A Minors Obsession

Which minors pitchers to watch this spring

Yesterday the Cincinnati Reds kicked off spring training, officially. Pitchers and catchers reported and took their physicals. Later today they will have the first workout. As the resident minor league guru I figured it would be a good time to take some time to mention a few pitchers to keep an eye on that may not be ones you know a ton about. Bryan Price seemed to lay out who would be competing for spots in the rotation. What we don’t know is who all is truly in competition for the open spots in the bullpen. Four guys jump out to me that are a little bit “off of the radar” who could take a spot with a strong showing this spring.

If you follow along with the Reds farm system you probably know who Jimmy Herget is. For those who are not as crazy as those of us who do, Herget was a 6th round pick in 2015 and has dominated his way up through Louisville ever since. He’s thrown 148.0 innings with a 2.49 ERA and 181 strikeouts to go with 64 saves as he’s worked his way up the organization. He was the 19th rated Reds prospect following the 2017 season. With strong numbers, good polish, upper level experience and quality stuff he’s the kind of guy who with a good five weeks could earn a spot. His fastball can get up to 97, though he tends to work a little lower than that, and he shows off a good breaking ball (full scouting report here).

The Reds #24 prospect after the 2017 season is the next guy that I want to highlight. Jesus Reyes, who I talked about on the Redleg Nation Radio podcast this past week (if you haven’t listened, what are you waiting for?), spent last year in Daytona and Pensacola. Between the two stops he had a 3.60 ERA in 137.1 innings, working as a starter. But, as I mentioned on the podcast, he’s viewed almost by everyone as a future reliever. He’s an elite ground ball rate pitcher with a big time fastball (full scouting report here). With a good spring he’s a guy that could steal that final spot despite having only 10 starts in Double-A.

Kyle Crockett, who may be Chad Dotson’s favorite left handed reliever in baseball for no reason at all related to him pitching at the University of Virginia, could be vying for a spot in the bullpen. The left hander has a 3.44 career ERA in the Major Leagues over 65.1 innings. His ERA, however, has gone from 1.80 to 4.08 to 5.06 to 10.80 in his four seasons in the Majors – all while throwing fewer games than he threw in the previous season. In 2017 for Columbus (Triple-A) he posted a 3.38 ERA in 48.0 innings with 11 walks and 49 strikeouts. While right handers found some success against him, lefties managed just a .524 OPS against him during the season (including some limited Major League time). As a lefty reliever, he’ll get a long look if he performs well in the spring.

The last guy is probably a longshot, but Tanner Rainey has the best stuff among anyone in the group (full scouting report here). The right hander split his year between Advanced-A and Double-A, posting a 3.19 ERA in 62.0 innings. He struck out 104 batters, but also walked 33 – including 11 in 17.0 innings with Pensacola. Rainey isn’t on the 40-man roster, which works against him – but if he comes out in March and is consistently in the strikezone, with his stuff that includes a fastball that reaches triple digits, it could be difficult to send him to the minors.

10 thoughts on “Which minors pitchers to watch this spring

  1. Nice write up. Hunter Greene will be the pitcher getting everybody’s attention wherever he starts out at. That will be a given. All eyes will be on him this year. Rightfully so.
    But it is nice to mention a few others who deserve to have a little ray of the limelight shine their way. Bullpen guys. The cream is starting to rise to the top with the bullpen. Some starters will be eventually moved in to the bullpen mix at some point.
    Already in the pipeline are Weiss (AAA), Herget (AAA), A. Hernandez (AAA), Rainey (AA), and Hendrix (AA). With more coming below them.
    Then we have starters who will be transitioned to the bullpen soon as one already seems to have been with Cody Reed (ML/AAA). Add in Jackson Stephens (AAA), Keury Mella (AA), and as Doug mentioned Jose Reyes (AA) and that is a lot of firepower for (near) future bullpen pieces.
    These pitchers with 30/40 ratings on their Command will have to get their caca together soon or risk being passed up. Just like the rotation mix has been.
    The cream is rising to the top in the bullpen and rotation. It just has been a slow, arduous process.

  2. MR: Shackleford
    MR: Crocket
    MR: Hughes
    MR: Hernandez
    LHSU: Peralta
    RHSU: Lorenzen
    CL: Iglesias

    Then the first 4 games until the 5th starter is needed I think we’ll carry an 8th, and potentially a 9th RP if we go with a short bench. Vying for that short term spot I think is a competition between Ariel Hernandez, Austin Brice, Keury Mella, Jesus Reyes, and Zack Weiss (all guys on the 40 man roster). If Reyes is there I could see him start the year in the MLB bullpen, and then go down to the Pensacola rotation in AA (where he finished last year).

    • I think you have it pretty well nailed. But have a sneaking suspicion that Cody Reed is going to figure into that bullpen mix when spring training concludes. He will probably challenge either Crocket or Shackleford for that spot.
      The time is now for the young bullpen guys to show their stuff or risk getting lost in the impending logjam of bullpen arms.
      Those 2 veterans signed for the bullpen this off season could end up being flip candidates if some younger guys step up. And hopefully Hughes and Hernandez can hold up their end of the bargain and perform well through July. Contenders always seem to pay big for a needed or upgraded bullpen arm at the deadline. It could only help to stockpile some extra prospects for that big trade or 2 next winter.

      • I think it would be a waste to have Reed in the bullpen. I see a guy that should be a good starting pitcher. He just needs to get a few things sorted out. That said, the Reds know him better than I know him and for all we know, he may feel MUCH more comfortable working out of the pen. I think they are relegating him to the pen too early but I very well may be wrong. I’m hoping that if he is relegated to the bullpen that he does exactly what you say he might. I hope if he is sent to the pen, he makes the MLB pen out of spring and thrives there.

      • The Reds need a second lefty in the bullpen and nothing wrong with 3. I don’t like how the Reds handled Reed last year, but they know what they have and seem to be more analytically minded now. I could see Reed developing into a 75 inning flexible multi-inning lefty with a 95 mph power arm and a dominant slider. Give him this year to find his focus and command and identity as a power lefty in the bullpen for years to come.

        Garrett and Finnegan have earned looks as lefties ahead of him in the rotation, not to mention the stockpile of young righties.

  3. Speaking of the minors, the Brewers sign Nick Franklin to a minor-league deal. I was hot on him for a good while and boy was I off the mark. I was still kind of hoping the Reds may sign him to a minor league deal but after they signed Pennington, I figured it unlikely. It will be interesting to see how he does this year since I wasn’t the only one on RLN that was high on him a couple years back.

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