Notes from the Cincinnati Reds ZIPS Projections for 2024

The Cincinnati Reds are coming off a season where they far-exceeded projections. Can they do it again and reach the playoffs in 2024?

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28: Nick Lodolo #40 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Something about breaking out the new calendar every January and seeing the fresh, empty pages of the months ahead is refreshing. A new start with new goals. In baseball, it’s a time for roster discussion, prospect hype, and, of course, projections.

While no projection system is perfect, ZiPS has performed as well, if not better, than other similar systems. In 2023, the model projected the Reds to finish 69-93. The top pitcher was Nick Lodolo, Nick Senzel and Mike Siani were the center fielders, and Mike Moustakas was the DH. Again, not a perfect system but worth discussing, which is what I will do today with the Reds 2024 projections.

Position Players

Matt McLain548.252/.339/.44920181083.2
Jeimer Candelario560.260/.338/.4712341132.6
Elly De La Cruz 616.242/.304/.4372339952.2
TJ Friedl 523.260/.340/.41813181012.1
Spencer Steer 646.264/.347/.45623101122.0
Jonathan India 548.253/.350/.41416111031.7
Tyler Stephenson 455.257/.334/.406130971.6
Christian Encarnacion-Strand559.262/.320/.4882841121.5
Noelvi Marte 546.268/.330/.4051417951.1
Will Benson 468.227/.338/.41815181011.2
Jake Fraley 367.250/.331/.42513151031.0
Blake Dunn 521.242/334/.3951728941.4
Luke Maile 212.246/.327/.39051910.7
2024 ZiPS projections

Overall, these projections probably feel a bit low to most people and I would agree. Projection systems like ZiPS work better when a sample size in the Major Leagues is larger so the rookies from last year (Benson, McLain, CES, Marte, De La Cruz, Steer) are much harder to predict.

  • Of the 12 players who received Major League at bats (all but Dunn), eight of those players had a higher OPS+ than their 2024 projection. Only De LA Cruz, India, Stephenson, and Maile are projected to have higher.
  • McLain slashed .290/.357/.507 in his rookie year, much higher than his projection. His 28.5% strikeout rate and .385 BABIP likely play into the dip. I would expect a drop off from his rookie year but I would lean closer to .265 average than .250. He did not chase much, and makes good contact, but needs improvement on his in-zone swing and miss.
  • Elly De LA Cruz has the largest range of outcomes in my mind. No doubt his ceiling is the highest, but his issues with pitch recognition, chasing out of the zone, and swing and miss make it hard to predict if he’ll put it all together in 2024. At just 22 years old, there’s still growing pains but he was trending in the right direction later in 2023.
  • I like the bump Tyler Stephenson is getting in his projection. Stephenson was a well above average hitter in his career leading up to 2023. Injuries from 2022 might have caused some issues with his 2023 number and a bounce back would be a huge boost to the lineup.
  • You might notice Marte’s power numbers are not what you would expect from a third baseman who was a top 100 prospect. The reality is his power hasn’t been his strength in the minors as well. Last season in Triple-A he posted three home runs across 39 games and his ISO has not breached .200 since rookie ball. However, I don’t think this makes him an invaluable player
  • Blake Dunn is a hot name coming into spring training. The 25-year-old outfielder slashed .312/.425/.522 with 17 home runs and 54 stolen bases across Double and Triple-A in 2023. He could earn a platoon role and back up Friedl in center. There’s a non-zero chance he’s the breakout rookie this year.
  • Player I’m Higher on than Projections: Elly De LA Cruz: I cannot ignore the tools and talent. I could see him struggling, but I could also see a 30/40 season. I’ll roll the dice and say he outperforms his projection.
  • Player I’m Lower on that Projections: None: I do not think any of these players are drastically over projected. Sure, some will come in less than what is listed, but I don’t think drastically mostly because I think the projections are low to start with.
  • Player I’m Most Intrigued With: Will Benson: Benson brings a blend of power and speed that could unlock into a really nice player. He also has some noticeable swing and miss issues and drastically outperformed his xStats from last year. Benson posted a .498 SLG (.398 xSLG) and .275 AVG (.230 xAVG). We’ll see if he’s a blossoming payer or fringe third/fourth outfielder.

Starting Pitchers

Player StartsInnings ERAFIPSOBBNear Age Comp
Hunter Greene271334.314.1916948Jack Flaherty
Andrew Abbott291434.414.2915654Tom Browning
Frankie Montas231314.314.2313541Jeff Samardzjia
Graham Ashcraft241314.814.3811145Nathan Eovaldi
Nick Martinez9100 (Non-Starts Included)4.044.0110536Don Robinson
Brandon Williamson271285.054.9711657Jerry Reuss
Nick Lodolo18834.634.3910029Craig Skok
Connor Phillips271145.024.8712861Tyler Clippard
Carson Spiers 14945.365.168040Phillip Humber
Near age Comp are generated by FanGraphs and the ZiPS System

The one thing that stands out on this list: depth. Cincinnati added an upside option in Montas while bringing in Martinez, who could see more time in the bullpen but I wanted to include him here. Seeing every ERA and FIP above 4.00 is not exactly ideal, but we could see a couple beat those projections.

