Last week we took a look at the relievers who are entering spring training as non-roster invitees. Today we will look at the guys that are being viewed as starting pitchers who are non-roster invitees with the team. Here is a list of the guys we will be looking at today.
The 2013 1st round pick of the Detroit Tigers came over to the Reds in the December trade of Alfredo Simon. He had a 2.85 ERA in Low-A West Michigan in 2014, making 23 starts and throwing 123.0 innings. Those numbers were strong, but his peripherals weren’t so good, walking 50 batters and striking out just 85 batters. He’s got a quality fastball and slider, but his change up needs a lot of work.
With no experience above the Low-A level, there is next to no chance he gets any real consideration to make the big league club in any capacity. He’s there to fill some innings early in the spring and soak up the environment around big leaguers.
The Reds most recent 1st round pick gets an invite to spring training in his first opportunity. Nick Howard went 19th overall last season and after splitting time in the rotation, the bullpen and at first base in college the Reds view him as a future starter. He made 11 appearances in Dayton last season, posting a 3.74 ERA in 33.2 innings where he split time between the rotation and the bullpen to transition him back into the rotation. He had 11 walks, which was a solid rate, but he struggled to miss bats with just 23 strikeouts in his debut. He’s got quality stuff to work with, including an above-average fastball and slider.
Much like Crawford, with no real experience above the Low-A level, there is next to no chance he gets much real consideration for a big league role out of spring training.
He entered 2014 in a similar position that Nick Howard is entering the 2015 season, coming off of a year where he worked mostly as a reliever but was being moved into the rotation with plenty to prove. Well, 2014 was quite successful for Lorenzen as he posted an ERA of 3.13 in 120.2 innings for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He had a good walk rate before August rolled around and he struggled, walking 12 batters in the month to push his walk rate up. Lorenzen didn’t miss many bats, but it was also the first time in his life he had been solely a pitcher, much less a starting pitcher, in his entire life. He’s got four pitches and can throw strikes with two above-average offerings already and big groundball rates.
While Lorenzen probably isn’t among the favorites to break camp as one of the five starting pitchers don’t sleep on him to make a name for himself either and push for one of the spots. He throws strikes, gets a bunch of ground balls and has plenty of stuff. While the Reds would probably love to have him get time in Triple-A Louisville, with a strong spring it wouldn’t surprise if he grabbed one of the open spots if the favorites don’t excel.
The Cincinnati Reds brought in Jason Marquis two-and-a-half weeks ago on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. The right hander recovered from Tommy John surgery that cost him parts of both the 2013 and the 2014 season and was able to pitch in just under 50.0 innings in the second half last year at the Triple-A level. His velocity was non-existent, sitting in the 84-86 MPH range with his fastball. It showed good sinking action and he mixed in a slider and a change up, both in the 80 MPH range.
While Marquis has plenty of big league experience, from a stuff standpoint, unless he recovers a whole bunch of velocity, he simply doesn’t stack up with the other guys. It will be hard for him to stand out among the group of roster and non-roster invitees with his below-average velocity.
Moscot has moved rather quickly through the Reds system since being drafted in 2012, reaching Triple-A at the end of last season. He posted a 3.40 ERA in 166.2 innings last year, mostly in Pensacola. Of the prospects that the Reds have invited to Moscot is best suited to handle a full season workload at the big league level, having the largest single season innings total of everyone. His stuff is solid across the board, with three average offerings and an above-average slider. The stuff won’t stand out among all of the top prospect types, but aside from Anthony DeSclafani, he’s probably the most polished of the group.
Like Lorenzen, Moscot isn’t among the favorites to break camp in the Reds rotation. He’s got enough stuff that he could stick around for a while in camp though and with a strong performance and if the favorites aren’t as sharp, he’s got an outside chance to push for one of the open rotation spots.
Ã‚Â Robert Stephenson
The top prospect in the system according to most sources, Robert Stephenson isn’t coming off of his best season. The right hander posted a 4.75 ERA in 136.1 innings for Double-A Pensacola with 140 strikeouts and 74 walks. His walk rate was too high and his home run rate was awfully high as well. One of those we can write off to park factors, as Pensacola’s home park is a launching pad to left and center fields, and he allowed more than 2-and-a-half more homers at home than he did on the road despite facing more batters on the road. The walk rate must improve though. It was simply too high in 2014 to work moving forward as a starter. With all of that said, it was the first time he had struggled in the area in his career, so he should be able to work through the issue as he’s shown in the past that he can throw strikes.
With the best pure stuff in the minor leagues in the organization, there’s always a chance that the team could deem him ready to step into the rotation if he goes out and just dominates this spring. It’s unlikely that they would make that step unless they had to given how his 2014 turned out, but if he’s able to pound the strikezone all spring and there’s not a clear cut option, stranger things have happened than bringing him north. Expect him to return to the minors, but he’s got stuff no one else competing for a job can match, so there’s always that chance.
Another first round pick as a non-roster invitee, Nick Travieso rounds out the list as the fourth guy if we cheat and say that Michael Lorenzen counts as a supplemental first rounder. Travieso had a breakout year in Dayton during the 2014 season, leading the Midwest League in wins and posting a 3.04 ERA in 142.1 innings. He had strong walk numbers, handing out just 44 free passes, and he struck out 114 batters. While the numbers looked better for the right hander in 2014 his stuff also took a step forward as all three of his pitches found consistency and he was able to pick up more velocity.
Despite all of that, like Crawford and Howard, he’s not truly competing for a big league job this spring. He’s yet to reach Double-A, so he’s being brought in to eat up a few innings, be around the big league guys to soak up what they do, ask some questions and get some tips from guys and hopefully take it with him into his minor league season.
Who fits a need?
The Reds clearly need to fill out the final two spots of their rotation after trading away Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon in December. No one on this list is among the favorites, which at this point in time would seem to be Anthony DeSclafani, Tony Cingrani and Raisel Iglesias. All three of those guys have various questions about them heading into the spring though, and while there are other options on the 40-man who could sneak in, Jon Moscot or Michael Lorenzen seem like perhaps the most ready from this group to step up and snatch a roster spot away with a strong spring.