I am going to start with my thesis here: If everyone is healthy, Noelvi Marte should start the season in Louisville, and Jonathan India is going to have a hard time getting at-bats.

We are getting pretty close to spring training now, and the Cincinnati Reds still have a lot of infielders. We can (and have) talked ourselves in circles around these parts about positional rotations and all that stuff. It’s fun, and those things will likely be used to give guys days off and so forth during the season. But we (I include myself AND a whole lot of the people who will comment on this post) have been forgetting some cardinal rules about how you field a baseball team.

  1. Ideally, you get your nine best hitters in the lineup as much as possible.
  2. BUT, they have to be able to play all the positions.
  3. Positions, in order of difficulty are (this has been widely studied): C, SS, 2B/3B/CF, RF, LF, 1B, DH

If you lose sight of those three things, then you’re missing the plot when constructing an everyday lineup. I’ll get to my thesis pretty soon, but let’s move down the defensive spectrum to start.

Catcher – This is easy. Tyler Stephenson is capable of at least being passable defensively (much of his problem seems to be framing, which should improve with reps) and is the only hope the Reds have at catcher.

Shortstop – This is slightly more complicated. The answer is almost certainly Elly De La Cruz. He is probably the best defensive shortstop on the team, but it is possible that Matt McLain is. However, unless you think De La Cruz is going to be offensively inept (I certainly don’t), then whatever defensive difference there might be between the two is much smaller than the total quality difference between McLain and India at second.

Second Base – And here is the rub. Matt McLain was excellent last year. The projection systems think he will continue to produce. Jonathan India was not excellent. Among 2nd basemen who had at least 300 plate appearances, India was the 25th best hitter at second. McLain was 6th. And you know about the defensive situation there. There is no case for India getting regular time at second unless you think De La Cruz is going to be a disaster. And if he can’t play second there’s nowhere else for him to go thanks to his tepid bat and poor defense, and that relegates him to the bench most of the time.

Third Base – Now we get to Marte. His situation is a little different. I don’t think he’s likely to be bad. I don’t think anyone does. But I also don’t think he has a solid spot on the roster as it is currently constructed, and I think he could probably use more time in Louisville. He was fantastic in his short stint with the Reds last year, but his BABIP of .384 is not sustainable (since 2000 no one in MLB has had 1500 or more plate appearances and a BABIP over .366, and only five have been at .350 or higher), and it means there was a fair bit of luck in what we saw. There were also reports that he maybe took a little step backwards as an overall player last year. And then Cincinnati signed Jeimer Candelario.

Candelario is largely being talked about as a first baseman (that’s where projection systems are generally putting him, which is why his projected WAR looks so bad), but I wonder if that’s really the plan. His bat doesn’t play in an “everyday player” fashion at first. However, it makes him extremely valuable at third, where the offensive expectations are much lower.

All of this means that, if we are trying to field the best lineup, Marte is in Louisville waiting to be the first guy called up in case of injury. If he’s on the Reds, he should play every day, but as the team is currently constructed, he’s not the best option at his primary position.

Center field – This is TJ Friedl until he shows he doesn’t deserve it. He’s the best at playing the position, and last year he was one of the best offensive players on the team. By fWAR, Friedl ranked as the third most valuable center fielder in baseball last year.

Corner Outfield – This is a mix of Spencer Steer, Will Benson, Jake Fraley, and Stuart Fairchild. Fairchild only sees time against lefties and Fraley only hits against righties. Steer plays more or less every day, and Benson gets a chance to show if his BABIP numbers are cause for concern or if he can fully realize his potential. Steer was awful defensively last year, but should improve this year as he’ll have a regular position (again playing MLB caliber defense is hard everywhere, we tend to take it too lightly. Guys do better when they can prepare for a regular spot).

First Base – Now we get to another question mark. Christian Encarnacion-Strand could very well be the best hitter on the team in 2024. If he walks just a little more and strikes out just a little less, he will be a force. I’ve never seen a player whose stats were more closely aligned with the “expected” stats various sites calculate. We can confidently say there’s no mirage in what he did. He also seems to be at least average in the field. I’d think his time at third means he should be an above average 1B, but I suppose we’ll see. If he continues to pan out, he’s the first baseman. If he doesn’t, then it’s probably some combination of Candelario, Steer, and India. (and Marte probably gets a full shot at third).

Designated Hitter – I don’t think there’s a regular designated hitter this year. If there is, it would probably be Steer, but only if he’s noticeably worse in the outfield than Benson. Mostly, it’s going to be whichever player needs half a day off.

To distill all of this down, here’s your lineup (in no particular order) using players currently on the roster. (* = Lefty, # = switch hitter)

Vs. RHP

  • Tyler Stephenson – C
  • Christian Encarnacion-Strand – 1B
  • Jeimer Candelario # – 3B
  • Elly De La Cruz # – SS
  • Matt McLain – 2B
  • Spencer Steer – LF
  • Will Benson* – DH
  • TJ Friedl* – CF
  • Jake Fraley* – RF

Vs. LHP

  • Tyler Stephenson – C
  • Christian Encarnacion-Strand – 1B
  • Jeimer Candelario # – 3B
  • Elly De La Cruz # – SS
  • Matt McLain – 2B
  • Spencer Steer – LF
  • TJ Friedl* – CF
  • Will Benson* OR Stuart Fairchild – RF
  • Jonathan India – DH

Among players not listed above, Luke Maile and Jose Barrero probably round out the bench (again because Marte needs to play everyday).

India serves as the designated hitter against lefites because he’s probably the best available option, but this also showcases why the Reds should try to move him. Unless they’re really worried about injuries or sophomore slumps, India’s value on the trade market is not likely to increase this season.

209 Responses

  1. Ryan

    While India’s salary for mediocrity will increase by a factor of five or six

  2. jessecuster44

    Reds need to go get someone better than Stuart Fairchild.

    • wkuchad

      Fairchild is our #5 outfielder. Based on that role, he’s a great option. Won’t embarrass you with the bat and can play all three OF spots. Also, he’s making the league minimum this year and next.

      • DaveCT

        David, Dunn not being on the 40-man likely means Hurtubise gets called up to cover CF in a pinch or if Fairchild fails.

      • Melvin

        Provided David Bell uses him as a fifth outfielder. As a pinch runner/defensive replacement he’d be perfect.

    • David

      I don’t know if Mike Trout is available or not. 🙂 (That’s just a small joke)

      Fairchild is a good outfielder, ie, running around catching the ball. His hitting is not great, which is where the disappointment lies. As a reserve….he is acceptable.
      Friedl gets most of the AB’s in CF, as he hits lefties well. But a CF does need days off, as the position will wear a player down. As of right now, Fairchild is the only guy on the roster who can honestly cover CF. I am certainly open to somebody better (and Dunn may be that guy).
      I think Steer plays about every day, either as DH or in LF.
      Candelario can certainly play first, but I would MUCH rather have Christian Encarnacion Strand on the field, and in the line-up, EVERYDAY. I think this guy can be a real great hitter. Like right now, not next year or the year after.
      The best Defensive team has Matt McLain at 2nd base. And nobody really knows where Jon India lands.
      The Reds need to see if Candelario can handle third, or if he just hacks it up. Noelvi Marte has been this great prospect, and he did look pretty good in limited AB’s last year. But the Reds just committed a lot of money to signing Candelario, and I think Bell will be commanded to play him or else. And this acquisition still puzzles me. What were they really thinking?
      Who would you rather sit? Noelvi Marte or CES?
      And all the choices are predicated on nobody gets hurt, too.

      • Jason Linden

        Candelario is a known quantity at third. He has mostly played third. He’s very solid there.

      • DaveCT

        David, Dunn not being on the 40-man likely means Hurtubise gets called up to cover CF in a pinch or if Fairchild fails.

      • David

        @DaveCT

        Yes, but I was generally speaking of the future, sorry if this seemed ignorant. Rosters can be changed.
        Dunn has had a history of injuries in the minors, and LAST YEAR was his first really healthy year he played a lot. He was actually “old” for the levels he had been playing in. Still, he could be that “other” CF that the Reds need.
        Dunn still needs to prove himself at AAA level, and so that is months away, unless he has some kind of amazing Spring Training, players are waived off the 40 man, a slot is made for him, etc.

      • Melvin

        “And this acquisition still puzzles me. What were they really thinking?”

        Yeah

        “Who would you rather sit? Noelvi Marte or CES?”

        I know some may hate this but a better question may be who would you rather sit out of Marte, CES, OR Benson/Fraley if one of the aforementioned can play thee outfield?

      • wkuchad

        Melvin, I don’t necessarily want to sit any of them. I would just play them on rotation and have a nice buffer in place if a couple of starting position players end up on the IL.

