Who will the Reds' leadoff hitter be as injuries have greatly impacted the lineup?

The Reds top two options to kickstart the offense will start 2024 on the injured list.

Cincinnati Reds Elly De La Cruz, Jonathan India, Will Benson
Cincinnati Reds Elly De La Cruz, Jonathan India, Will Benson / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Injuries have crippled the Cincinnati Reds roster ahead of Opening Day, and will affect every aspect of this year's team heading into the first game of the 2024 season. The bullpen will be without Sam Moll, Alex Young, and Ian Gibaut, and the starting rotation took a hit with both Nick Lodolo and Brandon Williamson set to start the upcoming season on the IL.

But the Reds would appear to have enough depth to withstand those losses. Cincinnati added Nick Martinez, Frankie Montas, Brent Suter, and Emilio Pagán this offseason. The Reds also have Connor Phillips standing by at Triple-A Louisville, along with Carson Spiers, Lyon Richardson, and Casey Legumina.

But the Reds will be without their table setters. TJ Friedl will be out for at least the first six weeks of the 2024 season, and Matt McLain's undisclosed shoulder injury landed him on the IL. McLain is receiving a second opinion, and surgery has not yet been ruled out. How will David Bell fill out the top of his lineup card with both Friedl and McLain out of the lineup?

Who will the Reds' leadoff hitter be as injuries have greatly impacted the lineup?

The Reds will need a new leadoff hitter to begin the 2024 season. Most of last season saw a mixture of Friedl, Jonathan India, and Elly De La Cruz atop Cincinnati's batting order. With Friedl out of the equation, where will Bell turn?

The most obvious answer is India. The former NL Rookie of the Year has a great deal of experience hitting in the No. 1 spot, and with McLain set to begin the year on the IL, India will receive plenty of playing time at second base.

While De La Cruz's speed makes him an enticing choice atop the lineup, the numbers would say otherwise. De La Cruz started 21 games as the Reds leadoff hitter during his rookie season, but hit just .207/.281/.414. After watching Bell deploy the shortstop as the Reds' No. 2 hitter throughout the spring, one can assume that De La Cruz will be batting second once the 2024 season begins.

Jonathan India & Will Benson could platoon as the Reds' leadoff hitter until TJ Friedl & Matt McLain return

An intriguing option to lead things off for the Reds' bats is Will Benson. With Friedl on the mend, Benson figures to get the majority of starts in center field. Benson doesn't possess the same speed as De La Cruz, but his sprint speed still ranks in the 88th percentile according to Baseball Savant. Benson also posted a .365 on-base percentage during his first full season in the bigs last year.

Given Bell's history, it's quite likely that the Reds skipper will deploy India as Cincinnati's leadoff hitter against left-handed pitching, and Benson will bat first when a right-handed hurler toes the rubber. Benson has received more at-bats against southpaws this spring, but his track record is not that good.

Until Friedl or McLain returns to the Cincinnati lineup, Reds fans might see some tinkering in the leadoff spot. The Reds have yet to announce who will be the 26th player on the Opening Day roster, but that player is unlikely to factor into the everyday lineup.

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