Friend of Redleg Nation Tom Nichols continues his informative preview of what he believes the Dayton Dragon (Reds Low-A affiliate) roster will be. In this edition, he covers the Starting Pitching.

His overall view:

The situation in 2011 looks very promising, not only for the starting rotation, but for the bullpen as well. There is not a weak link to the projected Dragons starting five, and when the promotions do come, there is a group waiting in the wings that might represent the Reds best extended spring training pitching staff ever.

That’s a pretty bold statement.

He starts off talking about Kyle Lotzkar.

Kyle Lotzkar is the most heralded name among the Dragons 2011 projected starting pitchers. He is ranked as the #10 prospect in the Reds organization entering the season and their second best pitching prospect, trailing only big league rookie Aroldis Chapman… Lotzkar has been held back by elbow injuries, but reports out of spring training indicated he was throwing the ball better than ever….When Lotzkar did pitch last season, he was very good. At times, he was unhittable. How about these numbers in four starts for Delino DeShields at Billings: 20 innings, eight hits, one run, two walks, 33 strikeouts, and an opponents batting average of .119. That’s total domination. Over Lotzkar’s last 10 outings, he pitched 39.1 innings and allowed just four runs.

I wish nothing but the best for Kyle. I hope he’s going to have a great year, but I read that he pulled himself from his last start, which isn’t a good omen. In 4 years in the organization (3 years pitching), he’s thrown in 31 games and 111 innings. At some point you have to show it on the field for an extended period of time. Let’s hope that he can do that this year.

Daniel Corcino is not far behind Lotzkar in terms of his status as a prospect in the eyes of consensus observers. Baseball America rates Corcino as the 15th best prospect in the organization and the third best starting pitching prospect. Corcino has been compared to former Dragon Johnny Cueto because of his 90+ mile per hour fastball, sub 6’0” frame, Dominican heritage, and even some physical resemblance to Cueto. Corcino began last season in Billings and made nine starts, going 1-3 with a 3.40 ERA. He was promoted to Dayton and his first three starts with the Dragons were outstanding (16.2 innings, nine hits, two runs). He finished with a 1-1 record with the Dragons in six starts with a 4.31 ERA. Corcino is only 20 years old.

I just hope he pitches like Cueto.

Tanner Robles was drafted by the Reds out of Oregon State University in the ninth round in 2010…. After signing with the Reds, Robles was assigned to Billings and the left-hander struggled over his first five starts with Mustangs (16.1 IP, 14 ER, 20 BB). Suddenly, the light came on for Robles and he was dominant from that point forward. Over his final nine starts, he allowed a total of six earned runs in 44 innings, posting an ERA of 1.23 with 12 walks and 50 strikeouts.

He’s a little old for the MWL, I’d think (being 22 this year) and but looks like he may have “figured it out” last year. Guess we’ll see starting next week.

Daniel Tuttle was selected by the Reds in the fifth round in 2009 out of high school in North Carolina…. Tuttle made 13 starts for Billings last season, going 5-3 with a 4.32 ERA. Tuttle has a good fastball that tops out in the mid-90’s, a good breaking ball, and a good change-up. Tuttle is only 20 years old and needs experience and consistency. He will get his chance with the Dragons in 2011.

Another age appropriate kid for the league. Struggling some in Billings isn’t always something to be worried about.

Josh Smith was drafted by the Reds in the 21st round last June…After the Reds signed him, they placed him in the bullpen for the remainder of the summer to limit the pitches on his right arm over the entire year. Smith was very effective for both Billings and Dayton in that role. He appeared in a combined 19 games between the two clubs and posted a 2.14 ERA, striking out 43 batters in 33.2 innings. Smith will be a pitcher to watch in 2011.

In limited innings, his numbers got better going from Billings to Dayton. Looking forward to seeing what he does in the Dragons rotation.

Daniel Renken was the Reds 25th round draft pick in 2010…Renken signed very late in the summer and began his professional career with the Dragons, logging just six innings. He will be ready to go in 2011 and has been singled out by some observers for having a particularly impressive pre-season.

The word that seems to jump out at me when talking about this group is “solid”. I don’t see anyone that is going to light the world on fire (hope I’m wrong on that one), but hopefully will put up some good numbers and progress to Bakersfield as quickly as possible.