With Tejay Antone out for the 2022 season, which Reds player becomes the bullpen ace?

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Tejay Antone (70) throws a pitch.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Tejay Antone (70) throws a pitch. / Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services,

Tejay Antone is slated to the miss the entirety of the 2022 baseball season following Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Antone was the best relief pitcher David Bell had in his bullpen last season. Who will the Cincinnati Reds skipper turn during the upcoming season when he needs a top-notch performance?

Antone, despite appearing in just 23 games, was ninth on the team in bWAR (2.1). Aside from Luis Cessa and Art Warren, Antone had the lowest ERA (2.14) among any reliever who made 20 or more appearances in 2021.

Who will be the Reds bullpen ace with Tejay Antone sidelined?

There are a myriad of pitchers on the Cincinnati Reds roster who could fit the bill. Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett come to mind, but both pitchers struggled with their increased roles in 2021. Sims struck out 76 batters over 47 innings, but owned a 4.40 ERA. Garrett, was the Reds self-anointed closer after the trade of Raisel Iglesias, failed to live up to the expectations.

Art Warren is a pitcher to watch this spring. If he picks up where he left off, the right-hander has an excellent chance to seize control of high-leverage situations when the game is on the line. The Ohio native posted a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings of work last season.

Tony Santillan is another name to watch. The former second-round pick wasn't up to the task of being a starter in the big leagues, but really excelled in a relief role after returning from Triple-A Louisville. Santillan's upper-90s fastball and power slider combination could really strike fear in opposing hitters.

The aforementioned Luis Cessa will be a player to watch as well. The moment never seemed to big for Cessa last season, and much like Antone, the right-hander can go more than a single inning in relief. Cessa owned a 2.05 ERA in 24 appearances out of the Cincinnati bullpen.

All of those pitchers may well find their way into key roles for the Reds in 2022, but for my money, I'm going to ride with Dauri Moreta. The right-hander only made four appearances in the big leagues last season, but while playing at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville, Moreta amassed 53 innings of work and posted a 1.02 ERA with 58 punch outs and a 0.755 WHIP.

Moreta is currently seen as the Reds No. 27-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Moreta's only downfall might be his lack of a secondary pitch. The 25-year-old has a slider and changeup in his repertoire, but Moreta relies heavily on his fastball. If he can develop one of those secondary offering to be slightly above-average, Dauri Moreta could be the Cincinnati Reds bullpen ace in 2022.