State of the Farm: Starting Pitchers Doug Gray December 11, 2012 59 Comments Today wraps up the final position in the State of the Farm series for 2012. The Reds currently have six starting pitchers at the Major League level for five spots. In the minor leagues there is also a good amount of depth. Coming into the season the Reds didn’t have a premiere pitching prospect to their name, but rather several quality pitching prospects. That all changed in 2012 when Robert Stephenson began pitching in Billings and then eventually in Dayton and flashed out pure dominance at times, touching 101 MPH in one game with two other strong pitches. He established himself as one of the minor leagues premiere arms and the Reds top pitching prospect. Stephenson still has a ways to go and needs to improve aspects of his game, but in terms of a pure arm, very few players can match him in all of baseball. There is a little bit of a gap to the next grouping of guys. Daniel Corcino is next in line. He doesn’t have quite the upside as Stephenson, but he is closer to contributing in the Majors. He has been compared to Johnny Cueto for years because of similar size, stuff and mechanics. Corcino threw 143.1 innings in AA with a 3.01 ERA. He struggled at times with his control, posting a high walk rate. Still, he has good stuff across the board, some success in the upper minors and a good history. Nick Travieso was the Reds first round pick this past season and while he was a bit unheralded coming into the season, by the time the draft rolled around he had vaulted up to first round status. He has reportedly hit 100 MPH while mixing in a power slider and showing a good feel for a change up. He only threw 21 innings as a pro this season with good control. He will need to move a bit slower than some other guys as he never started until his senior year in high school in order to protect his arm, so building up innings will be pivotal. Still, there is a lot of upside with him that puts him in this group. The last guy in this group is Tony Cingrani. Coming into the year he had one of the best debuts of any Reds prospect I can remember. With that said, there were a lot of scouts who still viewed him as a reliever despite his dominance as a starter in his debut in rookie ball. Despite the calendar flipping over and the lefty spending time with Bakersfield, Pensacola and Cincinnati, the results remained roughly the same. Splitting his minor league season with Bakersfield and Pensacola he posted a combined 1.73 ERA in 146 innings with 172 strikeouts and 52 walks. He was stronger in Bakersfield than in Pensacola, mostly revolving around his walk rate nearly doubling. He still needs to improve his slider if he wants to remain a starter, as well as relying more on his offspeed pitches, but he has convinced a lot more people that he can remain a starter after his 2012 season. After that group of guys there is another gap down to the next group, perhaps even larger than the step down from the first to second group. Everyone in this group has questions about them that still need answering. Kyle Lotzkar topped 100 innings for the first time in his career and showed the stuff to be a starting pitcher, but he struggled with his control at times and dealt with shoulder soreness that ended his season early in August. Remaining healthy and cutting down on his walk rate are serious concerns at this point. He remains a high upside arm, but one with significant questions. His rotation mate for a few weeks in August, Chad Rogers is next on the list. The Reds moved him to the rotation after spending 2011 in the bullpen. The results were strong as he posted a 2.90 ERA in 143 innings with high groundball rates, 35 walks and 111 strikeouts. He showed very good control and two quality pitches with his fastball and slider. His lack of a third pitch may place him in the bullpen in the future, though if he can add a change up that is even average, he shows good stamina and control. Ismael Guillon joins that group after a down 2011 season. During 2012 he split time with Billings and Dayton where he posted a 2.38 ERA in 75.2 innings with 31 walks and 90 strikeouts. As a left hander he has above-average velocity and a plus change-up. He mixes in a curveball often, though it is a below-average pitch in the high 60’s to low 70’s. He has had control problems in the past and his innings high was the 75.2 innings in 2012, but he has a strong foundation to build upon moving forward. The final guy in this group is Dan Langield, the Reds 3rd rounder this past season. He split time between the rotation and bullpen with Billings after a long season in college. With the Mustangs he posted a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings with 17 walks and 54 strikeouts. The control was spotty at times, but