This week’s respondents are Nick Carrington, Chad Dotson, Chris Garber, Bill Lack and Steve Mancuso.
Our Daily Reds Obsession: How should the Reds use Michael Lorenzen in 2018?
Nick: I have beat the drum for Lorenzen to start for a while now, and I still think he would be a solid Major League starter if given the chance. However, I’m not blindly devoted to the idea. Lorenzen was terrible the last 2.5 months of the season and spent way too much time fiddling with his mechanics, something that didn’t seem out of place while he was dominating for roughly 100 innings between 2016 and the first half of 2017.
If I’m the Reds, I let him start in Spring Training and see what it looks like. If his 2016 command returns, I give him two months to prove he’s a starter, knowing that he will likely need to transition back to the bullpen at some point because of an innings limit. If he’s still wild in and out of the zone, I put him in the pen.
Chad: Is there any argument against giving Lorenzen an opportunity to start games beginning with spring training next year? Seriously, I can’t think of any good argument against it (unless, of course, the Reds have medical records that indicate Lorenzen physically cannot start). Lorenzen wants to start. He’s started 21 games in the big leagues, so it’s not like it’s a completely new concept. A good starter is more valuable than a good reliever. And Lorenzen will only be 26 years old next season.
So why not give it a shot? If it doesn’t work out, then he goes back to the bullpen and you’re in exactly the same spot that you would have been otherwise. But if it does work out…well, you’ve added another good young starter with a live arm to the mix, making it even more likely that the Reds can put together a solid rotation over the next few years. To me, it’s a no-brainer. (Which probably means — according to the cynic in me — that the Reds will do the complete opposite?)
Chris: 110 innings out of the bullpen, assuming he gets his game together. If there’s a close game and the starter is flagging, just put Lorenzen in until he runs out of gas.
Bill: I think the default for anyone with the possible capability of doing it is to attempt to make him a starter. It’s a lot easier to turn a starter into a reliever than the opposite. This team didn’t answer a lot of questions in ’16 about their starters, so some slots are still open. Also, his athleticism and ability to hit could be used more effectively if he was in the starting rotation. His drop-off in the second half of ’17 is really troubling though. He appears to have just become a lot more hittable for some reason. Hopefully that’s something mechanical that can be corrected or a matter of location, which might improve with experience and maturity.
Steve: I put Lorenzen in the same pile of pitchers as Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Sal Romano, Amir Garrett, Brandon Finnegan and Tyler Mahle as worthy of a good look as a starter. I’d slot Lorenzen into the rotation for April and May and let him know, for innings reasons and to give others their opportunity, that he’ll move to the bullpen in June. If the Reds have traded Raisel Iglesias, Lorenzen would be a top candidate for closing games. I don’t put much stock in the “Lorenzen crashed in the second half of 2017” concern. Lorenzen had a better strikeout rate and lower walk rate in the second half. When you factor out the BABIP and home run luck, it turns out he was better in the second half. Don’t believe me? His xFIP was 3.60 in the second half and 4.12 in the first. Either way, the sample size is small. I’m still strongly in Lorenzen’s corner. Give him a solid shot in the rotation to see what he can do.