Breaking down the Reds 2024 roster: pitchers

With Opening Day almost a week ago already, the Reds’ 2024 season is off and running. After breaking down the team’s position players on last week, let’s turn our attention to the pitching staff!

Starting Rotation

Frankie Montas

2023 Recap: Montas missed most of the 2023 season after undergoing labrum surgery on his throwing shoulder in February. The right-hander had been plagued with shoulder trouble since he was traded from the A’s to the Yankees at the 2022 deadline before finally needing the procedure. Prior to the shoulder troubles, Montas had established himself as one of the top starting pitchers in the game. From 2019 until the time he joined the Yankees in August 2022, Montas posted a 3.43 ERA and 3.59 xFIP across 78 starts and 440.2 innings. Montas ultimately worked his way back to make one relief appearance for the Yankees last September and was given a clean bill of health heading into the offseason. The Reds signed Montas to a one-year, $16 million contract in December as he looks to rebuild his value in 2024 and potentially sign a multi-year deal next offseason.

2024 Outlook: We got our first regular-season look at Montas in a Reds uniform on Opening Day as he fired six shutout, walk-free innings against the Nationals. The Reds are hoping he can stay healthy, rediscover his 2021-2022 form, and set the tone as a veteran presence at the top of a young rotation.

Hunter Greene

2023 Recap: Greene’s second MLB season was up and down, similar to his rookie year. Through June 17, he held a 3.93 ERA and 3.90 xFIP, struck out 31.9% of hitters with his sizzling fastball and sharp slider, and allowed far fewer home runs (1.10 HR/9) than in 2022 (1.72 HR/9). Then, he landed on the injured list with right hip pain and missed more than two months. He got shelled in his first start back on August 20, allowing five home runs, and wound up back on the IL in September due to COVID. His inconsistent performance down the stretch put a damper on his season numbers, although the peripherals still outshined his ERA.

2024 Outlook: Although the talent is abundant, there are clear areas for Greene to improve upon in his age-24 season — namely, bringing down his walks, staying healthy, mitigating home runs, and developing his secondary pitches. Greene has generally pitched well the first time through a lineup but struggled the second and third. He’s worked on a splitter and curveball this offseason, displaying both during spring training. How well those carry over into the regular season could determine whether Greene can take the next step into the role of Reds ace.

Nick Martinez

2023 Recap: Martinez was a Swiss-army knife for the Padres the last two seasons, serving in both starting and relief roles. He made 63 appearances, including nine starts, last season as he posted a career-best 1.4 fWAR. Armed with five pitches that are headlined by a filthy changeup, Martinez was one of the premier pitchers in the game at eliciting soft contact. He ranked in the 95th percentile in hard-hit rate and the 98th in average exit velocity. He was also one of the top groundball pitchers in the league, ranking in the 90th percentile last year.

2024 Outlook: During the offseason, the Reds signed Martinez to a one-year, $14 million deal with a $12 million player option for 2025. The 33-year-old will serve in a similar swing-man role in Cincinnati. To start the year, he’s in the rotation while Nick Lodolo and Brandon Williamson are on the IL. Martinez could eventually transition to the bullpen if and when others get healthy, but if he pitches well, the Reds could choose to leave him in the rotation and option one of the young pitchers to the minor leagues.

Graham Ashcraft

2023 Recap: Ashcraft had an up-and-down sophomore season, to put it mildly. He started the season on fire, allowing only eight runs in his first six starts. Some regression was bound to happen, as evidenced by a low BABIP and strikeout rate, as well as a walk rate in the double digits. But no one could’ve anticipated Ashcraft’s next eight outings, when he allowed a 12.82 ERA and 5.34 xFIP while battling command problems. Ashcraft got back on track over his final 12 starts, posting a 2.58 ERA (though his xFIP was nearly two runs higher, 4.33), bringing his strikeout and groundball rates up, and decreasing his walk rate. His season ended prematurely due to a stress fracture in his right big toe, forcing him to miss most of September.

2024 Outlook: There’s no denying Ashcraft has filthy stuff. At his best, the 26-year-old limits walks and hard contact while generating tons of ground balls. But so far in his young career, he hasn’t missed many bats or shown a reliable third pitch beyond his cutter and slider — something that has particularly given him issues against right-handed hitters. Ashcraft worked on his sinker during the offseason and tinkered with adding a changeup to his arsenal, which he’s hoping will help him take the next step toward a breakout.

