Lately, it seems to me that every post discussing the lack of success of many of the Reds’ young pitchers is accompanied by some number of comments about the players being “rushed” because of need at the big league level.

This didn’t match my perception. My perception was that these guys were making debuts roughly when you’d expect, which is to say after half a season+ of success in the upper levels of the minor leagues. And at an age (23-25) when you typically expect prospects to debut.

But I’m always willing to be wrong.

So I did some research. The best article I could find was this one from Baseball Prospectus in 2012. One assumes the way in which players are promoted has not radically changed in the last five years. In any case, the article found that pitchers made their debut, on average at 24.4 years old with 350-400 innings pitched or so.

To the data mobile, Batman!!

Below is a list of the various heralded pitching prospects along with a list of how old they were for their debut and how many minor league innings they had pitched (note: that’s innings pitched BEFORE debut, not total minor league innings pitched).

Cody Reed – 332.1 IP, 23.2 years old

Amir Garrett– 496.0, 24.9 years old

Robert Stephenson – 450.0, 23.1 years old

Luis Castillo – 460.1, 24.5 years old

Rookie Davis – 450.2, 23.9 years old

Sal Romano – 616.1, 23.5 years old

Tyler Mahle – 431 IP, currently 22.8 years old, no MLB debut yet

Looking at the data, it’s hard for me to say the Reds are rushing their pitchers. I suppose they’re on the young side in terms of age, but other than Cody Reed, they all have higher than average innings totals in the minors before their debuts.

I understand the frustration of fans when it comes to highly-touted prospects failing to perform, but I think it behooves us all to consider the following things: 1. LOTS of players in every organization never do anything. 2. Sometimes players who DO end up good take a while to figure it out. 3. Some players simply can’t cut it. 4. Knowing who those players are on draft day (beyond the first half dozen players picked or so), is just about impossible.

The crop we’re currently seeing represent drafts that occurred when the Reds were very good and thus drafting quite low, which means much more uncertainty, with some players acquired via trade added in. This doesn’t mean giving the org. a complete pass on the failure to develop players, but the Reds may still end up with several very good starters from this crop. Castillo has been excellent so far, Mahle will have his shot soon, Romano has been okay, and one of the other guys could always get it together late.

Developing players is complicated and lots can go wrong and sometimes you can’t know what will happen.

19 Responses

  1. james garrett

    I agree Jason in that I don’t think the Reds are rushing their pitchers at all.If they are quilty of anything I would suggest it be not giving them enough starts to see if they can or can’t.While each guy is different and each year brings different challenges I always refer to how Disco and Finny were handled.Each got 31 starts and last year if anybody needed to be given up on or sent down it was Finny after his first 12 -15 starts.Got to let guys pitch at the big league level.

  2. Nick Carrington

    I’m not convinced that once someone reaches a certain threshold of innings, it means they are ready for the big leagues. My mind could certainly be changed on that. But, each of these can be taken on a case by case basis.

    Reed started great in AAA, but in his last five starts before his call up, he had a 4.50 ERA and 4.34 FIP. The league seemed to have adjusted to him some, and it would have been nice to see how he adjusted back before he reached the big leagues.

    Rookie Davis got killed in a short stint and AAA in 2016, posting a 7.50 ERA and 4.42 FIP. While his ERA was great in AA that year, his K% was 15% in AA, giving him a 4.42 FIP as well. I don’t think the Reds cared about his development that much because he had no business starting the season in the rotation unless they just needed a guy.

    Stephenson never had great success at AAA, but I understand at some point, you have to give him the opportunity. It would have been nice for him to have more success than his 4.41 ERA and 12% BB%.

    Garrett was already 25, so I get that too, but he also had an ugly BB% (11.3%) at AAA in 2016, which continued with the Reds (11.0%). I’m still wondering whether he is 100% healthy and what affect that had.

    I think we need to look deeper than just an innings threshold. Maybe the BP article does that, but I can’t get it to open for some reason.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      I agree with Nick’s perspective. Pitching lots of minor league innings does not guarantee improvement — though those who don’t improve will probably be left behind at some point. You could have a guy who has pitched hundreds of minor innings and still hasn’t mastered a third pitch (see Romano, Sal).

      He is basically trying to learn a third pitch at the big league level. I would argue that despite more than 600 innings pitched in the minors, he is not ready to pitch effectively on a consistent basis in the majors. But there is nobody in the minor league system pitching well enough to move ahead of Romano. Therefore, I think he should be learning that third pitch at Class AAA, and has therefore been rushed.

      • Sliotar

        Nice article, good points raised.