      • Melvin

        wkuchad – We’ll see how it works out. If you take out the two catchers and Fairchild (I still think Barrero) only playing sporadically that leaves 10 guys rotating eight spots if I’m not mistaken. Last year for a while it was nine guys rotating and that worked out fine in my view. Ten may be a much bigger challenge.

    • Phil

      I’ve commented on multiple articles here arguing for 1 more addition to be made. I believe the Reds need:

      1) More experience.
      Of the 13 position players expected to make the opening day roster 5 have 3 years or more service time. Candelario and Maile have 6+ years of service time and Fraley, Stephenson and India have just over 3 each. The other 8 players have less than 2 years each.

      2) Backup center fielder.
      Friedl should play regularly in center but Fairchild or Barrero are the only options that can back him up.

      3) Outfielder who can hit left-handed pitching
      Benson and Fraley were amongst the worst in the league last season at hitting lefties.

      Michael Taylor is still unsigned as a free agent and could address those 3 needs without a big contract. I’m sure there are also trade candidates out there that could fill that roll.

      Fairchild or Barrero could potentially address needs 2 & 3 as a backup centerfielder that can hit lefties but neither adds that extra bit of veteran experience that I think this young roster could use.

    • Mark

      I like this team as is with only a couple of remaining moves. India traded for 2 prospects that go straight to the minors. This allows Marte to stay up and play on a regular basis. Takes away an infielder and his contract which can go towards signing Duvall. Duvall adds power and replaces our weakest link in the OF by trading/releasing Fairchild.

    • JayTheRed

      If Fairchild is the 26th man, I am perfectly fine with having him back up all 3 outfield positions.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree; team’s youth makes them very much a work n progress. Perhaps the young guys continue improve, but have my doubts. Still feel Elly n CF would b a good long term OF solution 4 the team?

  3. Jeff S

    The BIG wild card here is ELDC, and whether or not he will provide MLB at-bats and dramatically reduce his swing-&-miss %. He was horrible in the second-half and cannot be penciled in the lineup if that level of offensive output (or lack thereof) continues. Let’s not grant him a full-time spot quite yet.

  4. Gandalf the Doug Gray

    Here’s where the fun part of ‘Jonathan India actually has pretty distinct reverse platoon splits for his career’ comes in. He’s only the owner of a .732 OPS in his career against LHP (and just .642 last year).

    Before I duck, I’ll just ask someone else to look up what *coughs* Kevin Newman’s career OPS vs. LHP is…

  5. Amarillo

    Our most common defensive alignment/lineup last year we used a grand total of 3 times and it had Nick Martini at DH. Trying to figure out an every day lineup is a purely theoretical exercise.

    It’ll all work out just fine. Injuries are a certainty and the Reds have done a good job filling the roster with good players.

  6. SR

    I would be looking to deal India and Fraley or Benson along with prospects for a right handed hitter who hits lefties. Or a mid level SP and sign Adam Duvall. He has pop, probably still better than any of the three above defensively in the outfield and he hits left-handed pitching. Fraley/Benson are redundant, we only need one of them. I prefer Benson. These moves would also tighten up the defense by leaving a spot for Marte at 3rd. If we get sophomore slumps, still plenty of versatility on the roster to backfill the guys who stumble a little. And the prospects in waiting at Louisville can move up too.

    • LDS

      I agree @SR with trading India & Fraley, but I’m not sure that ship hasn’t already sailed. The Reds are not committed to winning this year – only a small step forward, maybe a higher floor, but none of the signings this offseason really raised the team ceiling and it falls on the young guys to meet or exceed their potential.

    • oklared

      Not specific to your take but it befuddles me how this board was all about
      Adam Duval was not starter on playoff team but nothing but clamoring for him years later. Just a reminder to be careful of trades/cuts we wish for with certainty. Just a thought I have every time I see his name.

      • 2020ball

        Bet that happens a lot around here.

    • Stock

      Judge and Soto are redundant but I am pretty certain the Yankees will not part with either of them.

    • Jimbo44CN

      I just cannot understand the India bashing on this site. If memory serves, wasn’t he hurt a lot last year? I would not be so anxious to get rid of him as so many are. And get rid of Benson for Adam Duvall? Didn’t we already see that show? No thanks. Keep Benson and India, Fraley??? Uhh still not sold on him.

      • Brian

        Jimbo, I think it’s mostly because he’s not been very good with the glove. I can definitely see him whining about play time. Another issue is that Bell will probably sit better players more than he should to get India in.
        I personally don’t like the consistent, musical chair idea. It takes too long to get dialed in to hit at that level. It will probably cause slumps because Bell loves constant rotation.

      • Don A

        I am with you JImbo! He is one of the team leaders and has shown to be a very good leadoff hitter. Not convinced that all of these youngsters are ready to be crowned the day one season long starters!

  7. MBS

    Good article, and a practical outlook by starting Marte in AAA. I got to admit I wasn’t thinking along those lines, but it does help increase the available playing time for everyone.

    I’m not a Fairchild fan, and Barrero is at the end of his leash, but if they are the 12th, and 13th men on opening day, it’s not really all that bad.

    Until we signed Candelario I was very pro EDLC as the 3B, he’s just phenomenal there. McLain was also silky smooth at SS, and the same can not be said for EDLC at SS. With the addition of Candelario the whole equation changed.

    To me now the answer is Candelario is the 3B, EDLC is the SS, McLain is the 2B, and CES is the 1B, so right inline with the article.

  8. Klugo

    “I am going to start with my thesis here: If everyone is healthy, Elly De La Cruz should start the season in Louisville…”

    FIFY.

    • Stock

      Interesting. We will see how spring training works out. EDLC in Louisville does make more sense in my mind than Marte in Louisville.

      • Melvin

        Starting EDLC in AAA seems crazy I admit. However any player with options left, who has a terrible ST, COULD end up there. There’s just too much depth.

      • wkuchad

        I usually take spring training stats with a grain of salt, but can’t say I disagree with you Melvin.

    • DaveCT

      EDLC is a notoriously slow starter. Given his importance to the team, I doubt this means he starts at AAA. I do, however, think this should be part of the conversation so fans are not lining up to jump off bridges.

      • wkuchad

        How can a 21 year old already be a notoriously slow starter?

      • DaveCT

        He’s been playing pro ball since he’s 17.

        Other than that, you’ll find out.

      • Tom Reeves

        Joey Votto (love him!) was a notoriously slow starter.

        EDLC is a 21 year old who lost is first couple of years in the minors due to Covid and then advanced super quickly to make to The Show. The dude is learning at a breakneck pace and figuring it out.

        We don’t know what he’s “notoriously” at yet other than he’s “notoriously” fast from base to base.

      • DaveCT

        Whatever … the point being, EDLC is a slow starter. You’ll just have to wait and see.

      • Justin T

        21 and notoriously a slow starter. You dont need facts to back up statements around here if it sounds good.

      • DaveCT

        Reports are considered facts.

        BA: “De La Cruz is typically a slow starter when it’s cold, but by June or July he could be pushing for a callup to Cincinnati.”

        https://www.baseballamerica.com/players/8268-elly-de-la-cruz/

        “Slow start dooms Elly de la Cruz”

        https://blogredmachine.com/posts/reds-slow-start-dooms-elly-de-la-cruz-opening-day-roster-2023.

        You people losing your minds over this are off the wall. Seriously, don’t get out much?

        Took me less than 30 seconds to find these. Ya’ll are pretty weak when it comes to being trolls. Your comments above are the most pathetic I’ve seen in many years here. Do better or get lost

    • Jason Franklin

      I really believe that EDLC is a ticket seller for the team, and well, Bell may not have an option on what he does with EDLC/player moves anyway. Big Kroger Man wants butts in the seats no matter what. So expect EDLC to play from the start for the big boys.

      • MK

        Correct, but unless the Marketing Dept. Gets a say on roster set up it should definitely be Marte in bigs over Elly. To say Elly is a better defender than McLain just isn’t true but neither would be considered bad. India at 2B, McLain at SS with a combination or rotation of Candelario, CES, Marte at 1st Base , 3rd base and DH.
        Unless Barrero lights things up in ST, I see the dark horse candidate to be a right handed hitting backup infielder and outfielder being Hernan Perez.

      • JayTheRed

        I would think ELDC would have to struggle at the majors for him to go down to the minors. Too much of a ticket draw like mentioned above. The kid has a mountain of potential, but hopefully he can keep maturing and becoming a more consistent player this year. He is so young compared to most players.

