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.

23 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. 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.

  5. 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?

    • 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.

    • Streamer88

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

    • 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. Alex Reds

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.