While it seems that just about everyone already knew who the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation would be, manager David Bell made it official on Friday. At least assuming everyone remains healthy.

  • Luis Castillo
  • Anthony DeSclafani
  • Sonny Gray
  • Tanner Roark
  • Alex Wood

That isn’t necessarily the order in which they will take the mound when the season begins. But those are the five pitchers who are slated as the starters when the season starts. According to ZiPS projections, that rotation is going to be worth 9.5 WAR this season. The entire Cincinnati Reds pitching staff, bullpen included, in 2018 was only worth 6.2 WAR. The top five starters for the Reds, in terms of games started, were only worth 4.7 WAR last year. This crew doubles up on that if the projections hold true.

What makes this all the more interesting is what it can do for the bullpen. On Friday afternoon we learned that Raisel Iglesias would be used in a not-only-a-closer role. We also learned that the team would likely have an 8-man bullpen. Beyond Iglesias, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Amir Garrett, Zach Duke , and Michael Lorenzen all seem to be locks if healthy.  Those six combined for a 2.98 ERA last season. That’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.

That leaves open just two spots in the bullpen. There are a lot of options available for those two spots, too. Sal Romano pitched well late in the year out of the bullpen in limited action. Cody Reed posted a 3.98 ERA in 17 games last year with Cincinnati. Tyler Mahle pitched very well in the first half of the season before falling off in the second half as a starter. Then you’ve got guys with good arms, but struggles putting it together like Lucas Sims, Robert Stephenson and Wandy Peralta.

There are some wild cards, too. Jackson Stephens found success at times out of the Reds bullpen. Matt Wisler threw 40.0 innings in the Majors last year with a 4.28 ERA for Atlanta and Cincinnati. And then there’s Matt Bowman, who was quite good for St. Louis in 2016 and 2017, but struggled to pitch with an injury in 2018.

Simply put, there are a whole lot of options to look at in the bullpen for just two spots. Competition breeds success, or so they say. There’s a whole heck of a lot of competition on the pitching staff that doesn’t currently have much room on it. This isn’t your past few years pitching staff for Cincinnati. And thank your deity of choice for that.

45 Responses

  1. TR

    Not surprising but it looks good after a good off-season from the revised front office. The offense and bullpen are there. Let’s see what this starting five can do to get the Reds toward contending in the NLC.

  2. Tampa Red

    Quality, legit, big-league pitching depth. Oh, how I’ve missed you!

  3. Sabr Chris

    The thought the pops into my head with an 8 man bullpen is using Lorenzen as an Opener.
    Starts goes 2-3 innings taking his turn at the plate
    Pinch Hit Day
    Bullpen Day

    Also, how good will the Louisville rotation be?

  4. Hotto4Votto

    If they’re going to go with an 8-man rotation, I would like Romano and Stephenson to fill out the last two spots. That leaves Mahle, Sims, and Reed in AAA to go along with Santillan and Gutierrez in the Louisville rotation.

    • Oldtimer

      Stephenson has almost no bullpen experience in 7 seasons of MiLB and MLB play. Just part of 2017 season with Reds. His problem is being wild. Not good for bullpen.

      • Hotto4Votto

        So you’d rather him start or be claimed by another team? He’s too talented to give up on. Let’s see if DJ can rap into some of that unrealized talent rather than let him go for nothing.

      • BK

        @Oldtimer … how would you like to see the Reds handle Stephenson if its not bullpen duty?

  5. Matt Hendley

    Lot of names…. 2 spots…alot of competitive spots for Louisville rotation too….can we start culling the herd a little though, their are some names that dont belong there anymore

    • Mike Adams

      Yeah, and none of the spring training profile pitchers covered so far is on this list either. Most of those guys are long shots who will not make it.
      I think out of about 9 guys mentioned above 2 of them will do a good job for the Reds, just have to figure out who.
      I am predicting Romano and Mahle.

