Will Benson, the breakout player of Reds camp, makes the Opening Day roster
GOODYEAR, Ariz. –– Over the course of the spring, new Cincinnati Reds outfielder Will Benson saw a number of signs of how much the Reds value him.
Benson, who was traded to the Reds in February, was welcomed by Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson on Benson’s first day with his new team. Benson has heard members of the Reds front office tell him how long they’ve liked him as a player. In the middle of the spring, Benson picked up on the fact that the Reds coaches were giving him more opportunities alongside the Reds’ starters in spring training games.
Then this week, the Reds completed February’s trade with the Cleveland Guardians by naming starting pitcher Steve Hajjar, a 2021 second-round pick, as the player to be named later. Hajjar was the second second-round pick that the Reds had included in that deal, a sign of how much the Reds were willing to give up to add Benson to the outfield.
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The most important sign of them all to the 24-year-old outfielder was when Reds manager David Bell pulled him aside and told Benson that he’d be on the Reds’ Opening Day roster.
“They’ve given me so many opportunities, and thankfully I’ve been cashing in on those opportunities,” Benson said. “I’m thankful they see that in me and I’m able to deliver. It’s a blessing. That’s the only way I can put it. I’m ready to help this team win because that’s why I was picked up in the first place.”
Benson, the Guardians’ first-round pick out of high school in 2016, struggled at the plate for five seasons in the Guardians’ system. A swing change and a fresh mindset in 2022 helped him put the pieces together.
Benson is as physically gifted as any outfielder in the Reds’ organization. He’s 6-foot-5 with natural speed and power. After Benson cut his strikeouts down and took more walks last season, the Reds targeted him in trade talks during the offseason.
Benson made his MLB debut last August as a bench player for the Guardians. He didn’t play much on a Guardians team that was heading to the playoffs, but Benson’s teammates noticed his potential.
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“There’s all the obvious stuff that goes without saying,” said Reds catcher Luke Maile, who played for the Guardians in 2022. “He has lights-out power. He’s a great baserunner. But there’s some intangible stuff that I picked up on right away with him. Not only is he a good baserunner, he’s a smart baserunner and a student of the game. He’s constantly in the right spots. And he’s such a hard worker.”
When Benson reported to Reds’ spring training, he was competing for a spot on the roster. He became the breakout player in Reds’ camp, proving that he was ready to be a big league starting center fielder.
Over the last month, Benson’s role on the Reds has grown more than anyone else’s.
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"He’s a great worker and a great teammate,” Reds hitting coach Joel McKeithan said. “He’s really smart and well thought out. He’s starting to grow into his own. He made a really good adjustment last year to cut down on the swing and miss, and we’re seeing that play out. There’s a lot of power there, obviously. He has really been solidifying what he wants to do with his swing and his approach. He’s just growing and maturing.”
Less than two years ago, Benson was worried about being a bust. When he was struggling in Triple-A in 2021, he called his parents and told them how much he was struggling. They told him to give it one more shot.
Now, Benson’s perseverance and his dedication to improving his game have paid off with a spot on the Reds’ roster.
“I want to help the Reds get to the playoffs and do some damage when we get there,” Benson said. “Hopefully, I’m an integral part in that.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Will Benson, the breakout player of the spring makes the Reds' roster