If everything goes according to plan, the Cincinnati Reds may well be full strength heading into next week.
Nick Senzel is expected to return from a knee injury that's had him on the 10-day IL since last week. Outfielders Wil Myers and Jake Fraley are readying to return to the Reds lineup as well. And, of course, there's the impending return for Joey Votto.
Reds manager David Bell is about to have a very good problem on his hands. He'll have, arguably, his most talented roster since 2020, and will need to figure out how to properly allocate playing time. Let's see if we can pencil in what Bell's lineup card might look like once the Cincinnati Reds return to full strength.
Predicting David Bell's lineup card once the the Reds return to full strength.
For this exercise, let's assume that Christian Encarnacion-Strand has yet to be added to the active roster and any impending roster moves to be made would not see anyone from the 40-man roster eliminated.
In other words, a veteran like Wil Myers will still be part of the team for this discussion, but players like T.J. Hopkins and Will Benson may be optioned back to Triple-A Louisville rather than designated for assignment.
Let's also understand that based on how David Bell likes to mix-and-match his starting lineups based on the opposing team's pitcher, the batting order may look different depending on whether or not the opposition is starting a left-handed or right-handed pitcher.
Reds lineup vs. RHP
Elly De La Cruz
I don't know about you, but if I'm an opposing pitcher, I want nothing to do with that Cincinnati Reds lineup. Of course, Luke Maile and Curt Casali are interchangeable in this scenario, and that catching duo may rotate based on who's on the mound for the Reds.
Tyler Stephenson will still see plenty of time as the team's DH, as will Joey Votto. Moving Spencer Steer to left field will be something Reds fans should expect to see more and more once the team is fully healthy.
You'll note, that in this lineup both Nick Senzel and Wil Myers are out of the lineup. It's not say that either one can't find a spot when a right-handed pitcher is on the bump, but their chances to find consistent playing time will be much better when facing a southpaw.
Reds lineup vs. LHP
Elly De La Cruz
If you want to laugh at the idea of Kevin Newman leading off for the Cincinnati Reds when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound for the opposing team, go ahead. But you obviously haven't been paying attention. Newman has a .916 OPS against southpaws this season.
Nick Senzel has also crushed left-handed pitching this season. The former first-round pick is slugging .659 off lefties and has an OPS of 1.159 against southpaws. Expect both Newman and Senzel in the lineup against left-handers.
Wil Myers' time on the Reds roster may be fleeting, but the team is going to get him at-bats once he returns from the IL. Myers signed a $7-million deal this offseason, and the front office isn't just going to cut him loose until they know for sure that his subpar start to 2023 isn't going to turn around.
This lineup would see a bench of TJ Friedl, Jake Fraley, Curt Casali, and Luke Maile. Having both left-handed hitting outfielders available to come on in the latter stages of a game would be matchup that David Bell would very much look to exploit once the opposing starter is chased from the game.
There's a lot to unpack, and this scenario doesn't even include Christian Encarnacion-Strand. One of the Reds top prospects, Encarnacion-Strand actually started in the outfield for the Louisville Bats on Thursday night which suggests that Cincinnati's front office is exploring all options in order to get his bat to the big leagues.
America's Team is starting to look quite formidable up and down the lineup, and if the starting pitching can kick it into high-gear, the Cincinnati Reds squad could be quite dangerous over the remainder of the 2023 season.