    • IndyRedsFan

      Klugo,

      I was about to make the same comment. It seems most people have forgotten just how bad he (EDLC) was offensively after the All Star game last year. He can certainly use more time at Louisville….and I think this is precisely why Candelaria was brought in.

      • Robin

        Elly De La Cruz hit .307 in June and consistently slid down from there
        And defensely he covers alot of ground but subpar as a fielder. Great arm. CF material. I like him alot but once pitchers figured out he would chase breaking balls out of the strike zone it was curtains. He’s still very young.

      • greenmtred

        If AAA pitchers throw MLB caliber sliders to him, it might be beneficial, but my guess is (echoing, I think, Jason) that if the pitchers could throw those sliders, they’d be throwing them in MLB. Elly absolutely tore AAA pitching to shreds.

      • DaveCT

        Robin, Doug has written about EDLC’s defense at short stop and it rates solidly as the best on the team.

  9. Stock

    I disagree. The Reds are thinking long term and because of the Marte starts the season in Cincinnati. He has a shot at rookie of the year and the draft pick that comes with it. He will be at 3B on opening day.

    Assuming no trades, the Reds have 10 players for 8 offensive positions. The remaining 3 offensive players (my guess is Barrero, Stephenson and Maile) will play as needed or catch.

    The best 8 should play everyday (assuming health). But the best 8 may not be the same every day. For example assume you have a pitcher who has a very good curve ball. Noelvi Marte should be on the bench that day because at this point in his career he struggles vs. the curve. Maybe, extend it out to 2 or three pitches. If the pitchers 2 best pitches are his four seam fastball and curve Marte should be on the bench. If his two best pitches are his Cutter and sinker, Marte should be hitting at the top of the order. Whatever two players struggle the most vs. what that pitcher throws should sit.

    By taking the time beforehand to figure out which player will succeed vs. specific pitchers you increase the chances of success for both the hitter and the team. As the season wears on the confidence of the players will increase because of their success and confidence breeds even more success.

    The Reds are really in a unique position. They have McLain as their most talented hitter. At the bottom they have India and EDLC. But the other 7 are so close in my mind that you should use the strategy I mentioned above.

    • Reaganspad

      But right now, EDLC also struggles against the curve, so in this scenario you are sitting both.

      I wouldn’t mind EDLC getting a little more finish at AAA, not so much for the arbitration clock, but so that we do not Barrero him. Jose Garcia was rushed to the bigs because we did not have a shortstop. He was crushing it in AA, was the man at the futures game and was brought up because of a void at the ML level.

      Has a name change and breaks his hamate bone the next year and hasn’t been the same player since. I think Jose has a good year this year, but I think you have to consider his path as you look at EDLC. With this much depth, there is no need to rush anyone who could use 4-8 weeks of polish

      Steer is a great curveball hitter among those 3 as rookies.

      Fun to watch the kids develop

    • VaRedsFan

      It’s actually 9 offensive positions if you include the DH.

      You are kidding right about starting a hitter vs a pitcher strengths right?
      Bell’s only analysis is if you bat opposite of the hand the pitcher throws with.

      He ROUTINELY has ignored reverse splits in the past. This zebra’s stripes won’t change.

  10. old-school

    I agree there will be 1-2 surprising young guys that start the year in AAA assuming health. I suspect injuries and underperformance will work itself out though.

    That said, an additional argument against keeping Marte in AAA is the Prospect Promotion Incentive by MLB. If Marte wins the ROY, and he qualifies as a top 100 prospect preseason which is needed to get the pick, and also maintained his rookie status, he would get the Reds an extra draft pick after the first round or an extra international pick if he finishes 2nd or 3b in ROY voting. That would seem like a reasonable chance for the Reds to take to start Marte with the big club- if he comes back from his hamstring and continues his strong play from late last year with a strong spring.

    Rhett Lowder and Edwin Arroyo are the only other Reds on MLB’s top 100 list and neither have any chance of starting Opening day with the big club. If the Reds want an extra pick, Marte is the only player with a chance to deliver that for them.

  11. Justin T

    If i had any faith in David Bell I would be very excited. Ive just watched him tinker with the lineup and the pitching staff for long enough to know he will not get the best out of this talented roster. I can live with the fact no serious impactful free agents were signed, not even sure we necessarily needed it anyways. David Bell is the problem for me. 3 more years.

    • 2020ball

      Why would him tinkering a lineup with 10 guys for 9 spots somehow suddenly mean the team will suffer. Its so mind blowing that yall just assume that without a good reason. Sounds to me like it doesnt matter much who he plays, there will always be talent in the field. If anything, the roster is more Bell proof that way.

      Cry, cry, cry, even though the team looks vastly better than how we started last year.

      • Justin T

        Because ive watched him manage a baseball team for 5 years and am rock solid on my opinion. The team “looks vastly better”? I hope so, but as long as Mr Bell is there Ill have my reservations. Giving Bell more options means more of his musical chairs for no reason strategy. Pretty simple to wrap your head around. Again, i base my opinion on watching the man manage for 5 seasons, he hasn’t improved a bit.

        The only one i see crying is you my friend, read your post again.

      • Justin T

        Because ive watched him manage a baseball team for 5 years and am rock solid on my opinion. The team “looks vastly better”? I hope so, but as long as Mr Bell is there Ill have my reservations. Giving Bell more options means more of his musical chairs for no reason strategy. Pretty simple to wrap your head around. Again, i base my opinion on watching the man manage for 5 seasons, he hasn’t improved a bit. Thats a pretty impressive feat over 5 years.

        The only one i see crying is you my friend, read your post again.

      • greenmtred

        Justin: didn’t you just post a snide comment about other people posting without facts to back them up? I understand that you consider your opinion to be fact, but it is, after all, an opinion with no facts to support it.

      • VaRedsFan

        There’s been plenty of facts to support Bell’s ineptness over who to play. We’ve gone over it dozens of times.
        It’s like 2020 hasn’t even watched any games over the last 5 years.

        Who will be this year’s Meyers, Votto, Newman, Strickland, Dolittle, Moose, Bader, Renfroe…ect ect…you know…the names that have all been mentioned so many times before, but have suddenly been forgotten again…..That will be getting too much playing time over a better options.

    • Brian

      I totally second this. He will rotate the ten guys in the eight positions on a constant and end quire a few hitting streaks doing so. It’s way too hard to get into a hitting groove to then just sit. It has to be easier to play one position vs three too. Having a utility player should be a plus but I don’t see how making every infielder consistently rotate is a good plan… oh well

      • greenmtred

        We tend to notice hitting streaks. We tend not to notice the guys who get a hit or two and then go 0-fer the next game. I have no idea how to tease this sort of information out of the available data besides following innumerable players through innumerable box scores–a process that would be a good proxy for utter insanity. But the hot hand gets invoked here frequently and with no data to show that it’s common enough to be worthy of modifying lineup construction. Should a team sit, for the next game, every player who goes hitless?

      • Phil

        I looked at the schedule and the Reds play 31 games in 34 days from Opening Day to the end of April. Around 70% of all games are started by right-handed pitchers so odds are the Reds will face 22 right-handed starters and 9 lefties.
        Outside of the 2 catchers, there are 11 players for 8 positions. I’m assuming Fairchild gets limited time starting in RF against left-handed pitching and occasionally filling-in for Friedl in center. I found 16 starts for him in 31 games. It was then pretty easy to get 22-25 starts for the other 10 players with the only one playing out of position being India seeing some starts in LF.
        22-25 starts in 31 games projects to 115-130 starts over 162. As the season goes on though this could obviously shift.
        The players not starting will also give David Bell quality bench options every day. For example against a tough lefty starter India could start at 2B and McLain at SS. That would give him the option to bring Elly in as a pinch-runner or to pinch-hit once a right-handed reliever is brought in.
        I just don’t understand the fans who see this teams depth and rotation options as a problem.

  12. RedinTxs

    It’s David Bell you should be discussing. I think the front office is so tired of trying to make sense of Bell’s line up discussion night after night that they decided to make every one of the 28 as talented as possible.

    Krall has done such a great job that the Reds will be competitive, no matter how Bell screws around with the line up.

    • greenmtred

      Hard to reconcile that theory with the contract extension. A different way to look at it is to consider that a fair amount of the “tinkering” reflects the players available and another fair amount reflects specific match-ups. The Reds had few players who who were good enough in every situation to be fixtures. I don’t recall McClain being tinkered with, nor Elly, until he stopped hitting. As some of the young guys–hopefully–begin to fulfill their promise, we’ll see. But the Mike Trouts, Willie Mays’s and Mickey Mantles of the world are rare commodities, and even very good players can have their value maximized by paying attention to match-ups.

