Last week we took a look at the starting pitchers in the farm system, and this week we’re moving on to take a look at the state of the farm for the relievers in the Cincinnati Reds organization. Some of the pitchers covered last week will likely wind up as relievers, but we aren’t going to “double” cover them.

We’re going to start by looking at Ricky Karcher. He split his season in Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville, and following the season he was added to the Reds 40-man roster. Between his two stops he posted a 3.65 ERA in 56.2 innings while striking out 88 batters. But he also walked 40 batters. Karcher has struggled to throw strikes throughout his career and that’s going to have to change if he’s going to stick around in the big leagues (and he did that in the final month of the season). His stuff certainly will play, with an upper 90’s fastball, a low 90’s change up, and a slider with biting action in the upper 90’s.

Casey Legumina didn’t pitch in the organization during the 2022 season. He was acquired by the Reds in mid-November in a trade with the Minnesota Twins, who just three days prior to the trade had added him to their 40-man roster. He and Karcher are the only two relief prospects on the Reds 40-man roster currently. Legumina began the year in High-A with Cedar Rapids where he made three starts before being promoted to Double-A Wichita. He spent the next three months continuing to start, but the Twins moved him to the bullpen after two starts in August. He allowed four runs in his first three outings as a reliever. After that he allowed one run in 12.2 innings and struck out 20 batters to close out his season. He’s been up to 98 MPH and was sitting 96-97 as a reliever this season while also showing three other pitches.

Andrew Moore began the year in the Seattle Mariners organization and was acquired by the Reds at the trade deadline. In Single-A Modesto he posted a 1.95 ERA in 42.0 innings where he allowed just no home runs, but did walk 29 batters (and had 73 strikeouts). After joining the Cincinnati farm system he headed to Single-A Daytona and struggled as he allowed 13 earned runs in 9.1 innings while walking 12 batters, hitting 7 more, and striking out 14. He’s got plenty of stuff, showing a fastball that’s touched 100 and works in the upper 90’s to go along with an above-average slider. The control is problematic and will have to make big strides moving forward.

Owen Holt was arguably the best reliever in the farm system last year. He threw 44.2 innings between Daytona and Dayton and posted a 2.42 ERA between the two stops. Holt struck out 49 batters with 16 walks and he allowed just two home runs on the season. A 3-pitch reliever, none of the offerings truly jump off of the page at you, but he throws a lot of strikes, mixes things up, and got results.

Dennis Boatman didn’t pitch much after being drafted in 2021, but the 17th round pick threw well between Daytona and Dayton in 2022 as he posted a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 innings between the two stops. Boatman walked 18 batters – though his rate was high while in Daytona and low in Dayton (twice as many innings in Daytona) – and he struck out 60 batters. His ground ball rate was high, over 51% at both levels in 2022.

Sam Benschoter spent much of the season in a starting role, making 17 starts and 5 relief appearances, but his future is likely as a reliever. He struck out 118 batters with 31 walks in just 78.0 innings pitched. With a 4-pitch mix, Benschoter’s two breaking balls were among the best pitches in the Florida State League as his slider and curveball both led the league in whiff rate. There was some inconsistency he’ll need to work through moving forward, but the parts are there for a quality reliever.

The Others

Luis Mey didn’t have a great season overall, posting a 5.65 ERA in 43.0 innings while walking 32 batters, hitting 7 others, and striking out 58. But he’s also a guy who throws 102 MPH with a good slider, and did have some good stretches during the year. Trey Braithwaite is already 25-years-old, but he’s touched 100 MPH and pitched well between the MLB Draft League and his short pro debut after being drafted. Jayvien Sandridge struck out 67 batters in 40.2 innings and had a 3.10 ERA between two A-ball stops, but also walked 35 batters. Donovan Benoit was inconsistent at times in Dayton (both with his control and with the crispness of his secondary offerings), posting a 4.00 ERA on the year while striking out 61 and walking 22 in 45.0 innings, but when everything is going right he’s got the right profile for a quality reliever.

