With the last set of roster cuts it would seem that the Cincinnati Reds bench is made up, short of a trade or pick up of a player let go by another team in the next week. It’s going to include two minor leaguers: Brennan Boesch and Chris Dominguez. The pitching staff has a few movable parts still up in the air, but there are chances that there could be three minor leaguers on that side with Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen.
The season is six days away, but since my column only runs on Tuesdays, opening day will be behind us by the time the next one runs. That makes today the perfect day to preview these five guys as they head into the 2015 season.
The position players
Brennan Boesch has been hitting all spring. He got off to a good start and hasn’t really let up. The corner outfielder is hitting .389/.375/.667 on the spring with four home runs and 14 RBI. That’s not a typo on his on-base percentage, it’s lower than his average because he hasn’t yet walked and he has two sac flies.
The traditional numbers look good for Boesch and he beat up on the Pacific Coast League last season in the minor leagues, hitting .332/.381/.636 with 57 extra-base hits in just 95 games. It’s the plate discipline numbers that are concerning. In 2014 between the minors and Majors he had 31 walks and 105 strikeouts. This spring he’s yet to walk and has 9 strikeouts. That’s not the best sign of continued success. Over his last three seasons in the big leagues he’s had 30 walks and 132 strikeouts. He’s the definition of a free swinger.
His power will probably be beneficial, and if he can replicate his strikeout-to-walk ratio he had in Triple-A last year, he could find some success. But he will have to do better than he’s done in the big leagues in recent years if he’s going to be successful off of the Reds bench.
Defensively he’s a corner outfielder, even though the Reds did take a short look at him in center field this spring. He shouldn’t hurt you defensively in the corners, but he shouldn’t be playing center field unless it’s an emergency situation that lasts only a few innings.
In news that was announced yesterday, Chris Dominguez survived the latest round of cuts, making it appear he’s won the job on the bench. He’s had limited big league action, going 1-17 last season with the Giants. He made his one count, hitting a home run for his only big league hit to this point in his career. He’s hit .340/.346/.660 this spring with the Reds, doubling seven times and adding three more home runs. Much like Boesch, Dominguez has been quite a free swinger, walking just once to go with 14 strikeouts.
The aggressiveness he’s shown has been a staple of his career since being drafted in 2009. He’s walked just 128 times in six minor league seasons and he’s got 702 strikeouts. He’s got big time raw power, but his aggressive approach has kept him from using it to its full potential with a slugging percentage of just .436 in the minors.
His aggressive approach at the plate doesn’t bode too well for doing much damage off of the bench. Toning down his approach could benefit him as the power tool is very apparent when he does make contact, as we’ve seen all spring.
Dominguez has a big arm on the defensive side of the ball, but while he’s played third base, first base, left field, right field and even some shortstop in the 2014 season at the minor league level, he’s not known as a quality defender anywhere on the field. He’s likely to see time on the corners, but I’d be shocked to see him get any time at shortstop with the Reds.
Anthony DeSclafani had a bit of a rough start yesterday for the Reds. He allowed six runs over 6.0 innings thanks to three home runs allowed. His ERA this spring is 3.51 over 25.2 innings with nine walks and 21 strikeouts.
He struggled last season with the Marlins, sort of. His ERA was 6.27 in 33.0 innings, but he allowed just four home runs, had just five walks and he struck out 26 batters. All of those peripherals point to future success. He was bitten hard by a stranded runner rate of just 58%, something that is very unlikely to repeat itself given that the league average is just a shade over 70% and he will be joining a team with one of the better defenses in all of baseball.
There’s plenty to like about what DeSclafani brings to the table, and he should be at least a solid pitcher in the #4 spot in the rotation behind the veterans at the top. Of course, if his change up can become a weapon for him there could be plenty of upside to tap into rather quickly.
Raisel Iglesias is one of the largest unknowns in Major League Baseball right now. The Cuban born pitcher hasn’t pitched much in the last two years, but he’s had a solid spring training thus far. With a 3.68 ERA over 14.2 innings he’s also had just five walks and 14 strikeouts.
The unknown factor is strong, as the competition Iglesias has faced has been questionable. He did pitch in Cuba, and while there have been stars come to the Majors and perform well, overall the league is not on par with the big leagues. He dominated minor leaguers while in the Arizona Fall League last season, but he did so as a reliever who only threw one inning stints as a player much older than most of his competition. Then of course is the competition he’s faced in spring training, which is certainly a step up from either previous stop, but it’s still glorified scrimmage baseball games.
ZiPS projections aren’t favorable for Iglesias, projecting him to post a 4.93 ERA with an incredibly high walk rate. His walk rate in Cuba was very poor as a 20 and 21-year-old, but he really cut the rate down as a 22-year-old before defecting after that season (2012). That was the last time he had any significant time at any level, and is likely what is fueling his projections. If they hold true, it won’t be a good thing for the Reds, but given that they are based off of things he did in 2011 and 2012, I don’t put too much stock into them.
The key for Iglesias will be how he’s used. He’s likely to start the year in the rotation, but just how long he sticks around is up in the air. The right hander isn’t ready to handle the workload of a starter for a full season and the Reds have acknowledged that. Does that push him to the bullpen early or does he stick around and make the move down the road later in the season? He’s more prepared to handle a role in the bullpen as things stand now, but nearly every pitcher is as you can go full out in short periods of time. In limited spring training action though, he’s shown plenty of reasons to believe he can have success as a starter with multiple pitches and an ability to throw strikes.
Michael Lorenzen is in the same boat as Iglesias is. The team is considering him for both that final starter role as well as a spot in the bullpen. He’s posted a 1.64 ERA this spring in 11.0 innings with eight walks and seven strikeouts. The walks mostly came from one poor outing where he had six walks over two innings. Outside of that game he has allowed a run in the other nine innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
Last season he spent his entire year with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos where he had an ERA of 3.13 over 120.2 innings with 44 walks and 84 strikeouts. It was the first time he had ever pitched as a starter in his life, only moonlighting as a reliever in college for his final two seasons while mostly playing center field.
Much like Iglesias, there’s plenty of unknown with Lorenzen. His pitching experience is rather limited. His starting pitching experience is even more limited, but unlike Iglesias, he has a track record in the minor leagues to look at. Jumping from being a part time college reliever in 2013 to being a successful starter at the Double-A level in 2014 speaks to just how impressive of an athlete Lorenzen is. He was able to make quick adjustments and add pitches against strong competition in a rather short period of time.
He’s not ready to handle a full season workload and the Reds have said as much, but they are considering him to fill out some role at the big league level. At first it appeared to be only as a reliever, but the option as a starter was opened up with his last appearance where he threw three innings and extended further after exiting the game by throwing in the bullpen.
Out of the bullpen there’s not much doubt that he could be successful right now. As a starter there are still questions about how ready he is and that he may be better served by going to Triple-A to build upon his 2014 success and come up later in the year to help out the club.