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.
Votto Reporting In
He’s here and he’s ready to go!
Does Nick Senzel Need an Everyday Position?
No. The short answer is no. At least for this year. But it is important that Senzel is in the lineup at least five days a week. The goal should be to get your best hitters in the organization plenty of at bats. The Cubs do it with Ian Happ, who started 49 games in center, 27 in left, 12 in right, and 12 at third. The same Ian Happ who was drafted out of the University of Cincinnati as a second baseman. They also do it with Ben Zobrist who logs time in right, left, and second. Like any good Reds fan I loathe the Cubs, but they would not be a bad team to try and emulate when it comes to getting your best players at bats. Nick Senzel has demonstrated the ability to play good defense at second and third, and I think that he is athletic enough to be a serviceable center fielder. If I were in charge I would try to get Senzel at least 3 starts in center, 1 start at second, and 1 start at third every week, resulting in about 20 a bats per week give or take.
Lineup with Senzel in center:
This is the most preferable lineup because I believe that it gets your best hitters in the game. Great American Ball Park is small enough to mask some deficiencies when it comes to playing center. Shin-Soo Choo played below average defense in center in 2013 but made up for it by posting an OPS of .885.
Lineup when Senzel is at third:
Not only does this keep Senzel in the lineup, but also gives Scott Schebler and Matt Kemp a chance to play. I would platoon Schebler and Kemp based on the pitching matchup since Schebler bats lefty and Kemp bats righty.
Lineup when Senzel is at second:
This gives Senzel above 400 plate appearances in his first full year in the big leagues before taking over second base full time next year assuming the Reds let Scooter Gennett walk (which they should, but that is another conversation for another time). They will most likely do something at the beginning of the year to manipulate his service time, but I would not be surprised to see Senzel up with the major league club by mid-April roaming the outfield at GABP.