      • Justin T

        When Elly stopped hitting Bell put him in the leadoff spot for a few weeks. When Suarez was hitting under .140 few years ago Bell used him in the 3 hole for a month. Depending on what side of the bed he woke up on Senzel would bat leadoff, 9th or 7th. I honestly think Bell doesn’t think lineup construction matters. Thats the only logical explanation. Makes one long for the days of Vern Rapp.

      • greenmtred

        A number of people who have analyzed it believe that lineup construction matters little, beyond putting your best hitters near the top of the lineup. I certainly don’t pretend to understand all of Bell’s lineup decisions, nor would I understand those of any number of other MLB managers. For one thing, the best hitter is a moving target, determined for a given game by who is pitching for the opponent as much or more than overall BA. I expect that considerations of such things as preferences and morale enter into this, too. CDusty Baker used to be derided by many of us for playing a slumping guy because “we need to get him going.” But of course you need to get slumping players going: you’re going to need them.

      • VaRedsFan

        How can you not recall Bell tinkering with Elly? How about India??
        Not only did he not see improvement with Elly after a week of being at lead off, he doubled down, then tripled down and left him there for 3+ weeks.

        Not only that, India was VERY successful leading off early in the year….Bell’s choice was to remove him from leadoff and stick him in the 3 hole where he went up there swinging for the fences…and his production plummeted, and he never got it back when he changed his mindset of getting on base as a leadoff hitter, to trying to jack the ball out of the yard.

    • DaveCT

      The front office hired, then extended David Bell.

      He is exactly the type of manager they want. They want his approach. They want his judgment. They want his lineups. There is absolutely zero chance that they have caved in to David Bell. Who supervises whom? There is nothing to read into to surmise about this.

      If you have an issue with Bell, you’re issue is with the front office.

      • Melvin

        “If you have an issue with Bell, you’re issue is with the front office.”

        I agree with that if you mean ownership.

      • Brian

        I’m thinking that his price and last name may have also been pretty big factors in that hiring.

      • MK

        Was Bell the Manager of a team that preseason was picked to be 4th or 5th in the division and took them to the last week of the season with a chance for the playoffs? He is the Manager for three more years minimum. After the job he did last season he earned the extension.

      • Reaganspad

        I agree.

        You know Sparky revolutionized the game, taking out starting pitchers. They called him Captain Hook for not having his starters throw 300 innings every year.

        Bell is a players manager, but will play his hunches. Those come from stats, spidey sense and being around your guys to know what is going on.

        It’s like going for it on 4 th down. Unless you are the eagles in 4th and 1, there probably is some risk to it.

        However, our job as fans is to second guess. So if we are not critical of the manager, some of us are not doing our job.

    • 2020ball

      This ridiculous need to always discuss the manager is so dumb IMO. Luckily this site’s writers dont agree.

      • Doug Gray

        I’m nearly at the point where I’m willing to start paying people to not comment on David Bell in the comments section.

      • Tom Reeves

        The players seem to love playing for Bell. The team last year played amazing until the depleted rotation and bullpen simply wore down. That’s not a David Bell issue. This year the team seems like it’s far more sustainable. LDS, of course, doesn’t think the Reds are serious about winning. I’d argue the Reds are fielding a team that’s solid as it stands and could win it all if the young players get close to their potential. It’s a gamble but it’s the right one for cincy. And it’s going to be durn entertaining.

    • Melvin

      “I think the front office is so tired of trying to make sense of Bell’s line up discussion night after night that they decided to make every one of the 28 as talented as possible.”

      😀

      I think it WILL be a little harder to complain about David Bell this year until he starts his usual resting guys who’ve gone 8-10 the last few games or similar. lol

      • greenmtred

        It might be harder, Melvin, but I’m sure that you and your dauntless colleagues are up to the challenge.

      • Melvin

        greenmtred – That’s DEBATABLE don’t you think?…. which you ought to enjoy A LOT. 😉 😀

  13. Optimist

    A comment limited to defensive considerations. IIRC, stats showed that one of ELDC’s throws when playing 3b was the hardest throw by a fielder last season (and I believe he was also in the top-5 on hitting exit velocity). Not surprising, but I also recall someone commenting that he’s already the best defensive 3b in MLB, and likely the best defensive SS. Also, Jason, I think you noted that when paired with McLain at 2b in Louisville, his SS defense was sharper than some of the miscues we saw in MLB.

    Add to that, the throwback notion of “defense up the middle” being not quite as vital (recalling the big-field, astroturf era of the BRM) and I’d argue that 3b and CF are ahead of 2b in defensive priority.

    All of which gets back to the argument that EDLC and McLain should have most games at SS/3b, followed by lining up on the right side at 3b/SS respectively.

    Finally, I concur with Stock that Marte remains on the 26-man to see if he contends for the ROY/draft pick incentive.

    It seems they’ll use the first 8-10 weeks to determine if any of the youngsters falter, and to see how Dunn/Hinds/Hurtubise perform, and by July 1st begin calculating more permanent roster moves accordingly.

    • Optimist

      Oops – . . . lining up on the LEFT side at 3b/SS respectively.

    • wkuchad

      I don’t disagree, with one caveat, you have to look at the team as a whole. India should not be a regular starter if everyone healthy. Steer should be playing a lot more outfield in 2024 versus infield.

      So who does that leave for 2B? EDLC at SS and McLain at 2B makes the most sense. We have multiple solid options at 3B, and CES will hopefully be manning 1B for years to come.

    • DaveCT

      Doug has written that EDLC is by far the best defensive short stop on the club, and it’s not very close.

      I view strength up the middle as a still legit factor. At short stop, Elly’s arm is a weapon. It will prevent runs, including and perhaps especially on balls hit to the outfield. While I do like his arm almost as much at 3B, I truly believe he needs every chance and then some to play himself off of short.

      • Optimist

        It’s a little closer than that, but add the thought that EDLC is also likely to improve on defense while most of the others are simply older, more experienced and as good as they’ll get. Still, EDLC at SS 80% of the time.

  14. JB WV

    The glut of infielders screams trade. Krall has allegedly received calls from other teams about India, and a trade could happen any time including during ST. Marte should stay up; he’s learned enough at AAA.
    Honestly I would hate to see India go. His energy is contagious, and when he’s fully healthy can still rake. But the right deal has to come around.

    • Phil

      I hope Marte is ready to be a full time starter. He definitely has rookie-of-the-year potential. He played 50 games in AA though and 39 in AAA so I’m not sure we can for-sure say “he’s learned enough at AAA.”

    • 2020ball

      Hes got MVP potential IMO. That said if he starts in the minors that isnt the end of the world. He can still compete for ROY with a month in the minors.

  15. G in Fla

    If anybody needs to start the season in AAA it is EDLC, not Marte.
    Spring training will dictate who, if anybody starts out in Louisville but based on what we saw last year Elly needs more seasoning offensively AND defensively.

    • 2020ball

      Im fine with edlc in the minors for a bit as well, but Barrero is necessary on the team in that scenario because you need 2 SS on the roster.

      • wkuchad

        Marte and McLain both play SS. I don’t know if you want Marte as your starter there, but giving McLain a rare day off shouldn’t be an issue.

      • 2020ball

        I forgot about Marte in that instance, this is true.

      • 2020ball

        And yes I intended McClain as the starting SS in that scenario

    • Old Big Ed

      EDLC won’t start in the minors, because playing at AAA will not improve his game. He needs to improve on MLB-caliber breaking balls, and the only place to do that is MLB baseball itself. No pitcher stays in AAA if he can throw MLB-caliber breaking balls; a pitcher who proves that he can throw MLB-caliber breaking balls is in MLB.

      Elly is a switch hitter who has to learn two swings. He has 325 PAs in the U.S. as a RH hitter, so he needs repetitions against LH pitchers to hone his RH swing. Ronald Acuna, for example, had 1,100 U.S. PAs to hone his RH swing when he first came up for the Braves. Elly’s going to get those needed RH-hitting reps at the MLB level, because he is now too good against Major League RH pitchers to leave in Louisville. Elly is not going to learn anything by facing mediocre pitching every day.

      If Elly harnesses all his ability, he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Reds haven’t had a young player that they could say that about in at least a generation, and maybe not since Johnny Bench. They aren’t going to waste his ABs in Louisville. Bench also had trouble with breaking pitches away, as did every player who ever lived.

      Spring training games will not dictate much, especially among position players. The Reds pretty much already know what all the position players are capable of. Somebody could get hurt, of course, and maybe a player or two has made an adjustment that moves them up a bit.

      I’ll be in Arizona in mid-March, and I look forward to it. I think the Reds’ training facility in Goodyear is a bit clumsily laid out for fans to watch what it going on, but the stadium is excellent and usually not crowded.

