For the first time since 2009, the names Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake will not be in the Reds starting pitching rotation. Those two pitchers combined to start 315 games between 2010-2015, or 32.4% of all games started by a Reds pitcher between 2010-2015.
The Reds rotation has taken a drastic overhaul that started following the trade deadline of 2015. The good news for the Reds is that their new rotation is significantly younger, and they have a surplus of options. The bad news is that the young rotation lacks experience.
On Friday, Reds new beat writer Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that the Reds rotation is likely set for the start of 2016. Buchanan believes (although it has not been confirmed by Bryan Price) that the rotation will likely consist of Anthony DeSclafani, Rasiel Iglesias, Alfredo Simon, Brandon Finnegan, and Jon Moscot. Price has yet to name an opening day starter.
Homer Bailey and John Lamb will not be ready for the start of the season. Top prospects Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed were both recently sent back to the minors.
Here is a breakdown of the Reds rotation:
Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
Back in February, John Fay wrote that DeSclafani would be his “best guess” as to who would be the Reds 2016 opening day starter. While DeSclafani doesn’t appear to have the upside of a pitcher like Raisel Iglesias, he was the only consistent member of the 2015 Reds rotation. DeSclafani started 31 games for the Reds, and lead all MLB rookie pitchers in fWAR at 3.2 (just edging out Noah Syndergaard who had 3.1 fWAR)
DeSclafani’s 4.05 ERA was just below the MLB average for SP in 2015, which was 4.10. His 3.67 FIP suggests that he was much better. His 3.67 FIP ranked 36th out of the 78 qualifying MLB SP in 2016, and was just ahead of Felix Herandez (3.72) and Jordan Zimmerman (3.75). DeSclafani’s K/9 and BB/9 was nearly identical to the league average mark, but the one thing he did really well was keeping the ball in park. His 0.83 HR/9 ranked 27th out of the 78 qualifying MLB SP.
2016 ZiPS projection: 29 GS, 178.0 IP, 3.79 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 7.38 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 3.2 fWAR
DeSclafani is projected for another solid year for the Reds in 2016. He is projected for an identical 3.2 fWAR total to last season. If he can put up these types of numbers again in 2016, that would be very good for the Reds young rotation. He will likely never develop into an ace, but I don’t believe it would be unreasonable to think that DeSclafani could be as good or even better than Mike Leake. The Reds still have DeSclafani under team control until 2021, and he continues to be an absolute steal for one season of Mat Latos.
Raisel Iglesias, RHP
Watching Raisel Iglesias pitch was the most exciting thing about the 2015 Reds (at least for me). Igleisas finished 2015 with 104 strikeouts in 95.1 IP. His 9.82 K/9 was the 11th best mark in the MLB among pitchers with 90+ innings.
Iglesias’ strikeout numbers were outstanding, while his BB/9 (2.62) and HR/9 (1.04) were just slightly better than league average. The one glaring concern with Iglesias is how deep he can pitch into games. In 3 of his 16 starts, he didn’t make out of the 4th inning. He did have a very promising stretch between July 27-September 2 where he pitched 6.0+ innings in 8 consecutive starts (including 7.0+ in the last 4). There is also the overall innings concern, as he only pitched a total of 95.1 innings in 2015. Iglesias will likely be shut down at some point in the season to limit his innings (if he can stay healthy to that point).
2016 ZiPS projection: 133.0 IP, 23 GS, 3.79 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 8.59 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 2.1 fWAR
Igelsias is projected to drop a bit from his high strikeout rate, but overall his projected production looks good. He has shown signs of dominance. Last August, Iglesias had a 2.27 ERA and 0.76 WHIP, with 45 K and 10 BB in six starts. I know that I am certainly excited to see what he can do starting in the rotation from the beginning of the season.
