Eric Cross wrote about six potential aces in 2023 last week at Fantrax, granted it’s about fantasy baseball, but generally speaking you aren’t going to be bad in real baseball and good in fantasy baseball (or the other way around). Two of the six pitchers he selected are on the Reds – Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo.

Cross notes just how good Hunter Greene was down the stretch where he posted a 1.02 ERA in his final six starts of the season as he held opponents to a .140 average in that time. Cross dives into a little bit of why he believes that Greene was able to take that next step and could potentially carry it forward (not a 1.02 ERA, of course, but a big step up in performance). But he also has a tiny bit of reservation about Greene, too.

With Lodolo, he noted that like Greene, the lefty was also dominating down the stretch in the second half of the year. Noted change in pitch usage seemed to help that out. Over his final six starts of the season he posted a 2.48 ERA while holding hitters to a .176 average.

It would go a long way towards turning this disastrous ship around if those two guys could both stay healthy and perform up to the standards or close to it of an “ace”.

Plenty of baseball this week

Last night both the American League and National League Championship Series came to an end. The Philadelphia Phillies came from behind to beat the San Diego Padres thanks to a huge 8th inning home run from Bryce Harper. The New York Yankees never got their offense going as they were swept by the Houston Astros and Dusty Baker. With the series being short it means that the World Series won’t start for four more days, kicking off on Friday night.

I saw plenty of people online talking about how there’s no baseball until Friday. And boy were those people incorrect. There may be no Major League Baseball playoffs until Friday, but there’s a lot of baseball happening this week. Winter Leagues in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Mexico are already going on, as is the prospect-only Arizona Fall League. And the Cincinnati Reds have players in all of these leagues – even some big leaguers.

Aristides Aquino is playing with Licey in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM), as are prospects Elly De La Cruz (who’s first week went so well that he was named the offensive MVP for the first week of the season) and Michael De Leon. Reliever Dauri Moreta is expected to join the team this week. Somehow every single Red currently playing in the league is on Licey, with no other Reds being on the other five teams at this point in the season. All Dominican Winter League games are available on MLB.tv – but only when they are live.

Those are the easiest of the games to watch this week if you need your baseball viewing needs to be met until the World Series begins.

60 Responses

  1. Rednat

    i think whenever the reds are ready to compete again the pitching will be there. whether it is Greene and Lodolo or any other of their young pitching core they will be able to come up with 5 pitchers that can give the team quality starts.

    the starting pitching has been solid for quite some time with the reds. now it is about trying to find veteran position players that can at least hit a little bit. i think the bigger question is , do we try to trade one or both of these guys to get a good veteran?

    • PTBNL

      trade HG or NL for a vet when they are not going to be competitive next year. H… NO!

    • BK

      Good starting pitching remains the coin of the realm. We should not trade either player for the foreseeable future.

    • Doc

      Astros had plenty of pitching.
      Yankees did not have plenty of pitching.
      Who won the ALCS?

      Keep top drawer pitching if at all possible.

    • Reaganspad

      Nor will we trade Ashcraft. We may have 3 aces

      • JayTheRed

        Really not ready to call Ashcraft an ace or even top 3 yet in a rotation. He really struggled through probably due to injury, to finish the season.

      • Melvin

        I agree. Ashcraft for much of the year was arguably better than the other two. May possibly have three aces.

      • Jim Walker

        I suspect that due to age, college and minor league experience, Ashcraft was working much closer to his ceiling than either Greene. Lodolo’s age and experience is similar to Ashcraft; but, Lodolo, based on draft position, probably has a higher ceiling with Lodolo being #7 overall and Ashcraft #174 overall in the same draft.

  2. Mark Moore

    I’m optimistic about Greene and Lodolo. Their push to the finish showed some solid maturity to my eyes.

    Question (asked elsewhere but lost in the shuffle): What level does the Dominican Winter League grade at vs. the US Minor League system? Is it the “strongest” of the Latin American leagues you noted?

      • Mark Moore

        Thanks, Tom. This and Doug’s comment are very helpful.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s definitely the strongest.

