Happy New Year, Reds fans. The 2024 season will usher in a new era of Cincinnati Reds baseball. Joey Votto is gone, and the keys have been handed over to a group of young, energetic, ballplayers who are looking to take this franchise to heights it hasn't seen in over a decade.
The Reds have also spent some money this offseason. After a few lean years, Cincinnati's ownership has ponied up this winter and already brought iseveral free agents on major-league deals. Jeimer Candelario, Nick Martinez, and Frankie Montas figure to be a big part of the Reds' plans in 2024.
But for a team like the Reds, free agency is a supplement to what the club already has on the roster. Heading into next season, there are a few players who could be key to the team's success or failure. Who are they, and how can their performance impact the 2024 season?
1. Reds LHP Nick Lodolo could be the difference between success & failure in 2024
Nick Lodolo was absent for most of the 2023 season. Had the left-hander been healthy, perhaps that would have been enough to push the Cincinnati Reds into the postseason last year. But even in the seven games that he did start, Lodolo did not look like the stellar rookie performer from 2022.
Lodolo was 2-1 with a 6.29 ERA, 5.79 FIP, and 1.748 WHIP. No matter how you look at those numbers, it's tough to spin it any way but negative. Did Lodolo's injury contribute to his subpar performance? Probably. But we have no way of knowing since he never returned to the big league mound after landing on the IL in early-May.
It was the long ball that doomed Lodolo early and often in 2023. After seeing 13 balls leave the yard across 103.1 innings of work during his rookie season, the southpaw allowed 10 round-trippers in just over 34 innings pitched in 2023.
Nick Lodolo, if healthy, has the potential to be the Cincinnati Reds best starting pitcher in 2024. But he's going to have to prove it. The competition to be part of the Reds rotation in 2024 will be fierce when spring training begins next month.
While Lodolo, being left-handed and entering his third season, probably has a leg up on almost every pitcher vying for a spot in the rotation, the 25-year-old is going to have to earn it. Not only that, but he'll have to pitch up to his ability in order to maintain that spot. Lodolo could be a difference-maker for the Reds, but could also be a major disappointment.