The Reds have two undecided spots left in the starting rotation. Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman, and Anthony DeSclafani are locks to the rotation. DeSclafani will be making his spring debut on Monday. He will not be ready for the opening series of the regular season, but the Reds are hopeful that he can start in the second series.

Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer said that the final two spots are most likely down to five candidates: Cody Reed, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Tim Adleman and Lisalverto Bonilla. Buchanan also says that Price has been impressed with Rookie Davis, Sal Romano and Luis Castillo. However those three are fairly long shots. Let’s take a closer look at the five most likely candidates:

Cody Reed
2017 ZiPS projection: 4.39 ERA, 8.44 K/9, 2.97 BB/9

Reed most likely has the highest upside in 2017. His first taste of the big leagues didn’t go so well in 2016 (10 GS, 7.36 ERA, 6.06 FIP), but that happens quite often to young pitchers. The strikeouts are good for Reed, but the thing that makes him stand out the most is the low walks. Reed has only allowed 3.3 BB/9 over his minor league career, including 2.6 in 2015, and 2.5 in 2016.

Amir Garrett
2017 ZiPS projection: 4.96 ERA, 8.03 K/9, 4.96 BB/9

Reed might have the highest upside in 2017, but Garrett likely has the highest upside of any Reds pitcher for the future. Garrett is currently the Reds top pitching prospect (#2 overall prospect behind Nick Senzel). Garrett dominated AA last year (12 GS, 1.75 ERA, 2.50 FIP), and pitched fairly well at AAA (11 GS, 3.46 ERA, 4.14 FIP).

Garrett has allowed just 1 run over 7.1 innings this spring, with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks.

Robert Stephenson
2017 ZiPS projection: 5.30 ERA, 9.42 K/9, 6.18 BB/9

Stephenson was the top dog among Reds prospects, but has slipped down to #4 on the list. Stephenson has no problem striking batters out (9.3 career K/9 in the minors), but his struggles with command have left many in the Reds organization frustrated. Stephenson had a 4.7 BB/9 last year at AAA. He made 8 starts at the big league level last year, and it was a struggle (6.08 ERA, 6.50 FIP).

Stephenson is approaching 600 innings in the minors, and at some point the Reds are going to have to see what they got. The command is certainly scary, and will likely lead to many growing pains.

Tim Adleman
2017 ZiPS projection: 4.76 ERA, 6.61 K/9, 2.98 BB/9

Adleman did a nice job for the Reds in 2016 posting a 4.00 ERA. Adleman certainly does not have great stuff, but he executes his pitches with good command. In some ways, Adleman probably deserves a rotation spot more than any of the other candidates. The biggest issue is likely that the Reds do not see him as part of their future plans. Therefore, do you really want to waste MLB starts when you have other guys ready?

Adleman has struggled this spring: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 4 K

Lisalverto Bonilla
2017 ZiPS projection: 4.34 ERA, 9.35 K/9, 3.87 BB/9

You probably aren’t as familiar with Bonilla as the others. Doug Gray did a great profile on Bonilla that I would recommend. He has some solid upside, and is coming back from Tommy John Surgery in 2015. Bonilla has split time as a reliever and starter, and has done some of both for the Reds this spring. His remarkable strikeout numbers in the minors certainly make him intriguing, but he might be more destined for a spot in the bullpen who could make some spot starts.


All five of the options listed are currently on the 40 man roster. I think the Reds would be better off going with Reed and Stephenson. The Reds have to see what they’ve got with those two guys, and they both already got a taste last season. Garrett is the future, but he has only made 11 starts above AAA. The Reds would be wise to at least wait to bring Garrett up until later in the season for service time purposes.

23 Responses

    • Nick Kirby

      That’s a good point. My biggest concern with Stephenson is that he is approaching 600 IP in the minors. You only get so much use out of many pitchers. At some point you just have to give him a shot. I’d like to see Garrett get a little bit more experience at AAA.

      • Gaffer

        You could easily see Stephenson making the team, but pitching inconsistent enough to get sent back down when Zdisco or Bailey come back so that may be a way to address the service time.

    • Patrick Jeter

      He’s thrown 18 pitches and maxed out at 83 mph so far. He’s not considered a candidate until he gives people a reason to consider him as such.

      • Simon Cowell

        you know what happens to a horse when it can no longer run in a race? Yeah. Sadly Bronson is ready for the glue factory.

  1. Mike

    What do the Reds do when Homer comes back and Bronson is ready?

    • Patrick Jeter

      I think there’s a good chance someone else in the Starting 5 gets hurt before Homer is ready, so that takes care of that problem.

      I think it is unlikely Bronson will be pitching in the bigs.

      • Nick Kirby

        My thoughts exactly Patrick. I wouldn’t worry about it until the time comes. These issues tend to work out themselves.