  16. AllTheHype

    India will surely be in the OF mix, because he’s getting very few starts in the IF if everyone is healthy. Hit bat will be in the lineup more often than just DHing 30% of the time. He’ll get an ample opportunity to rediscover that ROY bat. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays 75% of the time, some how some way.

    • PTBNL

      Not looking forward to Steer and India in the outfield at the same time if that is what it boils down to.

      • wkuchad

        It’ll likely happen from time to time with a lefty starter. Not as big of a deal in Great American, but I hope we go with Fairchild or Barrero in the bigger parks.

      • Old Big Ed

        Yeah, that would be on par with Moustakas at 3B and Suarez as SS.

        India will be a fast learner, though, and Steer will benefit from steady LF work.

    • VaRedsFan

      I don’t share the optimism with India as an OF’er.

      Plantar fascitis (sp?) is real, and it never gets better.
      He’s always looked like he’s running barefoot on broken glass.

  17. Phil

    “Ideally, you get your nine best hitters in the lineup as much as possible.”

    While I agree with this in principle, it is way too oversimplified.

    The best 9 Reds hitters against left-handed pitching is almost certainly not the best 9 against right-handed.

    Also not sure how many guys are most productive if they play all 162 games. For example, McLain should be one of the best 9 hitters. Is he most productive starting all 162 games at 2B though? Or would he be more productive with a game off every now and then? A “game off” could mean being the DH or could mean starting on the bench and available to pinch-hit. With how Elly struggled against lefties last season maybe McLain starts at SS in the 40 or so games the Reds face a left-handed starter with India playing 2B. McLain then starts 100 games at 2B then the remaining 22 games at DH or a pinch-hitter.

    • Optimist

      Phil – Jason lists the lineups vs. RHPs and LHPs, respectively.

      • Phil

        I did see the 2 different lineups. My main issue with the lineups Jason listed is Benson and Elly against lefties. Both are young players who deserve a chance to improve against left-handed pitching. If the goal though is to put the best lineup on the field every day though that can’t include 2 players who were amongst the worst in the league last season against lefties.
        Balancing the growth of the young players while trying to contend this season will definitely be one of the challenges for David Bell.

  18. RedsGettingBetter

    Good analysis. I wonder who is gonna be the utiity guy because seeing the bench candidate players, none of them fits in the role 100%. I’m thinking if Krall still could make a move getting someone either via trade or from the FA market. Remember he said they were likely done on major moves but maybe just looking for some bullpen help (Suter arrived) or bench help (?)

    • wkuchad

      Steer will still be a super-utility guy, with most of his playing time in the OF.

      Barrero will be a utility guy if he makes the team.

      Based on Krall’s comments over the last month, I’m guessing India will be a utility guy of sorts, getting playing time in the outfield, 2B, and maybe 1B.

      Also, the Reds have a lot of positional flexibility with several of their infielders, so a true utility guy is less important.

  19. Br0hio

    With Marte – he HAS to start the season on the MLB roster and I think more importantly (which is stated in the article) he needs the playing time. Thoughts on sending him to RF – he has the arm and it gives them a more balanced OF. Facing RHP: Fraley(LF), Freel(CF), Marte(RF), Benson(DH). Facing LHP: Steer(LF), Freel(CF), Marte(RF), India(DH).

  20. Mark Moore

    Interesting take on it all. Aside from the limited time we saw the magic that was MattyMc and EDLC at SS/3B respectively (MBS also noted this), I think you’re probably more correct than not. Marte needs to play every day and if that means AAA for a while, so be it. And I kind of think MattyMc at 2B makes EDLC better at SS in a big way. Candelario’s experience at 3B should also help that mix.

    As many have said, kind of looks like India is the odd man out in many ways. We shall see what we shall see in a few short weeks.

  21. DW

    Seems like the best course of action at this point is to not trade away anyone until spring training, and wait and see what we have for injuries…unless of course the unlikely no-brainer deal is offered. And if we have no injuries as the season approaches, then look to make a trade. It is likely that another team will have the need by then, due to injuries, which should increase the trade value of a guy like India. Keeping the depth until then could be huge if/when injuries do occur.

    I’m hoping Marte is set to be the every day 3B opening day…at least as much every day as one can be in Bell’s system.

  22. Greenfield Red

    I am unfamiliar with the incentives for ROY. Someone explain? Thanks

      • Greenfield Red

        This begs another question: It talks about International picks. There is no international draft. How does this work?

      • BK

        Per Evan Drellich at the Athletic, International Draft picks could come into play if an International Draft is approved. Recall this was an open item when the most recent CBA was signed, but alas, the sides did not agree to an international draft.

      • Greenfield Red

        Thanks BK. That’s kind of weird. Talk about a useless perk.

  23. Dick Paterson

    Rule #1 does not apply if David Bell is the manager. I am not anti-Bell, but for better worse, his style is that everybody plays. With that in mind, the Reds have to do better than Fairchild, because the 26th man will get a lot of ABs. And Marte belongs, at least until he doesn’t. India continues to look like the odd man out.

    • wkuchad

      I don’t think that’s true. Everyone should play a little, but he played our best players (and our young guys) the majority of the time last year.

      If everyone’s healthy, Fairchild will never start against a righty starting pitcher.

      • VaRedsFan

        Bader, Renfroe, Meyers, Newman…were better?? got it

        Renfroe batted 3rd the day before Krall released him.
        Krall had to release Meyers because Bell kept starting him and batting him high in the order.
        Bader was playing every day (miserably) until he got hurt.

        Did you even pay attention at all last season?

    • Oldtimer

      Hutch, Sparky, McNamara, Piniella, Johnson, and Baker all had a similar philosophy.

  24. DaveCT

    I believe we should look at this question from a strengths-based perspective.

    It is a strength, not a deficit, to have three starting capacity middle infielders as well as corner infielders.

    1. Given India’s injury history, McLain’s durability issues, and Elly’s consistency issues, there are plenty of at bats in the middle infield for all three. We tend to project these things in a vacuum. But it is certain there will be injuries, fatigue and thus rests (load management), and slumps. Having depth to absorb these challenges is a positive, not a negative.

    2. Similarly, with Candelario, CES and Marte, we also have three starting caliber corner infielders. Plus, if needed due to serious injury or injuries, we have Steer and, possibly, India to man a corner spot. So, again, this is a positive, not a negative. There are plenty of at bats for all three.

    3. Given the analytics and mix/matching style play as well as of roster construction, this is a club designed to work toward maximizing each player’s contributions. Strengths-based leadership (managing) in sports amounts to putting each player in the best position to succeed. This is state of the art, contemporary player management.

    • 2020ball

      +1, i see all these complaints around here about having too many good infielders, etc. This is a strength not a weakness, i commend Krall for being bold enough to add to a strength.

  25. MBS

    The ROY incentive isn’t strong enough for me to adjust whatever plan is in place to get as many W’s as possible in 24. I could go either way on Marte in AAA, or as a Red opening day.

    Option 1, increased playing time
    =========================
    DH Fraley 7/9 Stephenson 2/9
    C Maile 5/9 Stephenson 4/9
    1B CES 8/9 Stephenson 1/9
    =========================
    2B McLain 8/9 India 1/9
    3B Candelario 8/9 Barrero 1/9
    SS EDLC 8/9 Barrero 1/9
    =========================
    RF Benson 7/9 Steer 2/9
    CF Friedl 8/9 Barrero 1/9
    LF Steer 6/9 India 3/9

    Option 2 increased good players
    ===========================
    DH FRALEY 7/9 STEPHENSON 2/9
    C MAILE 6/9 STEPHENSON 3/9
    1B CES 7/9 STEPHENSON 2/9
    ===========================
    2B McLAIN 7/9 INDIA 2/9
    3B CANDELARIO 7/9 MARTE 2/9
    SS EDLC 7/9 MARTE 2/9
    ===========================
    RF BENSON 7/9 STEER 2/9
    CF FRIEDL 7/9 MARTE 2/9
    LF STEER 5/9 INDIA 4/9

  26. Pete

    Like everyone else, I have no idea who’s going to play where. This spring training is going to be ultra competitive at nearly every position. I suggest everyone on this team be ready to go when the gun sounds for spring training. It’s a great problem to have, projections at this time may be futile so I will not even make any. I will not be shocked if Blake Dunn is on the 26th man roster come opening day.

    • Old Big Ed

      I don’t see it with Dunn on Opening Day. He needs regular ABs to improve, and he won’t get them in MLB in April.

      I like him, and think he will make it this year, but I don’t see it for Opening Day.

