During the Reds playoff window almost a decade ago the starting rotation was debatably one of the best in the National League during that time frame. Since 2015 however most of the starting staff has been a fill in the blank or a prospect we were trying to develop. This resulted in four straight 90 loss seasons. Finishing the 2018 season the Reds showed little promise at the end of yet another abysmal performance by the starting rotation. Even more scary was 2018 was supposed to be the finale of “The Rebuild”.
This offseason the Reds got aggressive on almost every front of improving the team. Namely locking up three new starting pitchers in Gray, Wood, and Roark. The 2015-2018 Reds starting rotation was record breaking in all the wrong ways. No longer will we be stuck using Google to find out information about the copy and paste pitching staff we’ve had to experience the past few years. No longer will we be stuck watching an entire staff of prospects struggle daily to pitch just 5 innings. The newly announced rotation of Gray, Wood, Roark, Castillo, and Disco seems on the surface to be a middle of the road rotation. Which is a big welcome for a team whos starting staff changed almost weekly for the past four seasons.
Gray seems poised for rebirth in Cincinnati. After a rough stint with the Yankees posting a plus 4 ERA with the team and struggling with the pressures of a big market team, Gray seems like he has a clean slate to become the pitcher many envisioned him to be when he played with the Athletics. For the A’s he posted a ERA of 3.42 and an ERA+114. If he is able to do that and consume 200 innings I’d have to consider it a successful season. A number 1 or 2 guy in the rotation who can be lights out at times. More importantly we got Gray on a team friendly deal unlike the last big starting pitcher we signed to a big deal in Bailey.
Wood fits the profile for what the Reds front office was looking for in a starting pitcher to acquire this offseason. A predominantly ground ball pitcher. More importantly his stats the past two seasons as a Dodger were outstanding by comparisons of what we are accustomed to these past two seasons. Wood posted a 2.72 ERA, voted an All-Star, and finished ninth in Cy Young voting for the 2017 season. In 2018 he still managed to post 3.68 ERA, 3.72 xFIP, and 151.2 innings pitched. Most importantly Wood is in a contract year making him poised for hopefully a career year to earn his next big pay day.
Roark is an absolute work horse. Roark has posted at least 30 starts in each of his last three seasons with at least 180 innings. His big concern is the uptick in his ERA that is north of 4 the past two seasons in a hitter friendly park. However I go back to the fact he’s in those prime years for pitcher turning 32 this season and also in a contract year. By no means a flashy pitcher with his stats but he’s a workhorse. I think he will be the quite surprise of this starting rotation.
Castillo is probably the most interesting person on the starting staff. Many believe Castillo has his breakout season this year. Castillo at times has shown the stuff of an ace or at worst a number 2 in the staff. His biggest issues is giving up walks and homers. Most of that seemed tamed after his epic rough start in April posting an 7.85 ERA. After fixing his mechanics and better controlling his pitching Castillo seemed to be the only consistency for the Reds staff last year. He led the 2018 starting rotation in innings, ERA, and WAR. You don’t have to squint to hard to see a potential ace in him. I envision Castillo finally becoming the pitcher on that fake Sports Illustrated World Series Champs front page.
Disco’s career has been plagued by injuries in recent years. When he started his career as Red in 2015 he showed great promise. Disco’s 2015 season he had a 4.05 ERA, 3.97 xFIP, and 184.2 innings. Since then he hasn’t played an entire season missing the entire year in 2017. His stats have seen better days as well. Disco posted a 4.93 ERA, 85 ERA+, and just 115 innings for the 2018 season. If Disco is able to overcome his biggest obstacle in staying healthy there is hope he can return to his former self and promise of being a mainstay in this Reds rotation.
The leftovers are players that seem to be poised for AAA but may still see some time because of injuries. Some of these are pitchers who haven’t been able to establish themselves during the rebuild. Mahle and Ramano seem to be the front runners for not making the Opening Day roster but still seeing substantial playing time because of injuries. Mahle showed promise for the first half of the season. An ERA of 4.02, 100.2 innings, and 98 K’s for the first half of 2018. He seemed confident, consistant, and able to strikeout almost anyone July did him in though with a 8.62 ERA, 15.2 innings in 4 starts, 5 HR’s, and 8 BB’s. Shortly after he was moved to AAA. With Wood seeming unable to go at the beginning of the season Mahle may get his chance early on to prove himself in 2019. Romano seems to be all over the place from start to start. The best examples of this are month to month ERA’s. April 4.65, May 7.45, June 3.90, and July 3.92. In late July he was moved to the bullpen where his numbers did not improve. Romano still feels as though he can contribute where ever the team needs him. I see Romano possibly getting a few starts but mainly used as a long reliever this season. His key to success will be finding his consistency.
