2 Reds players who proved their spring training was a fluke and 1 whose was legit

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Barrero
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Barrero / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
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Spring training doesn't matter, right? We hear that narrative all the time, and more times than not, it's true. Now that phrase can go both ways.

In other words, spring training doesn't matter when a veteran you know and love hits .125 with 14 strikeouts in Cactus League play. By the same token, spring training doesn't matter when an aspiring prospect mashes for .476 with four round trippers and 15 RBIs during March in Arizona.

So, let's investigate this a little further, shall we? Let's look at two Cincinnati Reds players who proved their performance during spring training was a fluke, and one player who proved that his numbers were a prelude to his regular season performance.

Reds pitcher Lucas Sims proved his spring training was a fluke.

Wait a minute. This is a good thing. First, a little context. Lucas Sims missed almost all of the 2022 season after undergoing back surgery. That's not easy to overcome, especially for a pitcher like Sims who goes all-out each time he steps onto the mound.

But, Sims had a rough go of it during spring training. The right-hander was still working his way back from the injury and appeared in just six games. But in those six games, Sims gave up 10 runs on 11 hits.

Sims was placed on the 15-day IL to begin the 2023 season and was sent to Triple-A on a rehab assignment. Sims returned to the Cincinnati Reds bullpen in mid-April and has been one of the team's best relievers.

Lucas Sims has been one of manager David Bell's most reliable late-inning pitchers when his team has the lead. Sims looks like the player fans remember from his runs in both 2020 and 2021. With the back injury in the rearview mirror, Lucas Sims has proven. that his slow start in spring training was a fluke.

Reds shortstop Jose Barrero proved his spring training was a fluke.

During spring training, Jose Barrero was given an opportunity to secure the starting shortstop job for the Cincinnati Reds. He played well enough to get the Opening Day nod, and while Barrero has played better than he did in 2022, that was an incredibly low bar.

During Cactus League play, Barrero was one of Cincinnati's better performers. The 24-year-old hit. 311/.380/.556 with four doubles, two tripes, a home run, and 10 RBIs. But, as we've seen, that momentum did not carry over to the regular season.

Barrero has outperformed his 2022 numbers by a lot. But after hitting just .152 in 48 games near the tail-end of last season, just cutting down on his 40-plus percent strikeout-rate was bound to boost his batting average by a few points.

But a .632 OPS is nowhere near the .936 OPS that Barrero put up during spring training. Yes, Barrero is extremely athletic, but so are the other two shortstops who've been promoted in recent weeks.

The presence of Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain, combined with Jose Barrero's sub-par performance have seen the once highly-touted prospect moved into a reserve role and switch positions from shortstop to the outfield. Barrero's spring success was definitely a fluke.

Reds infielder Matt McLain proved his spring training was a legit.

Matt McLain had an outstanding spring training in Goodyear this season. The former first-round pick played so well that several fans were clamoring for the Cincinnati Reds to include both McLain and Christian Encarnacion-Strand on the team's Opening Day roster.

Instead, both infield prospects, along with top prospect Elly De La Cruz, were shipped down to Triple-A Louisville in order to get a bit more seasoning. McLain and De La Cruz have since been called up and Encarnacion-Strand isn't far behind.

Matt McLain slashed .333/.556/.611 with three extra-base hits in 13 games. Encarnacion-Strand and Henry Ramos were the only other players who played at least 10 Cactus League games that had a higher OPS than McLain's 1.167.

McLain cruised through the competition down at Triple-A and made his way to The Show back in mid-May. Since his major-league debut, McLain has established himself as one of the best young players in the game.

McLain is receiving lots of love from the fans and is fourth in the All-Star voting among NL shortstops. McLain looks like a fixture in the Cincinnati Reds lineup for years to come, and he's proven that his spring numbers were legit.

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