Come back with me, if you will, to a moment in the not-so-distant past. The Reds had a couple of hotshot starters in Louisville and a few more in Pensacola. We were waiting to see who would make the leap to the big leagues and who wouldn’t quite cut it. I know, I know it’s hard to imagine now. Oh, wait, that’s right. We’re exactly back where we were.
There have been some bumps along the way, but right now, there are at least six pitchers in the minors who we should think of as potential fixtures in the rotation in the coming years.
- Tyler Mahle – I’m giving Mahle top-billing because he hasn’t bumped his head yet. I haven’t see him pitch in person, but given that a promotion to Louisville can’t be far off, I don’t imagine it will be much longer. His double-A numbers are sparkling (1.54 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9). He looks like a front line starter so far. Fingers crossed, everyone.
- Cody Reed – I’m still ranking Reed highly. He has a 2.56 ERA in Louisville and seems to be getting his head straightened out. He’ll get another shot soon. Probably before the end of the season. He has the stuff and people generally speak well of his willingness to work and try to improve.
- Sal Romano – Romano is just coming back from a shoulder injury. He’s had one good start in Louisville and one bad start since coming back. He’s still only 23 and the future prognosis is good. The most important thing is that there don’t seem to be any lasting effects from the injury right now. A few more solid starts and he might find himself with another shot.
- Luis Castillo – He’s a little old for double-A (24), but has pitched his way into the conversation. He’ll probably get promoted to Louisville around the same time as Mahle.
- Rookie Davis – I want to rank Davis higher. He’s smart and coachable and has good stuff. But he’s also dealing with injuries for the second year in a row, so we must exercise extreme caution. If he gets past the injuries, I think he’ll become at least a serviceable MLB starter. Probably 3-4 type.
- Robert Stephenson – I doubt anyone in the organization has seen his stock drop so precipitously. He’s in Louisville now. Having the same problems he’s always had. He started his return to the minor with 8.2 no-hit innings over two starts, during which he also walked approximately 7,000 batters while throwing eleventy billion pitches. Until he can control his pitch count and cut down on walks, he has to be viewed as having marginal potential at best.
There you go. I don’t mean to keep focusing on the pitching in these columns, but there’s been so much turmoil that I need to write it up periodically just to remind myself what’s going on. I don’t know who’s going to be in the rotation next season. Or at the end of this season. Or next month. Or, frankly, next week. I just know that it’s probably going to be different from how it is right now and it can’t get worse than it’s already been. We must, Reds fans, surely be on the way up.