Alfredo Simon, RHP
The Reds brought back Alfredo Simon on March 17th. The Reds signed Simon to a 1-year deal with a base of $2.0 million, plus incentives that could get Simon an extra $1.5 million. In baseball terms only (which all I want to discuss today), this move makes a good deal of sense. Simon should be a good “innings eater,” and at $2 to $3.5 million that is a good price on today’s market. This will allow the Reds to likely send guys like Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson back to the minors to work on their craft. There is no reason to rush these guys to the big leagues until they are absolutely ready. That is not only for their development, but also to keep their free agent clock from starting.
Many of us here at Redleg Nation projected that Alfredo Simon’s 2014 season was a fluke because of the major difference between his ERA and FIP. Many of us thought that he would regress in 2015. Simon absolutely did that, and the Reds trade for Euginio Suarez and top pitching prospect Jonathan Crawford was an absolute steal. Simon had a 5.05 ERA in 31 starts in 2015.
2016 ZiPS projection: 26 GS, 155.7 IP, 4.91 ERA, 4.79 FIP, 5.20 K/9, 2.95 BB/9
The projections obviously don’t look good for Simon, but it is important to remember that he is only here to “eat innings.” Even during Simon’s bad 2015 season, he still averaged over 6.0 innings per start.
Patrick Jeter will have much more on Simon and what to expect in 2016 on Friday.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP
It looks like the #17 overall pick from the 2014 draft will get a shot in the Reds rotation to start the season. Finnegan has bounced back and forth between starting and relieving. The crazy thing about Finnegan is that he has only pitched a total of 139.1 innings of professional baseball. He of course pitched in the College World Series and the actual World Series in the same year in 2014.
2016 ZiPS projection: 91.0 IP, 39 G, 14 GS, 3.79 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 9.07 K/9, 3.39 BB/9
Finnegan’s projections reflect 14 starts and 25 relief appearances. He is projected to strikeout a lot batters, as he has done throughout his career. His issue will likely again be walks. It is important to remember as mentioned above that he has only pitched 139.1 innings in professional baseball. The ceiling is certainly high for Finnegan, but there will likely be growing pains as he tries to get there.
The Reds fourth round draft pick from 2012 has rose through the minors fairly quickly. Moscot has out-pitched his peripherals at nearly every stop. The strongest of Moscot’s stops in the minor leagues was in 2014. That season at AA, Moscot posted a 3.13 ERA/3.68 FIP in 149.1 IP.
The most concerning thing when looking at Moscot’s numbers is his strikeout decline. Moscot had an 8.71 K/9 in A-ball in 2014 at Bakersfield. In 51.1 IP at AAA last season, Moscot had a K/9 of only 5.63. Moscot likely figures to just be a placeholder until Lamb and Bailey return to the Reds rotation, but at 24 years old, he certainly has time to become a valuable pitcher in the Reds organization.
Moscot was scratched from a start on March 16th because of a muscle strain. Bryan Price said on Monday that Moscot is still dealing with soreness, but Price is “optimistic” that he will be part of the opening day rotation.
2016 ZiPS projection: 101.0 IP, 18 GS, 5.17 ERA, 5.25 FIP, 6.24 K/9, 3.12 BB/0
Homer Bailey, RHP
It is weird to think of Homer Bailey as the new “Bronson Arroyo” of the Reds pitching staff, but that is exactly what the Reds need him to be when he comes back. While I doubt we will see Homer singing on a JTM commercial anytime soon, he should be a good anchor to help this young Reds rotation.
The Reds organization has received a lot of criticism for Bailey’s contract, but it is important to remember just how good this guy was before the injury. Between 2012-13, Bailey posted a 3.58 ERA/3.64 FIP, and was 23rd among all MLB pitchers in fWAR at 6.8. He was better over that span than guys like Jon Lester, who posted a 6.0 fWAR (Lester even had 1 more start than Bailey did). Given Johnny Cueto’s struggles in Kansas City at the end of last season, and Mat Latos completely falling off the map, giving Bailey $100 million doesn’t seem as bad as giving either one of those pitchers $200+ million.
