Opening Day 2021 saw Luis Castillo shelled for 10 runs (8 ER) in just 3.1 IP, something that won’t repeat this year because he’s too far set back with shoulder soreness to take the mound for game one. Cam Bedrosian, Sal Romano, Carson Fulmer, and Sean Doolittle all backed him on the mound that day, and all now call other franchises home. Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Castellanos, Tucker Barnhart, and Alex Blandino all got time that day - all are now gone, too - while Kyle Farmer’s lone late cameo came as the LF.
A lot has changed around these parts for the Cincinnati Reds, obviously. On top of that, while Opening Day 2022 will feature huge crowds and celebratory confetti, that’ll be as the Atlanta fans play host to their first home game since their club won the World Series last fall, the Reds playing on the road to start the year thanks to the lockout.
The lockout-induced hyperconcentrated transaction season has overlapped with the abbreviated spring training, meaning roster moves are being made at lightning speed as the new season looms just over our shoulders. Add in that injuries and setbacks have knocked a few key names out of contention, and hence why talk of what the Reds Opening Day roster might look like has been booted to the backburner.
Now that the Reds have made likely the biggest splash addition that they’ll make this offseason - the signing of Tommy Pham - it’s high time we took a gander at how the Reds will look for game one. With so many non-roster players still in contention, there will need to be a series of administrative roster moves to make this possible, but here’s my best guess at what the first roster of the year might look like.
Tyler Stephenson, Aramis Garcia*
Joey Votto, Jonathan India, Kyle Farmer, Mike Moustakas, Donovan Solano, Colin Moran
Tommy Pham, Nick Senzel, Tyler Naquin, Shogo Akiyama, Jake Fraley, Aristides Aquino
Tyler Mahle, Mike Minor, Vlad Gutierrez, Reiver Sanmartin
Hunter Strickland, Luis Cessa, Tony Santillan, Art Warren, Justin Wilson, Dauri Moreta, Jeff Hoffman, Kyle Zimmer*, Ben Lively*, Nick Lodolo*
A few notes here:
- As Joel Sherman of the New York Post relayed earlier in the week, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to expand rosters to 28 temporarily due to the abbreviated nature of spring training, which I’ve leaned on here in this 28 player list.
- I’ve got Nick Lodolo included here and not Hunter Greene. That’s in part due to Lodolo’s status as a non-roster player during spring, meaning he was a) not locked out and b) allowed to get to Goodyear earlier, and therefore is more ‘built up’ for the start of the season. He’s also a year and a half older and, at 24, I think he’s readier to get his debut in the eyes of the Reds.
- Related to Lodolo is the fact that the Reds have an off-day after their first four games, meaning they don’t technically have to carry five ‘starters’ just yet.
- The players with * by their names aren’t on the 40-man roster for now, so 40-man moves will have to be made to get them on. The Reds roster is full at the moment, but the likes of Tejay Antone and Justin Dunn could end up as 60-day IL candidates to free up a pair of spaces before tough cuts would be required. Also, the official announcement of Pham has yet to happen, so the 40-man roster move to get him added hasn’t, either, so this entire projection might be wrong before it even got official!
- Max Schrock was the toughest omission here, in part because I still can’t believe the Reds gave Colin Moran a guaranteed deal in front of him. Alejo Lopez was also a narrow miss here. For whatever unlikely reason, I also had a wave of ‘they might actually cut Shogo’ wash over me while writing this, and while I still think they’re too cheap to eat a sunk cost, I’m putting it into words now in case it actually materializes in the coming weeks.
- In Lively, Hoffman, and Zimmer, I’ve included a trio of guys with long starting histories, something I think gives them extra value to start this year as so many arms are still trying to ramp up on short notice. Next to Lodolo, that’s a lot of ‘long men’ in the bullpen, if needed, to keep from having to push starters too far too early.
- Hunter Greene is still just 22 years old with only 106.1 professional IP since the end of 2018. He’ll be a Cincinnati Red this calendar year, but I just can’t see them pushing him onto the Opening Day roster, especially after his shortened spring camp.
- I’m 100% certain I overlooked something somewhere and am categorically wrong in places. That’s what the comment section is for, so have at it!