  2. WVRedlegs

    Reed and Stephenson on Opening Day roster. On April 18th, Garrett gets called up to start and we don’t look back. Stephenson to AAA and the bullpen on same day.
    Adelman crashed and burned yesterday like a Russian space rocket. Lysol has been unimpressive so far.

    • Jordan Barhorst (@JordanBarhorst)

      Something was clearly wrong with either Adelman or the mound during yesterday’s game, according to Jim Kelch. Not saying I’d want him to make the Opening Day rotation, but there may be a reason for his bad outing.

  3. The Duke

    I think the opening day pitching staff shakes out like this:

    Anthony Desclafani
    Brandon Finnegan
    Scott Feldman
    Cody Reed – Would need to be down for a while to get another year
    Robert Stephenson – Would need to be down for a while to get another year, may benefit under Price’s tutelage and a big league schedle

    Long Reliever: Lisalverto Bonilla – With injury issues the past couple years I think they keep a guy in the pen who can go out and give them 4-5 IP if necessary on a given day, and Bonilla may be the best fit for that with more upside than Adleman.
    MR: Nick Routt – I think Price wants that second lefty in the bullpen, and despite Wandy Peralta having a better arm, Routt is a better pitcher. I think he can hold his own as a lefty specialist
    MR: Blake Wood
    MR: Tony Cingrani
    SU: Michael Lorenzen
    SU: Raisel Iglesias
    CL: Drew Storen – I think Storen gets every chance to be the “closer” so that if he is having a solid year he becomes more attractive at the trade deadline

    Once we hit June, then whomever is performing the best of the arms in AAA will get the next shot as by that point service time is less an issue.

  4. sultanofswaff

    You almost have to wonder if one of the rotation spots will go to a guy not on the roster yet—a late spring training cut from another team.

    I’m less concerned about who begins the year in the rotation as I am about how the decision makers play the hand they are dealt. If they struggle, how many starts will they get before being optioned or moved to the ‘pen? If all are pitching well, who gets bumped when Homer returns?

  5. WVRedlegs

    Not a jumbo disappointment, but Jumbo Diaz got claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay. Oh well. The AL East and some of those short porches those stadiums have might not be too kind to Jumbo.

  6. sezwhom

    What I’ve learned about Spring Training: the pitching staff on Opening Day rarely looks the same in a month or two.

  7. Ed Koverman

    I’m hoping for five guys who can keep us in the game for seven innings

  8. Steve Mancuso

    Here’s an example why you approach spring training stats with skepticism. Cody Reed struck out the side in the 2nd inning. Good for him. The Rockies hitters he struck out were: Mike Tauchman, Dustin Garneau and Noel Cuevas. Me neither.

    • KetteringRedsFan

      After seeing you latest post this morning re Disco and the fact that no one has yet dominated ST, shouldn’t -this- post now be renamed “The Fight for the Final -Five- Rotation Spots”? Just sayin’ (grin)…..

  9. SC Reds Fan

    Great call on Garrett-I think he definitely has the highest upside of any Reds SP prospects, but he also needs to conquer AAA hitters first and be the lead starter at Louisville for (in my opinion) at least 12 starts, if not 15+.

    Also agree on Rookie Davis, Sal Romano, and Luis Castillo needing more experience. Don’t know much about Castillo, but I have always liked Romano and I think Davis just may pan out better than a lot of people initially expected immediately after the Chapman trade was completed.

    Tim Adelman could become a Kyle Kendrick-type pitcher if given the chance by the Reds or some other team. And there is value in that “Swingman” or “Fireman” role, sort of a Utility man of the pitching staff. Kendrick, now with Boston, has carved out a pretty long career for himself in that type of role.

    Unfortunately, I am starting to have my doubts with Stevenson, especially in regards to his worsening command issues. Starting to remind me of a Jeremy Bonderman, who came up about the same time as Justin Verlander with Detroit and was actually thought by some people to be the better of the two pitchers. Of course, we know differently now, with Verlander being a possible Hall of Famer and Bonderman becoming a flameout in short order, due to lack of command and injuries. I really have my doubts about RS.
    Not ready to give up yet, but one more year of bad command could see him end up being part of a trade as soon as next offseason, especially if some of the rumors are true about him being hardheaded and not listening to his coaches.

    • lwblogger2

      During that interview with Jim Day down in Spring Training, Stevenson didn’t seem to come across as hard-headed. He seemed relatively modest. Some guys, especially pitchers have the light turn on later than others. Personally, I think he’s thinking about it all too much. Is his velocity a bit down because he’s trying to aim the ball? Is he more worried about his mechanics than just letting the ball go? Is he trying to think too far ahead and not just on executing one pitch at a time? Who knows? I’m hoping he gets it sooner rather than later. The Reds are going to stink again this year so I think he needs at least half a season in MLB this season.