Today I wanted to look at two Louisville Bats top prospects, left hander Tony Cingrani and center fielder Billy Hamilton, both who have had to make changes to their games here in the month of May.

Last week the Reds sent Tony Cingrani to Louisville after a strong, but flawed performance with the big league club where he threw over 80% fastballs. Ideally the Reds wanted him to go to Louisville and work on his offspeed pitches, but they also stated that they weren’t going to mandate him to throw any certain number of offspeed pitches. He has now made two starts with Louisville since returning. In those two starts he has thrown just 10 innings and has walked 9 batters while striking out 14.

Last night I took in the Louisville Bats game at home against Columbus.

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Overall the line for Cingrani in the game looked a lot like something Reds fans may have seen from former Red Edison Volquez: 5ip, 3h, 1er, 5bb, 9k and 111 pitches. I will point out that the home plate umpire had an incredibly small strikezone, especially early in the game. With that said, Cingrani was still struggling with his control throughout the game even if he probably would have shaved a walk or two off of his line with a normal strikezone.

Through the first two innings Cingrani worked mostly with his fastball, mixing intwo or three curveballs and no change ups. He struggled to locate his fastball more often than not and a few times was visibly upset with the strikezone that was being called. When the third inning came around, it seemed that the strikezone had normalized in size but it didn’t help Cingrani as he walked three batters in the inning as he struggled to throw his fastball and curveball for strikes and gave up his first earned run of the year for Louisville during the inning.

Once the fourth inning game around Cingrani seemed to have found his control and was able to locate his curveball well at the knees to hitters and on both corners. His fastball control was a little better but he was still missing a little bit here and there, but not nearly as bad as he was missing earlier in the game. He even began to mix in his change up from time to time starting in the fourth, but it is still a pitch that he seems to want to avoid throwing with any regularity for some reason. He would go on to strike out the side in the fourth. In the final inning of the game he avoided the walk and the strikeout (and a hit by pitch as he just missed a batter by inches), but looked tired as he finished with 111 pitches in the game. He was still locating his breaking ball well, but his fastball control was hit or miss depending on the pitch.

Overall he rebounded well in the last two innings of his start, but the control issues were present again and while he did mix in his curveball often in the final three innings of the game, his change up was nowhere to be found in four of the five innings. It was good to see him locate the breaking ball and not hang any of them, a concern that I had while watching him throw them in the Majors. It however was not good to see a real lack of change ups being mixed in. There is a fine line to walk between going with full on development mode and still trying to win baseball games for the team and Cingrani was certainly struggling with his control at times but it may be beneficial for the Reds to actually go back and change their “no mandate” on how often he needs to throw his offspeed stuff if they want Cingrani to work on it in game situations rather than just in the bullpen where he doesn’t have to full commit to throwing it because there isn’t a batter in there who can hit it back.

Billy Hamilton has been having an “off” season so far if you look at his overall line of .247/.315/.333, but it really has been a tale of two months so far for Hamilton. As noted in a past scouting notebook, Hamilton had made mechanical changes to his swing that really have made a difference here in May. His OPS is up .114 points from April and he simply looks better.  The swing is quick and the contact, while not any more frequent, is certainly more authoritative. He just looks like a different player at the plate, much like the hitter that was there last year when I saw him in Pensacola. However what is more impressive than the turnaround that Hamilton has made at the plate is his defense in center field. While I don’t think anyone doubted that Hamilton had the tools to play in center with his speed and his arm, plenty of people expected him to need a lot of reps, months and months worth, in order to refine the skills needed out there for a player who really hadn’t played much of any outfield in his life. From everything that I have seen, Hamilton is going to be an outstanding defender at the position and he seems ready to play there, defensively at least, at the Major League level right now. He takes good routes and he is getting good jumps on the ball. His range of course is incredible with all of the speed he has and his arm plays a whole lot stronger than it did at shortstop because he uses better mechanics out there.

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4 Responses

  1. Kevin

    I feel like had the fates of Cingrani and Chapman been swapped, the Reds might be better off. Cingrani seems like a reliever masquerading as a starter and Chapman is a starter masquerading as a reliever. Chapman’s development is hindered because he’s not forced to refine his slider and changeup, much less throw them. Cingrani on the other hand is trying to make it as a starter without putting much emphasis on a 2nd pitch. It’s my opinion that Chapman has much better (or potentially better) secondary stuff, but just doesn’t need to use it. Whereas Cingrani doesn’t have good secondary stuff (yet), and therefore doesn’t want to use it.

    Had their trajectories been swapped, Chapman would have gotten the development time that Cingrani had to nail down the secondary stuff, whereas Cingrani would have been forced into action as a reliever and the secondary stuff would not need to be as developed. Oh well.

    • Stock

      I disagree. Chapman is limited by how fresh he is. If he were starting his fastball would top out at 90 -95 and he gets killed as a RP when he is in that range. Chapman has no command of the zone with pitches other than his fastball and even with his fastball his command is suspect. As a SP in Louisville in 2010 Chapman was terrible. ML hitters would destroy him.

      Cingrani just needs to make sure he can keep hitters honest. If he can get his curve and change up over the plate batters won’t be able to sit back and wait for the fastball. Cingrani does have some work to do but it is quite he has all of 2013 and possibly 2014 to take the final step before he will be needed full time in Cincinnati. I am not saying Cingrani will be an ace but he will be a solid ML starting pitcher.

      • Jon Ryker

        I agree with Stock….Chapman has never at any level demonstrated he’s even an average starter…….

      • rickdelux

        I just don’t see Chapman having a starters approach to the game. He’s best where he is at now – and he’ll make a FINE living. I wouldn’t hesitate to use him in the 7th or 8th innings especially if he has to face 2-3-4 lefty hitters. His slider looks particularly nasty this year. I’m glad he has been working on it.

        Cingrani could be a huge boost to the team after the all-star break. You’d have to think the Reds will be monitoring his pitch counts and innings in order to possibly add him to the bullpen in Aug/Sep.