Predicting the Reds 2023 Opening Day outfield

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Will Benson
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Will Benson / Steph Chambers/GettyImages
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The Cincinnati Reds 2023 spring training has only a couple weeks left. As the days go by, the roster gets smaller and position battles get a little bit clearer. At the start of camp, the Reds had several question marks that needed answers across the roster - arguably none bigger than the outfield.

A lot of turnover has occurred between last season's Opening Day and where we are today. Losing guys like Tommy Pham, Tyler Naquin, and Aristides Aquino, along with Nick Senzel still not being healthy this spring, has opened the position group for the young guys.

Through the first couple weeks of spring games, there have been a few players that have stood out and put forth a strong case to be on David Bell's Opening Day lineup card. Jake Fraley will be a regular in the starting outfield, however, look for him to act as the Reds DH on Opening Day.

Predicting the Reds 2023 Opening Day outfield: TJ Friedl (LF)

If there is an issue with the Reds outfielders, it would be the heavy amount of left-handed hitters. While Jake Fraley should assume a reasonable amount of time spent in left, Opening Day is a game that TJ Friedl should start. Friedl has strung together a strong showing in spring training.

Slashing .320/.370/.560 with a home run in 25 at-bats, Friedl has continued to build off the late-season success he found last year. TJ spent time moving up and down the between the Ohio/Kentucky border as the left-handed hitting outfielder was shuffled back-and-forth from Triple-A to the big leagues.

After his final call-up in August of last year, Friedl played in 42 games down the stretch to close out the season. During that time, he made the most of every opportunity hitting .267/.354/.533 and posted an OPS+ of 139 with 8 home runs and a 13.9% strikeout rate. Friedl showed patience and willingness to let the pitcher come to him, showing signs that he wasn’t pressing.

TJ Friedl has the ability to play all three outfield spots, though the majority of his time with the big league club was spent in left field. With the way he has swung the bat to start spring training, Friedl is a good candidate to get the start in left field on Opening Day. 

Predicting the Reds 2023 Opening Day outfield: Will Benson (CF)

Will Benson was acquired from the Cleveland Guardians earlier this offseason in a trade that included 2022 draft pick Justin Boyd. Benson, a 2016 first-round pick, made his major league debut last season with Cleveland in limited action. 

Benson's output of production on the field last year was minimal. In just 55 at-bats, he only managed to put up a .182 average with just a .450 OPS. Benson was once considered the top outfield prospect in the Cleveland organization. Still, with the emergence of others like Steven Kwan and Will Brennan, along with the not-so-good showing last year, Benson was deemed replaceable by the Guardians. 

This spring, Benson has been turning heads. It is clear why the Cincinnati Reds front office was a fan. In 25 at-bats, the newly acquired lefty has hit .440 with a 1.000 OPS. His ability to hit to all fields, including his opposite-field power has been impressive to watch. Benson also includes an above-average defensive skill set that has looked good in center field this spring. 

With no real knowledge of when Nick Senzel will be ready, Benson came into spring with an opportunity to claim a lineup spot. There is a very good chance Senzel still starts the year on the IL. The question now has to be, even when healthy, is there spot for Senzel on this year's team?

Benson has done everything to deserve a chance at the starting position in the Reds outfield. After the second-round of roster cuts were made, players will start to get more and more at-bats during the game. Benson will have every opportunity during the rest of his time in Arizona to show the Reds front office that they were right to swing a deal for him. 

Predicting the Reds 2023 Opening Day outfield: Wil Myers (RF)

Gone are the days of seeing Jay Bruce trot out of the dugout every Opening Day announced as the starting right fielder. This year will be the seventh since Bruce’s last one in Cincinnati. The 2023 Opening Day lineup features the organization's fifth different starting right fielder since 2017. A revolving door has been created in front of the Bowtie Bar for sure.

This offseason, the Reds went with a veteran presence to man right field. Wil Myers signed a one-year/$7.5-million contract with a mutual option for 2024. Myers has spent the last eight years with the San Diego Padres and comes to the Cincinnati Reds with the intent of being the primary right fielder. 

So far through 23 at-bats in camp, Myers has hit at a .304 clip with a .320 on-base percentage. Myers's approach this spring has looked good, which has resulted in a high batting average. Getting some starts in right field as well as being slotted in the DH role, Myers has a chance at a big bounce-back year. 

Last year, according to FanGraphs, Wil Myers posted a wRC+ at 104 with seven home runs in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark. In 2023, he will be playing his home games inside the hitter's dream known at Great American Ball Park.

I can see Myers producing a Brandon Drury-type season this year. Playing in Cincinnati, a very hitter-friendly park, Myers might be able to get his groove back and show he still has a little left in the tank.

Next. 3 ways to get Christian Encarncaion-Strand on the Reds roster. dark