The Reds drafted Homer Bailey 7th overall in the 2004 draft out of La Grange High School in La Grange, Texas. The Reds signed him for $2.3M. He came out of school with a big fastball, a potentially plus curve and was considered to be a polished pitcher for a high schooler. He signed late in the year and made a short debut in August with the GCL Reds. He threw 12.1 innings with 3 walks, 9 strikeout and a 4.38 ERA. After the season, Baseball America ranked him as the #48 prospect in all of baseball as he was already considered an elite pitching prospect in the game despite how far he was from the Major Leagues.

In 2005 the Reds sent Homer Bailey to the Dayton Dragons and the Midwest League. Bailey flashed some outstanding things while with Dayton, but he also showed some struggles. He threw 103 innings with a 4.43 ERA and 125 strikeouts. However he also walked 65 batters, showing poor control over the season. His fastball was sitting 93-95 and he flashed a plus curveball, though it was still inconsistent. His change up was still very much a work-in-progress. His innings were limited as the Reds were employing a “tandem-starter” program. Despite the questionable stats that he put up, Baseball America rated Bailey a little higher than the year before with him coming in as the #35 prospect in all of baseball.

2006 was a bit of a breakout year, at least statistically, for Bailey. Bailey was sent to Sarasota to play for the Reds in the Florida State League. After 13 starts with a 3.31 ERA and 70.2 innings with 22 walks and 79 strikeouts he was promoted to the Double-A Southern League with the Chattanooga Lookouts. Just like his time in Sarasoa, Bailey made 13 starts, this time stretching 68 innings and he posted a glowing 1.59 ERA with 28 walks and 77 strikeouts. His walk rate dropped dramatically overall in 2006, but it was better in Sarasota than in Chattanooga, where it was still below-average but improved from 2005. His overall line was good with 138.2 innings pitched, 50 walks, 156 strikeouts and a 2.47 ERA.  He was lauded for his improved curveball that had sharp break and a fastball that was sitting 94-95 and touching 98. However he hardly used his change up and it was noticeably his third pitch. Baseball America ranked him the #5 prospect in the minor leagues after the season, establishing himself as one of, if not the best pitching prospect in the game.

The Reds sent Bailey to Louisville to start 2007 and he got off to a good start, posting a 2.31 ERA through  10 starts over 58.1 innings with 24 walks and 51 strikeouts.  For the first time in his career, he had fewer strikeouts than innings pitched at a level (not counting for rookie ball where he had a handful of innings). The Reds called him up for a start on June 8th. While Bailey picked up the win as he allowed 2 runs in 5 innings, he walked 4 batters and struck out just 3 while throwing 114 pitches.  He went on to struggle over his 9 starts in the Majors as he posted a 5.76 ERA with 28 walks and 28 strikeouts in 45.1 innings pitched. He struggled with his control and his ability to put hitters away. He would eventually head to the DL and when he came back he continued to struggle with his control, even at the minor league level.  Despite his struggles in the Majors Baseball America still ranked him as the #9 prospect in the game.

In 2008 Bailey began his year in Louisville. The Reds had Bailey begin to work on a slider to go along with his curveball and Bailey struggled at times with the Bats as he threw 111.1 innings with 46 walks and 95 strikeouts to go with a 4.77 ERA.  He would be called up to the Reds where he again struggled as he posted a 7.93 ERA in 36.1 innings with 17 walks and 18 strikeouts. At the Major League level Bailey really used his slider as his breaking ball, using his curveball sparingly.  The pitch however wasn’t quite consistently good, but it had come a long way in a short period of time. He lost his prospect eligibility during this season, so he no longer showed up on prospect lists.

Despite not being prospect ineligible, he still was a minor leaguer for a good part of the 2009. Bailey began the season with Louisville and after a slow start in April, he really rebounded well as he posted a 2.71 ERA in 89.2 innings  with 27 walks and 82 strikeouts. Bailey got the call on June 27th and was up to stay for the rest of the year. His first two starts were rough, a combined 9.1 innings with 13 walks and just 5 strikeouts to go along with 9 earned runs, but he finished out the season pretty well after that with a 4.15 ERA in 104 innings with 39 walks and 81 strikeouts. Bailey made big strides with his slider in the season and started to show improved control as the season went along.