Then there are the players on there last string this season. It’s either poop or get off the pot for Finnegan and Reed. Both of whom were acquired way all the way back in 2015 for Johnny Cueto. Reed has phenomenal talent. An overpowering left hander with great promise making his way up through the minors. The Reds brought him up as a starting pitcher in July 2016. He served as a hitting tee for the rest of the season. Reed posted a 58 ERA+, 67 hits in 47 innings, and just 10 starts. Reed’s 2017 was almost obsolete. However in 2018 Reed began to show promise out of the bullpen later in the season. Reed’s bullpen vs. starter stats are like Jekyll and Hyde. Reed’s bullpen career stats 1.98 ERA and 1.244 WHIP. Reed’s starter career stats 6.89 and 1.753 WHIP. He himself said in a recent interview “maybe my calling was in the bullpen.” I am confident he will get his chance there again this year. Finnegan showed serious promise after his arrival. His 2016 season showed signs he was going to be a potential 1 or 2 starter for this team with 31 games started, 172 innings, and 107 ERA+. The best part is he was only 23 years old. His 2017 was ended early on in April by injury. Many were hoping to see a breakout year from him in 2018. Instead Finnegan fell through the floor. He posted a 7.40 ERA in 5 starts. By mid May he was sent down to Louisville where his stats were almost identical for the rest of the season. Finnegan also stated frustration with management about his being sent to Louisville. I think his only shot is a change in attitude and possibly Derek Johnson the new pitching coach turning him around. If not he will be tacked onto a trade or dropped by the end of the year. I hope Finnegan’s best days are not behind him when he only turns 26 this year.
The last player I wanna talk about is Robert Stephenson. He was the first round pick for the Reds in 2011. He was a big part of “The Rebuild” plan initially. I won’t bother to waste your time with his lackadaisical Major League stats. Put simply the man is out of options. Has shown little to know promise as a pro. He’s been injury prone at times of opportunity. He will be remembered the same way we remember the infamous Brandon Larson. Stephenson will more than likely be DFA or claimed on waivers. I wish him the best.
In summation the Reds should have a dependable rotation for the first time in years. They are mostly middle of the road pitchers with a lot of upside. If they are able to keep them in most games for 6 innings stacked lineup should do the rest. They also manage to have some depth this season if and when injuries happen with guys who have to really prove themselves this season. Most importantly you won’t be stuck digging through the bowels of the internet to find out where the starting pitcher came from anymore.
Should Reds’ Nick Senzel be “Untouchable”?
Nick Senzel has been the face of the dreadful Cincinnati Reds rebuild since drafting him second overall in 2016. We know the various tools he brings to the playing field including his gap hitting and speed on the base paths. At times his power showed, early in 2019. No one would confuse Senzel for Billy Hamilton in center, but he held his own. The question is will he be the Reds future at second?
The most important thing an athlete can bring to the field is availability. If he/she cannot play, they can’t contribute. The injury issues Senzel has struggled with early in his career are nothing short of frustrating. Some injuries more bizarre than other but none the less he was unable to perform. When he does perform, he’s shown his future is bright. While .256/.315/.427 with 12 HR and 14 SB in 375 at-bats won’t jump off the page, he’s still young (24) and struggled at times, as most rookies do. At times he flashed. Being able to spray the ball all over the field and drive the gaps was fun as hell to watch in 2019. Does that mean the team will not be willing to trade him? I say no.
The Reds cannot trot out the same roster in 2020 and expect much better results. Bullpen, OF, Second, Short, and catcher are the targets. Yes, Senzel could fill second or center. Yes, he would be an upgrade at second from the pitiful production we witnessed all year. The issue is when you trade for high caliber players, you must give up high upside players as well. I do not think there are *a lot* of Reds prospects that would bring in top 5 talent at a given position without including Senzel in one of those trades – the reason the Reds should listen to offers.
Teams will be calling all offseason and the Reds have said they are ready to contend in 2020. Now I am not saying Senzel needs to be traded, but if the offer is right I am not against it. The free-agent market at second is weak (no the Reds won’t sign Rendon and move him to second) so most likely Senzel will be moved back to the infield, a more natural fit for him. Time will tell how it unfolds I am just happy to even be having a winning discussion in 2020.
The Tuesday episode that got posted late
Just in case you are having troubles getting to Tuesday’s podcast, here it is!
Votto Reporting In
He’s here and he’s ready to go!