No Homer Bailey. No Anthony DeSclafani. No Brandon Finnegan.

2018 will be a year of reckoning for the Reds; the final beta test for the rebuild that thinks it can. There’s nothing wrong with the rotation Jason Linden lists above, in fact that stable of arms has a good chance to be electric. Even Tim Adleman has proven he can be a decent Major Leaguer, if not particularly dominant. But still, the absences are glaring. Without Bailey, DeSclafani, and Finnegan, the Reds trade certainty for promise — injuries robbing the rebuild’s timetable of its definitiveness. But are the Reds actually worse off without their three top guys? Or more accurately, is assuming that Finnegan, DeSclafani, and Bailey can be the top three guys ever again foolhardy in the first place?

Since 2015, Finnegan and DeSclafani’s first full seasons in the Majors, the three pitchers have thrown a combined 580.0 innings. Assuming a frontline starting pitcher, which all three are supposed to be, averages 200.0 innings a season, then over the course of two and a half seasons, the Reds top three starters have contributed just over one starter’s worth of workload.

Finnegan and DeSclafani have each had one full season worth of starts over the past three years, with injuries derailing any chance either had to pitch a full year’s worth in 2017.

By nature a fickle and feckless thing, injuries are impossible to predict. Each ailment affects a pitcher’s body differently; each pitcher’s body reacts to similar ailments differently. Matt Harvey bounced back from Tommy John surgery with nary a hitch in his stats before a different shoulder ailment, thoracic outlet syndrome, was his undoing. Josh Johnson had two Tommy John surgeries before a third final knocked him from the game whereas one shoulder injury spiraled into another for Brandon Webb, knocking him out of the game effectively in 2009. Tim Lincecum, C.J. Wilson, Mark Prior — with pitcher injuries, a trend tends to emerge: You can recover from the first shoulder issue, but you can’t outrun the second.

The caveat therein is that shoulder injuries tend to affect a pitcher’s long term viability far more than elbow injuries, even those of a more serious nature such as Tommy John. Look at Matt Harvey — full bounce back from TJ, loss of effectiveness after shoulder surgery. Or compare Josh Johnson and Brandon Webb, both dominant in their heyday. Johnson still strung it together, albeit less effective, after two TJ surgeries whereas Webb was done after one prolonged bout with shoulder injuries.

That’s not a hard and fast rule of course because nothing is, but by and large, the word “shoulder” should carry more dread than should “elbow.”

However, look no further than the Reds’ own bullpen for a shoulder injury success story. Raisel Iglesias went down with shoulder impingement and came back as one of the more dominating relievers in the league. That said, Iglesias also became a reliever due to the injury — often times a lower stress environment for the arm.

There’s a chance that the Reds big three will be in fair condition come Opening Day 2018, but I wouldn’t count on it. Each have racked up their second arm injury already, and each average just a touch below 94 mph on their fastballs. According to Jeff Zimmerman of the Hardball Times, “A pitcher who throws a fastball harder than 93 mph is almost twice as likely to end up on the DL, for an average of 60 days, than one who throws less than 90 mph.” Power pitching is a draining exercise, especially so on already reconstructed arms.

But that ignores the differences in each of the three’s injuries. Homer Bailey, for instance, has battled elbow injuries — Tommy John and bone spur removal, a common after effect of TJ. Recovery from those injuries often does not lead to further injuries the way shoulders can, however, Bailey will have likely lost some of his effectiveness, the question being how much.

DeSclafani is in similar boat with a sprained UCL and an oblique injury. Though both injuries have a tendency to linger before turning into something more serious, there is no guarantee that DeScalani will have any future problems. Michael Lorenzen also sprained his UCL back in 2015, and he’s been effective out of the pen, if not lights out like Iglesias.

Which brings us to Brandon Finnegan — two shoulder injuries in less than a calendar year. It’s the timing for Finnegan that worries me, with his second injury, different from the first, coming in his first outing back. Of the three, Finnegan has the most potential to fall into the Webb mold of never fully making it back to the mound.

Answering the second question posed in the opening — yes, it is ridiculous to put the hopes of turning the Reds’ rotation around on Finnegan, DeSclafani, and Bailey. In all likelihood, one of the pitchers has seen the last of his days being an effective Major Leaguer (Finnegan), one will bounce back fully (DeSclafani), and one will potentially cut it as a mid-rotation guy for a bit longer (Bailey). All carry an increased risk of another arm injury, which being their third, would likely spell the end of their career.

Granted, the trio could defy the odds with two or even all three bouncing back, but that’s like wishing for a snow day in April. Possible, yes; likely, no.

