Way-too-early Cincinnati Reds roster prediction for the 2022 season

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jose Barrero (38) reacts with first baseman Joey Votto.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jose Barrero (38) reacts with first baseman Joey Votto. / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
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With the 2021 season now in the rear view mirror, it's time to focus on next season. The Cincinnati Reds made great strides last year, but have several questions heading into the offseason.

The Reds have a few free agents who are unlikely to return and several young prospects who are sure to make their debut next season. Let's take a look at what the Reds Opening Day roster might look like on March 31, 2022.

What might the Reds starting infield look like on Opening Day 2022?

Joey Votto, Jonathan India, Jose Barrero, Eugenio Suárez, Tyler Stephenson

I feel pretty confident that we'll see at least four of these five players suiting up for Opening Day next season. The only question, in my estimation, is whether or not Jose Barrero is the Reds starting shortstop.

Barrero made his major league debut during the abbreviated 2020 season and had a cup of coffee in the bigs last season. But Cincinnati will be counting on Barrero in 2022.

Barrero began his 2021 season at Double-A Chattanooga and after proving himself there was promoted to Triple-A Louisville where he hit .306/.392/.594. Barrero has nothing more to prove in the minor leauges and should be on the Reds Opening Day roster.

The other four names are virtually guaranteed to be on the roster. Joey Votto, Tyler Stephenson, and Jonathan India will surely be in the starting lineup for the Cincinnati Reds when the Chicago Cubs come to town on March 31, 2022.

Eugenio Suárez is a bit of a question mark, but only because of the presence of Mike Moustakas. Some might advocate for the Reds to trade Geno this offseason, but I think that'd be a big mistake.

What we saw from Suárez in September is the player we all remember from the 2019 season when Geno cranked 49 homers. Suárez will be two years removed from the shoulder injury that no doubt effected his play over the past two seasons.

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jesse Winker (33) puts his hand on his chest after hitting an RBI.
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jesse Winker (33) puts his hand on his chest after hitting an RBI. / Albert Cesare / The Enquirer via Imagn

What might the Reds starting outfield look like on Opening Day 2022?

Jesse Winker, Ketel Marte, Tyler Naquin

Will the Reds make a real play to keep Nick Castellanos in Cincinnati? While I'd like to believe the answer is yes, for now, I'm going to say no.

Castellanos is almost certain to opt out of his current contract, leaving the remaining two years and $34M on the table. While that's a lot of money, Castellanos can certainly secure a more lucrative deal on the open market.

With Castellanos likely gone, look for the Reds to replace their right fielder from the inside. Tyler Naquin had a career-year in 2021 and is more than capable of holding down the fort in right field.

Jesse Winker's injury, along with a below-average bullpen, were the two biggest reasons Cincinnati missed the playoffs in 2021. Look for Winker to be in peak form next spring and make a run at the NL MVP.

While I don't belive the Reds will make a serious offer to keep Nick Castellanos, I think Cincinnati's front office will make a play for Arizona Diamondbacks centerfielder Ketel Marte.

Nick Senzel can't stay healthy and the Reds need a new direction in center field. Marte has a very affordable contract. The 28-year-old is owed just $8M in 2022, $10M in 2023, and $12M in 2024.

The Diamondbacks are rebuilding, and the Reds have some very talented players in their farm system that may tempt the D-Backs to pull the trigger.

Would a combination of Graham Ashcraft, Ivan Johnson, and Michael Siani be enough to sway Arizona to make a deal? If the Reds are looking for a way to replace Castellanos' production without breaking the bank, this is it.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle (30) throws a pitch.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle (30) throws a pitch. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What might the Reds starting rotation look like on Opening Day 2022?

Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, Wade Miley, Vladimir Gutierrez, Hunter Greene

The Reds would be foolish not to pick up Wade Miley's $10M team-option. Miley was Cincinnati's best starter last season and should be in the starting rotation next season.

Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle are both heading into Year 2 of the arbitration process. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the duo will likely take home a combined $13.2M in 2022. That's a steal considering the numbers those two put up last season.

Vladimir Gutierrez made his major league debut in 2021 and proved to be a valuable piece of the Cincinnati rotation. While he hit a bit of a wall at the end of the season, look for Gutierrez to be firmly entrenched as the No. 5 starter.