      • Eric

        To that end…Do we project Hunter Greene to be in Louisville this season?

      • Doug Gray

        I don’t. I’m not saying it’s impossible – he’s got an incredible arm. But he’s 19 this season and needs to build up innings. Double-A seems like the max in almost all likely scenarios for his highest level in 2019.

      • Oldtimer

        Only on a connecting flight to Daytona Beach FL…

        Greene maybe in Louisville in 20020 but more likely 2021.

      • Matt Hendley

        In 20020? Won’t he be slightly to old for baseball then? Or dead?

  6. BK

    Stephenson and Wisler are out of options … I think that makes them front runners for the last two spots as we enter ST. I would still love to see the Reds snag Kimbrel, but only if the terms are team favorable.

    • Matt Hendley

      Wisler maybe…he didnt look to bad during last year. Bobsteve, we should have traded him. Cause we might risk losing him. Not down for keeping him up just cauae

      • BK

        I think Stephenson may benefit from moving to the bullpen where he can concentrate on his two best offerings. I’m hoping simplifying his offerings leads to improved command/control. However, I’m not advocating keeping him if he doesn’t show improvement this spring, but rather handicapping the fact that both he and Wisler have an advantage due to their roster status.

        As I’ve stated previously, I would like to one of them moved in exchange for CF Dalton Pompey. He’s a former Top 100 prospect with good (not great) AAA numbers and appears blocked in Toronto. Toronto needs pitching, the Reds could use a legit CF on their bench. Pompey has the upside to be a starting ML CF; talent is certainly their as a bench player.

      • Jim t

        So you think trading Stephenson for a bag of balls would be a better option then new pitching coach trying to harness his raw talent by using him in ML bull pen.

  7. Ben Rubin

    Is anybody concerned that not one of those starting five came through the Reds’ system. Whereas: Lorenzen, Garret, Stephenson, Romano, Mahle, all did and were all supposed to be starters but ended up in the pen or worse, with high talent and much lower value? I don’t mean that the wrong guys are in the rotation. The right guys are absolutely there. I mean is there some defect in the Reds system in terms of developing starting pitchers?

    • Matt Hendley

      Late to the show, in all fairness though Mahle was definitely rushed, Romano never seemed to be a starter and garrett likes releiving. The reds pitching development does need massive work though

    • Steve Mancuso

      You raise a valid concern and there’s evidence for it. On the other hand, the Reds should get most of the credit for developing Luis Castillo, from what I’ve read. And they did develop Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake in the somewhat recent past. Not sure how to look at Iglesias. He’s developed into a fantastic pitcher. But the shoulder stops him from being a starter. Hard to say if the Reds are to blame for his faulty shoulder.

      • rhayex

        They did not develop Leake. He was a mostly finished product coming out of the draft.

        The other two are solid points, but what does it mean that we can point to 2 starting pitchers in the last decade as having been developed by the Reds?

      • Streamer88

        So pitchers stop developing and coaches stop coaching when they reach MLB?

    • doofus

      Other teams in same posit as Reds. Verlander, Cole, Morton were acquired via trades. look at other rotations.

      • Old-school

        Does Greene start in high A+ ?
        Any word on how he gets used this year to build his arm back?

    • Doug Gray

      Let’s be sure to note that the Reds certainly had a lot to do with “developing” Luis Castillo. When he was traded for the scouting reports said he was a 2-pitch pitcher who needed to work on a change up that might be average one day. His change up has been one of the best change ups in Major League Baseball over the last two seasons.

      That’s not to say that the Reds haven’t had their problems developing starters. They absolutely have. But they certainly took Castillo and developed him.

      • SteveLV

        Doug, at the major league level, I don’t think about the current front office and coaching staff as “the Reds”, but rather as “those (previous) Reds and “these Reds”. Has there been enough change in the organization and in the minors to break the correlation of prior deficiencies – particularly not developing starting pitching – and the new Reds?

