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Ultimate Guide to 2024 Cincinnati Reds: Starting Pitching

The starting rotation will be the most interesting position group on the team.
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The Cincinnati Reds enter the 2024 season with high expectations. They're deep and nuanced with few guarantees, but there's plenty of excitement around there potential. 

The starting pitchers are the most intriguing position group on the roster. 

The Reds have plenty of talent in this area, but lots of questions. They have a strong group of young pitchers that are joined by two veteran pitchers that Nick Krall brought in during the offseason. They have a lot to improve upon from last year.

The starting pitching was awful last season. Only the Oakland Athletics' and Colorado Rockies' rotations had a higher ERA. For a team that plays half its games at Great American Ballpark, only two teams had a lower ground ball rate than the Reds starters at 38.4%. The Reds were also one of eight teams to get less than 800 combined innings from their starters.

The most experienced pitcher of this year’s rotation in Frankie Montas. He signed a one-year prove it deal in December. The challenge is for him to prove that he's still the pitcher he was before he underwent shoulder surgery. A medical study was conducted by the Arthroscopy Association of North America on pitchers that had this kind of surgery. From 2002-2020, 39 pitchers got this surgery and only eight of them returned to their previous performance the first year after their surgery. The odds aren't in his favor.

Montas was very good when he was healthy, though. In his last full season in Oakland (2021) he made 32 starts and had an ERA of 3.37. He also pitched in 27 starts between Oakland and New York in 2022 and had an ERA of 4.05. Both years would be huge improvements on most of the performances handed in by Reds starters last year.

He joins a staff full of second and third year players.

2024 Reds Ultimate Guide: Infield

Hunter Greene is the leader, but hasn't reached his potential. He's been working on a curveball and splitter this offseason. His first spring training outing he said he liked the splitter more than the curve, but he used both a lot. He leaned on his fastball and sliders with just a few changeups in his first two seasons. A third, or even fourth pitch, will elevate him to the level he’s been predicted to reach since he was drafted.

Graham Ashcraft led the staff in starts and innings last year, but is recovering from offseason surgery on his toe. All reports are he is healed and ready to go. Ashcraft’s season was one heck of a roller coaster. In his first six starts, he had a 2.00 ERA. His next eight that ballooned to 12.82. Had that stretch been even slightly less awful, his entire season ERA number may have been more impressive as he finished strong. In his final 12 starts, he returned to his early season form with a 2.58 ERA. He is a firm lock for the Opening Day rotation.

Health will determine another rotation spot. Should Nick Lodolo be 100%, he will be in the Opening Day rotation. He showed his quality during the 2022 season and began 2023 with an injury he was attempting to pitch through. Any struggles in the statistics area must be prefaced with that, for last year.

There are some who would believe there is a competition for the fifth spot between newcomer Nick Martinez and Andrew Abbott. I tend to believe Abbott proved all he needed to last year and should be a rotation lock. The Reds signed Martinez with the understanding he’d compete for a rotation spot, but that was before they signed Montas. If Martinez is in the Opening Day rotation, it will be because Lodolo isn't healthy enough to begin the season on the big league roster.

That leaves Brandon Williamson, Connor Phillips, Lyon Richardson, and Carson Spiers as odd men out of the Opening Day rotation. All of this pitchers made multiple starts for the Reds in 2023. Williamson appears to be the odd man out, but the other three pitchers have shown major league quality, too. The Reds have a deep pool of talent to draw from on the pitching staff.

Injuries happen. The Reds cycled through 17 different pitchers to make a start last year. Some of those were relief pitchers who played the role of “opener.” While that may happen again this year, it should not bee needed as much. Bullpen days should be more strategic in 2024 for the Reds and done less out of necessity.

The Reds have talent. They have something to prove. The mound will be closely monitored for the Reds this season.

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