Predicting the Reds Opening Day starting lineup vs. Braves' pitcher Max Fried

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6) hits a home run during a spring training game.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6) hits a home run during a spring training game. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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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.

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) gets set for a pitch in the batter's box.
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) gets set for a pitch in the batter's box. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

4. Tyler Stephenson, Reds catcher

Tyler Stephenson will be the Cincinnati Reds everyday catcher in 2022. With Tucker Barnhart now in Detroit, last year's rookie will don the tools of ignorance on a nightly basis for the Redlegs. Look for Stephenson to be slotted right behind Joey Votto on Opening Day versus Braves' starter Max Fried.

It's not out of the realm of possibilities for Stephenson to find himself in the cleanup on a regular basis. Stephenson has the power to hit for 20-plus home runs in a season and his .366 on-base percentage coupled with last year's 10.2% walk-rate are all good signs heading into the 2022 season.

5. Mike Moustakas, Reds third baseman

Max Fried is a lefty, but with Eugenio Suárez off to Seattle, Mike Moustakas is no longer a platoon player. In fact, he never was supposed to be a platoon player. Moose is taking home $16M in 2022 and he needs to be in the lineup every day. Whether he's playing third base or acting as the Reds DH is irrelevant; Moustakas must be in the lineup if he's healthy.

That was something that alluded Moustakas in 2021. Moose played in just 62 games last season due to a variety of lower body injuries. Until Donovan Solano and Jose Barrero return from injury, Moustakas should be manning third base and hitting fifth or sixth in the lineup.

6. Nick Senzel, Reds centerfielder

We all know about Nick Senzel's injury history so there's no need to rehash it every time his name comes up. The former first-round pick has had a terrific spring and he's looking to establish himself as a regular in the Cincinnati Reds lineup.

I don't think we're going to see a platoon situation with Senzel this season, but having Jake Fraley and Tyler Naquin on the roster certainly allow for it. This is probably Senzel's last chance to establish himself as an everyday player in the big leagues, and it'll start on Thursday night versus Max Fried.

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino runs down the first-base line.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino runs down the first-base line. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

7. Aristides Aquino, Reds right fielder

With the left-hander Max Fried on the bump for the Atlanta Braves, I believe David Bell will counter with the right-handed bat of Aristides Aquino. The question isn't whether or not Aquino will be in the lineup, but will he be the Cincinnati Reds designated hitter.

I for one believe that Aquino might be the best defensive outfielder Cincinnati has. The Punisher has deceptive speed, a cannon for an arm, and is versatile enough to play all three outfield positions. Jake Fraley might have something to say about that, but with Fried on the hill, we won't see the former Seattle Mariner in the starting lineup.

8. Tyler Naquin, Reds designated hitter

If the Atlanta Braves sent a right-hander to the mound on Opening Day, Tyler Naquin would be hitting second in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. But, with the left-hander Fried toeing the rubber, look for the 30-year-old to be hitting near the bottom of the batting order.

Naquin put up career numbers in 2021 with 1.4 fWAR and a wRC+ of 110. But, Naquin hit just .197 off southpaws last season. Were Donovann Solano available, he'd be the Reds acting DH on Opening Day. As it stands, look for Naquin to snag that role on Thursday night.

9. Kyle Farmer, Reds shortstop

It seems a little odd having Kyle Farmer all the way down in the No. 9 hole after his breakout 2021 season. But it's hard to see Cincinnati Reds skipper David Bell slotting the shortstop much higher in the lineup.

Farmer had a career year in 2021, but still posted an OPS+ of just 86 and a wRC+ of only 91; both of which are below average. While a big section of Reds Country is pulling for Farmer to duplicate his success from a year ago, he'll soon have the up-and-coming Jose Barrero nipping at his heels for playing time.

dark. Next. Predicting the Cincinnati Reds 2022 Opening Day roster 4.0

Until the rookie returns from the Injured List, the job is Farmer's. The 31-year-old's defense more than makes up for his lack of a potent bat. Farmer was worth 2 defensive runs saved in 2021 and led the team in outs above average.