      • Doug Gray

        No clue. We’ll find out over the next few years.

    • ToBeDetermined

      “Is anybody concerned that not one of those starting five came through the Reds’ system.”

      I think the Front Office did. That’s why they brought in Derek Johnson and have given him a rather unique role. Hope to see what actually that role is over the next few years and whether it brings success to in-house prospects.

    • KMatsuzaka

      C’mon Ben. Don’t let that pessimism creep in. They are (were) prospects. I’ll agree that the last regime didn’t seem to have a coherent plan, and that they probably screwed up the development of some of those guys, but how many contending teams had home-grown guys as even 2/5ths of their rotation? (Not rhetorical; someone else look it up).

      At least there is a plan now. Johnson is in charge of all the levels.

  8. Tom

    You know one is the most exciting parts, to me, is another year of development under Johnson and the minor league development staff for Mahle. I think Mahle can be amazing and I hope Johnson, et al, can help him get there

  9. ben

    “Beyond Iglesias, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Amir Garrett, Zach Duke , and Michael Lorenzen all seem to be locks if healthy. Those six combined for a 2.98 ERA last season”

    Doug did you average their ERAs or divide their combined total innings by their combined total earned runs? Just curious because taking averages of averages is a very commonly-made mistake in statistics.

      • ben

        I figured, as you’re a smart cookie. Thanks for the article and insight.

      • ben

        Won’t let me reply to ToBeDetermined, but I was gonna say I think Doug answered me the way he did because I didn’t explain calculating ERA correctly at all, like not even in the same universe. I don’t know what I was thinking.

        Those guys gave up 136 earned runs in 410 innings. 136 divided by 410, multiplied by 9 is 2.98. Looks like that’s how Doug math’d it, which is 100% the best way to do it.

  10. JB WV

    Thanks Doug. Finnegan seems to be a forgotten man. Any news on him? I feel he has something to offer if he can get straightened out

  11. DougEFresh

    Man alive. Is this the longest off season ever? I can’t wait to see how this all plays out. Fun times to be a Reds fan. Finally.

    • ToBeDetermined


      Since the Reds have been often in the News since shortly after the end of last season they have been on my mind quite a bit. So yea it does feel long.

  12. Alex Reds

    The Reds are going to be better and more fun to watch this year!

  13. CFD3000

    I hope at least Mahle and Reed (and maybe Romano) end up starting in Louisville, with whoever is performing best moving up to Cincinnati to take the place of whoever is, inevitably, injured or ineffective among those starting five. But given that Roark and Wood (for now) are gone for 2020, the Reds will need one or two of those guys (plus, probably, Santillan) to develop into a stud. And I think Mahle and Reed still have plenty of potential in that direction, so I hope they get more time to develop as starters rather than getting inconsistent bullpen experience in Cincinnati.

  14. earl

    It is good that the Reds finally have some decent depth if and when the injury bug hits the pitching staff.

    One thing that always does impress me about the Cardinals is that they seem to always have someone decent in the minors to plug in when an injury happens.

  15. Shchi Cossack

    Oh Man!

    “I don’t like saving guys just in case,” Bell said on Saturday. “It makes you feel a lot better having that approach when you actually have guys that have practiced and prepared. You’re not so afraid of putting someone out there and they get hurt. These guys are athletes. Every one of them are athletes. We want them to see it that way.”

    Just another example of the complete change in Baserball Ops philosophy within the DW, NK & DB led Reds organization. If actions match words when the season begin in earnest, DB could be leading a significant season for the Reds in 2019.

  16. Roger Garrett

    Sounds good but I do remember one guy that said he would hold players responsible for their performance and then ran Billy out there everyday.I do believe if the owners let the guys mentioned by Cossack just do their job and not mandate anything then they get it done.Its all about putting guys in the best position possible rather then asking them to do something they can’t do.I am excited.Lets play ball.