Will Benson pushing Reds to help make him everyday player in 2024

Will Benson is looking for more opportunities to prove himself at the big league level.

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Will Benson (30) triples
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Will Benson (30) triples / Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Will Benson made his intentions known to the Cincinnati Reds coaching and player development staff before spring training even began - he wants to face left-handed pitching.

Benson was a relative unknown last spring after a trade brought him into the Reds clubhouse. He'd had plenty of success in the minor leagues, but could he bring that same level of play to the big leagues? The answer through the first two weeks of the 2023 season was resounding no, and Benson was sent down to Triple-A Louisville after going 1-for-21 with a 57.1% strikeout-rate in his first eight games.

Benson worked hard at his craft while down in Louisville, even gaining some knowledge from Reds' great Joey Votto along the way. When Benson returned to the majors in late-May, the outfielder went on a tear and the season hitting. Upon his return, Benson hit .292/.383/.532 with a wRC+ of 141 according to FanGraphs.

Will Benson pushing Reds to help make him everyday player in 2024

But one thing that was absent from Benson's game in 2023 was plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. A left-handed hitter in his own right, Benson received just 44 plate appearances against southpaws, while stepping into the batters' box 285 times against right-handed hurlers.

Every Reds fan knows that manager David Bell is going to play the percentages. If the analytics lean one way, you can bet your bottom dollar that Bell is going to follow that line of thinking. Benson's .146/.204/.195 slash line against left-handed pitching is a good indicator that Bell's assessment was spot on.

However, the argument against the platoon oftentimes comes when a player isn't given the opportunity to prove himself. While Benson's stats against lefties are not good, 41 at-bats is hardly enough information to go on.

But during the season is not when those types of decisions can be made. After breaking camp, the goal is not development, it's winning games by any means necessary. Benson knows this, which is why he said that he met with Bell prior to the start of spring training. Benson spoke about wanting to become a complete player, and he knows the only way to do that is to face both right-handed and left-handed pitching.

Will Benson will receive more than enough opportunities to showcase his talents during the 2024 season. Benson's speed and athleticism guarantee him a regular spot in the lineup, and he'll likely share time with fellow left-handed hitting outfielder Jake Fraley early on during the regular season.

With so few legitimate right-handed hitting options to replace Benson in the lineup, his efforts this spring could be greatly rewarded. Will David Bell stop platooning players in 2024? Don't be silly. But if players like Benson and others are able to prove that they can handle the rigors that come with being an everyday player, the Reds skipper will certainly give them the opportunity to prove the computers wrong.

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