Andrew Abbott

2023 Recap: Abbott started last season in Double-A Chattanooga and dominated in three starts, quickly earning a promotion to Louisville. Triple-A couldn’t hold Abbott, either, and he was promoted to the big leagues in June after seven starts with the Bats. The southpaw spent the rest of the season with the Reds and was at times their best pitcher while the rotation dealt with injuries and a lack of depth. Abbott had a 1.90 ERA through his first 10 starts, and although his peripherals signaled regression, they were still respectable for a rookie (3.73 FIP, 4.32 xFIP). His performance waned in August and September (6.42 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 4.88 xFIP) as he set a new personal high for innings pitched with every start and fatigue set in. He logged 163.1 innings between the minors and majors, well beyond the 118.0 he threw in 2022. Nevertheless, Abbott finished out the season in the Cincinnati rotation and led Reds pitchers in fWAR (2.2).

2024 Outlook: Abbott was in competition for the final rotation spot this spring and won by default with Williamson injuring his shoulder. That he was even in competition for a rotation spot speaks to the depth the Reds have compared to last year, when Luis Cessa and Connor Overton were in the Opening Day rotation. With a fastball that plays beyond its velocity and two strong secondary pitches, a changeup and a sweeper, Abbott is looking to build on a successful rookie campaign. Keeping the ball in the park and cutting down on hard contact and walks will be the big areas he looks to improve on in his first full MLB season.


Alexis Díaz

2023 Recap: Last season was a tale of two halves for Díaz. He recorded 37 saves, earned his first trip to the All-Star Game, and was one of the best relievers in the game during the first three months of the season. Díaz struck out nearly half the hitters he faced through the first two months of the season and forced poor contact in the form of weak pop-ups and an increase in ground balls. But Díaz began showing he was human late in the first half. His velocity and strikeout rate steadily dropped throughout the remainder of the season, his command worsened, and it unsurprisingly led to worse results. Here were Díaz’s first and second half splits:

  • 1st half: 2.03 ERA, 3.12 xFIP, 37.4 K%, 11.7 BB%, .240 wOBA
  • 2nd half: 4.61 ERA, 5.78 xFIP, 20.3 K%, 14.3 BB%, .331 wOBA

2024 Outlook: Despite a bumpy finish in 2023, Díaz is the Reds’ established closer. He figures to be heavily used again and is undoubtedly the best high-leverage arm available to David Bell. The question for Díaz is whether he can rediscover his mid-90s fastball and starting missing bats at an elite clip again.

Emilio Pagán

2023 Recap: From a results standpoint, last year was the second-best season of Pagán’s career. As a member of the Twins bullpen, he posted a sub-3.00 ERA and an fWAR above one (1.1) for the first time since 2019, when he was the Rays’ closer. But there were some ominous signs under the hood, as his strikeout rate dropped seven percentage points and he had a 5.3% HR/FB despite an extremely high flyball rate. The league average HR/FB is 12.7%. As Steve wrote in his bullpen preview at the beginning of spring training, Pagan has historically a tough pitcher to evaluate:

“Pagan’s up-and-down career is hard to characterize. He’s had seasons when he pitched well but it wasn’t reflected in his ERA. Others years, like 2023, his low ERA (2.99) didn’t square with his fundamentals (4.57 xFIP). Pagan’s strikeout and walk rates have been inconsistent, although generally good.”

But as Chris Duzyk recently outlined, Pagán has good stuff — a mid-90s fastball, cutter, and a relatively new splitter — that can make him an impact reliever if he keeps the ball in the park.

2024 Outlook: The Reds signed Pagán to a two-year, $16 million contract during the offseason, and he figures to receive opportunities in a variety of situations. He’ll see his share of high-leverage spots, but he has an opportunity to earn more if he can start missing bats the way he did prior to 2023 and prevent his high flyball rate from getting him into trouble, especially at Great American Ball Park.