the stuff is there with above-average fastball velocity that has touched as high as 97. He mixes in a plus slider, above-average curveball and a change up. Control may be something that holds him back, but if he can improve the control he has all of the pitches he needs to remain a starter. After these guys there is a sizable gap to the next group of guys. Amir Garrett has a big time arm, but he is about as raw as players can possibly come. The left hander didn’t play baseball his final two years of high school and takes on college basketball from August through March. He has an above-average fastball, but his curveball and change up are both below-average pitches right now. He made huge strides during the year from extended spring training through his time at the end of the year with Billings, but there is simply is so much room between where he is now and where he could be one day. Pedro Diaz is another big time arm in the Reds system. He posted a 5.72 ERA in Arizona at age 19 this past year, but he showed off good control, good groundball rates and plenty of strikeouts to go along with good scouting reports. Jon Moscot was the Reds 4th rounder this past season and posted a 2.88 ERA with Billings in 10 starts with 6 walks and 26 strikeouts in 25 innings. Like Dan Langfield earlier, the Reds kept his innings limited after a long college season. His stuff is mostly just solid across the board, but his fastball, split finger, change up and slider are all at least average pitches right now with his fastball and slider with above-average potential. Drew Cisco made his pro debut in 2012 after being drafted in 2010 and missing 2011 with Tommy John surgery. Cisco doesn’t have a huge upside like some of the other guys listed, but he has solid stuff across the board and is about as polished as they come. He was brought along slowly to begin the season, but ramped up his innings down the stretch and really began showing better numbers as well to finish the year with a 3.39 ERA in 58 innings with just 7 walks and 45 strikeouts for Billings. Most guys don’t show anywhere near that kind of control coming off of Tommy John surgery, which just shows how polished Cisco really is. He could be a quick mover. Sal Romano joins this group of guys after a solid season in Billings as just one of only two pitchers in the league under the age of 19. He posted a 5.32 ERA in 64.1 innings with 23 walks and 53 strikeouts. He has three solid pitches with big time groundball rates, plenty of projection with his size that could lead to more velocity down the road. Beyond that group are guys like Mason Felt, Jeremy Kivel and Jonathan Perez. Felt was taken by the Reds in the 5th round out of high school, but the left hander never made his debut. He has an average fastball currently, though there could be room to add velocity. He mixes in a solid curveball and change up as well. Jeremy Kivel was another high schooler who didn’t make his debut, though he sat out as he is recovering from a torn ACL that caused him to miss most of his senior season. He has a fastball that has topped out at 96 MPH in high school, a power curveball and a change up. Jonathan Perez was the Reds big international signing in 2011 out of Venezuela. They paid him $825,000 to sign and reports were that his fastball was already touching 92 MPH with both a curveball and a change up. Overall Thoughts The Reds have a premium pitching prospect with Robert Stephenson, several other top 100 in all of baseball starting prospects with Cingrani, Corcino and perhaps Travieso. Beyond those guys there are still plenty of guys with the potential to crack future top 100 prospect lists as starters and plenty of depth beyond that as well. The Reds may be a little thin in the middle levels on starting, but they are pretty stacked at the high end and low end of the minors. You could argue this is one of their strongest positions, if not the strongest. It has big arms, polished arms, lots of potential arms and a bit of everything in between. I would give this position a Grade A. There is just a whole lot to like at the position in an area where the big league club is already doing well in. That wraps up the State of the Farm series for this year. To check out the entire series, click here. 59 Responses wanderinredsfan December 11, 2012 When we discuss starting pitching depth and don’t even mention guys like Crabbe, Smith, Villareal, or Renken, I stand back in awe of how far this system has come. Starting pitcher depth is probably the single most important reason the Reds will continue to be legitimate contenders in the years to come, especially in a time when teams continue to dole out record-breaking contracts for the most volatile position in baseball. Scott from upstate NY December 11, 2012 I’m hoping Renken has a bounce back year. I think he is more talented than his 2012 numbers reflect. He didn’t have much baseball luck in 2012, and the Cal league wasn’t kind to him. I understand how he is not among the prospect mentionables due to the lack of velocity, but I think he can pitch. Daryl December 11, 2012 I am really surprised Smith isn’t listed here somewhere. He has performed pretty well every step of the way. Rick D in Chicago December 11, 2012 Josh Smith? I think Doug has him with the relievers, much like Villareal. