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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.