      The thing about the level of play in the league is that it changes. Early on there aren’t as many big leaguers playing as there are when December rolls around.

      Right now I’d say it’s about a AA-ish level, but it’s also like spring training in that you might be facing a guy who is in A-ball one inning, a former big leaguer/AAA type in another, then a full on big leaguer the next time out all in the same game.

      Once you get into December and the playoffs, teams get a lot stronger and I’d say that it’s probably closer to AAA because that’s when there are more true big leaguers that show up to play and help their teams win.

      • Mark Moore

        Thanks, Doug. Reminds me of the Cape Cod Wooden Bat League where teams got better as the guys from the better college programs ended their seasons and joined up.

        I was guessing AAA but new you’d have a read on it.

  3. Fanman

    If we had an owner commited to winning these 2 young hurlers would be tremendous building blocks. We shouldn’t sleep on Graham Ashcraft. 3/5 of a young, controllable, elite rotation. Reds should lock up there young core now and then add some young major league talent with/until #4 ranked farm team begins blossoming onto the Mlb roster

  4. SultanofSwaff

    I was breaking down the 87 win Phillies team WAR and wondering how the Reds could make that leap forward. My back of the napkin assumptions needed to get close:
    1. Our rotation takes that step forward and we get ~7 more WAR combined from Greene, Ashcraft, Diaz, and Lodolo. Not unrealistic with full seasons from each imo.
    2. Health. Full seasons from Stephenson, India, Steer, Votto….nets you another 3 WAR.
    3. One breakout player who surprises with a 3 WAR season. EDLC seems the obvious choice.
    If those 3 come to pass you’re still 4-7 WAR short. In other words, one near All-Star level free agent puts you in the playoff mix. So the question I ask myself is why not accelerate the rebuild and open the competitive window NOW? That’s one year of control over these great pitchers you’re not punting on. Lord knows they have the money to make a play on one of these prime SS free agents.

    • AllTheHype

      Because your #1, #2, and #3 are mostly best case scenarios, which by law of averages means it is unlikely to occur. The more reasonable prognostication is the Reds are 7-10 WAR short instead of 4-7.

      • David

        The Reds could pick up a substantial amount of “Wins Above Replacement” if they had a better bullpen. That is the one place where going out to get a player or player(s) could make a real difference.

        I would not expect too much of Joey Votto (unfortunately) next season, but he may surprise us all. Historically, Joey has been a slow healer.

        EDLC could be a big WAR addition next year (but probably not until May or June). I think he is ready now, but it would not hurt for him to start the season (2023) at AAA.

        Noelvi Marte, phenom shortstop from the Mariners’ trade, has been moved to 3rd base in the Arizona league. Isn’t that interesting? He will play at AA ball starting in 2023.
        Encarnacion-Strand is also probably about ready to join the Reds. But again, I think he will start the year at AAA.
        And I think we will see a lot more of Spencer Steer in 2023.
        Alex McGarry at 1st base?

      • Optimist

        7-10 sounds right, perhaps even a bit more is needed. That said, signing Benintendi is the obvious starting move next year. Unless they went wildly over budget (hah!) he’s about the maximum to expect. He’s been largely free of injury, seems to be the type who can remain so, and fills all sorts of needs at a price they’ve shown they’ll consider.

        However, that only gets you 2-3 WAR, and I’d be very surprised if they got a similar level FA to sign. They’ll stick with the Feb/March pickups, which have proven successful, and may spend a bit more on the pen, but will likely decide that one FA signing is enough for the budget until the 2024 “window”.

    • Rob

      Good perspective. The question I continue to have is why not trade Moose to free up some spending money. Don’t tell me it is undoable. Painful maybe but not undoable. In the spring I suggested a package of Moose, Barrero, and Santillan for a useful, productive 2 year $10M piece. Allow a rebuilder to take on 2 premium prospects for a Net of $8M for 1 year. Golly Nick, $8-10M extra cash, a 2 year contributor(CF, C, ?) for 2 ex top 5 prospects. Not undoable and not totally off track to the future of this team. Yeah, one or both of these guys could become good to the other team but that is OK. We have improved our 2023-2024 team and outlook.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    It’s widely accepted the Astros are one of the most forward thinking organizations around. They deliberately chose Dusty Baker to manage. How am I supposed to intellectually reconcile the two?

