This week’s respondents are Matt Habel, Steve Mancuso, Jim Walker, Tom Mitsoff, and Chad Dotson.
Our Daily Reds Obsession: What’s the best-case scenario for Homer Bailey? Worst-case?
Matt: Homer Bailey had a bit of a mixed bag in terms of performance and results in 2017, with much to be desired as far as improvement goes. Best case scenario is that he gets a full spring to prepare for the season and shakes off all the rust that beleaguered him most of last year, he takes the ball on opening day and stays in the rotation all year, giving the Reds an established 3-4 WAR starter that they have lacked since Johnny Cueto was traded. Worst case scenario is that he stays healthy but cannot find his old form and takes up a rotation spot from a young pitcher while accounting for 30% of the Reds payroll as a replacement level player. Certainly not wishing for this by any means, but the silver lining if he does have more injury problems is that the Reds can use the roster spot to continue testing out the young arms.
Steve: Bailey gets to have a normal offseason this year for the first time in a while. He won’t be rehabbing off surgery. Bailey can build leg and lower body strength. That’s something he pointed to making a difference in stamina and not tiring at end of games. He’s only 31-32, so plenty of good years left for a starting pitcher.
If Bailey stays healthy, he could make 30+ starts and pitch 200 innings. Bailey started 18 games last year and in 9 of them gave up two or fewer runs. I could see Bailey returning to his 2012-2013 form as a staff leader and give the Reds solid #2 or #3 numbers. Obviously, his worst case is the same as for any other player, a production-hampering injury.
Jim: Bailey’s worst-case scenario is that he suffers another injury which causes him to miss a significant amount of time or even ends his career. Homer’s best-case scenario is that he avoids further major injury and goes on to approach the very high ceiling which was seen for him when he first arrived on the scene all those years ago. How likely is this to happen? I believe he has a real shot to at least come close if his body doesn’t fail him again. As he progressed through the second half of 2017, we saw that his stuff was largely undiminished from prior to TJ surgery. Just as importantly, I believe we saw a more mature and focused player who shows signs of becoming an accomplished craftsman. This is a winning combination if he can stay off the disabled list.
Tom: The best-case scenario for Homer Bailey is to mirror Adam Wainwright’s post-Tommy John trend line. Wainwright had TJ in 2011 at age 29, and since that point has an 80-46 record, two all-star selections and a Cy Young Award runner-up. In the two most recent seasons, Wainwright’s effectiveness has slipped, but that can be attributed to age as well as possible after-effects of surgery. Homer spent the last few months of last season basically learning to control his “new” repertoire, which no longer features the blazing fastball. He’ll now have to get people out with great placement and great movement on his pitches, which is the transition Wainwright successfully made. The worst case is a reoccurrence of the TJ injury, which will probably bring his Reds career to a close.
Chad: I’m serious when I say that Homer Bailey’s best-case scenario is as a solid number two starter for the 2018 and 2019 Reds. A 3+ WAR player. That’s where Bailey was before all the injuries, and I saw enough last year to believe that he could still round back into that form.
Do I think that’s likely to happen? Well, no, but we’re talking about the best-case, and I do think it’s within the realm of possibility. Worst-case, obviously, is more injuries and Bailey’s career draws to a close without touching those heights ever again. What we’ll probably see is that Bailey becomes a pretty good #4 starter for the remainder of his time in Cincinnati, and I’m okay with that.