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

Disco

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

Iggy

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

alfredo

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

finny

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.

Full profile on Brandon Finnegan from Grant Freking

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.

Jon Moscot

moscot

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

batman

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

lamb

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.

Cody Reed

reed

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.

Full profile on Cody Reed from Jeremy Conley

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

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).

Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.

Join the conversation! 37 Comments

  1. I think to believe Homer will provider any real consistant quality starts this year is kinda far fetched. I am hoping the Reds baby him back, limiting his innings and pitch count this season. There is zero reason to push him and rush anything, I would hope the Reds would see that and come season end Homer is in the very low 100’s in innings pitched this season and allow for him to be ready come 2017.

  2. Excellent work, Nick. Poor Mike Lorenzen was notably left out. It’ll be fun to see who’s in the rotation around June or July, when Bailey, Lamb, Stephenson, and Reed will likely all be candidates, even though April might be a little ugly. You have to wonder about Alfredo Simon’s job security when other candidates are ready. The use of Lorenzen and Finnegan should be particularly interesting.

    • I think Simon will stick in the rotation. I honestly think that the Reds and Bryan Price in particular can get him to at least be marginally productive. If someone does bump him from the rotation, it would be a positive sign for the young guys! If that happens, Simon has proven he can do a decent job for a team in the bullpen. Overall though, I think his ability to give innings will keep him in the rotation all year.

      • At least until the trade deadline. I think Simon may have a bounce back of 3-4 months to league average performance and be a prime candidate to move to a contender needing an injury replacement.

        • Also makes sense.

        • The value in this would be in the opening of a rotation spot for Stephenson/Reed.

          Even if he does have a good first half, the return for Simon would understandably be small

  3. Iglesias also threw 29 IP in AAA last year, so he had a in game total of 124 IP. I think he can get to 150+ IP this year without pushing him too hard. Maybe 160 IP, and then let him loose in 2017 for the full season.

    • Sounds pretty reasonable. I hope so. Innings out of Iglesias may be some of the best mound work we’ll see out of these Reds.

    • Good point. Thanks for bringing that up

    • That is true. The last I heard on MLB radio, generally they usually do an increase in innings pitched in these cases to about a 30% increase. That would be in the neighborhood of 160. I think you pegged it.

  4. This is the Opening Day rotation, of course. At least Iglesias and Finnegan will probably be innings limited. Iglesias may be shut down by August, and Finnegan may end the year in the bullpen. Simon may pitch well through June, and may regress and end up in the Bull Pen, or get flipped by the trading deadline if the Reds are way out of contention. I can see Lorenzen being in the bull pen when ready to pitch again, and then being stretched out and getting a shot at going into the rotation in July.
    Reed and or Stephenson will probably get a call up sometime this year, to go into the rotation. Depends on who looks better after ~100 innings at AAA and the fate of Simon. And don’t forget about Amir Garrett.
    Another longshot would be Cingrani getting stretched out in July to start (if he’s healthy) and swapping roles with Finnegan.
    Moscot may be the weakest link at this time, and first to be replaced when Homer is active. I actually think that Lamb’s problems are more serious at this time, and would not count on him being ready until at least June, or maybe later.

    • Amir Garrett is headed for his AA debut, but is unlikely to join the Reds this season, except perhaps as a September call-up out of the bullpen. He’s not forgotten about, he’s just further away… like Travieso, Mella, Romano, and Rookie Davis.

      I wouldn’t bet on Cingrani being used as a starter ever again – he’s had his chances, and they’ve moved on with him in the bullpen.

      • Keep in mind that Garrett is a bit behind the development curve because of the years when he was splitting time between NCAA D1 basketball and professional baseball; however he had to go onto the 40 man roster in a normal time frame.

        Thus even though 2016 will be Garrett’s first look at AA, he has only 1 option remaining and will have to be in MLB at the start of the 2018 season or otherwise exposed to waivers (and surely lost).

        This said, I agree he is highly unlikely to see the bigs this year unless he has an unbelievably good season which earns him a September call up. Another very slim possibility to get him to the bigs this year would be if against all odds and projections, the Reds find themselves competing for a playoff spot in August, Garrett could be up to bolster the MLB pen

        • “Playoffs!!?? Playoffs!!?? Playoffs????” 🙂 We can dream, right?

        • If we don’t entertain such thoughts in March, when will we?

          • Agreed.

            I think many of the younger folk were bright up to a decade (and more) of Reds futility and two decades of that NFL team which plays its home games in Cincy being among the worst of the worst so to speak. This tends to make them swear off any hope that the unexpected does happen from time to time and it could just as easily be their home team which benefits from it.

  5. Just looking down this list of rotation contenders (and ultimately some) pretenders is exciting to me. Then I think about the likes of Garrett, Travieso et al at AA and allow myself to believe that if the Reds org is able to sort things out successfully, by 2018 the team could have a really top notch staff.

    I see a major importance this year as being able to identify their core group versus who they are willing to part with in deals to get a position guy or two of the type they couldn’t quite land this last off season.

  6. I think a more interesting question is (assuming no major additions to this list brought in from outside the organization) who are the starters in 2017 and 2018.