    • LDS

      Perhaps, Dusty Baker is a far better manager than the average Reds fan accepts? Certainly, he was better than any of the Reds managers that have followed him. As for Green, Lodolo, and Ashcraft – it’s all about staying healthy and pitching.

    • greenmtred

      i’d go a bit further than LDS did: perhaps it is more evidence that fans–lacking the necessary information–aren’t good at evaluating managers.

    • MadMike

      Agree with LDS Also recall that Dusty was hired in the immediate wake of the cheating scandal. I would argue it was a genius move to hire him, a larger than life personality with a folksy manner to redirect and defuse all of the public attention, and keep the heat off of the rest of the Astros organization.

    • Doug Gray

      When you only give a manager good options to pick from it’s tough to have them consistently make bad ones. Likewise, when you only give a manager bad options to pick from it’s tough for them to consistently make good ones.

      The Astros are beyond loaded. Tough to mess that up outside of overusing pitchers and getting them hurt, which in today’s game is almost impossible (they still get hurt, but with everything that’s used to monitor these guys it’s not because they were overused, it was because they pitch for a living).

      • Reaganspad

        But I trust that Dusty can mess the Astros up. Dusty is no Bruce Bochy

      • Old Big Ed

        You’re right about that, Reaganspad. Dusty is 2093-1790, and Bochy is 2003-2029.

  6. Tar Heel Red

    To me the best thing the Reds can do is bring in a veteran pitcher capable of leading the staff and setting the example for the three second-year pitchers. If they don’t it would, in my opinion, put a lot of pressure on Greene, Lodolo and Ashcraft and they very well could struggle in ’23.

    • Doc

      Once the veterans, Castillo and Mahle, were traded away, Greene and Lodolo took off, and it wasn’t likely due to Minor’s presence. I think the veteran influence for top drawer guys like these is over-rated.

      • Optimist

        True – the best thing they could do with a veteran is find one good for 100 ip at league average or slightly above. Looking back the past few years seems like Tanner Roark is the only one I find.

    • JayTheRed

      What about taking a flyer on Johnny Cueto? Yes, he is or will be 35 next season, but He pitched decently .

      • Tar Heel Red

        Cueto will be 37 next season, but he is exactly the type of pitcher I am talking about. Whoever they bring in doesn’t have to be a number 1, just a veteran who has been there before and can impart his wisdom on the young guys and eat a few innings. Chase Anderson would possibly fill that role too. They are gonna have to fill at least 2-4 slots in the rotation, so why not bring in someone who has the experience and can start to teach the kids how to win at the major league level.

  7. Optimist

    Saw an interesting comment from K Boddy’s twitter feed – namely the harder a pitcher throws, the less they should throw hard stuff – essentially meaning you show them heat but get outs by mastering the breaking/change-of-pace offerings. Since hitters eventually adjust to heat pitchers need to adjust by avoiding hanging slower stuff. Seems to apply especially to the pen – so many walks followed by so many straight hittable fastballs.

    I wonder if the late season improvements reflect some of that. Also, that bodes well for Ashcraft returning to form.

    • David

      I think Hunter Greene mastered that killer slider that he throws now.

      That, along with his 100 mph fastball is really about all he needs. I would assume that Greene throws a four-seam fastball. I think I also read where he had changed his grip slightly and was getting more run on the fastball, which makes it even harder to square up on.
      Maybe he can start to master a 2-seam grip to give his fastball a different look to hitters?
      Subtle things for the fans are often the big things for pitchers.

      • Optimist

        Yes – from here out, just tinker with a new pitch each off season, and see what happens.

  8. Klugo

    Uh, yeah! Will ownership take advantage? That, I’m not so sure of. If I were a/ betting man, I’d say there is a better chance they both get traded before we are real contenders than there is of them being part of a contending Reds team.

