRC+ of 113, but last season that number dropped to 84. Suárez had been worth 12.1 fWAR from 2017-2019, but the last two seasons has an fWAR of 1.6.

If Eugenio Suárez can rebound from his pitiful performance and post numbers that Reds fans are used to seeing, he'll have no problem occupying the fifth spot in David Bell's lineup. However, if Geno continues to struggle, who knows where he'll end up.

Cincinnati Reds center fielder Tyler Naquin (12) watches his home run.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder Tyler Naquin (12) watches his home run. / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

6. Tyler Naquin, Reds right fielder

I think we can all agree that unless Sonny Gray is dealt before Nick Castellanos signs a new contract, the Cincinnati Reds will not be looking to sign their All-Star right fielder. While there's certainly a drop off from Castellanos to Tyler Naquin, the former Cleveland outfielder posted some of the best numbers of his career in 2021.

While Naquin spent most of his time in center field last season, the former first-round pick has the arm and the power to occupy right field. I'd also note that Naquin will play better defense in right field than Castellanos.

In 2021, Naquin had career-highs in runs scored, home runs, RBIs, and games played. The last few weeks of Naquin's season were cut short following an injury sustained during a collision in the outfield between he and Jose Barrero.

Naquin was a non-roster invitee last spring, but quickly showcased his talent and made it impossible for the Reds not to add him to their active roster. This winter represents Naquin's final run through the arbitration process, and he's likely to take home $3M-plus in 2022.

It remains to be seen if Cincinnati decides to pursue a free agent outfielder to replace Nick Castellanos. If that's the the case, we'd likely see Naquin platoon all over the outfield in 2022. But, with the cost-cutting we've seen from the Reds front office his season, it's doubtful fans will witness Nick Krall spend big to bring in a free agent right fielder once the lockout concludes.

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Barrero (38) runs to third base.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Barrero (38) runs to third base. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

7. Jose Barrero, Reds shortstop

Feel free to debate who'll be playing the position all you want, but regardless of whether it's Jose Barrero or Kyle Farmer, the No. 7 spot will go to the Cincinnati Reds' shortstop. I tend to think Barrero will be given every chance during spring training to win the job outright.

Barrero received a call-up to the big leagues in August and saw time at shortstop, second base, and center field. In the end, the Reds brass believes that Barrero is the team's shortstop of the future. I tend to agree with this notion.

Now, there are others who believe that Farmer won the job last season and should be Cincinnati's starting shortstop in 2022. Farmer will be going through the arbitration process this offseason and is likely to make about $2M next season.

Regardless of who's playing the position, the Reds' shortstop should be hitting seventh in the batting order. Barrero has power and speed to go along with a good eye at the dish. Farmer showed last season that he can be more than just a utility infielder at the major league level.

Farmer, who played through an injury for the majority of the season, hit .263/.316/.416 last season with the Reds. Barrero hit just .200 during his time with the big league club last season, but slashed .303/.380/.539 in 85 minor league games while splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

Cincinnati Reds pinch hitter Mike Moustakas (9) hits a ball.
Cincinnati Reds pinch hitter Mike Moustakas (9) hits a ball. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

8. Mike Moustakas, Reds designated hitter

Has it really come to this? Unless the Cincinnati Reds find a taker for Mike Moustakas' albatross of a contract, the answer is yes. Moustakas has been dogged by injury and underperformance since joining the Reds in 2020, and the only viable place to put him is the No. 8 spot in the batting order as Cincinnati's DH.

Moose will be taking home $16M next season, and the club is on the hook for an additional $22M in 2023. Moustakas will be paid $18M in 2023 and has a $20M team-option or $4M buyout for the following season.

Moustakas has been the subject of much trade speculation throughout the offseason, but unless Cincinnati's front office is game to attach high-level prospect or one of their starting pitchers to a deal, I think Moose will be on the team's Opening Day roster.

Moustakas has been a steady performer in the major leagues for years, but since arriving in the Queen City, he hasn't lived up to the billing. The last two seasons combined, Moose has played in just 106 games and hit .217/.304/.413.

There's still plenty of pop left in that bat, and perhaps moving Moose from third base to the role of designated hitter will help keep him healthy. In previous two seasons before moving to Cincinnati, Moustakas was worth 5.2 fWAR and had a wRC+ of 109.

Cincinnati Reds center fielder Nick Senzel (15) tosses his bat and heads to first.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder Nick Senzel (15) tosses his bat and heads to first. / Albert Cesare / The Enquirer via Imagn

9. Nick Senzel, Reds centerfielder

What a fall from grace, huh? Nick Senzel has gone from the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, to the Reds top prospect, and now, hitting ninth in his fourth big league season. Provided he's heathy, will likely see Senzel bringing up the rear to begin next season.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. A player with the plate discipline and speed of Senzel could be a perfect compliment to Cincinnati's leadoff hitter, Jonathan India. Without the pitcher's spot in the lineup, the Reds can put a player with good ball skills in the No. 9 hole to help set the table for India, Winker, and Stephenson.

Senzel's struggles have been well-documented. The former University of Tennessee star was moved to the outfield prior to the 2019 season, and while he's adapted relatively well to playing center field, his inability to stay healthy has taken a toll on Senzel's effectiveness as a major leaguer.

The Reds, however, do not really have a better option to play center field. Shogo Akiyama is a possibility, as is TJ Friedl, but neither one of those two players have an outstanding resume. I could, however, see one or both sharing time in center field with Senzel. Platooning Senzel with the left-handed bats of Akiyama and Friedl could help keep Senzel healthy.

On days when he's removed from the outfield, the opportunity exists for Senzel to man a spot on the infield dirt. The Cincinnati Reds could use Nick Senzel in a similar way to how the Arizona Diamondbacks use Ketel Marte or the way the Los Angeles Dodgers use Chris Taylor.

dark. Next. Looking at the Reds short-term and long-term RF options

So there you have it; an in-depth look at what the Cincinnati Reds lineup might look like with the addition of the designated hitter. If he's still on the roster, Aristides Aquino could fill in for Mike Moustakas when a southpaw is on the bump.