2023 MLB First Half Recap: Cincinnati Reds

TJ Friedl of the Cincinnati Reds

What a difference a year can make for a team. A year after the Reds lost 100 games and sold off a number of key assets in the summer, Cincinnati’s young stars made it to Ohio and helped pushed the team up to first place in the NL Central. Let’s take a closer look at the Reds’ first half.

Related: 2023 MLB First Half Recap: Chicago White Sox

The Good

A year after the Reds finished in the bottom half of the league in runs scored (648) and OPS (.676), Cincinnati’s pool of young players broke out for a team that found itself in first at the end of the first half.

Former NL Rookie of the Year winner Jonathan India hit more home runs in the first half (13) this season than he did all of last year, while Spencer Steer and Jake Fraley both have more than 50 RBI. Former top prospects TJ Friedl and Nick Senzel have also been effective in the Reds lineup.

The tide of the Reds’ 2023 season, though, turned with the promotions of Matt McLain and Elly De La Cruz. McLain hit .300 with seven home runs and 27 extra base hits over his first 50 games as a Red, while Elly De Cruz posted an .887 OPS and stole 16 bases in 30 games.

Those two, coupled with India, Steer, Friedl, and Joey Votto, have turned the Reds into an elite offensive powerhouse. Cincinnati entered the break eighth in the league in OPS (.754) and fifth in runs scored (454).

We also need to touch on the Reds bullpen, which has been amazing this season. Ian Gibaut, Derek Law, Alex Young, Lucas Sims, and Buck Farmer all own ERA+ figures above league-average, while 2023 All-Star Alexis Diaz recorded 26 saves for the Reds in the first half.

The Bad

The Reds may have finished the first half nine games above .500, but much of that is due to the team’s firepower on offense. Aside from Andrew Abbott and Ben Lively, the Reds rotation has struggled.

Starters Graham Ashcraft and Brandon Williamson own ERA figures north of 5.00, while Luke Weaver has an ERA of 7.00. Left-hander Nick Lodolo is currently on the IL, but he too struggled when healthy. The former TCU ace gave up ten home runs in just 34.1 IP.

Cincinnati’s team pitching staff owns the sixth-worst opponent’s batting average (.265), fourth-worst team ERA (4.87), and third-worst wOBA (.343).

What’s Ahead

The Reds are well ahead of schedule, but now the biggest question Cincinnati faces in the second half is this: how are Reds prepared to handle the pitching woes?

Abbott and Lively have both given the Reds quality innings this season, while Ashcraft’s 4.32 ERA since his return from the IL is a stark contrast from the 6.78 ERA he sported after his first 13 starts. But with Greene and Lodolo out and Luke Weaver flailing in the Reds rotation, Cincinnati needs to pick up at least one starter within the next few weeks.

But even if the Reds don’t make the postseason in 2023, this campaign could already be chalked up as a success. Cincinnati has nearly eclipsed the team’s 2022 win total already, and a plethora of the Reds’ top prospects have proven that they are legit talents.