Reds roster prediction surprisingly omits best reliever not named Alexis Diaz

Wait a minute.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz / Emilee Chinn/Cincinnati Reds/GettyImages
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Spring training is upon us, and that means fans will be treated to a myriad of roster predictions over the next several weeks. MLB.com's Mark Sheldon released his most recent Opening Day projections, and while there was a lot of sound reasoning in his decision making, he omitted one of the Cincinnati Reds best pitchers.

Fernando Cruz was nowhere to be found among the group of eight relievers Sheldon assumes will break camp with the Reds. Instead, the prediction lists Alexis Diaz, Emilio Pagán, Sam Moll, Buck Farmer, Lucas Sims, Brent Suter, Ian Gibaut, and Nick Martinez.

Last season, Cruz struggled on Opening Day and landed on the injured list at the end of April. But upon his return, Cruz was arguably the best reliever on the staff outside of Diaz. From May 26th until the end of the 2023 season, Cruz owned a 2.78 FIP and struck out over 36% of the batters he faced.

Reds roster prediction surprisingly omits Fernando Cruz

While keeping Cruz off the Opening Day roster would seem criminal to some Reds fans, the prediction may actually come to fruition if everyone leaves Goodyear, Arizona healthy.

Cruz is one of the best pitchers in the Reds bullpen, but he's also one of the few with minor league options remaining. Among the eight relief pitchers Mark Sheldon mentioned in his Opening Day roster projection, only Alexis Diaz and Sam Moll still have minor-league options left. Diaz is the Reds closer, and Moll is left-handed. Neither one will begin the season in Triple-A. But Cruz very well could.

And if it's not Cruz, perhaps Andrew Abbott or another one of Cincinnati's young starters will begin their 2024 campaign in the Derby City. That would allow swingman Nick Martinez to begin the season as a member of the starting rotation rather than the bullpen.

While it's strange not to see Fernando Cruz's name among the most likely players to break camp with the big league club, it speaks to the depth that this Cincinnati Reds roster now has. Injuries, poor performance, and other factors will certainly factor in to which 26 players leave Goodyear on a flight for Cincinnati. Will Cruz be one of them?

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