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We’ve never rooted for a Cincinnati Reds team like this before

New faces. Newer faces. Newer ones behind them. Who sticks around from this bunch?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

We are rooting like crazy for Noelvi Marte to show off his elite contact ability and strike zone management, and for him to kick down the AA door in the season’s first month en route to Cincinnati.

We are also rooting like crazy for Noelvi Marte to be blocked.

We are rooting like crazy for Matt McLain to show the power he developed during the 2022 season can pair with the other elite aspects of his hitting developed long before that, thereby putting him on the doorstep of the Cincinnati Reds by mid-summer.

We are also rooting like crazy for Matt McLain to be blocked.

Should we be more excited for how well Jose Barrero has looked in CF? Or, should we be excited at how well Will Benson has looked out there? Or TJ Friedl?

Such is the odd, odd paradox of being in the rootin’ corner of the Cincinnati Reds at the moment. Given the depths of the rebuild, the nature of the roster building, we’re being tasked with rooting for the first real breakthroughs at the big league level for an entire roster of players while simultaneously rooting for their replacements at the very same time.

That’s a logical plan, I get. Root for all parties to succeed and let the rest of it sort itself out. It’s just a bit of a mental conundrum to hope for Jose Barrero to finally look the part of a legit big league shortstop just to root equally hard for him to cede that roll to Elly De La Cruz in a couple of months. It’s a bit tough to concede that Barrero has looked the part of a potentially great CF in limited work there when we’re all still trying to convince ourselves that Will Benson and TJ Friedl are budding CF stars who just needed the right time and place to succeed.

I want Spencer Steer to take the reins at 3B and run with them. I also want Marte to do the same, since that could put Steer in line to take the 1B reins and run with those - but I want Christian Encarnacion-Strand to take the 1B reins for himself. It’s a good thing for which to root, but it’s a damn complicated thing for which to root.

It’s a task that requires us to root without much attachment, and that’s something that I’m just not used to doling out. It’s rooting for the baseball version of the Big Bang Theory, when all the atoms and masses at the center of the universe were tossed around and slammed into one another and formed whatever newfangled things they could and would until an end result burst out onto the scene. If it forms, we’ll certainly know the process that formed it, but it very well may be messy and explosive along the way.

In more than one way, it’s the result of the austerity of the Reds refusing to invest in any placeholders for the 2023 season. We barely have any decoys to absorb the expectations that far outstrip their worthiness. We’re never rooting for individual players to fail - root for them to be good enough to trade if they’re not in the team’s long-term plans - but for the first time in as long as I can remember we’re rooting for the players in the current positions to break out as much as we are for the ones breathing down their necks.

We’ve got Wil Myers and Kevin Newman - thank god - but everyone else currently in-line for an Opening Day spot on this roster is a player we’re hoping to succeed for the first time. We want the Barrero that rose to be the top prospect in the Reds system, who’s still just 24 years old and the shortstop of the future! We want Jonny India to show he’s more the RoY than whatever his injured 2022 self was! We want a healthy, 500+ PA season for Jake Fraley, and for TJ Friedl to finally get a chance to play on a regular basis! We want to applaud the Reds front office for pilfering Benson from Cleveland in an obvious coup of a deal for an underappreciated player elsewhere who just needed a chance!

It’s exciting, if terrifying. It’s a roster of complete unknowns, of which there are more than even the very near future roster will be able to stomach. For a franchise that has grown old via commitments to players for decades and careers, it’s an incredibly unique position. For fans of said franchise who’ve grown old watching players become stalwarts and local scions, it’s a tough position. It’s asking us, in more ways than one, to truly get back to rooting for the name on the front of those white and red jerseys than the ones on the back of them for the time being as this Big Bang experiment works its way out.

We’ll get the first reveal tomorrow.