We know there are all kinds of minor injuries going on in the Reds rotation, but so far it looks as if only Latos will start on the DL, and that should be brief. And so, I will continue to approach the projection of the rotation as though all is well because I don’t know that it isn’t.
In looking at the three remaining pitchers slated to be part of the rotation, it is important to realize how good the Reds really have it. Whether or not he officially slots in fifth, Mike Leake is likely to be the fifth best starter on the team. Last year, his ERA was 3.37. The ERA for the entire NL was 3.74. His peripherals indicate he wasn’t maybe as good as his ERA made it seem, but the point holds. He’s the “worst” starter and he’s, at worst, average. This is a good place to be.
Let’s look at the numbers…
2013: 209.0 IP, 8.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.49 ERA
2014 Projection: 210 IP, 8.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.50 ERA
2013 WAR: 3.7 (FanGraphs), 3.2 (BBRef)
2013 RA-9: 3.5
2014 Best Guesses: 3.5, 3.5, 3.5
2014 Floor: 2.0
2014 Ceiling: 6.0
2013: 136.0 IP*, 10.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 2.92 ERA
2014 Projection: 170 IP, 10.0 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 3.30 ERA
2013 WAR: 1.3 (FanGraphs), 2.2 (BBRef)
2013 RA-9: 2.3
2014 Best Guesses: 3.0, 3.0, 3.0
2014 Floor: 1.5
2014 Ceiling: 5.0
*Major and minor leagues (all other stats majors only)
2013: 192.1 IP, 5.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.37 ERA
2014 Projection: 205 IP, 5.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.80 ERA
2013 WAR: 1.6 (FanGraphs), 3.0 (BBRef)
2013 RA-9: 3.2
2014 Best Guesses: 2.0, 2.5, 2.5
2014 Floor: 1.0
2014 Ceiling: 4.0
Not bad, huh? Let’s unpack things a bit.
First, it seems to me that the only thing standing between Homer and true greatness is that he sometimes has starts that are complete disasters. If he can fix that aspect of his game, he will immediately become a truly elite pitcher. Indeed, that may happen this year, but I’m not projecting it because that would be a dangerous game. As it is, I think he’s a borderline all-star.
Cingrani is probably the wild card in the rotation. I project him to get basically a full season’s worth of innings, but I expect there will be some limiting on the part of the Reds. The big questions are how the league will respond to him in his second year and whether or not he can limit his walks and pitch count to go deeper into games. As it stands now, his peripherals are not unlike certain parts of the careers of Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan. I’m not kidding. Go look them up. Pretty much all of the projections think he’ll continue to strikeout at least 10 batters per 9 innings. That’s huge.
I project him to improve on the walks. I’m going off some of what Price has said there. Cingrani is the one pitcher on the staff where I really feel better about him than most of the projections. I’m very optimistic. I guess will see how right I am.
Leake is becoming an interesting case. He’s been generally healthy and his innings have continually increased. As it stands, I feel comfortable projecting him to break 200 innings for the first time and officially step into his role as the second-coming of Bronson Arroyo. Additionally, batters put the ball in play against him a lot and so, as long as he plays for the Reds with their stellar defense, the WAR numbers are going to have a hard time with him. Thus, he joins Cueto as the only other pitcher whose value I expect to vary significantly across the various systems.
And, of course, this all comes with the caveat that other pitchers will start games for the Reds. We know, in fact, that Alfredo Simon will open the season in the rotation. However, in the long run, I’m uncomfortable predicting injuries for any one pitcher. I’ll make a team-wide adjustment in the wrap-up, which should come your way on Thursday. For now, just know that any other pitchers who start for the Reds are likely to be more or less replacement level.
Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Time for you to have your say. Tell me how wrong I am in the comments.