        The Phillies are at the moment in line for the no 1 draft pick next year, and they are further along than the Reds in developing their future, young, starting pitching core.

        Nola (3.0 WAR already)/Eickhoff/Velasquez/Pivetta. 3 of the 4, if not all, will be a Philly SP when they try and contend in 2019 or 2020.

        Some of all these names the Reds have to eventually go away, if only to give the remainers a true shot. 30 starts a year, grafting/developing/taking lumps and overcoming at the MLB level, which the minor leagues can’t truly replicate.

        (Even Finnegan still has to be proven out, one way or another. His track record is only 172 IP in 2016, with a xFIP of 4.87)

        Let the sorting continue.

      • james garrett

        Well said and right on.Especially the taking lumps and that the minor leagues can’t replicate part.Let em pitch and clean up the mess as they go.

      • Nick Carrington

        Tom, interesting case with Romano. I wonder how much he was throwing the change up the last few years. Doug Gray could probably tell us.

        He certainly wasn’t comfortable with it enough to throw it much in his first few starts. The Reds seemingly have to force him to throw it. I agree with Bryan Price that Romano’s future role hinges on whether he can have an adequate third pitch.

        Maybe “rushed” isn’t the right word except for Davis and Lorenzen, but the warning signs were there for some of our pitcher’s struggles. In the Reds defense, it’s hard to foresee Reed tipping pitches, but he wasn’t dominating AAA at the time either.

      • IndyRedMan

        Maybe I missed it but has Reed ever thrown anything under 84-85 mph? I think he could be the next Cingrani. Decent reliever…coming in and throwing smoke. He’s all over the place as a starter and will never get past 4-5 innings consistently…..same as Cingrani’s stint as a starter. That might fill one role atleast?

      • Tom Mitsoff

        He doesn’t pitch for me in any role until he stops walking people (54 in 90 innings in Louisville).

      • james garrett

        Tom,I see your point but is it Romano or the Reds who are fault for not learning or throwing a third pitch.600 or more innings is a bunch to then talk about a third pitch.I mean it may be normal since Fiiny was a two pitch guy and learned a third last year.Castillo is pretty much a two pitch guy although both are plus pitches.Both of these guys cam from other organizations.Could be they were pegged as relievers.Interesting discussion.

  3. IndyRedMan

    Lorenzen had only 188 ip in the minors. Still a major work in progress. I have to say I’m disappointed that Romano has 600 ip in the minors and still throws 2 pitches 96% of the time? Its all up to each kid and how they listen to instruction and overcome adversity.

  4. Jack

    I think Mahle is the only guy that deserves a shot in the minors right now. Let him come up and pitch and see what he does for the rest of the year. Hell if he does well then you have 2/5 of your rotation settled for next year in him and Castillo. I still would like to see Jackson Stephens get another shot this year. And if Romano keeps getting better then he could be your 3rd. They just can’t sit there and think that Homer , disco and Finnegan will be starters next year because they aren’t reliable. If they come out of ST next year healthy then they have a nice problem on their hands. But I don’t think they were rushed. They needed warm bodies and to many injuries.

    • David

      Finnegan will likely work out of the bull pen next year. Disco is injury prone. I wouldn’t count on him at all. Good guy, works hard, and he wants to be good and everything, but he is injury prone; snake bit.
      Homer is Homer; he will be a starter next year, because the Reds owe him $20 mill, give or take some, unless he is really hurt.
      Beyond all that, who really knows? Guys that will be starting now in the ML until the end of the year may get an inside track, or maybe show that they don’t have it.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Someone who knows more about this, please correct me if I am wrong:

      Since Mahle is not on the 40-man roster, his “clock” on being able to be optioned to the minors has not yet started. I believe each player has three years once on the major league roster when they can be optioned to the minors without having to be exposed to waivers.

      Is it correct that if he is added to the 40-man roster, 2017 becomes one of those three years for Mahle (since he spent time in the minors already)? It has been my belief that they have been holding off on adding him to the 40-man to delay his first option year from going into effect until 2018. If that is the case, it makes sense not to start that clock now.

  5. Michael

    Old School when did Castillo become an after thought. The reds just acquired him over the winter.

  6. Jason Linden

    No. Much to my irritation I couldn’t find good data for that. But I think we can make all the reasonable assumptions without much worry. I’d assume HS players get an extra 2 seasons or so in the minors.

  7. REED L BERGEN

    It should be noted that many young pitchers are not great their first season or two. G. Maddox is a decent example. So is Cueto and Bailey. there are many examples of pitchers who are successful their first season or two and then flame out. I agree with those who think it is a good idea to let them take their lumps in the majors. The manager is one of the best pitching coaches in the majors.