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  • Across the board the FIP projections are not drastically different from last year’s numbers. A few higher, a few lower, but not by much.
  • I see Hunter Greene as a player who could really break out this year. Last year he saw an increase in his K/9 and groundball percentage while improving his home runs to fly ball percentage by 2%. His expected ERA was 3.82 and we need to remember he is only 24 years old and has shown signs of improvement.
  • Where I struggle the most is deciding what to expect from Lodolo. Across 19 starts in 2022 he posted a 3.90 FIP and 11.4 K/9 while looking like a top of the rotation option. Injuries cut his 2023 short, where he posted a 5.79 FIP but improved strikeout and walk numbers in only 34.1 innings. If he is healthy, and back to where we think he can be, this rotation takes a major step forward.
  • Frankie Montas is the other Lodolo-type “not sure what to expect after injury” pitcher. When he’s rolling, he’s a rock solid two or three. I want to see what his velocity looks like and if he can limit home runs playing in GABP. A worthwhile risk and the type the Reds should be taking.
  • Which Graham Ashcraft do we see? The 2023 first half – 6.28 ERA, or, the second half 2.81 ERA? The answer is usually somewhere in the middle. Talk around town is Ashcraft could be adding a curveball which would be welcomed to his mostly fastball (cutter)/Slider combo.
  • Having Williamson and Phillips as five’s/depth is a great spot to be in. Williamson made strides last year to show he’s at least a major league caliber arm and Phillips is a top 100 prospect with nasty stuff. The depth this year, some of which is not even listed, is a drastic improvement from 2023.
  • Player I’m Higher on than Projections: Nick Lodolo: I’ll roll the dice on Lodolo and his health. Too much talent in his arm to write him off after 34.1 innings of subpar pitching. If he’s healthy, and that’s a big if, he’s a difference maker.
  • Player I’m Lower on than Projections: Nick Martinez: To be clear, I’m not much lower but Martinez can struggle with home runs at times. I do think he sees more time in the bullpen than rotation as well, which is accounted for in these projections.
  • Player I’m Most Intrigued With: Toss up between Ashcraft and Phillips. If Phillips can throw more strikes he edges out Ashcraft. Phillips has the stuff to strike anyone out and if all goes right, he could finish the year as one of the better pitchers in the rotation. If all goes right….


PlayerGamesERAFIPStrikeoutsNear Age Comp
Alexis Diaz663.904.1780Carlos Marmol
Emilio Pagan564.634.6057Mike Trimbley
Lucas Sims614.914.8766Jose Veras
Ian Gibaut604.654.4266Zach McAllister
Sam Moll594.884.9053Rich Rodriguez
Buck Farmer 594.924.7867Johnny Morrison
Brent Suter*704.624.8658N/A
Alex Young544.924.6859Tim Hill
Tejay Antone205.135.0544Randall Delgado
Fernando Cruz554.144.4172Todd Jones
*Steamer Projection Used

We all know the Reds will use more bullpen arms than what is listed, but I wanted to highlight the top names. For the most part, the bullpen consists of the same options as last year with Diaz and Sims being used as the more high leverage options.

  • Emilio Pagan and Brent Suter are the two notable additions (don’t forget about Martinez, too) and neither of their numbers look great. Suter, a soft tossing lefty, has not posted an ERA over 3.80 since he was a starter in 2018. Pagan’s numbers make sense. Last year he posted a 2.99 ERA, the first time it was under 4.40 since 2019.
  • Alexis Diaz’s dip I am actually buying, just maybe not to the extent of a 3.90 ERA. He’s always struggled with walks and gave up harder contact in 2023 than he did in his rookie year in 2022. I still view him as a high leverage, reliable reliver but not a “one of the best in baseball” level.
  • Lucas Sims is a big piece of the 2024 roster. He’s has his ups and downs, injuries, and issues with walks. He’s also looked absolutely lights out at times. Bullpens can be random so him posting these projections would mean someone else would have to step up, which isn’t out of the range of possibilities.
  • Give me the under in ERA and FIP for Sam Moll. Although he’s a lefty, handling righties has not been a big problem holding them to a .755 OPS across his entire career (.554 OPS v LHP). With Suter, and Young, Cincinnati has a couple more lefty options and can use Moll in more advantageous situations where I do think he’ll be used in lefty-heavy situations more often.
  • Not listed, but Lyon Richardson could be a wild card here. Currently a starter, Richardson has been bumped down the depth chart and a move to the bullpen could pay off. His fastball could play up closer to 100 mph than 96 mph and he can work his changeup to lefties and springle in his breaking stuff. An intriguing option to keep in mind
  • Player I am Higher on than Projections: Lucas Sims
  • Player I am Lower on Than Projections: Buck Farmer: He’s been a coin flip year in and year out. I think there’s a pretty decent chance he’s not on the roster for the entire season.
  • Player I am Most Intrigued With: Tejay Antone: We have only seen 74.2 innings in Antone career – 2.41 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 11.33 K/9. After multiple injuries it’s hard to say what he will look like, but even if the percentage is small, there’s still a chance he returns to form and gives the Reds another high leverage option.


Overall, I was underwhelmed by the offensive production. They have a strong, and deep, rotation with enough talent that could realistically outperform their projections. With the amount of position players with a small sample size, the projections can be off by more than usual.

Bottom line, the Reds have the most quality depth that they have had in over a decade. Upside at various positions with the majority of their lineup not let reaching their ceiling. It is lining up to potentially be a special summer in Cincinnati.