  9. Stock

    Greene was probably the best pitcher in baseball in the second half (limited sample size). I believe he will be one of the 5 best pitchers in baseball next year.

    Second half stats:
    K%: 36.7% 4th in baseball behind (deGrom, Strider, Rodon)
    Swinging K%: 2nd behind deGrom
    K% – BB%: 4th behind deGrom, Strider, Rodon
    CSW%: 3rd behind deGrom, Nola
    ERA: 2nd behind Steele
    FIP: 3rd behind Strider, Verlander
    FB Velocity: 1st
    ISO: 0.048 1st
    OPS: 0.503 1st
    SLG%: .228 1st
    IFFB%: 22.6% 1st (by a wide margin)

    He gave up 4 extra base hits in 35.1 IP.
    43.17% of the batters he faced either hit an IFFB or struck out. This was second in the majors behind deGrom (44.37%).

    My only concern with Greene is his health.

  10. Jim Delaney

    Reds have potential pitching nucleus to contend in NL, the REDS ownership needs to step to the plate and allow them to contend in 2023 and beyond. The Phillies are in the World Series, they won 87 games. The Braves won the World Series last year when they won 88 regular season games. You make the playoffs and you never know.
    The biggest problem with the new CBA was teams intentionally TANKING wasn’t solved. Teams should be stripped of draft picks, draft pick pool money, international pool signing money and all revenue sharing money.
    That will send message to owners if you don’t want to compete and you are not making the profit share you want then sell your franchise.
    The REDS are in a division they should be able to compete in yearly and they don’t. The current plan for competing in 2025 makes no sense. By that time, Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Diaz, etc will be starting their arbitration years. They will only be 3 years from leaving as free agents. REDS have created an environment where these players will walk when they can as FREE Agents.
    If you don’t try and compete ASAP, the current losing will continue until the current ownership group led by the Castellini and Williams families sell the team..
    A very sad day in MUDVILLE, no HOPE… SAD that MLB allows ownership to not care about winning and putting a competitive product on the field…

    • Doug Gray

      Yeah, the absolute half-measures to try and “stop tanking” missed the boat. Teams don’t really tank for draft picks – they tank so they don’t “have to” spend an extra $25-50M on payroll and can sell it to the fans that it’s just because they are “rebuilding” instead of just not trying.

      • Tom Reeves

        What do you do with the Reds when they’re payroll doesn’t completely say tanking but their decisions do? (Moose and Votto make up a huge portion of the payroll).

        I’m also of the opinion that it’s not that the Reds can afford, free agents – rather, it’s that the Reds can afford free agent busts like Moose. Moose gobbled up resources has been a near total waste.

        So, I think the Reds are making the smart strategic pivot for the long haul. That said, it’s been painful.

    • Doc

      I would have based the “lottery” portion of the draft on the records for the lottery teams through 81 games. I’m not saying I base the overall draft order on the first 81 games, that remains based on the full season as it currently is, but only the order for those who ultimately fall into the lottery slots at season’s end.

      I doubt many teams are tanking during the first half of the season. The NBA style lottery is a non-starter.

      • JayTheRed

        The Reds sure looked like they were tanking the 1st almost 2 months.

  11. Old-school

    Greene and Lodolo have great upside and certainly reason for optimism. 2023 is going to be a year of purging the last of controlled contracts and watching for young players to develop or not develop.
    Senzel as a #2 overall pick hasn’t made the strides forward to be an Alex Bregman type player(#2 pick 2015 draft the year prior). His non-development is certainly a reason for a GM to tap the brakes. Jose Barrero’s non-development is a reason to tap the brakes. Moose and Votto very good reasons to tap the brakes on 2023. The talent at high A and AA and soon to be AAA promising but not MLB ready.

  12. MBS

    “2 Aces”, and stud in the pen. I refrain from saying closer because I don’t know if that’s what he’ll do, or if he’ll be the fireman in whichever inning he’s needed.

