Will Benson's 2023 demons are unfortunately coming back to haunt him and the Reds

The Reds outfielder needs to see this number go down.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Will Benson
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Will Benson / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

There's a lot to like about Will Benson's game. The 25-year-old plays with a tremendous amount of heart and passion. During his brief tenure in the Queen City, Benson has quickly become a fan favorite and the animated GIF of the Cincinnati Reds outfielder spiking the bat into the ground upon hitting his first career home run is frequently shared on social media.

Benson started out the 2024 season hitting .257/.333/.629 through his first 39 plate appearances. But over his last 50 times to the dish, Benson is hitting just .159/.260/.273. Benson uncorked his third home run of the year on Wednesday night and helped put the Reds on the board.

The batting average, of course, is unsightly, but in April those numbers can be a big deceiving. The bigger problem is the same one that plagued Benson in 2023. Benson is striking out 36% of the time over the past 12 games. That's unsustainable, especially for the No. 2 hitter in the Reds lineup. The Reds as a whole have 233 whiffs on the season, and are striking out nearly 30% of the time.

Reds OF Will Benson's 2023 demons are unfortunately coming back to haunt him

Reds fans will remember Benson's first impression with the hometown fans as rather mediocre. Benson looked lost at the dish. He went 1-for-21 with a 57.1% strikeout rate during his first eight games with the Reds and was optioned to Triple-A Louisville.

Benson is much too valuable to this team, especially given the rash of injuries the Reds have faced, to send him down to the Derby City for a tuneup. But Benson needs to tap into whatever grabbed his attention last spring in the minor leagues and bring that with him to the ballpark. Once he returned to the Reds lineup in May, Benson hit .292/.383/.532 and his strikeout rate dropped to below 30%.

The Reds have been hit hard by the injury bug; so much so that Benson has even received opportunities against left-handed pitching. Benson has actually fared better against southpaws so far this season than he has right-handed pitchers. Benson has drawn a walk 21.7% of his plate appearances against left-handed pitching and has a .792 OPS. Versus right-handers, Benson's walk rate drops to 8.8% and his OPS is just below .650.

The Reds need Benson's bat to help pick them up in the coming weeks. Cincinnati has a gauntlet ahead of them with upcoming series against the Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Los Angeles Dodgers. The next several weeks will test the Reds, and Cincinnati cannot afford for Benson to continue scuffling at the plate. Wednesday's 2-for-5 performance was a good start, but Benson still struck out twice. That needs to get fixed moving into the month of May.

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