For the last few years, putting together projections for Reds pitchers has been relatively easy because we’ve known who was going to be in the rotation more or less from the start of spring. This year, we know three pieces of the puzzle, but not the last two. Correspondingly, I have to guess. It does seem to me that, in recent years, when it’s come out that so-and-so is the favorite for some spot, that means the spot is theirs unless they get hurt. Thus, I am projecting Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani to be the fourth and fifth pitchers in the rotation. I’m guessing Igelsias and the others go to AAA to wait for an injury to happen.
With exception of Homer Bailey, who we’ve been told will miss a week or two to start the season, I am projecting a full season of starts for these pitchers (again, we’ll deal with injuries in the last part). Also note, that I don’t have a lot of faith in how FanGraphs’ version of WAR measures pitchers, so I tend to go with Baseball-Refernce here. Here we go…
Johnny Cueto – If he’s healthy, he’s great. Pretty simple. Some slight ERA regression there, but, really, if he’s pitching there’s hope.
Homer Bailey – Homer is 28 now and at his peak. He’s had one really good season and a bunch of totally okay seasons. I think it’s safe, at this point, to call him and average to slightly above average starting pitcher. He has days when he’ll blow you away and days when, well, not so much.
Mike Leake – Here’s the thing about Leake and Bailey. Leake is two years younger, and he has, to this point, been much more valuable to the Reds than Homer had been at the same point. Now, you may say that unfairly leaves out Homer’s best season, and you’re right. Still, I think it’s fairly hard to make a case that, over their careers, Bailey has been a better pitcher. Leake doesn’t have the ceiling of Homer, but he also seems to have a higher floor.
Cingrani – He will strike people out. The questions are all about his control and, correspondingly, he is ability to stay in games. I don’t think he should be counted on to go deep into games on a regular basis
DeSclafani – I’m really just spit-balling here. I don’t know much about him. But it looks like, form his minor league numbers, that he has a bit to go where endurance is concerned.
The Bullpen – I don’t project individual pitchers here. It’s pointless. In fact, I don’t really believe you can predict what an entire bullpen will do from one season to the next. What I do think is this: the Reds can count on Aroldis Chapman to be very good. After that, I assume average. Thus the WAR projection is a bit above average for a ML bullpen. That’s all you’re getting from me.