The Cincinnati Reds Major League bullpen has been among the best in baseball over the past several years and is a staple of teams built by Walt Jocketty over his career as a general manager. Most of the 2013 bullpen should be returning, but as we see every year, injuries happen often enough and the minor leagues will need to fill in those gaps.

Carlos Contreras finds himself as the top ranked reliever, with an asterisk that will be addressed later in the article. Contreras actually started this past season, splitting his time between Bakersfield and Pensacola where he posted a combined 3.47 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 132.1 innings. Despite starting, Contreras is very likely to find himself in the bullpen moving forward. As a reliever in 2012, his velocity topped out at 98 MPH and could often sit in the mid 90’s. With a blazing fastball, change up and curveball he has the potential to pitch out of the back of a bullpen if he continues to progress.

The next guy on the list is Michael Lorenzen, who is going to give starting pitching a go next season. I actually had him ranked ahead of Contreras on the Top 25 prospects list, but given his go at starting, he gets bumped down here some. With how few innings he threw in college, mixed with his stuff, I think there is a decent chance he winds up back in the bullpen over the long haul where his plus fastball velocity can work with his breaking ball to pitch out of the back end of the bullpen if he, like Contreras, continues to progress. He will need to work on his control which was very poor once he reached Advanced-A and continued through the Arizona Fall League.

El’Hajj Muhammad had an outstanding first half with the Bakersfield Blaze as he posted a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings with 34 strikeouts. He suffered a leg injury though that kept him out for the second half of the season. His stuff took a step forward in the first half, though his control was a concern as he walked 19 batters. He must improve his control moving forward, but he showed off strong stuff during the season and dominated a very hitter friendly league.

Curtis Partch made it all the way to the big leagues this season after spending some time with both Pensacola and Louisville where he posted a 3.68 combined ERA in 36.2 innings with45 strikeouts and 14 walks. The big right hander topped out at 99 MPH this year and averaged 95.1 MPH in his time with the Reds. He struggled with control at the big league level, walking more batters than he struck out. The fastball is there, but he will need to improve his secondary offerings and control moving forward to have success at the big league level.

Kyle McMyne is another big armed right hander. He split his time between Bakersfield and Dayton, finishing back with the Blaze. He posted an 8.33 ERA in 35.2 innings with 19 walks and 32 strikeouts through June 22nd with Bakersfield before being demoted. He posted a 3.00 ERA in Dayton over the next three weeks with 5 walks and 13 strikeouts in 12 innings before heading back to Bakersfield. Once he returned, he posted a 1.96 ERA over the final 5 weeks with 11 walks and 19 strikeouts in 23 innings. He lowered his walk rate and flashed good stuff throughout the season, including a mid 90’s fastball at times, but he will need to continue to lower his walk rate as he moves forward.

Ben Klimesh started out his season with Dayton, posting a 2.60 ERA in 34.2 innings with 10 walks and 45 strikeouts before earning a promotion to Bakersfield. With the Blaze his ERA jumped up to 6.59 in 27.1 innings with 12 walks and 28 strikeouts. His strikeout rate was very strong for the season, though his walk rate did jump up a bit high while with the Blaze. Klimesh was able to touch the mid 90’s with his fastball at times as well.

Left hander Wandy Peralta spent his entire season with Dayton where he posted a 3.80 ERA in 85.1 innings with 41 walks and 79 strikeouts. He was able to show an above-average fastball and mix in a solid breaking ball and a change up as well. The walk rate was a bit high, but he showed quality stuff from the left side and posted solid numbers on the year.

Alejandro Chacin was another arm that was in Dayton all season long. The right hander posted a 2.1 ERA in 65 innings with 33 walks and 72 strikeouts. While his fastball velocity is mostly average, he gets a ton of movement with all of his pitches that helps his stuff play up. The walk rate was higher than you would like, but his stuff plays well and the results have been very strong since he signed.

There are plenty of other relievers from full season ball who could be added in, but these guys stood out for one reason or another. Guys like Nick Christinai, Justin Freeman, Parker Frazier, Drew Hayes, Chris Manno, Jamie Walczak, James Allen, Mike Dennhardt, Pat Doyle, Shaun Ellis, Sean Lucas, Carlos Gonzalez, Joel Bender, Joey Housey and probably a few other guys that I forgot to mention all have something working in their favor out of the bullpen.

In rookie ball there were some guys that also stood out. Werleen Taveras posted a 0.63 ERA in 14.1 innings with Billings before being promoted to Dayton where he posted a 3.95 ERA in 13.2 innings. He had 12 walks and 27 strikeouts on the season in 28 innings. Nick Fleece missed the 2012 season but returned in 2013 with a 3.05 ERA in 20.2 innings with 4 walks and 21 strikeouts. between Billings and Dayton in the second half. Joe Mantoni posted a 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings with 8 walks and 30 strikeouts in his first season as he dominated for Billings in the closers role. Nick Routt posted a 2.86 ERA in 22 innings with 6 walks and 24 strikeouts between Arizona and Billings. Layne Somsen threw 43.1 innings for Billings with a 1.66 ERA, 15 walks and 40 strikeouts. Ty Boyles threw 30 innings in Arizona with 10 walks and 31 strikeouts. That doesn’t include international signing Luis Tejada, who has shown a mid 90’s fastball at times.

Overall Thoughts

The Reds are fairly deep with relief prospects, though the ones at the top all seem to have a wart or two on their resume. There are two guys who may profile as closers in the group, which boosts up the value of this group. Behind those two guys though there is a lot of depth from 6th inning guys to potential 8th inning guys. That doesn’t include guys who are currently starters who as they move up will transition to the bullpen.

Grade: B