Bailey spent the next two seasons battling injuries and was unable to truly build upon the improvements he was showing in 2009. Finally able to put together a full season of health, the right hander finally was able to put together the kind of season that had long been expected of him, highlighted by a no-hitter and pure dominance in the playoffs for the Reds in his lone start.

Looking Back

The Reds may have rushed Bailey along a little too quickly in hindsight. His ERA was shiny while he was in AAA for his first call up, but his walk rate and strikeout rate weren’t much to write home about. In face, his walk rate was quite poor.  He was also mostly a 2-pitch guy with his change up being below-average that he didn’t rely on much.  He really struggled the next season as the Reds had him begin to work on a slider and eventually it developed into one of the better sliders in all of baseball (4th highest rated slider among starting pitchers since 2011 began according to Fangraphs). Bailey has gone from a no slider all curveball pitcher to a guy who throws his slider 20% of the time now and has cut the usage of his curveball in half from 20% to 10%. He also completely scrapped his change up and now uses a split-fingered fastball in place of it. Injuries, particularly after the 2009 season may have held him back some from becoming the guy he was in 2012 a little bit sooner.

He has done a lot of developing at the Major League level. When he first came up, he was FB-CV-CH pitcher who had struggles with his control. He has evolved into a FB-SL-CV-SF pitcher who has above-average control with one of the best breaking balls in all of baseball. While he has yet to become the guy that most people envisioned of him while he was in the minor leagues, he has shown flashes of being that pitcher over the last several years and took a large step forward in 2012 to becoming that guy. Whether he can take that next step forward or not is yet to be seen.

21 Responses

  1. The Duke

    I’d like to see the Reds lock him up for the next 5 years or so, he’s finally putting it all together and he can anchor a rotation. Cueto is about to get too expensive, but if Latos and Bailey can be extended then that loss can be absorbed (along with an extra first round pick in FA compensation).

  2. Fish

    Sounds an awful lot like Stephenson. I agree with duke on locking up bailey & latos but it does take 2 to do that deal. Hopefully the reds can keep stocking high upside arms and replace any losses.

    • The Duke

      Stephenson’s changeup is already an average or better pitch, and he is much more mature than Bailey was at the same age.

  3. Scott R

    Great article Doug. BTW, I’m in AZ for spring training. I don’t think I planned this well as the Reds were off y’day and its raining today. But i did go to the Padres/Angels game yesterday. Alonso looked really good at 1st flashing the leather with 3 nice plays at first. I think he had a hit as well but the Padres got clobbered. There were no other former Reds that I recall going into the game. But both my kids got a game ball from the Padres catcher – 1st row seats help (they are cheap in ST, even when scalped). We’re off to see practice and get some signatures if the weather permits and will see the Dodgers / Reds tonight weather permitting. If I see anything worth noting, I’ll post again tomorrow.

  4. sultan of swaff

    I remember first seeing Homer in a cold April start in low A ball at Rock Island (IL/IA river town). For as much baseball as I’d seen in my life, it was the first time I’d seen what they call ‘late life’ on a fastball in a minor league game. Ball just exploded the last 10 feet.

    In general, I’m not a fan of prospects with big curveballs. They’re a bit circus-y to me, in that it wows the fans and makes bad hitters look silly, but very few major leaguers throw them because they’re hard to control and easy to sit on. Plus, you gotta figure these kids have been throwing them since before puberty, and the toll it takes on their elbows should give scouts pause.

    • Doug Gray

      It seems that teams are limiting the curveball for the most part these days. Lots of guys are throwing sliders instead of curveballs.

  5. MK

    I have never met Homer but from people I know that have part of his development issues were between his ears. I know he wasn’t very well thought of in Dayton by a lot of folks.

