Lately, it seems to me that every post discussing the lack of success of many of the Reds’ young pitchers is accompanied by some number of comments about the players being “rushed” because of need at the big league level.
This didn’t match my perception. My perception was that these guys were making debuts roughly when you’d expect, which is to say after half a season+ of success in the upper levels of the minor leagues. And at an age (23-25) when you typically expect prospects to debut.
But I’m always willing to be wrong.
So I did some research. The best article I could find was this one from Baseball Prospectus in 2012. One assumes the way in which players are promoted has not radically changed in the last five years. In any case, the article found that pitchers made their debut, on average at 24.4 years old with 350-400 innings pitched or so.
To the data mobile, Batman!!
Below is a list of the various heralded pitching prospects along with a list of how old they were for their debut and how many minor league innings they had pitched (note: that’s innings pitched BEFORE debut, not total minor league innings pitched).
Cody Reed – 332.1 IP, 23.2 years old
Amir Garrett– 496.0, 24.9 years old
Robert Stephenson – 450.0, 23.1 years old
Luis Castillo – 460.1, 24.5 years old
Rookie Davis – 450.2, 23.9 years old
Sal Romano – 616.1, 23.5 years old
Tyler Mahle – 431 IP, currently 22.8 years old, no MLB debut yet
Looking at the data, it’s hard for me to say the Reds are rushing their pitchers. I suppose they’re on the young side in terms of age, but other than Cody Reed, they all have higher than average innings totals in the minors before their debuts.
I understand the frustration of fans when it comes to highly-touted prospects failing to perform, but I think it behooves us all to consider the following things: 1. LOTS of players in every organization never do anything. 2. Sometimes players who DO end up good take a while to figure it out. 3. Some players simply can’t cut it. 4. Knowing who those players are on draft day (beyond the first half dozen players picked or so), is just about impossible.
The crop we’re currently seeing represent drafts that occurred when the Reds were very good and thus drafting quite low, which means much more uncertainty, with some players acquired via trade added in. This doesn’t mean giving the org. a complete pass on the failure to develop players, but the Reds may still end up with several very good starters from this crop. Castillo has been excellent so far, Mahle will have his shot soon, Romano has been okay, and one of the other guys could always get it together late.
Developing players is complicated and lots can go wrong and sometimes you can’t know what will happen.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.