The Cincinnati Reds are just days away from opening the 2022 season on the road. This will be the first Opening Day since 1990 that the Redlegs will not be playing in front of their home crowd. But we all know what happened in 1990, so maybe that's a sign of good things to come.
Cincinnati will send Tyler Mahle to the hill for his first career Opening Day start. Sonny Gray was traded to the Minnesota Twins and Luis Castillo will begin the season on the Injured List, so Mahle draws the start in the first game of the season.
Mahle was terrific on the road last season, so opening up the 2022 season at Truist Park in Atlanta might work out pretty well for the California native. Last season, Mahle owned a 2.30 ERA away from Great American Ball Park and held opposing batters to a measly .204 batting average and an OPS of just .578.
But what about the starting lineup? With Max Fried on the bump for he defending champion Atlanta Braves, we're unlikely to see a bevy of left-handed bats in the Cincinnati batting order. So, who is David Bell going to send onto the field on Thursday evening?
1. Jonathan India, Reds second baseman
One prediction that I think is fairly safe would be Jonathan India hitting in the leadoff spot and playing second base. Last year's National League Rookie of the Year will be looking to add more accolades to his resumé, and probably the most likely Reds player to represent the team in the All-Star Game this season.
India was the table-setter for Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos, and Joey Votto last season. Unfortunately, two of those three sluggers are no longer with the club. But, Reds Country knows that Votto still bangs, and it's India's job to get on base ahead of him.
2. Tommy Pham, Reds left fielder
Tommy Pham will start his "revenge tour" in Atlanta, and it's pretty easy to see the former San Diego Padres outfielder hitting behind Jonathan India in the lineup. The duo of Pham and India add speed in front of the Reds big hitters. Without Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos, the Reds will need to devise different ways to manufacture runs in 2022.
Pham as necessary addition to the Cincinnati lineup and figures to play a key role for the Redlegs this season. When facing a right-hander, one could see Pham hitting a little lower in the batting order, but with the lefty Max Fried on the hill, we'll probably see the 34-year-old batting second and playing left field.
3. Joey Votto, Reds first baseman
What more can be said about the future Hall of Famer? Joey Votto put together one of his better seasons in 2021 despite being 38 years old. The six-time All-Star will be looking to do even more damage during the upcoming season.
Votto still bangs, that we know. But without the big boppers like Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker in front of him, it'll be interesting how David Bell constructs the lineup around the former MVP this season. Fans can expect to see Votto slotted in the heart of the Cincinnati Reds batting order night-in and night-out.