With the trade of Sonny Gray there’s two spots in the rotation that are now seemingly up for grabs with the Cincinnati Reds. Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Vladimir Gutierrez appear to have their spots locked in as long as they are healthy. But with Gray gone as of yesterday, and Wade Miley now on the Chicago Cubs after the baffling decision to place him on waivers, Cincinnati has about 300 innings that they need to replace from those two pitchers. There are more than a few options for the team to look at this spring, with Hunter Greene perhaps leading the way.
“We’re all excited to see Hunter,” said Reds manager David Bell on Sunday. “He’s healthy, had a full season last year. We know what he’s capable of, the kind of person he is, the kind of talent he is. I believe he’s ready. This creates even more of an opportunity for Hunter. Hunter just has to go out and be himself, do his thing, and that’ll take care of itself. We’re looking forward to seeing him pitch and seeing where he is.”
There’s plenty of competition for the spots that are open. Along with Greene the Reds are also looking at Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Tony Santillan, Riley O’Brien, and Reiver Sanmartin. It does sound like the team could still be looking outside of the organization, too, though.
“We’re going to look to fill that (rotation spot), whether it’s internally or externally,” said Reds general manager Nick Krall. “We’re still looking on the free agent market, we’re still looking at the trade market. We’re still trying to run our offseason as we go into spring training, so we’re still working on it.”
He didn’t dismiss the possibility that the younger guys could grab the spots. Manager David Bell was on a similar page with the spot in the rotation.
“In spring training it’s such a short period of time, so there’s a limit on how much you can evaluate and determine in spring training,” Bell said on Sunday. “But it is a competition, it creates an open spot in our rotation, which always a positive thing. Looking at the situation with some of our younger pitchers, it creates an opportunity there. We have a great group of non-roster invites. People are going to step up. As hard as it is to lose good players and good people, it does create opportunity for players. And we’re really excited about our young group of players, young group of starting pitchers. That’s the way this game goes. So that’s exciting. Having the opportunity to see those guys with a legitimate chance to make the team and contribute, that brings excitement to our team.”
There are currently three spots open on the Reds 40-man roster. So if one of the non-roster invitees does win a spot in the rotation – at least as of now, there’s room for them to be added without making any other roster moves. On the 40-man you’ve got Hunter Greene, Tony Santillan, Riley O’Brien, and Reiver Sanmartin gunning for the jobs. Among the non-roster guys you’ve got Graham Ashcraft and Nick Lodolo.
Usually being on the 40-man roster will give someone a leg up if the call is going to be close. However with so many spots open to fill that probably won’t come into play. What could come into play, though, is something that David Bell did allude to – spring training is such a short period of time leading to some inability to truly evaluate. That could benefit a guy like Hunter Greene, Tony Santillan, or Reiver Sanmartin. The latter two have some time in the big leagues – Santillan posted a 2.91 ERA last season in 43 games with most of those coming in relief, while Sanmartin pitched well in two starts over the final week against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Greene pitched well in Triple-A and dominated in Double-A last season. O’Brien pitched in Triple-A, and got a taste of the big leagues with a single start last season – but he was merely solid with Louisville last year (4.55 ERA with 55 walks in 112.2 innings). Nick Lodolo dominated in Double-A, but only threw 50.2 total innings last year and that included three starts in Triple-A where he threw a combined 6.2 innings. Graham Ashcraft was the minor league pitcher of the year winner for the organization, but he topped out in Double-A.
A lot could go into the decision making. The opinion of Derek Johnson will likely hold a ton of weight and he’s probably not going to be just using game-related stats from the spring to form his opinion. There are only three-and-a-half weeks until Opening Day. Past information is going to matter quite a bit. Decisions really shouldn’t be made on how guys perform in the spring unless there’s a clear change in skillset from their past baseline. But even in a normal spring training there aren’t enough innings and the playing level is uneven because of who is at the plate ranging from guys who will head to Single-A to guys who will be in the big leagues but may or may not be working on something specific rather than competing like they would in a regular season game. Toss in the shorter term looks that everyone is going to get and it makes the decision quite a bit tougher for everyone involved.