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.

Player Throws Born
Jonathon Crawford Right 11/1/1991
Nick Howard Right 4/6/1993
Michael Lorenzen Right 1/4/1992
Jason Marquis Right 8/21/1978
Jon Moscot Right 8/15/1991
Robert Stephenson Right 2/24/1993
Nick Travieso Right 1/31/1994

Jonathon Crawford

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.

Nick Howard

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.

Michael Lorenzen

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.

Jason Marquis

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.

Jon Moscot

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.

 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.

Nick Travieso

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.

21 Responses

  1. Tom M.

    That is an obscene amount of young quality pitching. Mr. Jocketty may not be quite the fool people want to paint him to be. Would you rather pay 45 million in 2017 to Cueto and Latos, or 1 million to Stephenson and Lorenzen? Take the money out of the equation, and just factor in age and career progression — which of those tandems will be better in 3 years? We fall in love with our favorite players, though, which is why I am glad I don’t have his job.

    • Big56dog

      Cannot count on young pitching and potential, Bailey had 5 up and down seasons in the bigs before he got consistent and he is probably the most hyped who is actually still around by my memory and people still are on the fence if he is worth his contract. Cueto was not Cueto until aroudn his 3rd year, so even if the hyped Stepheson is ready in 2017 you may get 2007 Bailey or even worse the 2008 one.

      • Doug Gray

        Or you may get Jose Fernandez.

        Everyone is different. At some point you have to count on the young guys because the Reds aren’t the Dodgers. They can’t just spend and spend and spend and spend so they don’t ever have to if they don’t want to.

  2. wvredlegs

    Five 1st round draft picks (yes, count Lorenzen as one) and Moscot. As Doug said, Moscot might be one of the most polished. I was very impressed with Moscot in the Pensacola game I saw him pitch in last August. He gave up a 1st inning run, but when he came out after 6 innings pitched, he had given up only that run on 4 hits. And that was against the Cubs loaded system on their home field.
    Just ahead of this group are Cingrani, DeSclafani, Holmberg and Axelrod.
    And not even mentioned here is Amir Garrett, Sal Ramano, or even Corcino. Pass out the RayBans. The future indeed looks bright on the pitching front.
    Giving up Ben Lively, as much as I disliked that idea, doesn’t look so bad to get Marlon Byrd.

    • earmbrister

      Don’t be turning into a glass half full guy … LOL.

  3. Tom Gray

    Only Marquis (among those listed here) has a good shot early in 2015 to make SP rotation. Some of the others, maybe by mid season. More likely 2016 season.

    I think Paul Maholm also has a slight chance to be SP rather than RP in 2015.

    • Matt WI

      I’d agree that Maholm is a possibility for the SP too. The new Alfredo Simon role… originally a long guy, ends up taking spot starts maybe.

  4. gusnwally

    Not many think of Holmberg as a frontrunner. I find this quite surprising. I would think he and Cingrani are the two most likely starters. With Iglesias just behind.

    • Doug Gray

      Bryan Price has said that Cingrani and DeSclafani are the favorites heading into the spring, so that’s why everyone seems to believe it. Of course, talent wise, they should be the front runners.

      Iglesias can match the talent, but he probably can’t match the innings either.

      Holmberg – the best thing I can say about him is that he’s left handed. He can’t miss bats and he’s a fly ball pitcher. That doesn’t work hardly anywhere in the Majors, but it really doesn’t work in GABP.

      • Thegaffer

        Yeah, we are razor thin at starter right now especially as Cingrani may or may not be ready. They may need to skip the 5th guy for the first month. I hope Holmberg doesnt get the job by default as he could be pretty bad. At least hope he starts only in Petco!

      • earmbrister

        Yeah, razor thin is a matter of perspective.

        You only have to go back to 2005 to understand how much better the pitching is now vs then. In 2005 Aaron Harang was our ace (with a 3.83 ERA), a nice pitcher but hardly an ace, and not even in the same galaxy as Cueto. He was followed in the rotation by Eric Milton (6.47 over 186 IP) (boy did Milton suck as a Red), Ramon Ortiz (5.36 over 171), Brandon Clausen (4.21 over 166), and the up and coming/up chucking Luke Hudson (6.38), Randy Keisler (6.27), and Paul Wilson (7.77)

        I’ll take a staff led by Cueto, Bailey, and Leake and two prospects every day and Sunday vs the 2005 staff, as well as vs half the staffs in 2015 MLB. With all of the pitching coming on line in the next couple of years, it seems like the front office was well prepared for the 2016 staff turnover.

        I think we’ve all been spoiled by the starting rotation of the last few years …

  5. JMO

    I like the Maholm, Marquis and Gregg signings. All 3 didn’t pitch last year, all coming off injuries. You can add Mijares as well. That’s 4 pitchers Walt has brought in, who missed 2014. Good idea and smart moves.

  6. preacherj

    I still think Maholm has enough left in the tank to contribute in a variety of roles. I see him making a push for a fifth starter.

  7. Art Wayne Austin

    Doug, the last time Walt listed the two favorites for starters he listed Iglesias with Cingrani. I like Holmberg as the darkhorse because he pitched a couple of dandy games late in the season.

    • Doug Gray

      The team has also expressed concern that they don’t believe Iglesias can throw a full season this year, which tells me that they want him to start, but that he’s probably not getting the job out of the spring. Put him there if/when you need someone to step in, but until then control his innings.

  8. redmountain

    Being optimistic I think there are lots of guys that are candidates for all the spots. Pessimistically, if Bailey, Cingrani, Cueto, Marshall, DeSclafini, and LeCure cannot pitch this year, then it will be a long season. Dare we think of Chapman as a spot starter? In the bullpen, I think there are options available if everyone is healthy. Now can the guys get to the 6th or 7th? I think that Ted Power and the ML staff can go a long way toward developing the “kids”, and they may be ready to shoulder the load by midseason.

    • Mike W.

      Can we please stop with the Chapman spot starting talk? He has made it very clear that he prefers the bullpen over starting. You can’t make him a great starter, which I believe he would be the next Randy Johnson, if he doesn’t want to be one. That ship has sailed for the Reds. Let another team try to change his mind while paying him $100+ Million at the same time. We should be grooming Cingrani as our new closer any way. Give me Cueto, Leake, Bailey, and any 2 off of this list and lets play ball.

  9. Bob Smith

    As still need a better offense cannot win with pitching alone.Byrd is not the real answer for more power. He is a bench player nothing more

  10. steve

    Byrd a bench player…………..really….

  11. Steven Ross

    Byrd was brought over to start, not be a bench player. And his age though, one wonders just how much he has left and if he can stay healthy all season.

  12. Freddie Kahucavich

    The Reds are taking a pass this year letting Latos and Simon go and signing Byrd. C’mon, does Marlon Byrd really excite you? The Reds should have kept Ben Lively and went with Jesse Winker in LF. Hopefully Byrd has a career year. Seems to me another Ludwick type year is more likely. Go Reds!