1. Cincinnati Reds. This one is obvious. The Reds lost 100 games in 2022, but spent 2023 raiding their own farm system and improved to borderline contender status.
The result is a 2024 roster brimming with young potential, especially among the position players.
The infield is likely to feature Spencer Steer, Jonathan India, Elly DeLaCruz and Matt McLain, none out of their mid-20s and all full of vinegar. Jake Fraley, T.J. Friedl and Will Benson emerged in 2023 as potential outfield stars, and Benson accumulated a .498 slugging average that led the regulars.
Their collective presence allows GM Nick Krall to spend this winter focusing on the chronic area of need in Cincinnati, starting pitching. Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft have both to date failed to consistently deliver on their potential – although that could happen in 2024. That leaves Andrew Abbott, a 2023 rookie, as the ‘proven’ asset, if that isn’t leaning too heavily on the adjective.
It helps the Reds that they compete in the NL Central, which hasn’t produced a World Series contestant since the Cubs went all the way in 2016.