The Cincinnati Reds have claimed right handed pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla off of waivers. He was designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates last week. By picking him up, the Reds 40-man roster is once again full.

He was outside of the Pittsburgh Pirates Top 30 prospects according to Baseball America, who had him listed in the depth chart for the Pirates right handed starting pitchers (but unranked). The 26-year-old made five appearances with the Texas Rangers in the big leagues in the 2014 season. He posted a 3.05 ERA in 20.2 innings that season with 12 walks and 17 strikeouts. He hasn’t been in the Major Leagues since.

After missing all of the 2015 season with Tommy John surgery, he returned to the minors for 2016. He started out in Triple-A, pitching out of the bullpen. He struggled over the first two months of the season, posting a 5.09 ERA in 35.1 innings. His control wasn’t there, walking 20 batters in that span, but he struck out 42 batters and posted good ground ball rates. The Dodgers sent the righty to Double-A in late June and also put him into the rotation.

In the new role at the new level he performed quite well. In 37.1 innings he posted a 3.38 ERA with 13 walks and 39 strikeouts. After making seven starts Lisalverto Bonilla moved back to Triple-A Oklahoma City and was kept in the rotation. Things kept on rolling as he made six starts to finish the season. In that span he threw 38.1 innings with a 3.52 ERA, walked just seven batters and had 37 strikeouts.

It was a tale of two halves, of two different guys during 2016 for Lisalverto Bonilla. Let’s take a look at how he performed as a reliever in the first half versus a starter in the second half:

Role IP  BB  K HR  ERA 
Reliever 35.1 36 20 42 3 5.09
Starter 75.2 73 20 76 3 3.45

It’s not unusual for control to be back immediately upon the return from Tommy John surgery. That would appear to be the case for Lisalverto Bonilla. In the second half of the season his walk rate declined big time. The walk rate he showed in the second half would be the best of his career outside of rookie ball.

He’s not a young pitcher by any means – he will turn 27 in June. But given how his second half played out, Lisalverto Bonilla is certainly an intriguing name to keep an eye on as spring training gets underway.

13 Responses

  1. Bill

    Definitely looks like a pitcher worth taking a look at in Spring Training. There’s really no reason to keep a 40-man roster spot open if the front office sees a guy they like on the waiver wire.

  2. Norwood Nate

    MLBTR says the Pirates had signed him to a MLB contract earlier in the offseason. Seems like the Blake Wood situation from last year, so the Pirate’s must have had someone in their FO who liked him a lot. I wonder if the Reds see him continuing as a starter, or are contemplating a move to the bullpen?

  3. Steve

    Wow, now we have 25 pitchers. I guess the health of Mes will dictate if we keep Turner or not. I hope Bailey starts the season on the 60day DL to open up another spot for a couple of months. We need another position player. Iribarren, Jennings, Kivlehan, Renda and possibly Dixon in the hunt for final position imo.

  4. Steve

    I agree with the other Steve. Looks like that utility position will be a fun battle.

  5. Pat

    Options with him onboard. MLB site says Travieso having shoulder problems and Romano being looked at in bullpen by another. Spring training should be a shootout. Price saying a young arm doesn’t need to struggle- implying he’ll look at the whole lot of young guys. What’s the latest as they’ve begun camp?

    • Doug Gray

      I’ve got more on Travieso coming up in the morning. It doesn’t sound serious at all, which is why I’ve pushed it back until the morning.

  6. Krozley

    Article about Bailey suggests his timetable to return is beginning of June. 60 day DL from the beginning of the season would be June 2 as first date eligible. That’s disappointing. I also saw they will look at Herrera at 3B and Duval at 3B and 1B for some versatility.

  7. AlphaZero

    Just watched some video of Bonilla pre-TJ, and his breaking stuff looked really nice. Couple that information with what he did in the PCL last season while working his way back, and I’m pretty optimistic about the guy if he can remain healthy. This is a good pickup and I’m glad that the Reds had the requisite roster flexibility after dealing Phillips.

    • Doug Gray

      I saw some clips as well. My plan is to watch a few games of his from last season over the next 24 hours and write something more scouting related about him. It’s just been such a whirlwind day. I’ve written six articles since noon with all of the things that have popped up.

  8. Simon Cowell

    Another retread arm. Is there any stat or record keeping to determine how many TJ arms per team? I would be interested in looking at those numbers but at the major league and farm system level. I would be curious to see if any particular team has a trend of picking up those damaged goods as well as if any particular system has a history of players needing TJ surgery.

    • Doug Gray

      There’s definitely a list of TJ surgeries out there. I’ve seen it before. But, you’d probably have to tally it up by current team all on your own.

      I think at this point, every team has a bunch of TJ guys. It’s just all too common. But, I think you’re probably overestimating where the Reds are on the list. They’ve got 25 pitchers on the 40-man. Of those 25, four have had Tommy John. Bailey, recently, Bonilla, recently, Blake Wood (2012) and Scott Feldman who had it in 2004.

  9. Steve

    With the news of Travieso might not be ready for the beginning of the season, Bonilla can be the 5th starter and move to the bullpen when Travieso is ready.