    I went to Chattanooga this past summer to see Pensacola play and was talking to one of their long time employees who said he wished they were still the Reds farm team rather than the Dodgers. He went on to talk about former Lookouts/Reds. He said what a great guy Dunn was and talked about some others. He went on to say the guy nobody could really stand was Homer. One Homer story he told was Homer told the clubhouse guy he wanted his game pants heated up in the dryer waiting for him after he warmed up. Guess the clubhouse guy told him he better learn to use the dryer then because he had 25 guys to take care not just one..

    Hopefully Homer has finally matured so that his mental abilities now match his physical abilities.

    I have met Stephenson and he seems to have a very mature approach for his age.

    • Randy in Chatt

      MK, I miss the Reds in town so much it ain’t even funny….boo Frank Burke (the Lookouts owner)!

  6. Doug Gray

    I remember all of the talk about the stuff in his head as well, but that really wasn’t something that continued to be talked about, other than from fans, beyond Dayton. It seemed that coaches didn’t ever talk about that beyond 2005.

  7. Elio Chacon

    Great article. I’m glad you’re doing this series and look forward to seeing more. I think Homer is primed for a big season, which unfortunately may put his price out of reach. I’d love to see the Reds sign him to a five year deal before they can’t afford him.

    • Doug Gray

      I am not sure he has swung at a pitch yet either.

  8. Scott R

    I had a big post ready yesterday but the computer gods ate it. Anyway, I went to practice yesterday and the major leaguers were practicing late because of the night game but the minor leaguers were there. Last year I didn’t venture out to the minor league side. There is much more access there. There are four fields that basically correspond to AAA, AA, high A and low A. When we got there, they were taking batting practice but not much was going on in the field. You have a lot more access to players as they walk through where the fans can roam. I was quite surprised. Can’t say I saw anything of note there but my kids got a bunch of signatures including Ken Griffy Sr. I did have a long conversation with a Reds person there (I don’t know if he was a volunteer or someone who works for the team) and he seconded what’s mentioned above about Bailey being a head case but has come a long way. His other observations – He wasn’t too impressed with Yorman. Votto and Hanigan are both very intense people. Votto was not very fan friendly until he signed his mega-contract. It’s funny how money changes things. He mentioned that the Reds wanted to break up Cueto and Volquez as they were a bit too friendly. He also thought Olivo will make the Major league roster and Mesoraco will go down to AAA for at-bats.

    I went to the Dodgers game last night. I was rained out after 4 innings but was only really dry for 2 innings. Billy Hamilton is the real deal. In the first he beat out a slow roller to 2nd that he really had no business beating out. Then against Capuano (lefty) he stole second, advanced to 3rd on the throw that was mis-handled (it was close at second) and scored on a hit down the 3rd base line with all the infield playing in. Wow! In his second at-bat he struck out but that was after fouling off a bunch of 2 strike pitches. He had one opportunity in the field and handled it fine. Aroyyo gave up a homer but was otherwise ok and Parch gave up 2 runs in his inning with is pouring rain and quite cold.

    We’re off to major league practice this morning and the game at Goodyear. I put out another report from what I see and hear, but probably not until Monday. Sunday we go home.

      • DaveCT

        I concur! Especially that the minor league spring training camp site is the place to be.

  9. DaveCT

    I am trying to ignore the continued Chapman/bullpen chatter as i am on the other side of the coin, being eager to see a few years of Chapman/Cueto/Latos/Bailey in a certain 7-game series in October.

    That said, Mike Leake does loom larger for me than the 6th starter/odd man out. Odds are starting pitching health issues (hopefully minor) will require we use him there in addition to the bridge starter we are all speculating about re Chapman’s innings, etc.

    So, Doug — I think you are a fan of the sinker/slider guys — is this what we should be looking for from Leake when he is in the bullpen? And might his stuff play up a tick in the pen? Besides his toughness and fielding skills, I am thinking he may be a double play dude for us. Thoughts?

    • Doug Gray

      You have to hope that his stuff plays up out of the bullpen because every pitch he throws except his cutter was below average last season. With that said, you don’t really know with a guy like Leake who isn’t exactly a hard thrower as it is and is undersized as well.

  10. MK

    If you look at the pictures of Lotzkar and Cingrani at the top of the last two days entries they could be reverse photos of each other. Very similar in balance position.