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 Yeah, I had Josh Smith with the relievers. In another organization he may wind up as a #4/5 guy, but with the Reds I think he will wind up in the bullpen where his stuff plays quite well. The Duke December 11, 2012 The Louisville, Dayton, and Billings rotations should all be fun to watch this year. Dayton especially assuming Stephenson, Guillon, Cisco, and Mugarian all start the season there. I think we see Langfield and Moscot both go straight to High A. Krozley December 11, 2012 There are really no prospects that look to start at Bakersfield unless someone jumps, like you mention. If Harold Johnson is healthy, is he a prospect? The Duke December 11, 2012 My projected Bakersfield rotation as of right now is: Dan Langfield Jon Moscot Radhames Quezada James Allen Jacob Johnson Stalin Gerson could also spot start Doug Gray December 11, 2012 I thought about mentioning him, but I really see him as a fringe #5 at this point. With as much depth as there is right now, he will have to leap ahead of a whole lot of guys. If his velocity can pick up a tad, that would help. jim t December 11, 2012 Lots of good arms. With the 6 the reds have at ml level and Cingrani Corcino at AAA I’d say the reds are in good shape. Developing the guys at the lower levels with big upside should be a priority. No Need to rush anyone. Can’t wait to see how Stephenson progresses this year. Cingrani at AAA should be a fun follow. The reds are in good shape. If we have needs at trade deadline I see no reason why the reds can’t get what they need . If you have starting pitching surplus you can get a bat if needed. jim t December 11, 2012 Doug, with Ludwick in the fold and manning LF do we now put together a package and try to get a leadoff hitter. We could also use BP at Leadoff and wait until the deadline to see how Hamilton is going, if BP is doing well we keep him there or we make a trade using some of our pitching surplus. foxbud December 11, 2012 I think at a minimum we need a LH platoon CF with Stubbs. Stubbs can’t be facing RH after RH. I would be ok with Stubbs in a platoon roll, but not with Heisey. Heisey can struggle against RH’s also. rgslone December 11, 2012 What about Xavier Paul as your LH bat for the platoon? He’s played CF in both the minors and majors. For me the question is: “Can his defense be close to average?” If so, I don’t know why he couldn’t be part of a stop-gap solution until Hamilton (or some other better option is available). foxbud December 11, 2012 While Paul was great in his role last year, I do not have confidence in him repeating that. I watched him here in Pittsburgh in 2010(?) and he did not impress me. rgslone December 11, 2012 You may well have a better perspective on Paul than me – and I would certainly enjoy hearing your thoughts about what you have seen in regard to Paul. But here’s my thinking that led me to make that suggestions: (1) There just does not seem to be a lot of good options for CF next season, and if the CF is going to have to hit lead-off then Stubbs is a disaster; (2) Paul’s minor league stats and the scouting reports suggest that he can likely hit and get on base at a better clip than Stubbs or Heisey (he reminds me a lot of Dave Sappelt in regard to his hitting); (3) Paul hits LH, he’s already on the roster (?), and I think he will out perform Stubbs or Heisey at the top of the order; (4) Before the Reds spend a lot (money or prospects) on an option with about as many questions as Paul provides, let’s give Paul a chance. I don’t think he’s ever really been given a fair shot yet. sultan of swaff December 11, 2012 God forbid Lotzkar suffers another arm injury, but do you think the Reds would convert him to a reliever if that were to happen? MK December 11, 2012 I know Kyle a little. Not sure he has the personalty to be a reliever. awa85 December 11, 2012 Chatted with Kyle one on one at Redsfest, and he plans on going to the pen. Seemed like it really was time to try something new with all the injuries he is having. Said he is hoping it is “less stress” and just wants to help out in any way he can. Also talked about how he isn’t healthy right now and hoping rest will avoid another surgery. Great kid and easy to talk to, really hope he can put it together and stay healthy. wanderinredsfan December 11, 2012 Geez. That’s too bad. I don’t guess we should ever expect to see Kyle pitch in the bigs anytime soon. