The Cincinnati Reds rotation is going to look quite a bit different than it did last season. Johnny Cueto is going to be the teams top starter. Homer Bailey and Mike Leake are going to follow. The final two spots in the rotation are up for grabs, so to speak. Fortunately, there are a whole lot of options for the Reds to pick from. Below is a look at the players I think have even a semblance of a chance to grab the spot, listed in alphabetical order along with the pros and cons for why they could get the job or why they shouldn’t.

Dylan Axelrod | RHP

Pros: Axelrod has big league experience, making 34 starts in the Majors and has 53 total appearances. He posted a 2.95 ERA over 18.1 innings with the Reds last season in four starts and one relief appearance. In limited time he had a strong strikeout rate, sending 20 hitters back to the dugout via a strikeout in just 18.1 innings and he had just four walks (one was intentional). He is ready to handle a full season workload.

Cons: His big league career has not been good when he’s struck around long. In the two seasons he has had fewer than five starts his ERA has been under 3.00, but in the two seasons he has had extended time he’s had an ERA well over 5.00. His time in Triple-A in the 2014 season wasn’t as good as he pitched in his big league team. From a stuff perspective he doesn’t wow anyone with below-average fastball velocity. He’s also been a big fly-ball pitcher in his career, something that hasn’t been a good mix for Great American Ballpark.

Tony Cingrani | LHP

Pros: The left hander has big league experience and when he’s been healthy he has been very successful. While I put very little into guys pitching from the left side, big league teams do seem to like having that different look in the rotation and Cingrani brings that as a lefty. He misses plenty of bats.

Cons: He’s coming off of an injury and last season his stuff didn’t stack up, though it may have been due to him pitching while injured. He says he is healthy now, but until we can see it on the mound, there has to be at least some concern there. There has always been concern on his over-reliance on his fastball. He’s never thrown 150 innings in a season.

Daniel Corcino | RHP

Pros: He has some big league experience and held his own in that time. He has upper minor league experience. His fastball/cutter was above-average in that limited time frame. He throws four pitches with a fastball, sinker, slider and a change up. He’s topped 165 innings in a season and should be ready to handle a full season workload.

Cons: He’s struggled to throw strikes consistently for the last few years, including at times in the big leagues last year, walking 10 batters in 18.2 innings. From a stuff standpoint he doesn’t stand out in this group, but he does throw four pitches that all move. His lack of success in the upper minors doesn’t project well at this point for the 2015 season.

Anthony DeSclafani | RHP

Pros: He has big league experience and shows strong peripherals when he was in the big leagues. He is big league ready. The right hander profiles as a starter, has plenty of stuff to work with that stacks up well with just about anyone on the list. A strong control profiles and misses bats.

Cons: His ERA in the big league time was not good even though his peripherals were very strong. He’s never thrown 150 innings in a season despite entering his age 25 season, so expecting a full season from him may not be the best bet. His big league fly ball rate was very, very high. It’s worth noting that in the minors he was actually a groundball pitcher.

David Holmberg | LHP

Pros: He posted a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings in September with the Reds and has made eight starts in the Majors. Like Cingrani, he brings something from the left side of the mound to give that opposite look. He has topped 170 innings in a season already, so he could handle a full season of innings.

Cons: He really struggled to miss bats in 2014 even after returning from the disabled list the second time in June. Control has been an issue in the big leagues. From a stuff standpoint he doesn’t stand out among this group of pitchers. He’s been a big fly ball pitcher in the big leagues which doesn’t work so well in Great American Ballpark.

Raisel Iglesias | RHP

Pros: The Reds are heavily invested in Iglesias, paying him good money over the next six seasons. He has strong stuff that stacks up well against most guys on the list. He’s going to be 25-years-old next month and has big stage experience as he pitched for the Cuban national team. In an incredibly limited sample size out in the Arizona Fall League he looked like a man among boys and was flat out dominant in the relief role, allowing just one hit in seven shutout innings.

Cons: He hasn’t really spent much time starting in his life as he pitched out of the bullpen in Cuba, though he was used in a long relief role often. He probably isn’t ready to handle a full season workload at this point. He has had some struggles with control in his past while in Cuba.

Ben Lively | RHP

Pros: He threw 151 innings in 2014 which would put him on pace for about 180 innings in 2015, which can last through a full season. He throws four pitches and showed good control in the minor leagues for the most part.

Cons: No Triple-A or Major League experience and only 72 innings above A-ball. While still successful in Double-A his numbers did decline significantly upon his promotion, though that speaks more to just how good he was at the lower levels than anything. He has less pro experience than almost everyone else on the list and the least amount of time spent in the upper minor leagues.

Michael Lorenzen | RHP

Pros: His stuff matches up with anyone on the list. In his first year as a starting pitcher he made huge improvements and was quite successful in a full season in Double-A. In the minors he was a big time groundball pitcher. He throws plenty of strikes and has four pitches.

Cons: No Triple-A or Major League experience. His workload probably isn’t quite ready to handle a full season just yet at the big league level. He has the least amount of professional experience of anyone on the list and the least amount of pitching experience.

Matt Magill | RHP

Pros: He has some big league experience, making six starts in 2013. He throws three pitches, including a fastball that reaches into the mid 90’s and a slider in the upper 80’s. He misses a lot of bats. He’s thrown 170+ innings in a season in the past and could handle a full season workload.

Cons: He’s struggled to throw strikes, walking a high rate of hitters in his minor and Major League career. His change up is firm and needs improvement to be a successful pitch against Major Leaguers.

Jon Moscot | RHP

Pros: He has experience in Double and Triple-A. Is ready to handle a big league workload after throwing 166.2 innings in 2014. He has four pitches that he can throw. He throws all four pitches for strikes.

Cons: He has limited Triple-A experience and struggled some in three starts there. Strikeout rate dropped in 2014 from where it was in previous seasons. Solid stuff, but doesn’t stack up with some of the fireballers.

Robert Stephenson| RHP

Pros: In terms of pure stuff no one on the list can match up. He misses a lot of bats and has two swing and miss pitches with his fastball and breaking ball. He’s probably ready to handle 175 innings, which is enough for a full big league season.

Cons: His control took a step back in 2014 and if it doesn’t improve over the offseason/spring training, he won’t be ready to get big leaguers out consistently. He is the youngest of the players listed here, not turning 22 until spring training begins. Struggled with consistency in Double-A last season.

Who are the favorites?

We’ve looked at the 11 pitchers that I feel are capable of taking a rotation spot with a quality spring training. Some guys are more likely than others due to their roster status, but those guys all could be a great spring training away from grabbing a spot in the rotation. The non-roster players have not yet been invited to spring training, though I believe that everyone listed here will get an invitation. With all of that said, here is a list of the guys in the order of who I think is most likely to take the spots.

Tony Cingrani
Anthony DeSclafani
Raisel Iglesias
Dylan Axelrod
David Holmberg
Jon Moscot
Michael Lorenzen
Robert Stephenson
Daniel Corcino
Ben Lively
Matt Magill

The top three guys listed, I believe, have a big advantage over the rest of the pitchers here. Someone else is going to have to have a big spring to jump ahead of those three in my mind. The Reds seem to view those three guys are the front-runner options based on what is being put out to the media. I’d be surprised if all three weren’t on the team in one fashion or another when the season begins as long as they are all three healthy, with one of the options being in the bullpen to help a weakness from 2014.

What do you think? What is your order on the favorites to land the two open spots in the Cincinnati Reds rotation?