The official prognosis is that Bailey will possibly return in May. Knowing the Reds recent history with “medical timetables,” I don’t know if I would bet on Bailey actually returning in May. Bailey threw live batting practice on Monday for the first time, and everything went well.
2016 ZiPS projection: 149.0 IP, 23 GS, 3.93 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 7.85 K/9, 2.54 BB/9
It is difficult to project what exactly Bailey will do when he comes back. It wouldn’t be crazy to think that Bailey could come back even stronger post Tommy John surgery. Bailey has also traditionally been a slow starter (career ERA is 0.73 better in the second half), so don’t be alarmed if he starts off slow.
John Lamb was the definition of a raw talent with a lot of upside last season with the Reds. If you only looked at Lamb’s 5.80 ERA in 49.2 innings, you’d probably think he was terrible. But if you look a little bit closer, you’d see all the promise that he brings. Lamb had a ridiculous 10.51 K/9. For comparison sake, there were only five starting pitchers in baseball who struck out 10+ batters per 9 innings (Sale, Kershaw, Scherzer, Archer, and Carrasco). Obviously, striking out that many batters over 150+ innings is an entirely different level than 49.2 innings, but you can see why there is so much excitement.
So how exactly did Lamb put up a 5.80 ERA if he was that good? Well, he had a 3.44 BB/9 (MLB average among SP in 2015 was 2.72) and a 1.45 HR/9 (MLB average was 1.06). He also suffered some tough luck with a .376 BABIP.
Lamb had back surgery in December, so he will not be ready for Opening Day. The official prognosis is that Lamb will possibly return in mid-April. It will be interesting if the Reds send Lamb directly up to the big leagues once he is ready, or if they will have him pitch in the minors for a while.
Reed was officially sent down to the minors yesterday (3/21), but he will likely be a part of the Reds 2016 rotation at some point. Doug Gray wrote about Reed yesterday:
The rough outing may have been a blessing in disguise for the Reds manager and front office. Reed had been dominant in his previous outings, although limited. With the injuries piling up to the rotation, and the other starting options all having struggles, had Reed continued to perform it would have been a tough sell to send the lefty down with a valid excuse. He needed 59 pitches, and threw 35 strikes to get through 3.1 innings and had problems throwing strikes and was struggling to find his spots when he was in the zone. In order to keep a player for an additional year of service time they need to spend 11 days in the minor leagues. Wasting an entire year of additional control so a player can get two starts would be a monumental mistake, particularly in a season like 2016, which even the organization doesn’t expect much from aside from development
Reed has quickly become the Reds #3 overall prospect, and is now the #66 overall prospect in baseball. Reed was downright incredible in 49.2 innings last year for the Reds at AA. Reed had a 2.17 ERA/2.24 FIP, with 10.78 K/9 and 2.90 BB/9. Maybe most impressive was that he only allowed 1 home run in nearly 50 innings.
2016 ZiPS projection: 137.0 IP, 25 G, 23 GS, 4.27 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 8.34 K/9, 2.96 BB/9
Robert Stephenson, RHP
Stephenson is the Reds top pitching prospect, and is the #35 overall prospect in all of baseball. There is no denying that Stephenson will be a major part of the Reds rotation in the future. The Reds officially sent Stephenson to the minors on Friday. It is certainly wise of the Reds not to rush him, and also not to start his free agent clock.
In nearly 450 innings pitched in the minors, Stephenson has a 9.8 K/9. He has struggled over his minor league career with walks (4.0 BB/9).
2016 ZiPS projection: 28.0 IP, 5 GS, 5.27 ERA, 5.42 FIP, 9.05 K/9, 4.99 BB/9
It is unclear if Stephenson will pitch for the Reds in 2016 or not. I would be surprised if we see him anytime earlier than September, but stranger things have happened.
All statistics are used courtesy of Fangraphs, ESPN Stats and Info, and Baseball-Reference (including Baseball-Reference Play Index).