• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Matt’s Take: Future is bright in Cincinnati, Bengals draft picks; Shayne Graham and Will Benson join Matt’s Take

By Matthew McAdow

Herald Contributor

Future is Bright in Cincinnati

If you have been staying up to date with Spring Training, you’ve been able to see how much talent this organization is filled with.  The young prospects surrounding this organization have shined and it feels great knowing a plan is in place for this team.  While records do not matter during Spring Training, as I am writing this article, the Reds currently sit at 7-6 in the Cactus League.  All offseason we have heard many who are worried about the Reds being able to put runs up on the board, but they have managed to bat .288, slash 17 home runs, and put together a .460 slugging percentage.  The leader in all of baseball in batting average also plays for the Reds right now, as Christian Encarnacion-Strand has been phenomenal at the plate.  He’s raked in 3 homeruns and 10 RBIs to go along with his league leading, .571 batting average. 

Prospects, Prospects, Prospects

I can’t remember a time in my life where the Reds had this much young talent.  Encarnacion-Strand, De La Cruz, Marte, McLain, Arroyo, Collier, Petty, Williamson, and many others have added to the depth of this team.  While I obviously understand there is a lot to consider when calling someone up to the big leagues, I truly hope to see many of these names get some time throughout the year.  To go along with these prospects, we still have a lot of youth on the team with Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, India, and Stephenson ready to take this rebuild to the next level.  I think this team will really shock some people this season and I couldn’t be more excited to watch the top-rated farm system continue to shine in the National League Central. 

Opening Day Starter

We are currently less than 20 days away from the best day of the year, Cincinnati Reds Opening Day.  Seeing the streets flooded with Reds gear, the optimism in the air, a few ice cold beverages, and the official signal that Summer is on its way is a tradition like no other.  I think I can taste the coney or the helmet nachos as I am writing this article!  While there are many uncertainties of the Reds roster come March 30th, David Bell made one thing clear this week-Hunter Greene is the Reds Opening Day starter.  I was surprised to see this announcement so early, but I am more than happy for Hunter to display his greatness on Opening Day.  Nick Lodolo will be the second pitcher in the rotation and he will be followed by Ashcraft.  Greene ended his 2022 campaign with a record of 5-13 and a 4.44 ERA.  He added 164 strikeouts last season, which lead the team and he hopes to officially be looked at as an “Ace” in the Queen City.

Bengals Draft Day

The NFL Draft is quickly approaching and as always, the Bengals hope to continue their dominance at the Draft table.  The draft is April 27th and Cincinnati holds seven total selections in the draft this season. The current picks Cincinnati have are:

            •           Round 1, Pick 28

            •           Round 2, Pick 60

            •           Round 3, Pick 92

            •           Round 4, Pick 131

            •           Round 5, Pick 165

            •           Round 6, Pick 206

            •           Round 7, Pick 248

While I won’t even begin to throw out my “mock draft” at this point, as offseason roster moves have just begun, I will say Cincinnati has many positions that need filled or depth added before next season.  The Bengals need to add depth at left and right tackle and they need to do so as fast as they can.  Two seasons in a row, Cincinnati has been dealing with depth issues across their entire offensive line.  The Bengals need to address the cornerback position as well, along with a tight end and defensive tackle.  Depending on what happens with Pratt and Mixon, a linebacker and running back will be much needed for this team to continue their success next year as well.  Many mock drafts currently have Cincinnati “all-in” on Michael Mayer out of Notre Dame, as he has the skill set that many believe would easily transfer to the NFL right away.  Depending on what Cincinnati does with Hayden Hurst, the Covington Catholic phenom Michael Mayer might just end up in Burrow’s offense.  No matter what we do in this draft, there are multiple holes in the roster and this draft and offseason will be the most important offseason of my lifetime, as there is a lot at stake to keep the success afloat.

Shayne Graham joins Matt’s Take

This past week, I was lucky enough to talk football with Bengals legend, Shayne Graham.  Shayne joined the Bengals in 2003 and stayed within the organization through the 2009 season.  He was First Team All-Pro in 2005 and throughout his career, he held an 85.5 field goal percentage.  Many teams were lucky enough to have Shayne on their team throughout his playing career, but Shayne retired a Bengal in 2017 before moving into his coaching career.  Shayne holds quite the resume, as he is a retired NFL kicker, Special Teams Coach, as well as a CEO and continues to be a great person surrounding the game of football.

Q: What was your favorite moment as a Bengal?

A: “Game winner in Sunday night game in 2004.”

Q: What characteristics do you see in Evan McPherson that remind you of yourself?

A: “To be honest, he has qualities I wish I had. His confidence is unwavering and his physical ability is among the best I’ve seen.” 

Q: What do you believe this Bengals team needs to do this offseason in order to be contenders again next season?

A: “This is well above my pay grade to have a strong enough opinion on that.  For a team to make Super Bowl and 2 AFC Championships in a row, I’d say they have a few things figured out. No matter what they do, it won’t please everyone. I guarantee they are doing all they can to address position needs.”

Q: What former teammates do you stay in touch with?

A: “Many of them. Frostee Rucker and I are very close. I saw TJ Houshmandzadeh and Domata Peko this past week. I communicate with Willie Anderson regularly. Brad St. Louis has helped with some coaching and business things. I got to see many former teammates and hang out at the Thursday night game this past season and many of us are connected on social media and message each other a lot.”

Q: If you could watch an NFL game with any past or present player, who would you choose and why?

A: “Tough one. I would say Walter Payton because he was my favorite player growing up.”

Will Benson joins Matt’s Take

Will Benson kindly joined Matt’s Take this week.  Will Benson is new to the Reds organization, as he was traded to the Queen City in February from the Guardians.  If you have been keeping up to date with Spring Training, you certainly know who Will is by now, as he has been electrifying on the bases.  His quick speed and ability to play multiple positions provides great depth to this organization.  While Will is now known for his amazing abilities on the diamond, he was a fantastic basketball player in High School and had offers as a two sport athlete. Watching Benson grow this season and be a major contributor to this team will be thrilling and I am glad we were able to talk baseball this past week.

Q: What is your goal for the 2023 season?

A: “Win every game. Be an everyday contributing factor to my team’s success. Play the game at an elite level when I step on the field.”

Q: What position do you feel the most comfortable playing?

A: “I’m comfortable with all of them. I’ve played a good amount at each position throughout my career so far. It’s really wherever I’m needed. “

Q: You already have 3 stolen bases in Spring Training. With the new rules, do you see yourself being able to continue this success going forward?

A: “Absolutely! I believe the rules give baserunners a slight edge, especially when they have run out of picks.”

Q: If you could watch a game with any past or present player, who would you choose and why?

A: “Zay Curry! He’s my best friend and brother for life.”

Q: Who in the clubhouse do you look to for advice the most?

A: “As of right now, it has been Wil Myers. He keeps it simple and it’s digestible, which is what I need in advice.”

Q: What do you believe is your biggest strength?

A: “Power and speed. When I’m at my best, that is clearly on display. Being vocal and supporting my teammates is another strength of mine.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the pitch clock rules for 2023?

A: “I think the pitch clock is dope and adds pace of play to our game.”

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