      • Optimist

        Yep – Hurtubise likely the 1st callup, and only for injury/spot duty. He, Dunn and Hinds all start in AAA. If they’re all hot they all debut this season. They’re all competing for Fairchild’s spot now, and setting up deadline moves if any of them has a good 250-350 ABs in Louisville. A very good problem to have.

  27. Jason Linden

    A few general responses to things above.

    1. I think the Reds should trade someone. That makes things easier.
    2. The available projection systems think Elly and McLain are the two best players on the team.
    3. Marte REALLY got helped by BABIP in the big leagues last year.
    4. Elly is the best shortstop on the team. Some of you are letting a few rookie mistakes cloud your judgement. But EVEN IF HE’S NOT, the best infield alignment does not include India, who has been a consistently terrible defender, and that puts McLain at second.
    5. I like India, but the guy just has not performed since his rookie year. Hurt or not. He just hasn’t.

    • wkuchad

      1. I hope not, unless we also add something better. Right now, the strength of the 2024 Reds is depth and ability to withstand injuries.

      2. Maybe, but it’s really a crap shoot among several players who will be the top two in 2024. Will I be surprised if it’s Elly and McLain, no; but I wouldn’t put money on it either.

      3. Agree, and I really am good with him starting 2024 in Louisville, IF everyone else is healthy.

      4. No argument – agree 100%.

      5. No argument – agree 100%. That being said, I still want him in a rotation getting starts / playing time. Just less starts / playing time as the others.

    • BK

      #1 depends on the return. Also, while appreciate the dialogue, the team will have injuries. Pre-season logjams rarely persist throughout the season. For now, I’m in favor of the apparent roster crunch. Also, based on #5, the return may not be worth the loss of depth.

      Totally agree with #2-4. We’ll see how Spring Training works out.

      This was a great article, Jason. Your last one was a lot of fun, too. Thanks for taking the time to lay all of this out and for your thoughtful interaction in the comments.

    • Optimist

      1 – Agree
      2 – Likely, but projections are just that, projections. Upside, they are more likely all-stars than anyone else. Downside, sophomore slumps.
      3 – Yes, but he’s a talent unlike most of the others. Think he starts in MLB due to the ROY/incentives, but also the easiest to have a refresher stint in AAA if he falters. DO NOT TRADE.
      4 – Yes, and he’s also the best 3b on the team (and probably the best CFer, and 1b, and so on) but 90% at SS, and 3b for a few select games.
      5 – Yes, but – excellent leadoff man, keep him healthy, another guy lost in the 3b Suarez/Senzel backlog. Don’t think the OF is going to work, but if he can become a Steer-like utility man that’s valuable. But see #1 above.

    • Old Big Ed

      Agreed. However …

      Marte had a .384 BABIP, which I agree is not repeatable.

      McLain had a .385 BABIP. If Marte was “REALLY helped by BABIP,” then that is certainly true of McLain. (Benson’s was .391.)

      To me, Marte has a lot more room to improve (and higher ceiling) than McLain. Marte’s SO% was 20.3; McLain’s was 28.5 and McLain is 2 full years older. Marte’s hard-hit rate was also a bit higher than McLain’s. Marte’s main issue is too many balls on the ground balls and not enough in the air, but that would seem to be correctable as he gets more experience, ala Sal Stewart this season. (I’d have to check, which I won’t do, but Marte got off slow and may have hit a ton of grounders in the first couple of weeks.)

      I hope that they all have unsustainable BABIPs this year.

      • AllTheHype

        Marte indeed has a higher ceiling than McLain, and second highest on the team.

        And the reason for that is as you mentioned, exit velos, contact rate, and upside potential with launch angle.

  28. Tim

    IMHO I believe that you should try to have a positional advantage over your opponents. Make sure your 1B is better than theirs, ss is better etc. then make adjustments for situations. In all of these possibilities above we aren’t making the most of the DH. We are in a sense, surrendering that position. That should be the best hitter on most teams. Whichever way we go in these next weeks, the DH doesn’t need to be by default or by committee.

    • Jason Linden

      The DH is almost never the best hitter on the team because the best hitter on the team is usually a good enough athlete to merit a defensive position. Theory and execution are different. DH is the best hitter who isn’t one of the best defensive options.

      • west larry

        Everyone knows that we probably need to trade one position player
        I’m pretty sure everyone figures it is India. My concern is that we will get a marginalized return for him because of that. Do you still want to trade India if that is the case?

    • MBS

      @Tim, correct, using the DH as a day off for someone is a poor plan. I tend to favor Fraley since he’s produced well as a DH. It should be looked at like any other position. Not everyone can produce as a DH. Stephenson has to, but you have to accept on the days he’s a DH we could lose the DH spot if Maile were to get hurt in the game.

      • wkuchad

        Assuming everyone is healthy, Stephenson should never DH a single game in 2024.

        He needs to catch every game possible except once or twice a week to give him a break.

      • wkuchad

        How many major teams don’t have a backup/2nd catcher?

      • Optimist

        The days of catchers logging 130+ games are gone, even 120 games is rare. 10 NL catchers appeared in 100 or more games last season, with Realmuto at 133. TySteve caught in 92 and appeared in 142. That sounds about right, and they’d be doing well if he did that and improved offensively.

        Maile has proven a fine backup catcher, but they are a tad behind in depth beyond that – Wynns and Higgins are AAAA at best, and the MiLB catchers are just getting near AAA/MLB ready. Depth at AA and below looks very good.

  29. Marto'sReds

    Pretty good analysis.

    My only issue is his lineups. Elly should start the season batting #5 or 6 against lefties. Swap him and Steer (batting 6th???) in both lineups and it’s nailed.

  30. Indy Red Man

    People seem to forget that India is probably our best leadoff man. Don’t get me wrong because I’d trade him to make room, but its either India or Benson. Love McLain and Freidl, but they don’t like to walk at this point. Elly would have to improve greatly in obp as well.
    Fraley was solid I think, but he’s such a good rbi man that I hate to lose him in the middle vs righties

    • wkuchad

      India was our 9th best hitter last year and for sure not our best leadoff hitter (no matter what his ‘stats’ were from the leadoff position). Your leadoff hitter likely leads off once per game.

      India has a role on the team, and should get some playing time, but I’d be good if it was never in the leadoff position.

      • Indy Red Man

        So hard to pull splits on my phone, but here goes:

        India leading off game .903 ops
        India leading off inning .861 ops

        He had 157 leadoff at-bats in 97 games so that’s 1.6 per game

        2022 it was .770 leading off the game
        .714 leading off the inning. Takes pitches and gets hit a lot. He shows confidence there. Driving in runs he’s as lost as Amelia Earhart, but over .400 obp last year leading off speaks for itself

      • wkuchad

        I think those stats are mostly meaningless: OPS based on where they hit in the lineup.

        Batting order doesn’t bother me near as much as which players are in the lineup. BUT… I would always lean towards putting your best hitters towards the top of the lineup. That has not been India the last two years.

        Also, Fraley was better the last two years hitting leadoff (not that it matters).

      • Indy Red Man

        Agree to disagree, but some hitters just take to it starting it off. If I was a team in search of a sparkplug then I’d def try to buy cheap on India. Getting hbp helps too

  31. Oldtimer

    Stuart Fairchild will NOT start een in a platoon. Maile will alternate with Stephenson at C. India will lead off more often than not. Marte will not start at Louisville.

    1B CES (or Candelario). 2B McLain (or India). SS ELDC (or McLain). 3B Marte (or ELDC). C Stephenson or Maile. LF Steer (or Fraley). CF Friedl. RF Fraley or Benson. DH Candelario or India.

    The 1961, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1990, 1995, 2010, and 2012 Reds regularly played 10 players in their lineups. They had better managers (Hutch, Sparky, McNamara, Baker) than 2024 Reds.

    The 2024 Reds have 12 players who can start.

    The 1975/76 Reds started 1B Perez. 2B Morgan. SS Concepcion. 3B Rose. LF Foster. C Bench. LF Foster. CF Geronimo. RF Griffey. But also 1B/OF Driessen. INF Flynn. OF/INF Bailey or OF Rettenmund. C Plummer.

    • Oldtimer

      Lagniappe (Cajun for more).

      There was no DH in 1975 or 1976 so only 8 starting spots per game.

      1975 Chaney 41 starts, Driessen 54, Flynn 28, Plummer 45, Rettenmund 44. So at least 212 starts by non Great 8 players.

      1976 Bailey 35, Driessen 52, Plummer 40, Flynn 52. At least 179 starts by non Great 8 players. Some by Lum, too.

      1975 six P made between 20 and 34 starts.

      1976 six P made between 19 and 32 starts.

      • Oldtimer

        Lum 26 starts in 1976. So 205 starts by non Great 8 players.