Lucas Sims

2023 Recap: Coming off a 2022 season largely lost to a back injury, Sims appeared in 67 games and pitched 61 innings, both career highs, and was the Reds’ go-to setup man. His results were strong, but like Pagán, masked by some good fortune. A total of 357 pitchers threw 50+ innings last season, and Sims had the lowest groundball rate among them. Yet, he had a low 6.1% HR/FB. On top of that, his walk rate ranked in the second percentile. Hence, the huge gap between his ERA and xFIP. That being said, Sims’ xERA was much more palatable because he missed lots of bats (81st percentile in K%, 91st in whiff%) and generated a lot of weak contact (91st percentile in hard-hit rate).

2024 Outlook: Entering what could be his final year as a Red, Sims should keep the same high-leverage role he had last season. While his walks and flyball tendencies can cause fans to hold their collective breath at times, he has the potential to be dominant when he’s on his game.

Fernando Cruz

2023 Recap: Cruz made his first-ever Opening Day roster at 33 years old and spent the entire season — sans an IL stint for a shoulder strain — with the Reds. Although his ERA was high, the peripherals were excellent, leading the Reds in FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. Armed with a deadly splitter that ranks among the game’s best pitches, he led the team in strikeout rate (99th percentile) and finished behind only Díaz for the team lead in fWAR (1.6) among relievers. Cruz had a slightly higher-than-average walk rate and his low groundball rate can leave him susceptible to home runs, but that was mostly offset by his ability to miss bats.

2024 Outlook: After establishing himself as a big-league reliever last season, Cruz looks to be a critical part of the Reds bullpen. He could be positioned to receive more high-leverage innings, especially if he continues to miss bats at an elite clip.

Tejay Antone

2023 Recap: Antone underwent Tommy John surgery — the second of his career — in 2021 and missed all of 2022. Poised to return in 2023, he suffered a flexor strain in his right elbow, delaying his MLB return until September. His season was short-lived, however, as he left his fifth appearance with elbow pain. Fortunately, it wasn’t serious, but the Reds shut him down for the remainder of the season.

2024 Outlook: When healthy, Antone has been outstanding. But given that he’s barely pitched since 2021, Antone is more of a middle-relief option for now.

Buck Farmer

2023 Recap: Farmer was another workhorse in the Cincinnati bullpen last season, appearing in 71 games and throwing 75 innings. He was a league-average reliever by most measures, logging most of his work in middle relief. His strikeout rate dipped from 2022 and he gave up a career worst 11 home runs, but he also ranked in the top 25% of pitchers in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate.

2024 Outlook: Farmer re-signed with the Reds for one year and $2.25 million and will slide right back into his 2023 middle-relief role, though he could pick up high-leverage opportunities here and there when others are unavailable.

Justin Wilson

2023 Recap: Wilson was positioned to return from Tommy John surgery (which he had while with the Reds in 2022) with the Brewers last July. But while he was warming up in the bullpen for his season debut, he suffered a serious lat strain that ended his season before it began.

2024 Outlook: With Sam Moll and Alex Young starting the season on the IL, the Reds needed a left-handed reliever. They brought in Wilson on a one-year, $1.5 million contract during spring training after he opted out of his minor-league deal with the Dodgers. His primary role may be to face left-handed hitters, but the 36-year-old has proven capable of getting righties out throughout his career when healthy.

Brent Suter

2023 Recap: Suter pitched for the Rockies last season after spending the first seven years of his MLB career with the Brewers. He managed to have a successful season despite Coors Field being his home park, doing so by keeping hitters off balance with his unorthodox left-handed delivery and inducing soft contact. Suter ranked second among all pitchers in average exit velocity (84.0 mph), and his groundball rate was well above average, as it has been for most of his career. The Reds signed the Moeller High School product to a one-year contract for a guaranteed $3 million.

2024 Outlook: Suter should occupy a middle-relief role for the Reds and as a former starter with the Brewers at the beginning of his career, he’s a pitcher who’s comfortable covering multiple innings. Like Wilson, Suter has proven capable of getting out hitters on both sides of the plate, but doesn’t dominate lefties.

Featured Image: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire

Matt Wilkes

Matt Wilkes got hooked on Reds baseball after attending his first game in Cinergy Field at 6 years old, and he hasn’t looked back. As a kid, he was often found imitating his favorite players — Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns — in the backyard. When he finally went inside, he was leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 or keeping stats for whatever game was on TV. He started writing about baseball in 2014 and has become fascinated by analytics and all the new data in the game. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.