Instead, the Reds must make a business decision. DeSclafani should be safe — he’s not old enough to be cut adrift and his contract doesn’t make retaining him a problem. Also, his injuries are the least severe of the three, letting him easily slot into next year’s rotation. However, step one should be coming off of the disabled list, so I’ll withhold further judgment on Disco.

With Homer Bailey’s contract as hefty as it is, the Reds have been forced into a position of hoping and praying that his elbow lasts. There’s no potential to trade him, as no team with take on a pitcher who hasn’t pitched meaningfully in over two years and is owed that much money. Cutting him and eating the money would just be to the detriment of future contending teams. Hoping he can maneuver himself into a decent three-starter is all that’s left.

As for Finnegan, it might be time to say goodbye, at least to his time as a starter. Under team control and in the worst position of the three, hoping for him to come back only wastes a rotation spot a young guy without shoulder problems could have. Yes, Finnegan is young and has a lot of time in front of him to recover, but is it worth it? If the rotation next year shapes up to be Disco, Garrett, Bailey, and Reed, do you hope for Finnegan or give that spot to Castillo? Can we even count on Disco to be there?

Injuries are a part of baseball and sadly they derailed the Reds’ master rebuild. However, the time for the Reds’ front office to dwell on what could have been has passed. It’s time for the young guys to make their mark, so the 2018 Opening Day rotation shouldn’t have Finnegan and or put any great hope in DeSclafani and Bailey. Focusing on the big three at this point is simply irresponsible.


38 Responses

  1. truman48

    Wow. Kind of hard to be optimistic after reading this.

  2. IndyRedMan

    Disco, Castillo, Bailey, Feldman, and Reed

    I’d offer Feldman another 1 yr deal asap although he may have pitched himself into a 2-3 yr deal somewhere? My guess is the shoulder issues with Finnegan could destroy his career but who knows? I do know that Homer & Disco are in top physical shape while Finnegan looks fat. Cueto is short like Finnegan and no great physical specimen but being in peak physical shape definitely helps! I agree with Patrick though….we need atleast 1 decent season from these 3 atleast (and prob 1.5-2) to be competitive!

    • Tom Mitsoff

      If Feldman continues to pitch as he has been recently, he absolutely should be offered a contract for 2018.

      • Jason Linden

        NOOOOOO. Feldman should be traded. He is not a part of the next winning team. If he is needed next year, then next year ain’t gonna happen.

      • IndyRedMan

        1 yr? Why not? Of course his era may take a hit tonite but we’ll be lucky to find 2 guys with a sub 4 era….let alone 5!

      • Chuck Schick

        Why would he sign a 1 year deal if he continues as is? Their options seem to be trade him at the deadline, lose him after the year or sign him to a multi year deal. Some dumb team will give him 3 years.

  3. George

    “2018 Opening Day Rotation Prediction: Castillo, Mahle, Garrett, Reed, Adleman”

    Amen, Wesley, Amen.

    • IndyRedMan

      I hope not? Adleman as the only vet and he’s not a member of a good staff. That rotation tops out around 78 wins.

      Random thought….Miami never has any direction whatsoever from year to year so how hard would it be to get Dan Straily back?

  4. The_next_Janish

    Don’t forget Bailey had a shoulder impingement as well.

  5. bouwills

    Uncertain future? Saturday Stephens threw 5 innings of 3 run baseball vs the cubs in a game the Reds won. Today, it appears unlikely he’ll get another start with the Reds anytime soon. Particularly if Romano has a good outing Thursday. I don’t see a single Reds starting pitcher(veteran or prospect) who’s future is anything resembling certain. But it will be interesting.

  6. Tom Mitsoff

    Wesley points out a perspective that has to be considered. Just as assuming that all players who are labeled as top prospects will make it, it is an error to believe that all injured pitchers will return to previous form and productivity.

    I was very interested in the reference to the likelihood of injury to pitchers whose fastball is 94 or above. There aren’t many young pitchers, including Hunter Greene when he signs, who fall below that number any more. That number is one of the most telling I have seen in possibly explaining the increasing number of pitcher injuries across all rosters.

  7. james garrett

    I agree Patrick but its just another reason to find out what we have already for the balance of the year.I believe we got caught up in the playoff thought and wait till the calvary retruns from the DL thought and forgot about what is really important.Obviously it was and still is to find out a little(too late to get guys a bunch of starts which tells you more) about who can or can’t be counted on next year and beyond.Jason,we should have forgot the big 3 even existed and auditioned others on day one.Yeah we might have had to carry an extra pitcher and keep the bus going 24/7 back and forth from Kentucky and Florida but hey we would have found out about Reed,Stephensen,Garrett,Romano and others.Of course we did carry an extra pitcher and the bus was always ready but we found out nothing unless you count that Bronson didn’t have it any more and others were just bad.


