3 players Reds fans should lower the bar for in 2023

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Barrero
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Barrero / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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Sometimes, you just fall short of expectations. Fans of the Cincinnati Reds know this difficult life lesson all too well. What's true in life is also true in baseball; not everything happens the way you assume it will. When that happens, it's time to adjust your expectations accordingly.

As the Redlegs get ready to descend upon Goodyear, Arizona in the coming weeks for the start of spring training, it's probably about time that the fanbase set some realistic expectations for a few of the team's underachieving players.

While Reds Country will need to lower the bar for the team as a whole, who are three Cincinnati players that fans will need to lower the bar for in 2023?

1. Reds fans should lower the bar for Tejay Antone.

It'll be great to have Tejay Antone back on the mound in 2023. The right-hander missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021. However, having not set foot on a major league field since August of 2021, fans might want to set the bar a bit lower for Antone - at least through the first couple of months.

Antone was Cincinnati's best reliever back in 2021, but injuries forced him to miss significant time. Antone last through over 100 innings during his minor league stint in 2019.

Of course, as a reliever, it's foolish to think that Antone will eclipse much more than 50 or so innings in 2023. Still, with such a long absence, there's sure to be some rust. The Reds training staff and coaches will almost assuredly have a innings-limit placed on Antone as well.

Tejay Antone could still be very effective in 2023, but after being away for so long, the Cincinnati faithful should probably lower the bar. That said, don't be surprised if Antone quickly returns to the dominant reliever who struck out 42 batters in 33.2 innings of work in 2021.

2. Reds fans should lower the bar for Jose Barrero.

Whether it was the hamate injury that he suffered last spring or a complete lack of plate discipline, something was off about Jose Barrero in 2022. The shortstop was supposed to compete with Kyle Farmer for the starting job in spring training, but a wrist injury sidelined Barrero for two months.

Once he returned, Barrero was optioned to Triple-A and struggled mightily at the dish. The infielder looked like a shell of the top prospect who was hammering home runs in 2021 and looking like the next big thing in a Reds uniform.

Once the trade deadline passed, the Reds' brass decided to give Barrero his first extended look at shortstop in the big leagues. The results were atrocious and Barrero looked lost at the plate. The rate at which Barrero struck out made Aristides Aquino look like Joey Votto.

Sadly, it may be time to lower the bar for Jose Barrero. The Cincinnati Reds would surely give Barrero every opportunity to win the starting shortstop job outright during spring training, but Kevin Newman and Matt McLain will likely give the Cuban a run for his money., Top prospect Elly De La Cruz is waiting in the wings as well.

There's a lot of swing and miss in Barrero's bat, but there's a lot of power too. Barrero has spent time in the Puerto Rican Winter League during the offseason, and has seen some measure of success. The Reds are hoping that translates into success at the major league level as well.

3. Reds fans should lower the bar for Justin Dunn.

It's difficult to be too harsh when it comes to Justin Dunn. The right-hander was part of the trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to Seattle last spring. But while the Cincinnati Reds front office and coaching staff claimed to be aware of Dunn's injury, the fanbase wasn't expecting it.

Dunn was sidelined in 2021 and that injury carried over into the 2022 season as well. Dunn didn't even step onto the field until August 8th against his former team, the New York Mets. Dunn's Reds' debut saw the Boston College alum go 4.2 innings and strike out two batters.

Dunn then started six more games for the Reds, and was placed on the injured list once again. The 27-year-old finished his first season in the Queen City with a 6.10 ERA in 31 innings of work while striking out just 21 batters.

How will the Reds handle Dunn in 2023? After so much time on the IL, one has to wonder if Dunn's future is in the bullpen rather than the rotation. The Reds already have a trio of young starters (Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft) who will be taking the ball every fifth day in 2023.

Cincinnati just signed veteran hurler Luke Weaver to a one-year contract. The team also has Connor Overton, Luis Cessa, Brandon Williamson, and Levi Stoudt - all of whom will be vying for a spot in the Cincinnati Reds rotation in 2023.

The fanbase should probably lower the bar for Justin Dunn heading into 2023. If healthy, Dunn could be an important piece in either the rotation or the relief corps. But his track record isn't the best.

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