The Cincinnati Reds need someone to step into their rotation when the 2022 season begins. After placing Wade Miley on waivers and losing him to the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati is currently looking at the top three of their rotation being Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle in some order. After that there could be a big competition in spring training for the final two spots between Vladimir Gutierrez, who made 22 starts with a 4.74 ERA last season with Cincinnati, Tony Santillan, who pitched mostly out of the bullpen with the Reds in 2021 where he had a 2.91 ERA, and prospects Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Riley O’Brien, and Reiver Sanmartin.

There is a lot of different looks in there. You’ve got very hard throwers in Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft. You’ve got guys with plenty of velocity in Tony Santillan and Nick Lodolo. And then you’ve got some guys who have solid velocity who rely a bit more on the full package and mixing and matching their stuff to get the job done in Vladimir Gutierrez, Riley O’Brien, and Reiver Sanmartin. It’s the latter of that last group who is currently pitching in the Dominican Winter League right now as he prepares to try and win a spot in the rotation when spring training rolls around.

To end the 2021 season it was Reiver Sanmartin that was called upon to finish out the big league season with Cincinnati. The 25-year-old lefty made two starts, both against Pittsburgh, in the final week of the season. Between the two starts he threw 11.2 innings and allowed 12 hits, two runs, walked just two batters, and he picked up 11 strikeouts.

That final stretch to end the season capped off a good season for the lefty. He began the year in Double-A Chattanooga, but after 18.0 innings on 1-run baseball he was sent to Triple-A where he made 14 starts and 7 relief appearances and threw 82.1 innings with a 3.94 ERA.

Now pitching in the Dominican Winter League for the Eastern Stars, Sanmartin has made six starts and he’s been rather dominant. The left-handed starter has given up just five earned runs in 26.0 innings (1.73 ERA) and hasn’t allowed a home run. Since the start of the year he’s now thrown 138.0 innings across Double-A, Triple-A, MLB, and the Dominican Winter League and allowed just six homers.

Much like his time in affiliated baseball this year, Reiver Sanmartin has been getting tons of ground balls in his time pitching down in the Dominican. The lefty has gotten grounders on 62% of the balls put in play against him in his 26.0 innings there. While pitching during the regular season here stateside he generated grounders at a rate of 54% between his three stops. To put that into perspective, the MLB ground ball rate on the year was just 43%.

In 2021 the big thing in baseball, as it has been for the last decade, is velocity. Everyone is throwing harder than ever before. If you don’t throw 95 or harder then you tend to be overlooked. You have to go out and prove yourself over and over again. Among the pitchers that seem to be vying for a spot int he Reds rotation next year, Reiver Sanmartin sticks out for his lack of velocity. While guys like Hunter Greene and Graham Aschraft can hit triple-digits with their fastball, Sanmartin didn’t even average 90 MPH in his two starts for Cincinnati this past year – he averaged just 89.4 MPH.

Perhaps not the favorite heading into spring to grab a spot, Reiver Sanmartin would give the rotation a very different look. He’s a soft-tossing (by today’s standards) lefty who has a deceptive delivery. But in some sense he is a bit like Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray (and the now departed Wade Miley) in that he gets plenty of ground balls. Castillo was among the best in all of baseball with a 57% ground ball rate last season, while Gray was at 47% – the first time in his entire career he was under 50%.

46 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    I’ve always been fond of having that “soft-tossing lefty” in the mix. Obviously has to be effective, but I think I’m seeing the tools we could use, especially if one or two of our bigger names get traded whenever this madness comes to a close.

    Thanks for keeping us informed, Doug. Excited to see how he performs in the D-League.

    • jazzmanbbfan

      I have a bit of fondness for that too. Jamie Moyer made a pretty good, and long, career as a soft tossing lefty.

      • LWBlogger2

        Perhaps my favorite soft-tossing lefty.

  2. Oldtimer

    Tom Browning. Fred Norman. Two LH pitchers in Reds lore who might not be Reds today.

    • J

      Actually, don’t be surprised if the Reds offer them minor league deals with invitations to spring training. They might both be in the 2022 rotation.

      • Mark Moore

        🙂

        Thanks, J! I needed that chuckle this morning.

      • MuddyCleats

        LOL. No doubt, it wouldn’t surprise me either 🙂

  3. Gonzo Reds

    With Miley gone one of those final two spots will go to a lefty. I’d think Lodelo is the favorite for that spot but we’ll see how it plays out if and when we get to playing baseball again (likely 2023).

    • Jer-B

      Lodolo barely pitched last year. I don’t think he built up enough innings to take a rotation spot out of the gate. Out of all the potential starters in AAA, he is the least likely in my mind to break with the team. He will most likely be with the he big league team at some point though.

      • Old Big Ed

        Maybe, Jer-B, but if you are worried about his innings limitations, why waste precious innings in the minors? If he’s ready (and that’s a real “if”), then to me he needs to pitching whatever innings he has in Cincinnati.