    • Phil

      You say “Fairchild will NOT start evein in a platoon.”

      Then you have Friedl as the only listed center-fielder. According to Fangraphs Juan Soto was the only outfielder in the league to play all 162 games. I think it is safe to assume Friedl will need/get at least a few games off and currently Fairchild is the only other centerfielder on the roster.

      Then you have Benson and Fraley listed as the options in RF. Benson has a career 130/200/174 line against left-handed pitching. Fraleys is 149/266/216. Fairchild against lefties has hit 229/343/389. Now these are relatively small sample sizes and Benson is young and may improve against lefties, but Benson/Fraley should not be the only options for right-field.

  32. Eric Davis Joe Morgan

    Lots of good & interesting comments from lots of Reds fans here .

    I think we go as far as our youngish pitching takes us ! Go Reds !

    • 2020ball

      I would tend to agree, our depth is nice but how our rotation and pen perform will be the biggest factor for the teams success, both groups are missing one more top talent to push the team into sure contention for me.

      • Melvin

        Was just reading tonight that Lorenzen, Cueto, and Chapman are all still available. I don’t know about the first two but I’m confident Chapman could help us.

  33. Nick in NKY

    I’m confident that injuries or underperformace will make these theoretical roster construction exercises nothing more than an interesting use of winter time.

    FWIW, I think India looks like a strong bounceback candidate for this season.

  34. 2020ball

    I hope Steer is used as a utility player just with more days in the OF than last year. This idea that moving around affected his defensive capabilities are being overblown and ignoring that even if he is below average his utility is a huge plus that makes up for that. Getting him more comfortable in the OF is great and just adds to his value. I too hope he is able to make strides defensively, but playing multiple spots does not exclude that from happening, taking that away just hurts his value to the team.

  35. 2020ball

    My expectation is still that it comes down to Barrero and Fairchild for that last spot, barring injuries of course. There are plenty of ABs to go around and injuries or underperformance will dictate who plays, as well as handedness. Fighting that style is just going to lead to another long year for the complainers, something ive come to think has some enjoyment for all of you. Im just looking for a team to compete and have fun watching, regardless of the outcome. This is an exciting team even if they are missing some top end talent to put them over the edge.

    • west larry

      If Lodolo, Ashcraft and Greene can avoid long stints on the injured lists, along with all the other pitching the reds have, this team will compete for the central division. They have enough talent in the offense to supplement their pitching. If their big three pitchers spend a lot of time on injury lists, all bets are off and they will fight the pirates for the bottom of the division, imho.

  36. TR

    It looks to me like a real interesting, competitive spring training coming up. I’m encouraged by the potential strength of the bullpen, and think that one or two of the middle range pitchers, acquired in the offseason, could be surprise starters.

  37. steve

    I am not saying they should do this, but, with all the talk about Elle playing outfield, people do realize that McClain also played CF for Ucla, and played it well.

    • Jason Linden

      No. No. Nonononononononono. (I realize you’re just throwing out a hypothetical, but I also don’t know why this idea of moving guys to the OF won’t die. The Reds have four players who are substantially likely to be well above average in the OF already.)

      Why does everyone want to move middle infielders who are defensively very good to the OF? Friedl is already good in CF and, as I pointed out, was one of the best CFers in the game last year.

      I’m sorry people are attached to Jonathan India or whatever, but you do not move a good IFer so a lesser one can play.

      • Mark Moore

        +10,000

        The Show is not the place to do that experiment.

      • MBS

        It’s because that’s how the teams constructed. We are the Arby’s of SS’s, “We Got The SS”. EDLC as SS, McLan as 2B, but where is Marte? Arroyo is likely around the corner as well. They’ve already moved Steer to the OF, and India might be joining him.

        2020 Reds had 5 3B’s in the field, Castellanos 3B (RF), Senzel 3B (CF) Suarez 3B (SS), India (3B) 2B, Moustakas 3B (3B).

        I’d prefer finding a trade with one of the young SS’s in the offseason, but we do have more of them than we can play in the infield. If we make no tardes it’s going to be like the 2020 Reds, the best players are going to play wherever we can place them.

      • DaveCT

        Jason, it may be even worse — it’s the push to move your best players off of their best positions.

        I understand the fun part of this, actually, that of projecting rosters, lineups and defensive utility. However, it’s all arbitrary. It’s almost like version of fantasy baseball. so be it, you know?

        My fallback position is always some version of this: 1) EDLC at short stop is a unique weapon; 2) Nick Senzel.

  38. Doc4uk

    Alex Gonzalez is being dropped by Yankees and is certainly an upgrade on Fairchild and maybe even Fraley . Maybe trade some international money or a low level prospect before he hits the open market. His averages exceeded all but Steer and Friedl.

    • Jason Linden

      You mean Oscar? Unless you are ignoring absolutely everything about him except is OPS with Cleveland in 2023 (which looks like a giant fluke) then there is no way he’s better than Fraley. And Fairchild is probably a wash at best. Strikes our almost as much as Fairchild and doesn’t walk at all. Bad defense, too.

      • tim

        somebody please tell me when fairchild ever made the slightest difference at bat or in the field in any game he’s ever played for the reds? they have to do better than him for that spot on the roster.

      • Jason Linden

        My guy, that is what 5th OFers do. If they were good enough to get more than 100-200 PAs they would not be 5th OFers. We’re talking about the end of the bench here. Atlanta was the most stacked team in baseball last year they had 5th/6th OFers that were basically Stuart Fairchild. That’s how it goes.

      • DaveCT

        Stuart Fairchild’s strengths are that he gives you professional at bats, professional base running and professional defense, and he understands his role.

      • BK

        And, he’s capable of producing just below average (starter) results in a bench role–something few players seem to be able to do.

  39. Al H

    So Marte should be sent down because his BABIP was too high??? Didn’t he finish the season with a consecutive game hitting streak?
    Right! Not ready yet?
    Reward the excellent!

  40. Hotto4Votto

    It’s hard for me to reconcile playing your best players everyday and sending Marte to the AAA. It may end up being the case, but at the end of last season he was clearly playing like one of our top players.

    At the same time, with Marte, against RHP we’d have 10 guys (counting Stephenson) that may deserve to play everyday. Which, honestly that’s not too difficult to navigate by rotating off days around.

    Then again, against LHP you probably only have 7 guys that are everyday players considering the severe splits of EDLC, Fraley, and Benson. Unfortunately the RH hitters off the Reds bench (India and Fairchild) aren’t especially good offensive options vs LHP. India with a .732 OPS vs LHP career and a miserable .642 OPS last season. Fairchild .732 OPS vs LHP career and .700 OPS last season. Barrero did carry an OPS that was 72 points higher vs LHP than RHP, but still that was only a .546 OPS.

    Still think swapping out some redundancy on our roster for a RH hitting OF’er that hits LHP well is the best step towards maximizing and balancing our roster out.

    • Old Big Ed

      They are going to play EDLC against LH pitchers. He has 325 or so total PAs as a RH hitter and needs the repetitions.

      In the videos I’ve seen of him this winter, he has eliminated the leg kick as a RH hitter, which seems to have shortened the swing some. There is no reason that he won’t get much better against LH pitching, but it’s going to be a learning curve for him as he hones his RH swing over the next year or two.

      • old-school

        FWIW- Jim Day mentioned on the Hot stove broadcast the other night he was privy to videos of Elly hitting in the DR and he has dramatically shortened his swing, so certainly something to watch in ST.

      • Doug Gray

        Anyone following Elly on instagram is also privy to those videos.

      • wkuchad

        Instagram?? RLN is my only form of social media. 😉

      • Hotto4Votto

        OBE – Yeah I expect he’ll still play a good bit, just not sure he’s an everyday player yet vs RHP. Plus it’s probably India’s best shot at seeing playing time at 2B by sliding McLain to SS vs many of the lefties.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Oops, meant LHP. But it’s also good to know he’s making adjustments. I’m sure with his skill set it’ll pay off in time.

    • Redsvol

      “at the end of last year he was clearly one of our top players”

      I think that was true. However, McClain was on the DL, we didn’t have Candelario and India was clearly hurt. With those 3 guys I think Marte gets squeezed out for a couple months.

      And I agree on still lacking a hitter. I’d like to see Michael Taylor on this team. There are a couple others out there that would fit the hitting bill also but Taylor has the advantage of hitting lefties while also playing excellent center field. I worry about centerfield if Friedl has to spend any extended time on the DL. Go get him Nick!

