4 biggest X-factors heading into the Reds 2023 season

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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2. Reds biggest X-factors in 2023: Graham Ashcraft, starting pitcher

Everyone always talks about the "Big 3" when discussing the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation, but it seems as though the conversation continually centers around just two of three pitchers. Is Graham Ashcraft being overlooked?

Yes, Hunter Greene has an electric fastball and if he's able to mix a low-90s changeup the former first-rounder is going to be punching out opposing batters left and right. Nick Lodolo had an impressive spring, and watching his close out his rookie season gives Res Country a goo feeling about the southpaw heading into the upcoming season.

But Ashcraft may have had the best spring of any pitcher in camp. The right-hander started five games, worked 17.1 frames, and struck out 25 batters. Ashcraft allowed just 13 hits and posted a 2.60 ERA and 0.87 WHIP.

Greene and Lodolo have the pedigree to be All-Star pitchers, and while Ashcraft has a bit more of an unconventional approach and repertoire, the Alabama native has the chance to be the most effective pitcher in the rotation.

Graham Ashcraft did not finish well last season, so there's reason for doubt. But he also threw more innings than any other Cincinnati Reds starter last year. If he's healthy, Ashcraft may represent the biggest X-factor for the Reds in 2023.