        You can’t really manipulate service time with pitchers, because (1) they are too unpredictable and it can backfire, and (2) the new CBA is likely going to address some of that, although it will be interesting exactly how they do it. I would suggest that any GM credibly accused of service time manipulation be sentenced to watching “The English Patient” every day for two months.

      • DaveCT

        Conversely, why blow service time if the guy is not ready?

        Lodolo has 67 pro innings total. This isn’t a criticism. It’s just his reality.

        I agree with Doug that ‘when he’s ready, he’s ready.’ If that is now, great. But if it’s not now, i myself would’t start the clock.

      • Jer-B

        It has nothing to do with service time. He needs to build his innings up to be able to throw the 150+ innings that a MLB starter needs to be able to throw throughout a season. He has barely pitched professionally and isn’t ready for that kind of work load. You can always put him in the bullpen at some point to save his arm some.

      • Doug Gray

        He’s got a 125 inning season on his arm (2019). He’ll be just as “safe” as anyone else making the jump from the minors to the Majors with regards to the workload demands that would be asked of him.

  4. Shawn

    I’ve got a few questions about the DSL. I heard you on the Hunt for Reds October podcast and someone mentioned how cheap it was to watch. How much longer is the season? How many reds prospects are playing? What’s the cost? Do you have to have MLB to get it? Thanks

    • Doug Gray

      It’s not the DSL (which is the Dominican Summer League). It’s the Dominican Winter League. If you already have MLB.tv then you can watch it when it’s live (they do not archive the games, the season picks up again Tuesday). There’s about two weeks left of the regular season. Then they will begin the playoffs on the 19th. Here’s the remaining schedule: https://www.mlb.com/live-stream-games/lidom/2021-schedule

      It’s $24.99 for the “postseason package” – https://www.mlb.com/news/lidom-games-streaming-on-mlb-tv

      Not sure how many Reds guys are playing/will be playing. The teams can have new rosters every single day. Top of my head – Aristides Aquino has played, Sanmartin has played, prospect Francisco Urbaez has played…. Jose Barrero is supposed to begin playing, but that may not happen until the playoffs.

      • Shawn

        Thanks. I wish it came with milb. I have that.

      • MK

        If you have FS-2 you can see a Puerto Rican game every Thursday night. Was able to watch Reds prospect Brian Rey play last week.

  5. BK

    I realize his MLB success came against the Pirates, but he looked really good in both starts. He pitched to contact and avoided walks while maintaining league average K rates. The results looked similar to his numbers at AAA and AA. I think his chances for making the team out of spring training are excellent with the question being whether he makes the rotation of the bullpen. He’ll have all of his options available which is another plus.

    My only question … how close to making Doug’s Top 25 was he? Does he profile more as a reliever long-term?

    • Stock

      I agree BK. I have always liked him. I love the way he misses bats, throws strikes and induces groundballs. After 2019 he was even in my top 25. However, with so many young players being drafted or signed via international means he has fallen to #31 on my list. 11 players drafted the last two years make my top 30 and six international signings make my top 30 so Sanmartin’s fall is not so much poor performance but what I consider good drafts and international signings.

      • Old Big Ed

        He’s kinda like Mike Cuellar, a bit of a scrawny and scappy lefty who was baffling to hitters for some reason.

  6. Doc

    Maybe his emergence was partly behind the decision to part ways with Wade Miley. Cost obviously was a piece, but SanMartin has thrown nearly as many innings this year as Miley threw in the last two, id I remember rough numbers correctly, and SM will get another couple of starts to add innings before DWL season ends, more than likely.

    It’s nice to see a pitcher, as was Miley, as a complement to a staff of throwers.

    • Stock

      I am not sure how you compute that Sanmartin has thrown almost as many innings this year as Miley has the last two. Reality is Miley has threw 50 more innings in 2021 than Sanmartin did in 2020 and 2021 combined (25 if you want to count his winter league numbers).

  7. Stock

    I love the idea of Sanmartin, Gutierrez, Santillian, O’Brien and a FA pick up manning our rotation. It will bring back memories of 2017 when the rotation consisted of Bailey, Adleman, Feldman, Romano and Arroyo.

      • JayTheRed

        He will be a minor league deal with invite to spring training for sure.

    • Shawn

      If we ain’t going to try to compete, that should be our rotation. I’m OK with rebuilding, I’m OK with spending and trying to win. The only thing I’m not OK with is doing nothing.

      • Stock

        I am with you Shawn. I would love that to be our rotation assuming we received value for Gray, Castillo and Mahle. Plus we may get the top pick in the 2023 draft with that rotation or maybe several of them prove to be of value. Either way the team is better off.

      • Greenfield Red

        You guys are speaking my language. Give me red hot or ice cold. I do not want the Reds to be “competitive” or the sneak into the playoffs in the final spot. That will not win the Series.

        Good is the enemy of great.

  8. greenmtred

    That would make a usable bumper sticker. So would the obverse. I can’t think of many teams that went from bad to great without spending some time as good. You field a good team, have some luck with injuries and–probably–add a player or two to shore up a weakness and–magic!!–you’re a great team.

