The final spring training game takes place one week from today. The Cincinnati Reds will host the Seattle Mariners that afternoon and then they’re heading to Cincinnati to get ready for Opening Day on April 1st against the St. Louis Cardinals. Yesterday the organization made another round of cuts, trimming the roster down to 43 players, 21 of which are pitchers.
There are eight pitchers that seem like they are locks for the Opening Day roster right now. Injuries could change that. Players that would make the roster if we were certain that they were ready to go, but aren’t accounted for in that number include Tejay Antone (groin), Michael Lorenzen (shoulder), and Sonny Gray (back). It’s possible that all four of those players are on the roster and ready to play the first week of the season. Luis Castillo, Sean Doolittle, Amir Garrett, Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Mahle, Wade Miley, Noé Ramirez, and Lucas Sims feel like locks on the pitching staff.
The Pitching Questions
With seemingly eight spots locked in, that could mean there are five or six spots that are potentially open. Yesterday we heard from General Manager Nick Krall and he stated that they were still working on deciding how large the pitching staff would be, noting there could be 12 or 13 position players on the team – which would leave 13 or 14 spots for pitchers.
One big thing that is still unknown is whether or not José De León and Cionel Pérez actually have an option available to use this season or not. Both pitchers have shown enough this spring that it is reasonable to put them on the 26-man roster, be it in the rotation or bullpen for De León or the bullpen with Pérez, but with a week left it’s certainly possible that things could change (though unlikely).
Sal Romano is a guy that we know is for sure out of options. He’s allowed six earned runs in 6.1 innings this spring. Three of those came on March 1st. And then three of them came over the weekend, but in that game over the weekend a ball lost in the sun directly led to all three of those runs, but since the outfielder never touched the ball, it wasn’t an “error” and thus the runs would go down as earned. That play is really skewing the ERA for Romano this spring.
Carson Fulmer just arrived in Reds camp over the weekend. A waiver pick up, he hasn’t yet pitched in a game for the team, and out of options, he has one week to show what he can do before the team has to make a decision on keeping him or exposing him back to waivers themselves. A former top prospect, he’s struggled in the Majors and has gone through the gauntlet of being waived and picked up five times in the last year.
You’ve also got a handful of non-roster invitees that are still in camp. Braden Shipley, Josh Osich, Brandon Finnegan, Jesse Biddle, and Cam Bedrosian remain and could be pitching for a spot in the bullpen.
With the sample size of innings, and as always, the disparity in the level of competition in spring training, the stats aren’t always worth looking into much at all. That said, if one were to look at the stats, Jesse Biddle stands out among the remaining non-roster invitees. But that might only be if we solely look at ERA. Biddle, however, also stands out for his walks and strikeouts this spring among the group.
If you’re going to look at recent past performance then the guy to focus on from this group is Cam Bedrosian, who has posted an ERA of 3.80 (64.0 innings), 3.23 (61.1 innings), and 2.45 (14.2 innings) over the last three seasons in the big leagues – all with the Los Angeles Angels. And realistically, it’s only his ERA that is questionable with his statline this spring. He’s allowed fewer base runners than innings, and he’s struck out 11 batters in 6.7 innings.
The unknown status of guys like Michael Lorenzen, Tejay Antone, and Sonny Gray with regards to if they’ll need to begin the season on the injured list or not, and the options situation with both José De León and Cionel Pérez leave the roster decisions a bit up in the air. If those first three pitchers are going to be ready to go to begin the season – and it’s worth noting that yesterday Nick Krall noted that he was hopeful that both Lorenzen and Antone would be.
But until we know for sure that they will be, things could go in a lot of different directions. If the team needs another starter, that could change who makes the bullpen. If the team gets an additional option year on José De León and decides that maybe he could use a little more time to work on throwing a few more strikes – his walk rate has been high this spring – that could open up an additional spot that may not have otherwise been there if the team would have to put him on waivers to send him down.
Unfortunately, right now the answers aren’t all that clear when it comes to the health and availability for a few important players on the roster. That puts the organization in a situation where they are having to weigh a lot more options than they otherwise would be if they knew that Gray, Lorenzen, and Antone would be good to go in the first week of the year.