  41. Jim Delaney

    I would.be very surprised if Marte isn’t starting opening day at 3B for Reds. The guy is ready and the type of hitter Reds need in there lineup. I still think trading India is possible and definitely think a poor Spring for EDLC has him starting season at AAA. They need EDLC to regain confidence. After the manager tried to make him a lead off hitter, he changed his approach and that messed him up. They need to let him know he will be a middle of the order hitter, to relax and have fun. The manager took the fun out of him last year….

    I also expect Blake Dunn will be up by mid May and will become the leadoff hitter they need to make sure the Manager doesn’t cause additional harm to other young players…

  42. Old Big Ed

    We may be overthinking the platoons and lineup permutations. These days, the starter goes 5-6 innings. After that, a host of relievers come in, and they vary between righties and lefties, as the matchups dictate. Benson, for example, won’t start much against LH pitchers, but in many games he will still get in an AB or two.

    With a 13-man roster of position players, flexibility is vital, and they seem to have that.

  43. Jason Linden

    For the Marte is ready and Elly should start in Louisville crowd.

    Last year in Louisville:
    Elly – .297/.398/.633
    Noelvi – .280/.365/.455

    In Cincy:
    Noelvi – .316/.366/.456 (123 PAs)
    Elly – .325/.361/.544 (first 122 PAs)

    The point is that you have to give younger players a chance to develop and sometimes that happens in the big leagues. Elly is a much more highly regarded prospect than Marte.

    You cannot just look at a slash line of a 21 year old kid out of context and say that’s it. They are still learning and Elly still has a ceiling of shortstop Acuna. Marte has the ceiling of multiple time all-star.

    But let’s not pretend they are the same and let’s not pretend that Marte can be counted on to simply pick up right where he left off. The last thing you saw on the baseball field is not how it will be forever.

    If Elly comes to spring and looks lost, okay. We have a conversation. But he gets the chance and SS is his to lose.

    If you wanna play Marte of Candelario, okay. I see your point. I’m pretty ambivalent, frankly, but I don’t think he was signed to play 1B and I know scouts were not impressed with Marte last year in the minors, so I think the Reds might be hedging because 123 big league PAs does not actually tell you as much as we all want to believe it does.

    • Redsvol

      Someone else mentioned it, but Elly sells tickets. And he should start on opening day as he is one of the most exciting players in baseball.

      Marte is very good and glad he is in our uniform. But he is simply going to get squeezed this year until something opens up more permanently – injuries, trades, etc.

      CES, McClain, Elly, and Candelario is the starting infield for most games until late May. Then adjustments usually happen with most clubs.

      Much more concerned how our starting pitching does the first 2 months of the year. Reds starting pitchers seem to start out very slow the last few years under DJ. I hope he gets them more prepared to go 5-6 innings coming out of spring than he has in past. We need those guys “hot” and ready to go. Need to get a lead in NL central.

  44. redfanorbust

    I know a certain amount of rotation and player flexibility is needed but at some point I hope much of this can settle down with the Reds. Most players will say, where ever you need me to play coach, especially the younger players. I would guess in truth most would say they prefer to play their natural position. However just because someone says they will play just about anywhere or because a team has a particular need at a particular position does not mean that player is ready physically or mentally to do so. I have often wondered how many players hitting has suffered because they have to be learning multiple positions almost every year. What about their defensive metrics? Can they really be league average at each place they play? Seems to me to be a fine balance between all this and having depth/security for injuries and to rest players. Anyway, still best potential of a team by far I have seen the Reds have had in a very, very long time. I am psyched for the season and beyond especially now that I see Reds are not going to be afraid to spend some serious coin.

    • DataDumpster

      Without mentioning the name that some have come to dislike even being discussed, you have encapsulated the concerns that relate to that such person in an even handed way while expressing the uncertainty of our opinions of our armchair wisdom. I also acknowledge that this outfit has great potential and that I would be very disappointed to not see them at least in the playoffs and with a legitimate goal to get past the albatross that has help sway since 1995. Why the Vegas betting tables and analytic simulations don’t agree is worth another discussion but at the risk of you know what. We all want (and need) success for this franchise in any way it comes after this lengthy stay in the desert but…Krall can’t do it all.

    • 2020ball

      Very few if any player’s hitting suffers from playing other positions, i dont know why thats so hard to wrap their head around for some people. They are different skills that take different preparation and occur at different times. They are separate, the position i played that day during my playing years never affected me.

  45. Mark Moore

    So we’re not adding Hader to the bullpen … I know I’m getting older and crankier, but $19M per year for 5 years just baffles me 😮

    • AllTheHype

      What’s amazing is how good the predictions are at mlbtraderumors.com. They had Hader pegged at 6/110 (18.3 AAV) at the start of the offseason. Pretty close but 5 year guarantee instead of 6 with a little more AAV, which should typically be the case when you shorten the years.

      They had Yariel Rodriguez (who hasn’t pitched in MLB and didn’t pitch at all last year, with very limited info on him) at 4/32 at beginning of offseason and he signed for exactly 8/32 with Toronto this week.

      Sure there are some anomalies, but they are pretty darn good over there. They get the arb numbers within a whisker usually too.

      They had Candelario pretty close, their estimate was a little more than the Reds paid.

      • AllTheHype

        Rodriguez signed for 4/32 same as prediction, not 8/32

  46. WVRedsFan

    I hope I’m wrong but I get the feeling that the Candelario signing will be a thorn in the side of David Bell and Reds management. There was no reason at all to do that signing. All it does is muddy up the waters for infield play. If Candelario gets off to a slow start, Bell and Reds management will feel pressured to keep him in the lineup based on the amount of money they invested in this guy for 3 years. That’s not a good thing and could send the team on a bad spiral early in the season and kill all the excitement and momentum this team had finishing up the 2023 season. If that happens and we don’t make the playoffs…..Bell will be out at seasons end. Mark my word.

    • JohnnySofa

      No reason for the signing: Yep.
      Muddies up the waters: Yep.
      Pressure to keep him in the lineup: Yep.
      No playoffs, Bell be be out: Not so sure about that one.

      • Melvin

        “No playoffs, Bell be be out: Not so sure about that one.”

        Wouldn’t bet on it that’s for sure. 😉

    • Doc4uk

      agree 100% Makes no sense at all especially with India still on roster but even with India gone it makes little sense. McClain, EDLC, CES, and Marte with Arroyo in the wings waiting for his opportunity. Why spend so much money on Candelaria when they could have gotten Aroldis Chapman for the same amount.

      • greenmtred

        If Candelario starts smacking doubles and homers, we’ll see the sense.

    • 2020ball

      So you all would take less talent on a team? Winning stategy right there, well argued.

  47. LarkinPhillips

    Yankees made some interesting moves today for us Reds fans. Signed Luke weaver and DFA Jeter downs and Bubba Thompson.

    • Oldtimer

      Weaver was lucky but gave up 4 runs or less in 16 of his 21 starts and Reds won 12 of his 21 starts.

      • Jedi Joey

        I propose a RLN drinking game. Anytime OT sticks up for Weaver, Walt Jocketty, or spouts some random stats from a team that played before most of our parents were born you have to take a drink. You will get wasted in no time!

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        Jedi – I am in as long as you are buying!

      • Jedi Joey

        The more, the merrier West Larry! Ha ha

      • greenmtred

        He gave up four runs in those starts because he hardly pitched any innings, in all probability. I used to stick up for Billy Hamilton and bristle at any criticism of him, OT. I expect that time will add perspective to your view of Weaver’s pitching in 2023.

      • LarkinPhillips

        In 11 of the 21 starts he went 4.1 innings or less, which means the bullpen was heavily taxed. 9 of those 11 he had already given up 4 or more runs so it wasn’t just that David bell pulled him early either.

  48. west larry

    Off topic, but Robert Stevenson signed a 3 year, 33 million deal with the Angels. He apparently has learned how to pitch after all these years

    • Jedi Joey

      Good for him! I wish he could of had more success here but I still hope he does well.

  49. Doc4uk

    Any chance the Reds add Aroldis Chapman to the BP?

    • 2020ball

      Yeah theres a chance for sure. I suspect he gets a bit overpaid tho IMO, where as Candelario probably was a bit underpaid.

  50. MarkH

    Todays article on blog red machine site – “While Brad Meador mentioned Jonathan India’s intangibles (leadership and commitment to the team), he didn’t exactly offer a ringing endorsement either.”

    Don’t think intangibles are more important than actual production. I like India for the fact that he plays hard, when he is healthy. However, he has not been healthy over the past 2 seasons and his most productive year was his rookie year. Injuries might account for his drop in production but I can’t believe he will be happy in a part time role playing several positions next season. His value to the Reds and his future earning potential may be at stake should he put up the average defensive/offensive numbers of the past couple of years. Conversely, if he excels in the role, he may be sought after at the summer trade deadline. A big risk for both the team and India.