5 bold predictions for the Cincinnati Reds 2023 season

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jake Fraley
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jake Fraley / Justin Berl/GettyImages
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The Cincinnati Reds are readying for the 2023 season. While not much is expected from David Bell's squad during the upcoming season, the ole Redlegs will have 162 games to prove the doubters wrong.

Cincinnati's roster has undergone a considerable amount of changes over the past year-plus. Gone are players like Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Eugenio Suarez. But fans have seen youngsters like Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Jonathan India take a bigger role with the club.

Let's look at some bold predictions for the Reds 2023 season. Now, don't expect to see anything like 'Cincinnati wins the NL Central' or 'The Reds secure Wild Card berth' - these predictions may be bold, but they're not out of this world.

1. Bold prediction for Reds 2023 season: Graham Ashcraft is the team's lone All-Star representative.

The Cincinnati Reds are not devoid of talent. Alexis Diaz received some love from the writers last season and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. Heck, Jonathan India won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2021. So, while not much is expected from this year's club, let's not pretend that the Reds are a bunch of ragtag misfits.

There is All-Star level talent on this year's team. Tyler Stephenson seemed like a shoo-in to go to the Midsummer Classic last year before two pre-All-Star trips to the injured list derailed any chance of the Reds backstop making it out to Los Angeles.

Graham Ashcraft was a surprise to most fans last season. While everyone had heard of Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, not many folks throughout Reds Country knew about the right-hander from Alabama.

Ashcraft looked like he ran out of steam by the end of last season. After owning a sub-4.00 ERA through his first 16 starts, when Ashcraft returned from the IL, he pitched just 12 innings and allowed opponents to hit .353.

But a healthy and rested Graham Ashcraft, who actually threw more innings than Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo during 2022, could be a nightmare for opposing batters during the upcoming season. Ashcraft isn't going to blow youo away with high strikeout numbers, but he pitches to contact and records outs. Look for Ashcraft to be the Reds lone All-Star in 2023.

2. Bold prediction for Reds 2023 season: Jake Fraley leads the team in HRs.

Looking up and down the Cincinnati Reds roster, you're not really going to see a bunch of power bats. Nine Reds players eclipsed 10 home runs during the 2021 season with Joey Votto (36) leading the way. Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez also hit over 30 home runs that season as well.

You'll be lucky to find one player on this year's Cincinnati Reds who could surpass 30 home runs. Yes, Votto has done it three times during his career, but there are questions about whether or not the six-time All-Star will even be available for Opening Day. Furthermore, over the last four seasons, Votto has averaged just 17 round trippers.

Newcomers Wil Myers and Will Benson have the potential to crack 30-plus homers in a season. However, Myers could very well be traded in July (much like Brandon Drury in 2022) and Benson may still be scuffling in the minors.

In just 68 games last season, Jake Fraley crushed a dozen home runs in 216 at-bats. Fraley's .468 slugging percentage was second to only Brandon Drury (.520) among Reds with 200 or more ABs in 2022. Of his 12 homers, 11 came off right-handed pitching while also posting a slugging percentage of .500 and a tOPS+ of 112.

Jake Fraley is likely to have some sort of platoon role with a right-handed bat. Whether that's Chad Pinder, Stuart Fairchild, or Nick Solak remains to be seen. ZiPS projections forecasts Fraley to hit just 14 home runs in 2023. Let's look for him to almost double that.

3. Bold prediction for Reds 2023 season: Elly De La Cruz does not make his MLB debut until September.

Every Reds fans is excited about Elly De La Cruz. The 21-year-old set the minor league world on fire last season and looks like he could be a star at the next level. But, Cincinnati's front office has proceeded with caution when it comes to discussing De La Cruz, and that's not about to change.

There are a number of reasons that De La Cruz should not only begin the 2023 season in the minors, but spend most of the season there as well. The shortstop had a hedious 30.1% strikeout-rate between High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga last season.

Fans have seen how quickly a massive amount of strikeouts can stifle a young player's confidence. Jose Barrero and Aristides Aquino were both lauded early on for their power, defense, and overall ability. Barrero's time with the Reds has been anything but inspiring, and Aquino is now playing overseas.

There is absolutely zero reason for Cincinnati to accelerate De La Cruz's path to the big leagues. One might even argue that he should begin the 2023 season at Double-A instead of Triple-A. After all, he had fewer than 200 at-bats in Chattanooga last season.

The Reds minor leagues are stacked with shortstops. Should Barrero flounder again in 2023, Cincinnati has Kevin Newman standing by and Matt McLain is in the pipeline as well. Elly De La Cruz has a ton of talent, but don't look for him in a Cincinnati Reds uniform until September.

4. Bold prediction for Reds 2023 season: Nick Solak starts more games than Nick Senzel.

It feels as though Nick Senzel has been receiving a lot of criticism lately. However, that comes with the territory when you're the No. 2 overall draft pick and have failed to live up to those massive expectations.

Senzel is not alone. A majority of those taken in the first-round of the 2016 MLB Draft have been underwhelming to say the least. Mickey Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick in that year's draft, has career-OPS+ of just 35 and has appeared in only 66 total games in the big leagues.

Another player who was taken in the 2016 MLB Draft is Nick Solak. The Reds acquired Solak in an offseason trade with the Texas Rangers. For his career, Solak has hit .252/.327/.372. But, in his last three minor league seasons, Solak has consistently posted an OPS of .860 or higher.

Solak, much Senzel, can play all over the field. But it would appear as though the Cincinnati Reds view the University of Louisville product as a corner outfielder. Though he won't be competing directly with Senzel for playing time in center field, fans should expect to see plenty of Solak alternating with the left-handed hitting Jake Fraley.

Look for Nick Solak to eventually surpass Nick Senzel on the depth chart, and by season's end, own more starts than the University of Tennesse alum. This feels like Senzel's last shot to make an impression, and his injury-riddled history with the team does not offer much hope.

5. Bold prediction for Reds 2023 season: Spencer Steer wins NL Rookie of the Year.

Reds Country is so focused on the prospects of seeing Elly De La Cruz and Noelvi Marte in the major leagues, that Spencer Steer seems to be an after thought. The former Minnesota Twins farmhand was a key acquisition at last year's trade deadline.

There is a lot to like about Steer's game. He can hit for power, he can hit for average, he has good enough speed, and can play all over the diamond. But with the departures of both Kyle Farmer and Mike Moustakas, it would appear as though third base is his position to lose.

Steer will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award and bring the trophy back to the Queen City for the second time in three years (Jonathan India won NL Rookie of the Year in 2021).

New York Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez, Washington Nationals pitcher Cade Cavalli, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker, and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll will all have something to say about the top award for first-year players.

Spencer Steer could be predicated on where he finds his spot in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. One would think that Jonathan India and Jake Fraley will be hitting atop David Bell's batting order. If Steer is slotted behind Tyler Stephenson and Wil Myers, his opportunities for success could be quite high.

Next. 5 reasons why Elly De La Cruz won't make the Reds roster. dark