    21 Stephenson, India, Gutierrez and Santillan
    22 Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Diaz, and SanMartin
    23 Looking forward to seeing who emerges this upcoming season and the next.

  13. Oldtimer

    My two cents. I see Greene as a potential ace but not Lodolo. The Reds have had very few aces in my lifetime. Jim Maloney in 1960s. Don Gullett in 1970s. Jose Rijo. Johnny Cueto. Maybe one or two others.

    • Harry Stoner

      Mario Soto.

      What’s you’re hesitation on Lodolo?

      Big sweeping lefty curveball.

      Or maybe it’s a question of what constitutes an ‘ace’?

      Of course, it’s all projection now.

      • Oldtimer

        Yes. Soto for sure. Memory isn’t what it used to be.

        And TOM SEAVER of course. Oops!

        Lodolo reminds me of Jim O’Toole or Tom Browning. Very good pitchers but not an ace.

      • Oldtimer

        1967 or 1970 or 1972 Nolan, yes. But not year after year.

    • Optimist

      Gary Nolan exceeded Gullett, Wayne Simpson could have been better yet. At least they’ve advanced in handling the medical side of the arms, and Lodolo may yet exceed Greene.

      • Oldtimer

        Nolan was 110-70 (11-7) in 10 seasons with 119 ERA+

        Gullett was 91-44 (13-6) in 7 seasons with 116 (I think) ERA+

        Pretty close. I’d call Gullett the ace of the Big Red Machine but Nolan not far behind.

      • Optimist

        They are very close – Nolan started earlier and lasted a bit longer. The odd thing is I remember Jack Billingham and Fred Norman on the 75-76 teams more than either Nolan or Gullett. Nolan led in ip both years, while Gullett was 4th and 6th, IIRC due to a few injuries.

      • David

        Don Gullet ended the year 16-4 in 1975; he broke a finger on his pitching hand, trying to barehand a line drive through the box. He was out for something like 8 weeks. Imagine if he had pitched in those 8 weeks (11 starts?) ?

        He could have won 25 games that season, without the injury.

        Gary Nolan won 18 games in 1970 at the age of 23. Although Jim Merritt won 20 games that season, Nolan was “arguably” the best starter on the staff. He won the only WS game against the Orioles.
        Nolan came up as a bullet- throwing 19 year old to the Reds in 1967.
        Plus, he had a killer impersonation of Muhammed Ali that he pulled off on a pre-game show with Joe Nuxhall one afternoon. It was hysterical when Joe revealed it was Gary.

    • MBS

      Fair point, the title of Ace is used quite a bit. I suppose it depends on the definition you subscribe to. #1 Pitcher on a staff, or elite pitcher. If it’s elite then not every team has one, and some teams could have multiple. I like the term #1 for a teams best pitcher, and Ace for top 5 pitcher in baseball. Neither of our guys will likely be in that 2nd category in 23.

      • greenmtred

        is ace really just what we call a very good starting pitcher on a very good team? pitchers don’t get a lot of wins playing on weak teams. /

  14. CFD3000

    There’s no doubt in my mind that both Greene and Lodolo have the potential to be aces. And in my mind that term means pitchers who can carry a team through the playoffs. Two, or better yet three of those combined with a strong back of the bullpen gives you a shot at a pennant if you make the playoffs. Will they be that good? I don’t know. Is it possible – of course! Is it likely? I’m not betting against either one.

    On a related note and in response to some comments above, I think there is a decent chance that Joey Votto is as good next year as he was last year, meaning good enough to get some MVP votes. Obviously his health will dictate that outcome, but if he’s at full strength I expect him to be good, and maybe really good. And if that does happen, I also predict 2023 will not be his final season. It would be foolish to somehow count on that outcome, but I also think it would be hasty to dismiss that possibility. At the very least we know he’ll out work everyone to get back to his old self.

  15. CI3J

    Key word is “potential”.

    Yes, Greene and Lodolo absolutely have the physical tools to be aces. So have thousands of other pitchers through the years of MLB. It’s all about if they can put the whole package together.