    Keeping Feldman would make sense just to assure at least one dependable starter and have someone the young pitchers can learn from. Who knows who makes it but my guess the next 4 after Feldman is DeSclafani. Bailey, Castillo, Garrett. If any of those 5 don’t make it or are traded the next 5 are Adleman, Lorenzen, Mahle, Romano, Reed, Stephenson in that order.

  9. Scott Carter

    Good article! Really hurts optimism but can’t argue with the facts.

  10. Jason Linden

    That is a weird rotation. Lorenzen ain’t gonna happen. BobSteve is more likely to land in the bullpen than Reed. And you forget about Romano entirely.

    • IndyRedMan

      God forbid you have a big, strong starter with a rocket arm that generates groundballs in a tiny HR park. Plus he can hit! They can’t afford to not put Lorenzen in the rotation. They don’t know any more about possible injuries then I do. If they did they half their staff wouldn’t be on the DL every year.

      Are they any numbers on major pitching injuries between starters and relievers? Throwing 98-99 mph on back to back days is probably harder on the arm then throwing 95 every 5th day.

  11. mdhabel

    Pretty much agree with everything. Still going to be optimistic about Disco and the 2018 staff in general. There is always the possibility of adding pitching once the team is ready to contend. The farm system is looking up and gives us some solid trade chips for established starters.

  12. sultanofswaff

    To me, Finnegan is a separate conversation as his peripherals have yet to cement his status as a rotation piece. If a better option presents itself while he is out, then so be it. However, I have to disagree that this should be the case for Bailey and Disco and that it’s a fools errand to count on a return from either. If they do get hurt, the backup plan becomes the main plan, so in the absence of other options (trading for/signing free agent pitchers) what exactly are we discussing?

    Had the pitching been healthy, we’d be talking about being buyers at the deadline in order to win a weak division that doesn’t project to be markedly better next year as all our rivals are treading water or in decline. With the rotation somewhat settled, this team is an entirely plausible 7 game win streak away from teasing the opposite narrative about where the rebuild sits.

  13. IndyRedMan

    They have options but they all come with questions and they absolutely have to answer as many as they can in this 2nd half!! Reed and Stephenson can be answered this year!They’ve been around long enough now. They’ve been pretty good at AAA so bring one up for Adleman. If they come up and gets rocked again and walk half the park then you just write them off as 4A and move on. If Romano stinks then bring up the other one. They could read RLN and start stretching out Lorenzen but I wouldn’t hold my breath:)

  14. brad

    I think that the Reds will go after free agent starting pitcher next year now that their offense is showing signs of a winning team. They will also be down paying BP which should help. If you through in a dependable middle of the rotation guy and any four of the above pitchers with this offense we can be a solid team.

  15. big5ed

    I don’t understand the Feldman hate. In an age when every Tom, Dick and Harry is throwing 98 mph with zero command, Feldman can pretty much command 2 or 3 pitches, even if he lacks the velocity of the average 24-year-old reliever. The hitters, all geared to hit 98 mph, have trouble barreling up a guy who actually knows how to pitch.

    Dan Straily is having a good year, too, for exactly the same reasons. To hear some on here, Straily had utterly no chance to repeat last year’s success: given his peripherals, his season last year was pure luck. To me, this interpretation of “peripherals” is premised on old data, accumulated before the power-pitching revolution of the past 2-3 years. Ditto on Mike Leake and Jason Vargas.

    Command is king, not velocity, especially now. Yeah, Kershaw, Scherzer and Chris Sale all have great velocity, but their forte is command, and the combo is what makes them elite.

    • IndyRedMan

      Command and then movement! Feldman has that tilt on it so even 89-90 isn’t that easy to square up. Compare that to Reed/Bob Steve….who throw 95 but its literally straight as an arrow.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Last night, Bailey had command in the strike zone, walking none, and shutting down a really good team in a really good hitters park. I’m with Big5Ed here. With decent starting pitching, this team IS a contender. It IS the next good Reds team. When there are five starting pitchers on the team better than Feldman, I say move on from him. Right now, it’s Feldman, Castillo and a bunch of question marks. And we can’t proclaim Castillo the savior until he gets numerous starts under his belt. Look what happened with Garrett.

      There’s a chance that some of the starting pitchers in the minors could develop into consistent major league starters, and there’s a chance that NONE of them might develop. The right answer is probably somewhere in the middle — of the current minor league crop, one or two will be consistent starters moving forward.

      Castillo will be a beast if he can learn command in the zone at the major league level. In his first three starts, he’s falling behind early in the count a lot, and still getting lots of strikeouts and getting out of jams. It looks to me like he’s throwing the fastball about 60 to 70 percent of the time, and still missing the zone with it a lot. The difference between him and the rest so far is that he can get out of jams. The others get in trouble and the floodgates open.