    • Stock

      Here are 12 examples in the last 21 years where a team went from bad to great. 4 won the world series, 2 lost in the world series. 3 lost in the League Championship series.

      1990 Braves finished last in their division. 1991 Braves were in the World Series.

      1990 Twins finished last in their division. 1991 Twins beat the Braves in the World Series.

      1996 Marlins finished 80-82 (3rd place). 1997 Marlins win the World Series. This example may not qualify as bad to great.

      1998 Diamondbacks finished (65-97, last in then NL West). 1999 Diamondbacks finished (100-62, 1st in the NL West) and lost in the playoffs.

      2002 Marlins finished 79-83 (4th place). 2003 Marlins won the World Series.

      2006 Diamondbacks finished (76-86, 4th in the NL West). 2007 Diamondbacks finished 1st in the NL West and lost in the NL Championship to the Rockies.

      2007 Rays finished last in the division (66-96). 2008 Rays finished (97-65, 1st in AL East) and lost in the World Series.

      2010 Diamondbacks finished (65-97, last in the NL West). 2011 Diamondbacks won the NL West (94-68).

      2013 Giants finished (76-86, 3rd in the NL West). 2014 Giants won the World Series.

      2014 Cubs finished (73-89, last in the NL Central). 2015 Cubs 97-65 and lost to the Mets in the NL Championship.

      2015 Red Sox finished last in the AL East. 2016 – 2018 Red Sox finished 1st in the AL East.

      2020 Red Sox finished last in the AL East (behind Baltimore). 2021 Red Sox lost to the Astros in the AL Championship.

      • greenmtred

        Good research. There’s still the question of what’s bad and what’s great, but that’s really subjective. I stand corrected.

    • Old Big Ed

      The Mets from 1968 (73 wins) to 1969 (100 wins).

      • Bill J

        The great Gil Hodges managed the 69 Mets.

  9. MK

    To me Guttierez has earned a rotation spot and is his to lose. I would think Greene or Lodolo will get the other spot and Sanmartin will join Garrett and Wilson as lefties in the pen.

    • Optimist

      Agree about Guti. As for SanM/Lodolo/Greene – extend SanM in ST, keep that pace from opening day, but use him out of the pen until the first few spot starts. If that works, keep it up. Without reviewing the schedule or the new CBA, and barring catastrophe in ST, start Greene and Lodolo with the Bats, then bring up Greene after, say, 6 weeks, and let Lodolo extend out further – perhaps the All-star break. They’ll need at least 7 starters in any event, so let SanM, Santillan and Hoffman soak up some while Greene and Lodolo build up a workload.

      Aside from the contingencies with those named, of course there remains the potential bullpen fiasco, but don’t use Greene or Lodolo there until September and only then if they’re hitting their innings limits. Don’t want to enter 2023 knowing less than 3 starters.

    • DaveCT

      The nice run Gutierrez had qualifies him into the rotation, in my view. He seemed to run out of gas but that might be expected. But we know he can be effective. Good rest this winter and let him start from day one.

  10. Mark

    Personally, I think Sanmartin will be a very pleasant surprise this year. Reds definitely should want a lefty in the rotation with Miley gone. He’ll be 26 next year, and they will be wasting a good thing if they send him down, IMO.

  11. MuddyCleats

    Doug, how does Sanmartin compare w/ Miley in terms of avg. pitch speed and ground ball rates ?

    • Stock

      GB%: Sanmartin in Minors – 55.2%, Sanmartin in majors – 47.1%, Miley in majors – 49.4%

      FB: Sanmartin in Majors – 89.4 mph, Miley – 89.8 mph

      K%: Sanmartin in Minors – 27.4%, Sanmartin in Majors – 23.4%, Miley – 18.1%

      BB%: Sanmartin in Minors – 6.8%, Sanmartin in Majors – 4.3%, Miley – 7.2%

      • MuddyCleats

        Thanks Stock; there’s always hope Sanmartin could be the next Miley

  12. RedsGettingBetter

    It will be very interesting in spring training who is gonna reach the Reds Rotation spots available by that time… Everyone would want Hunter Greene make it one spot so the last one could be a very close fight. SanMartin has a profile some similar as Miley’s since he is LHP too. Lodolo will be a very tough rival to SanMartin to fit in the rotation as lefty. I think Ashcraft should be at Louisville some time waiting for a chance unless has a very impressive spring training that promotes him to opening day. Gutierrez and Santillán have the expirience, though the latter should be filling a bullpen spot.

  13. Greenfield Red

    Funny story about Gil Hodges is this: My mother hates sports of any kind, but loves Gil Hodges. She was once on a bus as a single mom with my two older brothers. The Dodger team was on the bus too. The younger of my two older brothers needed a diaper change, so Gil let my oldest brother, about 3 at the time, sit on his lap while mom tended to his younger btother.

    • Greenfield Red

      This was supposed to be a reply to Bill J. Sorry its in the wrong spot.

  14. Bill J

    Good story GF. Story on MLB.com said many of the 69 Mets have said if it had not been for Gil Hodges they would not have won the series. He died to young.