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 Ideally speaking, if the Reds know he has a shoulder injury, that he suffered in August, and it is November, and they aren’t operating yet, I am not yet ready to think he should be unexpected to pitch soon. Could be wrong. MK December 11, 2012 An intriguing starter is James Allen. 7th round pick, as a reliever and one of the Dragons most effective pitchers. Browning and DeShields pressed the powers to be to let him become a starter and in eleven starts was outstanding, was the teams winning-est pitcher and got promotions to Bakersfield (for the playoffs) and Louisville. I really see Cingrani as a bullpen guy in 2013 and beyond. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 I meant to include Allen with the relievers, but completely forgot. With Cingrani, I am still in that 50/50 range, but Walt Jocketty talked about him at Redsfest and said they view him as a future starter. Clammy December 11, 2012 is the guy we got for Janish; Redmond, not a prospect or just seen as filler? Rick D in Chicago December 11, 2012 Filler. The Reds released him but re-signed him just a few weeks ago. He’s a spot starter or emergency pitcher at best – much like him pitching that second game of a double header. Scott from upstate NY December 11, 2012 I wouldn’t label him a prospect, nor filler. “Insurance” comes to mind. The AAA staff was thin after the veteran pitchers on minor league contracts used their “out” clause during mid season. Jim H. December 11, 2012 Absolute filler. He may get another spot start, but I am sure Walt & Co. are hopeful Corcino or Cingrani are capable of that this season instead. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 He is more insurance than prospect. He will be 28 years old next season, not exactly “prospect” age. That would make him the 7th oldest starter on the Reds, in front of only Arroyo (behind guys like Leake, Chapman, Bailey, Cueto and Latos). DJDay December 11, 2012 I hope the Reds continue to take a starter with their first pick every season and keep the pipeline full. Jim H. December 11, 2012 I hope they take the best available player. When you reach to a specific position over best player, you miss. Took Alonso and that ended up becoming Latos. Latos probably better than any pitcher they would have selected in that range. US December 11, 2012 high school pitchers are least likely draftees to make it to the majors. Significant risk. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 While this is true, the numbers have been swaying way up since around 2000 and high school pitchers are also the ones who tend to provide the most value once they do make it to the Majors. Since 2000, the number of first and second round high school pitchers to have success in the Majors is nearly identical to college ones. The 1990’s destroyed high school pitchers and eventually teams started to realize that you can’t treat high school pitchers the same way as college pitchers, so they began to limit their innings and bring them along slower and low and behold they began to stay healthier than ever before and begin to pan out. MK December 11, 2012 Think the new draft rules will make quality high school pitchers more attractive and successful. The Duke December 11, 2012 BPA always. If you think a guy will be a stud hitter, take him. US December 11, 2012 Doug I read somewhere recently that Reds have changed Travieso delivery to get same mechanics for FB & slider. As a result Travieso was working 91-93 mph with FB as he adjusts. Have you heard or read similar? Maybe this was during instructs. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 I heard he was 91-94, but yeah. Still, that is roughly where he was working as a high schooler. He touched 100 in high school. He worked 91-95. Not really much of a difference. US December 11, 2012 Latin players drafted at 16 or 17 yrs old should be able to stay in minors longer before being added to 40 man roster. I propose 6 years. Guillon is an example of this problem. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 The players association disagrees. Personally, I would rather the system today be in place than how it used to be, where some guys literally would never get their chance because teams just controlled them forever unless they traded them or released them. This at least gives guys a chance. zblakey December 11, 2012 Doug, off topic, but would be interested in your take on the Shields trade and the amount given up by the Royals to get him. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 I don’t hate the trade for the Royals, but I don’t like it a ton either. I think the Rays got the better end of things. The Royals took on a ton of money, and while they did get two good pitchers, they also gave up the best hitting prospect in baseball along with other good (but not great) prospects. For the money that they took on, I wouldn’t have expected them to have to give up as much. My biggest problem with the deal from the Royals perspective though is that while this trade does indeed make them better, it still doesn’t put them in playoff contention and they traded their top prospect to become a .500 caliber team. Being a GM must suck. Dayton Moore is fighting for his job, but in that process, hurt his chances long term of keeping his job so he can have it beyond 2012. MK December 11, 2012 On MLB network they described Myers as being potentially a right-handed Jay Bruce. Before the Latos trade not sure I don’t trade Bruce for a #1 and #3 starter, after seeing the price of Latos, especially if Bruce hadn’t seen a pitch in the big leagues. Herbie December 11, 2012 It was more or less Shields for Myers, with the others tacked on from what I read. Shields for a long term, cost-controlled Bruce sounds good to me. MK December 11, 2012 Don’t think the trade is made without Davis. Really think he was the key to get it done. He threw 180 innings+ pretty well in 2011. Ron December 11, 2012 Wow … Reds are working on Choo for Stubbs/Gregorious deal and having Choo play CF Doug Gray December 11, 2012 30 years old. 10 games in center in his career. Risky move. Makes a lot more sense before signing Ludwick. The pitchers probably aren’t going to be thrilled here. Norwood Nate December 11, 2012 Wouldn’t Bruce make more sense in CF?? Alan Horn December 11, 2012 I hate to lose Didi, but we sure can use his bat in the lineup. If we resign him, he can move over to left when Hamilton is ready(maybe in a platoon situation with Ludwick). Doug Gray December 11, 2012 Doubt they resign him. Boras client. jimmy December 11, 2012 Huh? Why would you move Bruce? Norwood Nate December 11, 2012 I just saw that Choo deal mentioned. I love Choo’s OBP, but can he play a passable CF? And Choo’s only under contract for one year. Hate to lose DiDi for a rental. Doug Gray December 11, 2012 That is the question…. can he play CF. To be honest, I don’t have a clue. But his 10 games there in his career at age 30 suggest, no, he can’t. Krozley December 11, 2012 As Nate mentioned, would it be better to have Bruce in CF and Choo in RF or leave Bruce alone and take a chance with Choo in CF? Bruce played most of his minor league games in CF, so I think he could handle it. Choo would probably play some LF as Ludwick will need time off here and there. Heisey may play every game as a defensive replacement. KyWilson1 December 11, 2012 I would much rather try and get Fowler for a bigger package that includes Leake and Stubbs. Cf is not Choo’s position and he is a rental. Jer-B December 11, 2012 Third team involved, could the Rockie’s be involved? Asdrubel is probably going somewhere, Fowler? Rick in Va. December 11, 2012 MLBTR says the 3rd team is Arizona. Don’t know who the player might be, though. Terry M December 11, 2012 Choo hit the reds hard but what did he do to the rest of the teams. You can get in trouble trading for a guy who hits well or pitches well against your team… Doug Can I get a book the same way I got it from you last year?? Doug Gray December 11, 2012 I don’t remember how you got a book last year. Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org jim t December 11, 2012 The reds get Choo and avoid paying Stubbs 3 mil in arb. I think Choo gets 5 mil. They give up DiDi who I think longterm will be a better player than Cozart. But with the reds in a all in mode keeping Cozart isn’t a big issue. They are playing to win now.The reds will get a compensation pick when Choo leaves and it bridges the year until hopefully Hamilton is ready.It also works finacially. Choo makes 5 mil. They will also get another prospect in the deal. Choo defensively will play CF and won’t provide the outfield D that Stubbs did but he will clearly provide RBI opportunities for Joey that Drew never did. He will also provide more pop offensively.This is a good deal for the reds and fills a huge need in the line up for next year. Questions surrounding reds heading into the season will be 1. can Broxton close as effectively as Chapman. 2. Can Frazier repeat his performance and be a good defensive 3rd 3. What do we get from Chapman. 4. Who are bench pieces 5. do we need another lefty in bull pen. 6. It also leaves the reds in the position to fill LF and CF as late inning defensive replacement positions. jim t December 11, 2012 Looks like Jason Donald is the other player the reds will receive. jim t December 11, 2012 Choo does have a cannon for a arm.