It's time for Hunter Greene to make his long awaited major league debut. The flamethrower was taken second-overall in the 2017 MLB Draft and seems to have fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.

In 2021, Greene spent time at both Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville and reached his innings-limit after hurling 100-plus innings. Greene struck out 139 batters in the minors last season.

Sadly, I think we'll see the Reds move on from Sonny Gray this winter. The right-hander had an underwhelming and injury-plagued campaign in 2021.

Gray's nearly $11M salary in 2022 is something the Reds will want to eliminate, especially if the franchise has aspirations of locking up Mahle, Castillo, or Jesse Winker for the long haul.

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) is unable to reach a ground ball hit.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) is unable to reach a ground ball hit. / Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content

What might the Reds bench look like on Opening Day 2022?

Kyle Farmer, Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, Mark Kolozsvary

If Jose Barrero wants to be the the Cincinnati Reds starting shortstop on Opening Day, he better be ready for a little competition. Kyle Farmer will do everything he can to retain the spot he earned last season.

I'm a huge fan of Farmer and would not shed a tear if he were the Reds starting shortstop to begin the 2022 season. However, if the belief is that Barrero is the future at the position, then Farmer should return to being the first guy off David Bell's bench.

Max Schrock is essentially the left-handed hitting version of Kyle Farmer. But, with minor league options remaining, I think the Reds will keep Schrock at Triple-A to begin the season and roll with Nick Senzel as a super utility player.

Senzel is capable of playing center field, as well as second and third base. Senzel's versatility is one of his best attributes, and perhaps if he's not counted on as a everyday player, the former No. 2 overall pick can remain healthy.

I can't see Tucker Barnhart returning to the Reds, especially not at the $7.5M he's owed if the Reds pick up his option. Instead, look for rookie backstop Mark Kolozsvary to back up Tyler Stephenson.

Unless the Reds can find a taker, I think Shogo Akiyama returns in 2022. Akiyama has never lived up to the hype after agreeing to a three-year/$21M prior to the 2020 season. The Japanese-born outfielder still has yet to hit his first big league home run.

For now, we'll consider Mike Moustakas a bench player. But $16M is a lot to pay a reserve. It's very likely, however, the designated hitter will find its way to the National League. Moose makes perfect sense to occupy that role for the Reds in 2022.

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Lucas Sims (39) celebrates.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Lucas Sims (39) celebrates. / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

What might the Reds bullpen look like on Opening Day 2022?

Lucas Sims, Tony Santillan, Luis Cessa, Dauri Moreta, Justin Wilson, Reiver Sanmartin, Art Warren, Andrew Chafin

The Cincinnati Reds bullpen was woeful in 2021 and, unfortunately, their best reliever (Tejay Antone) will be out of action next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this year.

I find it hard to believe that Amir Garrett will be back in 2022. Look for AG to be non-tendered later this year.

But, the Reds do return some productive members of their relief corps. Lucas Sims, Tony Santillan, Luis Cessa, Justin Wilson, and Art Warren are virtual locks to be in the pen next season.

Sims, though he had an up-and-down season in 2021, should be counted as key member at the back of the bullpen and may be the top candidate to be the Reds closer in 2022.

Cessa and Wilson will definitely be back in 2022. Both were part of a deal with the New York Yankees at the trade deadline last July.

Cessa, like Sims, will be counted on in high-leverage situations. Wilson gives Bell a veteran lefty out of the pen who's capable to go more than one inning.

Santillan and Sanmartin both came up through the Reds farm system as starters, but it would seem like the bullpen is where they'll find a home in 2022.

Warren was easily one of the most surprising pitchers on the Reds staff last season. The right-hander posted a 1.29 ERA and didn't allow a run after returning from the 60-day IL in September.

Dauri Moreta shut down opponents at Triple-A Louisville last season and made his big league debut in September. Look for Moreta to battle it out with fellow right-hander Ryan Hendrix for a spot in the Reds pen next spring.

Finally, the Cincinnati Reds will have to invest some money into the bullpen. Pitchers like Yimi García, Kendall Graveman, and Trevor Rosenthal could emerge as potential free agents who could entice the Reds front office.

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But I'm going to go with Ohio native Andrew Chafin. The 31-year-old appeared in 71 games for both the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A's last season while posting a 1.83 ERA. Chafin has mutual option for the 2022 season, but could probably get more than the $5.25M he'd receive from the A's.