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Why the Reds Opening Day lineup could be exciting | Locked On Reds

The 2023 squad has a different look than 2022 but it could be a lot more dynamic

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds open their 2023 season at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates in just under two weeks and now is the time during Spring Training when teams decide who is staying up and who is being sent down which also means, fans can figure out through process of elimination who could make up the Opening Day lineup.

Last year, the Reds had a much different lineup on Opening Day than what is projected for 2023, guys like Brandon Drury, Tommy Pham, and Mike Moustakas are no longer with the team and there are a couple of young players who are looking to break through with the Reds this season.

This week on the Locked On Reds podcast, host Jeff Carr went through his optimal opening-day lineup, He considered many factors including the Reds’ opponent, the handedness of their probable starting pitcher, and the performances of the players in the Reds’ lineup to date.

The top of the lineup:

Carr picks second baseman Jonathan India to lead off for the Reds on Opening Day. His reasoning? India gets on base and Carr feels the Reds need a fast start in order to help their own starter India had batted in the lead-off spot 774 times and has gotten on base at a 36 percent clip.

Following India in the two spot: Catcher Tyler Stephenson. Carr knows this is a bold choice because Stephenson is the best hitter in the Reds lineup and a lot of times, you put your best hitter either in the third spot or even in the cleanup spot but Carr believes the more optimal spot for Stephenson is after India. In his career with runners in scoring position, Stephenson is hitting .303 and has more hits than strikeouts.

In the third spot, Carr envisions first baseman Wil Myers behind India and Stephenson. Carr likes that Myers doesn’t have to be platooned and that he can hit lefties and righties. He also mentioned how Myers tends to start the season off fast and has hit 23 first-inning home runs in his career. In 844 at-bats with runners in scoring position, Myers is slugging .498.

The middle of the lineup: 

Left fielder Jake Fraley is Carr’s choice for clean-up hitter. Fraley came over from the Mariners with a built-in nickname, Jake the Rake and Carr believes Jake can rake in the four-spot. In the 53 games he played with the Reds after the trade, he batted .295/.377/.526 with 51 hits. He also has an OPS of .840 in the clean-up spot.

Another bold choice for Carr, putting Joey Votto in the fifth spot. Votto is returning from an injury but he’s a veteran hitter who can smack a single if you need one or bash a home run if you need one. Carr sees Votto as the DH with Myers playing first.

In the sixth spot, Carr sees rookie third baseman Spencer Steer. He can hit the ball to all fields and while small sample sizes abound, those small sample sizes are good. He’s only had 18 at-bats with runners in scoring position but he had five hits, six walks, and only four strikeouts. Carr thinks that could make Steer a great candidate for the sixth spot/

The bottom of the order: 

Carr picked center fielder Will Benson for the seventh spot in the lineup. There are a couple of reasons for this. While Benson does display some power and speed, he has a tendency to strike out. And similarly to the aforementioned Steer, he doesn’t have a lot of playing time but one thing Benson does have is an ability to steal bases. Carr thinks this could be good at this spot in the lineup when the opposing pitcher is just trying to get through the batters and get back to the top of the order.

In the eighth spot, right fielder TJ Friedl. Carr thinks Friedl has earned the right to play but he’s not so dazzled by him. Carr says that one knock against Friedl is that he can’t hit lefties but one positive is that his on-base percentage with the bases empty is .329. So if you need him to get on base just in time for the lineup to turn over, he’s your guy.

And finally, in the ninth spot, shortstop José Barrero. Carr said about the ninth spot, “There’s no pressure here. He (Barrero) needs to go up and have good at-bats.” He added, “And when you cat a guy ninth, if he goes off, great! If he falls off the face of the earth, that’s not going to kill you.” Carr thinks this may be Barrero’s last chance to prove himself to the Reds and the ninth spot in the order is the perfect spot to do that.

The 2022 Reds finished 62-100, could the 2023 squad be better? It's possible and with this Opening Day lineup, they could have a good start to the season. 

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