This is a new series that I am going to begin today and run each Thursday moving forward to take a look at each position. While it may seem a bit similar to the State of the Farm series, the purpose here is to look at the current Reds and the contract status of the players at each position and get into potential internal replacements for when those current Reds contracts expire.
Expires after 2014: Homer Bailey
While Walt Jocketty has said that the Reds are trying to extend Homer Bailey, he isn’t locked up yet. The guy who replaces Bailey will be stepping into some likely big shoes. While most would argue that he isn’t the teams top pitcher, there isn’t much difference between him and whoever you do deem as the teams top pitcher at this point in time. Bailey has topped 200 innings in each of the last two years and has posted an ERA of 3.58 in that time frame.
Potential replacements: Robert Stephenson, Daniel Corcino, Chad Rogers and Jon Moscot
The top bet here is Robert Stephenson, the top pitching prospect in the system.While there is a tad bit of risk here because of his limited time in the upper minor leagues, he has shown elite stuff and good control at the lower levels. Look for him to split his season between Pensacola and Louisville in 2014 as he prepares to take over in 2015. Daniel Corcino spent his entire season in AAA in 2013 and had a year to forget, but he has shown plenty of promise in the past and has been performing well in winter ball. He will look to rebound in 2014, and if he has success he could be first in line if Stephenson needs some extra time. Chad Rogers split his time in AA and AAA, so he has time in the upper minors. He is viewed as a bit of a tweener type who could be a back end starter or a reliever, but he is the most advanced of the group and could get his chance as soon as 2014 if a spot opens up. Jon Moscot has rocketed up through the system, finishing his first full season in AA. While he is likely to start the season back in AA, he is another advanced arm with quality stuff who has been moved quickly.
Most likely to take over in 2015: Robert Stephenson
He has the best stuff out of the entire group and he has shown enough polish that he could take over in 2015 if things go as expected for him in the 2014 season.
Wild card pick: Jon Moscot
Moscot is probably the second best overall package of this list with good stuff and plenty of polish to work with. While Stephenson should be the frontrunner, Moscot is the type of guy who could also be ready to take over in 2015 on a full workload from the beginning of the season and has the stuff to help fill out a rotation.
Expires after 2015: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake.
The Reds could potentially lose two front of the rotation pitchers after the 2015 season, which would be a big blow to their rotation. Like Homer Bailey, I am sure the Reds are entertaining the idea of extending at least Mat Latos at this point in time. Much like losing Bailey, both Latos and Cueto fill huge spots in the rotation who are capable of throwing 200 innings in a season with low ERA’s. Mike Leake may not be of the same caliber pitcher as those two, but he is one of the best #4 pitchers in all of baseball and provides innings and reliability.
Potential Replacements: Ismael Guillon, Drew Cisco, Ben Lively, Nick Travieso and Michael Lorenzen
Along with the group from above who could remain in the minors if one guy takes over, there could be a group of real arms to choose from this group to help a loss of potentially two top level pitchers and a third league average or better guy. Three of the guys on this list are top 10 prospects along with lefty Ismael Guillon who missed more bats than innings in 2013 and polished righty Drew Cisco. Unlike the previous group, it is much tougher to peg someone as the most likely candidate as everyone is rather far away at this point and still has plenty of question marks on their resume. Ismael Guillon is the only one of the group that is currently on the 40-man roster and he will have to stick to the Major League roster in the 2016 season, but that may not be in the bullpen. He has gone back and forth between his seasons in his career of good and bad, with 2013 being on the bad side with poor control. He has the stuff to be a starter and has had no problems missing bats in his career and being a lefty certainly plays into his favor, but he must throw more strikes to stick in the rotation. Drew Cisco is almost the exact opposite of Guillon. The right hander doesn’t have quite the same stuff, but he is about as polished as they come. Cisco has command of his pitches on most nights and even when he is off, he still throws strikes. He could move quickly because of his polish and push for a spot in 2016. Ben Lively was just drafted in 2013, but he was dominant in his debut and finished his season in Dayton. In limited action his stuff was outstanding, but he will need to prove it over a full seasons worth of innings as well as stints longer than 3-4 innings like he was limited to in 2013 after a long college season. He could move quickly like Jon Moscot has in his career so far. Nick Travieso had an up and down season in his first full year, but he flashed off strong stuff at times and went through very good stretches. The former first rounder still has a fresh arm because of his usage in high school, but with the potential he has he could move quickly if things snap into place for him. Michael Lorenzen is similar to Travieso in that he is a very fresh arm. He threw just over 40 innings in his college career and is making the transition to starter for the Reds after spending his college career as an outfielder and closer. Building up innings is a big hurdle that he will have to clear and improving his control that was poor in his initial professional season is another hurdle he will have to handle, but he shows elite stuff and is another guy who could move quickly if things click for him.
Most likely to take over in 2016: Ben Lively
Lively gets the nod here because he is the guy most likely to be able to handle a full season workload of 180 innings by this point in time and his stuff, while not the best in this group, is still quite good. If he can maintain his stuff, he should move quickly through the system and put himself in line for a potential 2016 job.
Wild card pick: Drew Cisco
Of the entire group, he may be last on the “stuff” scale, but he is the most polished of the pitchers and could move quickly and put himself in line to be the first guy looked at among this group if he reaches Triple-A first. As a guy who pounds the strikezone and has generated a high rate of groundballs, he fits in well with what the Reds have tried to get out of their Major League pitching staff since Bryan Price took over as the pitching coach.
For more from this series, click here.