    Bailey, DeSclafani, Iglesias, Lamb, Stevenson, Reed, Garrett, Lorenzen, Cingrani and Finnegan seem to me to be, in some order, the most talented arms in the Red’s system with a realistic chance to be on the pitching staff in 2017 and ’18.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Lorenzen, Cingrani and Finnegan be the top arms in the bullpen with the others in the rotation or traded for bats.

    • Lorenzen and Finnegan would be dynamite in the bullpen I think.

      However, I would like to see them given every opportunity to start first and not go the way of Chapman. A lot of great relievers were washed up starters and there’s nothing to say some of the young arms who don’t make the cut (already Sampson, maybe Moscot, time will tell who else) won’t also be fantastic out of the pen

    • An interesting question……but history tells us 1 or 2 of those guys will get hurt and 1 or 2 will be bad. Thats not a knock on the Reds….thats just pitching in general.

  7. Simply based on the projections (and have little predictive value as far as the Old Cossack is concerned), the Reds look to have a league average rotation full of #3 starters during 2015. I do think that Moscot will be the 1st competition casualty and will probably be moved to the bullpen in Cincinnati or Louisville.

    Lorenzen pitched 150 innings during 2015. The Reds will certainly bring him back slow and cautious, so when he does return, he should be able to finish the season in the rotation, leaving Bailey, Disco, Iggy, Finnegan & Lorenzen in the starting rotation until Iggy has to be shut down.

  8. Kinda sucks not having a game today. Mrs. Cossack is demanding snuggle time in the New Recliner.

  9. Nice breakdown, Nick. Thanks!

  10. One thing is readily apparent, the makeup of the rotation will be very much different by the all-star break. It could be a nice rebounding second half if everybody stays healthy. I am excited about a possible rotation of Bailey>Iglesias>DeSclafani>Reed>Lamb. Sometimes I’m rooting for Lamb for the rotation and sometimes for the backend of the bullpen.

  11. If you’re a believer that second-half splits have meaning carrying over to the next season, DeSclafani was a much better pitcher the second half of the season. His strikeout rate rose from 17 percent to 22 percent and his walk rate fell from 9.4 percent to 4 percent.

    • Not so much that 2nd half splits will carry over, but improved performance by a young player gaining experience leaves a nice taste and enhanced expectations. I really think Disco may become a top-of-the-rotation starter, just below that ‘ace’ caliber or designation.

      The scary nice thing about the near-future Reds rotation is that Disco may become the 4th or 5th best starter even with such a performance.

    • Not such a believer in 2nd-half splits but DeSclafani had a reputation of being a strike-thrower when the Reds acquired him. His numbers in the minors with the exception of one year at AAA showed a low walk rate. He didn’t give out many free passes at all in his stint with the Marlins. I think that 2nd half rate is going to be pretty reflective of him going forward.

  12. Heyman at CBSSports says the Reds were one of four teams to watch Kyle Lohse’s workout/showcase.
    I don’t know if this is an ominous sign on Moscot’s injury or what.

  13. Disco had an interesting game…

    5.2 innings & 92 pitches w/ 0 BB & 6 SO, but absolutely got homered, as in 4 HR & 8 ER.

    The bullpen decisions are getting interesting and perplexing with 2 open spots on the 40-man roster…

    Villarreal => 9.0 IP w/ 0.67 WHIP & 1.00 ERA – not on the 40-man roster
    Diaz, D. => 6.2 IP w/ 1.05 WHIP & 2.70 ERA – not on 40-man roster
    Hoover => 5.2 IP w/ 1.06 WHIP & 0.00 ERA
    Hayes => 7.0 IP w/ 1.14 WHIP & 1.29 ERA – not on 40-man roster
    Sampson => 4.0 IP w/ 1.25 WHIP & 0.00 ERA
    O’Grady => 8.1 IP w/ 1.32 WHIP & 7.56 ERA
    Cingrani => 9.0 IP w/ 1.33 WHIP & 1.00 ERA
    Cotham => 8.1 IP w/ 1.56 WHIP & 7.56 ERA
    Ramierez => 5.2 IP w/ 1.76 WHIP & 7.94 ERA – not on 40-man roster
    Diaz, J. => 7.0 IP w/ 1.86 WHIP & 9.00 ERA
    Mattheus => 10.2 IP w/ 2.16 WHIP & 8.44 ERA – not on 40-man roster
    Wood => 9.1 IP w/ 2.36 WHIP & 9.64 ERA

    Wood has simply stunk up the joint this spring, but was signed to a major league contract. Jumbo has exhibited his nasty habit of giving up the long ball. Neither of those relievers will be part of the next competitive team fielded by the Reds but both are on the 40-man roster. Mattheus & Ramierez have been very hittable and neither will be part of the next competitive team fielded by the Reds and neither is on the 40-man roster.

  14. Iggy and Stephenson both have the tools to develop into aces, Disco seems like he’d be a very high #3/low #2 type pitcher, plus we still have a few good years of Homer left.

    All we need is one of the other kids to pan out, and the Reds could have a formidable rotation on Opening Day 2018.

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About Nick Kirby

Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.

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