Today is technically the first day of spring training. The Cincinnati Reds pitchers and catchers are due to report today. The first workout will be held tomorrow. With that said, there’s already some interesting news coming out of Goodyear.
While talking with the media, Bryan Price discussed the rotation and who would be vying for jobs. Mark Sheldon wrote about it for Reds.com earlier this afternoon. Price laid out the groups of possible starting pitchers in a 3-1-2-2 setting, as noted by John Fay on twitter..
The first three pitchers, who seem to be ahead of the others, are Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, and Luis Castillo. Assuming health, that probably doesn’t surprise anyone. What was interesting is that Brandon Finnegan wasn’t included in that group. The lefty is in that “1” in the next tier.
It is the final two groups that are most intriguing. Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson make up the 3rd tier, who seem to be vying for the 5th spot in the rotation. Both guys performed well down the stretch for the Reds in 2017. Behind those two is the last tier and it’s made up of Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen.
That is eight guys competing for five spots. Realistically, though, it’s more likely four guys competing for one spot – the #5 spot. The two guys that were there last year, Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson, have the edge going into the spring. Romano threw 87.0 innings with a 4.45 ERA, 37 walks and 73 strikeouts last season in 16 starts. It was his final eight starts that really cemented things, though. In 48.1 innings he posted a 3.17 ERA with 17 walks and 39 strikeouts. Opposing hitters were held to a .701 OPS in that stretch.
Robert Stephenson posted a 4.68 ERA in 2017. There’s nothing special about that, it was a little bit below the league average when we adjust it to the ballparks he pitched in. But, as a starter, he posted a 3.41 ERA in 11 starts during the season. In 58.0 innings as a starter he had 36 walks and 56 strikeouts. The walk rate will need to come down, but he performed well as a starter during the 2017 season.
The next group has Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen. Mahle made four starts for the Reds last season. Lorenzen hasn’t made a start since the 2015 season – spending the last two years in the bullpen. Mahle is the second rated pitching prospect in the organization. He posted a 2.70 ERA in his four Major League starts last season, but uncharacteristically walked 11 batters in 20.0 innings. The righty also struck out 14 batters. Between Double-A and Triple-A he posted a 2.06 ERA in 144.1 innings with just 30 walks and 138 strikeouts.
With Michael Lorenzen things are far more complicated. He last made a start on September 16th of 2015. He had been a rotation candidate in 2016, but suffered a slightly torn UCL and missed the first half before returning. When he did come back he slid into the bullpen and that’s where he’s been ever since. Last year as a reliever he threw 83.0 innings with 34 walks (five intentional) and 80 strikeouts. The peripherals were strong, especially if we account that the intentional walks weren’t his fault.
When it comes to the Reds spring training stories, the rotation is one of the biggest. Not only is it a question of “who is healthy?”, but also “who will get a spot in the rotation?” The manager seems to have his order of how things look going into the spring. The performance, and how guys look could certainly change that.