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 canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.Ã‚Â 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.