Last week we took a look at the starting pitching. Today we are going to look at the bullpen. There are guys who will show up here that are currently starting in the minor leagues, but could find themselves in the Major League bullpen at some point in the future. While it may seem a bit similar to the State of the Farm series, the purpose here is to look at the current Reds and the contract status of the players at each position and get into potential internal replacements for when those current Reds contracts expire.
Expires after the 2014 season: No one
With the entire bullpen locked up for 2014 and 2015, that puts the Reds in a good situation in terms of not having to replace a free agent. Of course, with pitchers there are always going to be injuries that happen or in some cases, guys that get traded away.
Potential arms who could come in during or after the 2014 season: Carlos Contreras, Josh Smith, Curtis Partch, Jamie Walczak, Justin Freeman, Tim Crabbe, Drew Hayes and Chris Manno
The top bet here is Carlos Contreras. The Reds added him to the 40-man roster and he has the best stuff among the entire group. He finished up the 2013 season in Double-A as a starter, though many still believe he winds up as a reliever. His control will need some improvement, but the stuff plays towards the back end of the bullpen. Josh Smith, like Contreras was in Double-A as a starter and while there is a better chance he sticks as a starter he may find himself down the depth chart there and pushed into a relief role. Smith isn’t a big stuff guy, but he could profile similarly to Sam LeCure with a multitude of pitches and good control. Curtis Partch has already found himself in the big leagues in limited action in 2013. After a good minor league campaign though, he struggled with his control and consistency with his breaking ball in sparse usage with the Reds. His fastball will certainly play in the mid-to-upper 90’s, but his breaking ball and control must improve to make an impact. Jamie Walczak got a late start to his season after serving a suspension, but he made quick work of Advanced-A and finished out in Double-A. He could split his 2014 between Double-A and Triple-A and get a shot if his control improves a bit as he has always missed bats at a high rate in the minors. Justin Freeman, like Curtis Partch saw limited action in the big leagues in 2013, but he was injured shortly thereafter and missed the rest of the season. He was re-signed in the offseason and will return to the minors in 2014. Tim Crabbe is another guy who is currently working as a starter, but may find himself down the depth chart far enough that the bullpen is more likely for him. His control improved massively from the past and if he can continue to control his pitches he could find himself sitting in AAA waiting to fill in when a spot opens up. Drew Hayes spent each of the last two years in Double-A. The stuff is there, but he struggles to consistently throw strikes. With improvement in the control he could quickly push for a MLB bullpen role. Chris Manno is the only lefty on the list, though he has performed better against right handers in his career to this point. Manno is another guy without blow away stuff, but he has several quality pitches and is very deceptive. His control could use improvement but as the lone lefty on the list he could get a quicker look than others.
Others who could also find themselves in the conversation that were mentioned in the post last week among the starters would be Daniel Corcino and Chad Rogers, both of whom has spent time in the minor leagues as relievers in the past.
Most likely to take over in 2015: Carlos Contreras
The best stuff among the group and he already finds himself on the 40-man roster gives him a big leg up on the rest of the group.
Wild card pick: Josh Smith
Not the best stuff among the group, but he flat out gets results and unlike a lot of the pitchers, he shows off good control and throws strikes which gives him an edge. His stuff could even play up out of the bullpen as it did in 2010 when he was drafted and pitched the first year in relief.
Expires after the 2015 season: Sean Marshall, Manny Parra and Alfredo Simon
After the 2015 season is where the Reds begin to see some of the bullpen head to free agency. They have everyone locked up before then, giving them plenty of stability.
Potential arms that could take over in or after the 2015 season: El’Hajj Muhammad, Ben Klimesh, Kyle McMyne, Michael Lorenzen, Sean Lucas and Pat Doyle
The top guy here is Michael Lorenzen, but he is also a bit of a wild card since the Reds are currently trying him as a starting pitcher. The early returns in his professional season were hit or miss as he struggled with control at the higher levels, but he shows elite stuff out of the bullpen and two years down the road he could find himself back in the bullpen. El’Hajj Muhammad saw his stuff step forward in 2013, though his walk rate was quite high during the season. Muhammad is another big arm that could use some improvements in finding the strikezone, but if he can step forward in that area could be ready for the Majors sooner rather than later. Ben Klimesh has had an up and down career since being drafted in 2012, dominating in Dayton but struggling in Bakersfield somewhat, though his strikeout rate was strong. His walk rate jumped up some and will need to improve moving forward, but he has quality stuff and could move quickly if he can throw strikes more frequently. Kyle McMyne has teased with elite stuff throughout his career, but he has really struggled to throw strikes. After being demoted in 2013, he figured something out and saw his groundball rate spike way up and his walk rate did improve some, though it was still a bit on the high side. Throwing strikes will be key, but he has shown elite level stuff at times and could be another quick mover if he can find slightly better control. Sean Lucas, like Chris Manno earlier, is the only left handed reliever on this list. After pitching well in Dayton during the 2013 season he struggled with his control in Bakersfield as his walk rate more than doubled in his 13 innings with the Blaze. He shows a strong fastball, but could improve with better consistency in control and his breaking ball. Pat Doyle was pretty dominating in Advanced-A for Bakersfield in 2013, posting a 2.97 ERA in 72.2 innings pitched with good peripherals. He may move quicker than the rest of this group, showing off solid control of two quality pitches. Doyle could split 2014 in Double-A and Triple-A, making himself ready as early as 2015.
One final name to think about here could be starting pitcher Ismael Guillon, who will be out of options after the 2015 season. While he is currently a starter, the left hander really struggled with his control in 2013 and could find himself on his way to the bullpen simply due to the time frame in which he must be ready to stick in the Major Leagues.
Most likely to take over in 2016: Michael Lorenzen
The Reds clearly love his arm, but with how raw his arm is, it is going to take more time than the team may be willing to wait in order to get him ready as a starter to build up the proper amount of innings. I look for him to transition back to the bullpen eventually and take advantage of his elite stuff.
Wild card pick: Kyle McMyne
I could have easily picked several of the guys here, but call me a sucker for buying into McMyne’s second half turn around. Groundballs, missing bats and elite stuff gets him the nod here over several others.
For more from this series, click here.