The Reds have played 59 consecutive and 105 total games with a rookie starting pitcher this season. Here’s the complete roll call: Anthony DeSclafani (30), Michael Lorenzen (21), Raisel Iglesias (16), Keyvius Sampson (11), John Lamb (9), David Holmberg (6), Josh Smith (6), Brandon Finnegan (3) and Jon Moscot (3).
While an organizational transition to a new wave of starters was inevitable given payroll realities and the arrival of young talent, the tsunami of rookie starts was an unexpected development. This reliance on inexperienced starters was precipitated by injury (Homer Bailey), offseason trades (Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon), in-season trades (Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake) and catastrophic front office judgment (Jason Marquis). The entire 2014 starting rotation was replaced.
National baseball writers have taken note of the Reds situation and offered their thoughts about the development of a few of the Reds young arms. Jonah Keri, one of the top baseball writers in America, discusses several of the pitchers and interviewed Walt Jocketty and Bryan Price in an article today at Grantland. Eno Sarris, one of the lead analysts at FanGraphs, took a deep dive into DeSclafani, Iglesias and Lamb last week. Here are their thoughts, along with references of Redleg Nation posts about each pitcher.
Anthony DeSclafani (25)
Jonah Keri: The Marlins weren’t sold on DeSclafani as an innings-eater who could make 32 starts a season, and some in the Reds organization wondered if he might be better suited to high-leverage relief work setting up the great Aroldis Chapman. So far, he’s proved the skeptics wrong. “He’s established himself as a credible major league starting pitcher,” Price said. “He’s durable, he’s thrown strikes, he has good stuff, and he’s improved his curve and changeup.”
Eno Sarris: After showing good walk numbers throughout his minor league career, the righty spent April and May walking 3.9 batters per nine (10.1%). That’s more than he’s ever walked in a minor league year and nearly three times as many as he walked last year in a short debut. “I got into a little funk in the beginning of the year, and I racked up a lot of walks,” DeSclafani explained. “I wasn’t commanding my fastball and I didn’t feel good about my delivery.”
So he worked with the coaches to improve his mechanics. The trick that did it? “A little something with my hands to get my timing back an arm swing that helps with my timing to get my arm in the right spot for my delivery.” His walk rate since June first is almost half his rate before that date (2.2 per nine, or 5.2%).
- Did the Reds Blow the Latos Trade? – Nick Doran (December 13)
- The Difference in DeSclafani – Kevin Michell (April 16)
- A Disco Revival – Kevin Michell (August 7)
- Evaluating the Reds Starting Rotation – Nick Doran (May 13)
Raisel Iglesias (25)
Jonah Keri: Iglesias was a prospect who fired fastballs that touched the mid-90s, which he matched with intriguing secondary stuff and a wide array of arm angles that could confuse hitters. “When he initially came up, left-handed hitters were giving him a lot of trouble,” Price said. “He changed how he was attacking lefties, and that created an immediate turnaround. He started getting the fastball in on them, and used the change to go with that.”
Against right-handed hitters, Iglesias throws a big, sweeping slider that Price compared to Bronson Arroyo’s. Because of his lack of innings thrown earlier in his career, the Reds shut Iglesias down for the season after his September 13 start, but Price said he thinks Iglesias “can be a middle-to-upper-echelon starting pitcher.”
Eno Sarris: In the first inning, the Cuban sits 93 with his fastball. His changeup has above-average fade and drop, and his slider gets more whiffs (21%) than DeSclafani’s (17%). He thought his sinker was his out-pitch - the changeup and slider usage changes from game to game depending on the scouting report. “I try to use those pitches according to what I see from other pitchers pitching that team,” Iglesias told me through an interpreter. The pitcher prides himself on repeating mechanics out of each slot. “If I’m going to go over the shoulder or on the side or lower, I’m going to try and throw every single pitch I have in the same way,” he said. “The exception is the changeup, I try to release that more out front.”
- Greetings, Raisel Iglesias – Steve Mancuso (June 27, 2014)
- Raisel’s Role – Steve Mancuso (February 12)
- Raisel Iglesias Joins Elite Reds Royalty – Nick Doran (August 26)
- Iggy Stardust and the Bullpen from Mars – Steve Mancuso (July 11)
John Lamb (25)
Jonah Keri: Lamb was once viewed as an elite prospect, making the top 20 on both the Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus lists in 2011. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery that June, which quickly scuttled the hype. This year, he returned to top form, striking out a batter an inning and posting a 2.67 ERA at Triple-A Omaha before the Reds acquired him. “I think he’s going to be terrific,” Price said. “He’s shown glimpses of that here. He only had one game where he struggled with command, against the Cardinals at home.”
Then he comes back and throws six scoreless, beautiful innings in St. Louis. He’s a classic left-hander: He has inner confidence, controls the running game, fields his position well, has a really good changeup.
Eno Sarris: Regarded almost unanimously as the third piece in the Johnny Cueto trade after arm surgeries and years of struggling in the minors, things have changed for the lefty since he finally got healthy: he’s struck out a batter per inning since he got back on the field at least. The lefty with the tattoos has average fastball velocity and an inch of rise on his fastball, which can be useful against same-handed hitters. His changeup has a whopping 13-mph velocity differential from his fastball. His 70 mph curveball and 87 mph cutter are decent pieces, too - the change, the curve, and the cutter all get above-average whiffs. But the change is the out pitch. If he had thrown it enough to qualify, it would have the fifth-best whiff rate in baseball.
- Scouting John Lamb – Jeremy Conley (September 19)
- The Return for Cueto: John Lamb – Kevin Michell (July 27)
Brandon Finnegan (22)
Jonah Keri: In 2014, Finnegan became the first pitcher ever to pitch in both the College World Series and Major League Baseball’s World Series in the same year. Still, the hard-throwing lefty grew disenchanted with the Royals: He wanted to start in the majors, but K.C. would only let him do that in the minors and had him pitching in relief with the big club. … His results this season both with the Reds and Royals haven’t been great (42 IP, 22.4 K%, 10.9 BB%, 1.7 HR/9 IP, 3.86 ERA, 5.19 FIP), but he has started only three games. … “On our end, we’d like to see if young kids can start first,” said Price, who praised Finnegan’s fastball-slider-changeup repertoire and his ability to keep the ball down. “We have a strong feeling he’s capable of it.” If not, the plan is to move him back to the bullpen.
- Can the Reds Succeed With Brandon Finnegan? – Grant Freking (September 16)
- The Return for Cueto: Brandon Finnegan – Grant Freking (July 27)
These four pitchers, plus teammates Michael Lorenzen (23), Amir Garrett (23), Robert Stephenson (22), Cody Reed (22) and Jon Moscot (24), will form the core of a dynamic young pitching staff for the Reds. The pitching depth also offers the front office the opportunity to trade from surplus for a position player or two.