Just a note for everyone that is interested: I have begun to unveil the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospects list this week at RedsMinorLeagues.com. Each day will have five new spots unveiled and there will be a chat on Friday to address any further questions about the players or rankings.

Over the past two weeks we have looked at the strengths and weaknesses for the hitters and the starting pitchers in the Cincinnati Reds system. This week we are going to look at the relief group and find out where they struggle and where they excel. As noted last week, to distinguish between the starters and the relievers I simply looked at the pitchers start percentage (GS/G) and categorized everyone at 50% or higher as a starter and everyone under that as a reliever. Pitchers also needed to face at least 50 hitters to show up on the charts and stats sheet. That leaves us with 62 players to look at.

Strikeout and walk ratios

Pitchers strikeout and walk ratios are the most important things that they have control over. Typically speaking, pitchers can’t control whether a ball in play turns into a hit or an out, just whether or not the ball is put in play (strikeout rate) or whether they give someone a base for free (walk). While you want as many strikeouts as possible the key is to have the highest rate of strikeouts-to-walks as possible as it will help limit the number of base runners. The more strikeouts a pitcher has the more leeway he has in giving up walks. Ideally you want a pitcher to have a strikeout-to-walk ratio of at least 2.00, but the higher it is the better. Below I’ve charted the starting pitchers strikeout percentages and walk percentages and marked off an ideal area in gray.


The gray area is the range where you want to see guys at with at least a 2.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The higher and more to the left of the chart, the better. The age and level a pitcher was at needs to be considered here as well.  Michael Sullivan, Tyler Parmenter and Nolan Becker stand out the most on this chart. For data on every reliever you can view it at the bottom of this article.

Home Run Rates

I covered this quite a bit in the article for the starters, so I won’t rehash it much. But, I am not going into it here, even though it is important, because the park factors vary so much in the minor leagues between parks and leagues.

Ground Ball Rates

As we noted last week, grounders are good for pitchers for multiple reasons, but they are also far less important than the walk and strikeout rates in terms of a pitchers success. The ground ball rate is more of the icing on the cake that can put someone over the top. Below I charted the pitchers ground ball and strikeout rates.


As noted in the article last week, the Major League average ground ball rate last season was 45%. There are a lot of guys on this chart that are well over that mark. It seems that whatever the Reds are doing, be it drafting guys with groundball tendencies or teaching them, the bullpens in the minors are full of ground ball inducing pitchers. Age doesn’t come into play as much here as it does with the walk and strikeout rates, but the level does. Ground ball rates in rookie ball aren’t as reliable because the sample size is smaller. On this chart the higher up and more to the right, the better.


The Reds have needs to bullpen arms right now and realistically, they will continue to have that need. When you can produce cheap relievers it saves plenty of money and relievers should be the easiest thing to produce as the sheer number of players to choose from is much larger than anywhere else on the field. The team doesn’t seem to have an elite level relief prospect at this point, but there are a lot of really good arms in the system and there will also be starters now that make the transition to the bullpen in the future. It’s also worth noting that while Nick Howard, the Reds 1st round draft pick in 2014 is listed here with the relievers, he is being viewed as a starter. He just falls in here because of his initial usage in 2014.

All Data

16 Responses

  1. droomac

    Thanks for the analysis, Doug. I know not much has been said, to this point, concerning the potential to move some of the better pitching prospects to the show in ’15 as relievers, but what do you think? . . . How likely is it that Iglesias breaks camp in ’15 in the pen? . . . How about Howard or Lorenzen? . . . I do hope that they keep each of these pitchers on track as starters, but believe that the brass may be tempted to try a Wainwright and use the bullpen as a way for these guys to get their feet wet.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t think there is any chance that Lorenzen or Howard go into the bullpen in 2015. Iglesias is more likely but they continue to say they plan to use him as a starter. The Reds haven’t exactly been the “bullpen to rotation” type of team.

      • droomac

        Yeah, my fear with Iglesias is that he has a great year out of the pen in 2015 and management does pulls a Chapman and leaves him there to pitch 60 innings a year.


    Howard has been hit hard in the AFL. I am worried as he has been pretty hittable so far in the minors, even as a releiver early on and now more of a starter. Even when he starts he is only going 3 innings so he should not be tired.

    • Doug Gray

      He’s been pitching since January, so if he is tired, I would understand that. But most guys are hittable in Arizona. They play at elevation out there. Don’t get too worried over small sample sizes. He’s given up 41 hits in 44 innings this season between Dayton and the AFL. That isn’t too hittable.

      • droomac

        Of course, this leads to the question “why is Howard still pitching?” . . . He pitched the entire regular season, the College World Series, and then pitched professionally. It seems like it would be a good idea to give his arm the fall off.

      • Doug Gray

        He pitched as a reliever, so there aren’t a ton of innings on his arm still. And he did have a month off in the middle of the season after being drafted. I don’t think they are risking his long term health or anything.

      • droomac

        Well, he pitched 37 innings at UVA this year in 31 appearances and 34 innings at Dayton. Innings wise, this does not seem like a big deal, but relievers always leave a good number of innings in the bullpen as well. I wonder what his velocity is like in the AFL. I’m guessing its down a bit.

      • Doug Gray

        Velocity is very strong in Arizona. He is averaging 95 MPH in the two starts with the Pitch F/X system running.

  3. cfd3000

    Doug I don’t know much about Michael Sullivan but he pops out on these charts with the highest strikeout rate among all relievers and a pretty respectable walk rate and groundball percentage. Can you tell me more (or should I just jump to the prospects reviews)? And thanks as always for the great info.

    • Doug Gray

      He was a 29th rounder this past year out of a small school. Solid stuff, but I wouldn’t vault him up the rankings just yet.

  4. WVRedlegs

    Great stuff Doug. My man, Ben Klimesh is one to watch next year. Sullivan is young, 20, but LH and on the rise. Only 13 of those 62 are LH. That seems to be a concern. The Reds just don’t draft many LH pitchers for some reason, or draft them highly. Only Cingrani comes to mind recently.

    • Doug Gray

      There just aren’t that many lefties out there. I’m not too concerned about a lack of lefties. Wandy Peralta may wind up in the pen (I’d say it’s likely given the SP depth in the system) and he’s got a good arm as a starter, so it will probably play up some more as a reliever.

  5. Dale Pearl

    It looks like the Reds pitching is all going to come to fruition in 2016. Curious to see how the guys at Louisville and at Pensacola perform in 2015, I suppose that will be the tell tale sign right? If we have that many good young arms in both starting and relief then that should translate into winning seasons at those two levels.

  6. Dale Pearl

    Much of what has been posted on here doesn’t give much hope for 2015. I certainly think that we CAN win with the same team we had in 2014, however, I think that the odds are not in our favor on so many fronts. We would need a perfect scenario of health from every single player on our roster because we are paper thin at nearly every position. We would need career years from Votto, Bruce, plus one other. We would need a complete turnaround from our bullpen. Management will need to be aggressive in making moves earlier than they did in 2014. I am sorry but I just don’t see this list as being feasible, doable, or reasonable to even expect anything other than a third place finish.