      (end of disjointed rant) 😉


        Castillo will not have the problems that Garrett has. I like Garrett but at this point, he does not have a really good put away pitch. He needs time at AAA

        Castillo has 2 put away pitches when he is on. And he may yet harness his breaking pitch.

        Castillo reminds of Lorenzen when he first came up. The growth in Lorenzen’s pitches has most of us wanting him in the rotation. He now has 4 pitches.

        Remember, this is a season for sorting….

    • brunsfam

      This is an excellent post. Unless you get a deal you can’t refuse, Feldman at 2-3 and Adelman at 5 ain’t bad. I am also on the optimistic side and think that if Disco & Bailey can return at 1 & 3 respectively. Now you have a great chance to sort out #4 (Castillo has the lead for now). Plus there will be in-season injuries, so young guys will be counted on to provide solid starts – so a group of young, quality middle relievers is necessary.
      Homer said it – you’re not going to come back without some rust. And he surely looked sharper last night! But if we can audition here in the 2nd half of ’17 – let’s be ready to come out of the gate in ’18. And we have the makings of a staff poised for ’19 & ’20. If we make a run this year, then even better – we get the taste of the pressure of a division race with our young team!

  16. james garrett

    Indy is right we need to get as many questions answered about as many starters as possible the rest of the year.Give all of them as many starts as possible and forget this play off talk and competing stuff and sort out who can or can’t.We have wasted so much already so lets move on.Keeping Feldman beyond this year is not a good idea.Or better said if we have to keep him then we are in bad shape.

  17. TR

    I think it’s too early to go negative on the future of the Reds starting rotation. There’s a half season of sorting to go and then the off-season and ST before the 2018 season is here. In the meantime the Reds could purchase the contract of or trade for a solid pitcher to anchor the rotation that the sorting produces.

  18. brunsfam

    It was fun watching Homer work his craft! Feldman has done that at times also.
    I hope Amir Garrett can learn from these two. I think he can be a solid MLB pitcher when he learns the art of pitching. When he gets the ball up in the zone, he’s in trouble. But if he can learn location and movement, he will be effective! His motion is fluid and he’s a well-built athlete.

  19. Bill

    You may know more than I but if i remember, the game Garrett got bombed was the 1st time he hadn’t pitched to Barnhart. I don’t know who made that decision but I think it was a mistake. I think a lot of the REDS Problems can be put on the front office & coaches.

  20. redsfan4040

    I disagree with Mahle being in the opening day rotation. The rotation come May of 18, sure. But I don’t think the FO will play around with the service issues that they did with Garrett. I like Castillo and Garrett to stick for next year. I am going to be the absurd optimist and say that Bailey is back, and back for good. The last two spots will go to whoever can separate themselves from the group of Reed, Stephenson, Stephens, Romano, Disco, and Davis. 7 spots for 2 men. Personally, I believe that Disco and Stephenson make the cut.

    Thus, Castillo, Disco, Bailey, Stephenson, and Garrett.

    • Soapboxes

      2018 Reds Spring training for the pitchers is going to be like the ally fight in anchorman where all the news anchors stations fight one another!

  21. Still a Red

    It just seems to me you can’t keep trading away ‘decent’ veteran pitching in hopes of getting 5 ‘new’ MLB starters… rebuild will never get off the ground. Don’t know the numbers but the 60s-70s Reds managed to get something out of Gary Nolan and Don Gullett both of whom seemed to find it hard to pitch a whole season during their careers. I wonder how the numbers compare between Bailey/ Disco with Nolan/Gullett?


    From Trent Rosecrans: “Cody Reed had a great first inning — seven pitches, seven strikes. Two flyouts and a strikeout. He retired the first two batters in the second before a weak-contact single. And once he went into the stretch, he struggled. He walked a career-high six batters in four innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on seven hits. He struck out four. C Chad Wallach hit a 2-run homer in the sixth (right after I left). DH Dilson Herrera had two hits, and it sounded like he barreled the ball in each of the 3 ABs I saw.”

  23. Adam Foskey

    Thank god someone else agrees with me on this. If the Reds offseason plans for Starting Pitching is relying on those three again, then the organization is in terrible shape for the future. I am a big supporter so far of Dick Williams and generally have high hopes for the Reds in near future. However, I don’t want to hear another year with more excuses about injuries. Finnegan, Bailey and Disco have proven they can’t stay healthy. You have to plan to no the have them in rotation or 2018 will be another 2017.

  24. Abdul

    Please trade “Homer for the opponent” Bailey for anyone….I’ll take a good bat boy

  25. sixpacktwo

    Rebuild is over. We have great ‘D’ and on field players. Bullpen good, but we need starters, Finnegan to the pen, with Bailey and DeSclafani starting. Need a 1/2 Starter to contend.