Reds 2024 Opening Day roster projection 1.0: Unexpected shakeup in starting rotation

Which 26 players will leave Goodyear bound for Cincinnati?

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz catches a throw
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz catches a throw / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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Opening Day is a little over a month away, and the Reds fanbase is on pins and needles waiting for their favorite team to take the field on March 28th against the Washington Nationals. The Cincinnati Reds will be looking to build off their unexpected success from a year ago, and take the next step toward bringing a World Championship back to the Queen City.

Much of the Reds roster will be made up of second and third-year players. A number of rookies made their big league debut in 2023, and those same players will be relied upon heavily to make an even bigger impact in 2024.

But the Reds front office also made some key free agent additions during the offseason, with hopes that a few veteran leaders will help guide this team's young stars to another winning season. So which 26 players will leave Goodyear with a ticket for Cincinnati?

Reds 2024 Opening Day roster projection 1.0: Unexpected shakeup in starting rotation

Reds Opening Day infield (9)

  • Jeimer Candelario
  • Christian Encarnacion-Strand
  • Jonathan India
  • Tyler Stephenson
  • Matt McLain
  • Noelvi Marte
  • Elly De La Cruz
  • Luke Maile
  • Josh Harrison (NRI)

How will the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day infield will pan out? Outside of Matt McLain at second base and Elly De La Cruz at shortstop, only manager David Bell knows how he'll fill out his lineup card. However, it's quite likely that Jeimer Candelario will occupy one corner infield spot with one of Noelvi Marte, Jonathan India or Christian Encarnacion-Strand snagging the other.

Reds fans will have to come to the understanding that, when fully healthy, one of the Reds top position players will actually open the game on the bench. India, Marte, Candelario, and Encarnacion-Strand will all see plenty of at-bats, but on occasion, somebody is going to be in the dugout. India and Encarnacion-Strand are also getting reps in the outfield this spring.

Tyler Stephenson and Luke Maile will be splitting time behind the dish. After spending time between both catcher and DH a year ago, it appears as though Stephenson is ready to return to his rightful spot as the Reds' starting catcher.

Jose Barrero has about 30 days to prove his worth to the Reds organization. To date, Barrero has never lived up to the hype, and he's given no reason to believe that he ever will. With that, look for Cincinnati native Josh Harrison to secure the final infield spot on the Reds Opening Day roster.

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Reds Opening Day outfield (4)

  • Jake Fraley
  • Spencer Steer
  • TJ Friedl
  • Will Benson

The Cincinnati Reds outfield is all but set in stone. Of course there can be injuries, and don't be shocked if Blake Dunn or Conner Capel show some flashes during Cactus League play, but it's going to be hard to unseat the four players already in line to open the season in the Cincinnati outfield.

Will Benson and Jake Fraley will undoubtedly split time between right field and DH. Fraley limped to the end of his 2023 season after suffering a toe injury late in the year that really limited his effectiveness over the final of the season. Benson could be in line for a breakout season in 2024.

TJ Friedl will be the Reds everyday centerfielder. Captain Chaos earned that spot after being a disruptor during the 2023 season. Friedl had opposing infielders on their toes, as they had no idea whether or not he was going to lay down a bunt or smack a line drive over their heads.

Spencer Steer will reportedly still see some innings on the infield dirt, but it would appear as though last year's rookie will be in the left field for the majority of his starts in 2024. Steer can play almost any position, but with so many infielders on the roster, left field offers him the best opportunity to be in the lineup every day.

Stuart Fairchild, just like the aforementioned Jose Barrero, is out of minor-league options. Fairchild will competing with the likes of Barrero, Nick Martini, and Josh Harrison for that final spot on the Reds Opening Day roster. The one thing working in his favor is the ability to play center field. At the moment, he may be on the outside looking in, but a strong spring could solidify his roster spot.

Reds Opening Day starting rotation (5)

  • Hunter Greene
  • Frankie Montas
  • Andrew Abbott
  • Nick Martinez
  • Graham Ashcraft

The most fierce competition during spring training will be between the group of starting pitchers. Cincinnati has at least eight pitchers who could make the case to be part of the Reds Opening Day rotation, but there's only enough room for one.

Put Frankie Montas' name in permanent ink. Provided he's healthy, the Reds $16 million man will be on the team's Opening Day roster. Though unlikely to draw the start against the Nationals on March 28th, Montas will likely see the mound on opening weekend.

Hunter Greene, after having signed a six-year contract extension last spring, will likely be Cincinnati's starting pitcher on Opening Day. The Reds have invested a lot into Greene since taking him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, and this year is the perfect time for the flamethrower to show that their faith has not been misplaced.

Graham Ashcraft is little behind this spring, but all signs point to the right-hander being ready for the start of the 2024 season. Andrew Abbott, who pitched very well in 2023, is probably leading the charge among last year's rookies. But don't be shocked if Brandon Williamson or Connor Phillips turn some heads during spring training.

The most glaring omission, of course, is Nick Lodolo. Not because the lefty isn't good enough to claim a spot in the Reds starting rotation, but Lodolo's health heading into Opening Day is in question. Reds manager David Bell said, (via, "If everything goes well, goes perfect, he'll be ready to start the season on time."

That doesn't exactly sound like a skipper who's expecting his top left-handed starter to be ready by Opening Day. Lodolo missed all but seven starts a year ago. Until Lodolo proves that he's ready to take the mound, he'll be a giant question mark heading into the season. With that, look for Nick Martinez to keep Lodolo's spot warm to begin the 2024 season.

Reds Opening Day bullpen (8)

  • Alexis Diaz
  • Buck Farmer
  • Ian Gibaut
  • Emilio Pagán
  • Sam Moll
  • Lucas Sims
  • Brent Suter
  • Fernando Cruz

If Nick Martinez opens the 2024 season in the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation, it makes the team's bullpen a bit easier to predict. Alexis Diaz is the Reds' unquestioned closer heading into the upcoming season, and should be one of the many young players the front office is looking to extend this spring.

The Reds also added a couple of relievers during free agency. Brent Suter finally came home this offseason, and will give the Cincinnati faithful a hometown hero to cheer for when he emerges from the bullpen. Sam Moll will likely be the other left-handed reliever David Bell can turn to late in games. Fellow southpaw Alex Young still has a minor-league option remaining.

Buck Farmer re-signed with the Reds this offseason and will once again pair up with Ian Gibaut. That duo, plus Lucas Sims, showed tremendous grit and determination last season after all three logged over 65 appearances. Expect to see Sims maintain his late-game status, while Farmer and Gibaut are more likely to take the mound earlier than they did a season ago.

Emilio Pagán was another one of the Reds offseason acquisitions. The right-hander posted a sub-3.00 ERA last season with the Minnesota Twins along with a 0.952 WHIP. It remains unclear when Pagán will be called upon, but the 32-year-old will likely fill the same role that was occupied by Derek Law last season.

Finally, the last spot in the Reds bullpen will come down to a choice between Fernando Cruz and Tejay Antone. If there are any injuries, and Martinez breaks camp as a starter, both pitchers will likely be part of the Reds Opening Day roster. If not, look for the two right-handers to be jockeying all spring with only one vacancy left in the bullpen.