Braxton Roxby, Vin Timpanelli, Jared Solomon, and Daniel Duarte all had various degrees of struggles in 2022. They also all had plenty of success in the past and have quality stuff. You’ve got some guys who are a bit older who could be late bloomers who have found different levels of success such as Ryan Nutof and Pedro Garcia. And then there are some of the recent draft picks who there’s just not nearly as much good information on as most of the guys mentioned above.

Overview

There doesn’t seem to be a true big relief prospect in the organization right now. That doesn’t mean one can’t develop – take Alexis Diaz as an example of a guy who had the right things going for him but wasn’t expected to do anything near what he wound up doing on the mound in 2022 at the highest level. But by-and-large the organization seems to have relievers who have good stuff and not-so-good execution, or guys with solid stuff and good execution. And then there’s some of the unknowns with regards to guys who are starting in the minors still but will transition into relievers down the line and we aren’t entirely sure how the stuff will play or how the new role could alter some of their current weaknesses.

Grade

D+. The lack of a standout reliever causes some problems with grading this position much higher. You’ve got several guys with big stuff but they’ve got plenty of problems throwing strikes. And then you’ve got guys that can throw strikes, but their stuff is more in line with middle relief. How much you want to boost the position because a guy like Joe Boyle, who was talked about with the starters, likely moves to the bullpen is up to you. I didn’t give it too much of one because we just don’t know how those kinds of things will play out. The starters-to-relievers give the organization some additional depth here, but every organization has that same thing. Among the pure relievers in the organization the depth seems shallow.

Relief Pitcher Stats

You can see all of the State of the Farm series here.

9 Responses

  1. MK

    Donovan Benoit a guy not listed served on and off as the Dragons closer and along with Timpanelli has a big upside.

    • Doug Gray

      I had him on my list initially to mention and it would seem that I simply forgot to add him in there.

  2. Optimist

    Understandable grade, or would it better to be “Incomplete”? How do organizations develop relievers – i.e. let them start until they show they cannot, or, use them as relievers asap and work on what the role requires? Are the Reds better or worse or middle of the pack at this?

    Really have little understanding of how an organization goes about this. That said, Holt and Benschoter seem to worth watching here for continued progress, and whether the 4 you list as struggled can regain form. And, of course, looking for Boyle to stay out of this discussion.

    • MK

      Since the bullpen always seems to be a team weak spot, more so than starting pitching, and the staff typically contains 5 starters and eight or nine relievers. Maybe the development process for relievers the and the Reds need to start a little earlier with their process. I saw a little of this trend in Dayton last year with Timpanelli, Benoit and Chachut.

  3. DaveCT

    Legumina may be closer than we think he is. I’ve read recent reports that he controls his fastball pretty well, and that his work on controlling the slider and/or change will determine how fast he moves. Even if we only get a controllable 6th or 7th inning guy out of him, that’s a pretty good return for Farmer.

  4. Stock

    Least important position to create depth. Most ML RP were SP in the Minors.

    Sims, Antone, Sanmartin, Santillan and Buck Farmer were all SP in the minors. Diaz started games in the minors every year until the pandemic. After that the Reds put him in the pen and fast tracked him to the majors throwing 42 innings in AA and skipping AAA.

    Three potential pieces at this point in Karcher, Legumina and Benschoter. Others who have to prove their value in AA, AAA.

  5. Hoyce

    Antone has a forearm flexor strain. And gettin a PRP inj. Precursor to TJS #3.

  6. Reds Gator

    What about Michael Byrne? He made it up to AAA last year, curious on your thoughts

  7. SultanofSwaff

    Legumina seems poised to be a breakout candidate.

    I don’t ding the flamethrowers with high walk totals IF they are stingy with home runs. Karcher fits that bill.

    If someone like Boyle gets converted, the overall grade for the relievers looks a bit better.