The Cincinnati Reds are mired in another losing season at the Major League level. It’s been rough and short of a finish where the Reds go 8-1 the rest of the way, they’ll have 90 losses or more for the fourth consecutive season. Over the last few seasons those records have been built on very bad starting pitching. The starting staff has an ERA of 5.08 this season. In 2017 it was 5.55. In 2016 it was 4.79.

The farm system has had several high end prospects come up and struggle to find consistency as a starter. Several of those pitchers have wound up in the bullpen (Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett). One of the struggles for the Reds in that time is their strikeout-to-walk ratio. This season the league average is 2.72. The Reds are sitting at 2.49. In 2017 the league average was 2.54. The Reds were at 2.01. During 2016 the league average was 2.62. The Reds were at 2.10.

It’s tough for a pitcher to find success without a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio. It’s not the only thing that matters for pitchers, but it’s a very big aspect of what leads to success. With all of that said, I charted out the minor league pitchers walk and strikeout rates for the starters (guys who got more than 50% of their appearances as starters). Let’s take a look at how that turned out.

Ideally you want to be as high up the chart, and as far to the left as possible. In the Major Leagues in 2018 the average strikeout rate for a starter is 21.6%. The average walk rate is 7.9%. I’ve added headshots for all of the pitchers who were ranked in the midseason Top 25 Reds prospects list. The Hunter Greene and Josiah Gray cluster sticks out quite a bit. Most of the other guys are all grouped together with the exception of Lyon Richardson. Here’s how all of the starting pitchers data broke down in 2018.

2018 Reds starters walk and strikeout rates

Name Age IP BB% K% K/BB
Hunter Greene 18 68.1 7.8% 30.3% 3.9
Robert Stephenson 25 113.0 12.2% 28.9% 2.4
Alexis Diaz 21 53.2 7.8% 28.9% 3.7
Josiah Gray 20 52.1 8.2% 28.5% 3.5
Lucas Sims 24 28.1 4.4% 28.3% 6.4
Jacob Heatherly 20 38.2 21.7% 26.6% 1.2
Luis Alecis 21 67.1 14.6% 24.6% 1.7
Ricky Salinas 22 55.2 6.0% 23.8% 3.9
Cody Reed 25 105.2 6.9% 23.5% 3.4
Vladimir Gutierrez 22 147.0 6.1% 23.2% 3.8
Keury Mella 24 108.0 8.2% 22.4% 2.7
Mac Sceroler 23 83.1 8.1% 21.8% 2.7
Miguel Medrano 20 54.0 6.7% 21.7% 3.2
Packy Naughton 22 154.0 5.3% 21.3% 4.0
Tony Santillan 21 149.0 6.0% 21.3% 3.5
Jared Solomon 21 72.2 10.1% 21.1% 2.1
Rookie Davis 25 26.1 5.2% 20.9% 4.0
Ryan Olson 23 54.2 7.4% 20.5% 2.8
Eduardo Salazar 20 58.2 9.3% 20.2% 2.2
Tejay Antone 24 96.0 7.1% 20.0% 2.8
Carlos Carreno 19 32.0 10.7% 20.0% 1.9
Orlando Noriega 19 53.0 10.0% 20.0% 2.0
Seth Varner 26 125.1 6.1% 20.0% 3.3
Scott Moss 23 132.0 7.3% 19.9% 2.7
James Marinan 19 86.0 9.5% 19.6% 2.1
Jose Lopez 24 141.0 6.8% 19.5% 2.9
Adrian Rodriguez 21 98.1 6.7% 18.4% 2.8
Tyler Mondile 20 76.0 4.6% 18.3% 4.0
Ricardo Smith 22 59.0 5.2% 18.1% 3.5
Lyon Richardson 18 29.0 11.5% 17.3% 1.5
Daniel Wright 27 151.1 5.7% 16.7% 2.9
Tyler Mahle 23 29.2 9.0% 16.4% 1.8
Patrick McGuff 24 50.2 8.8% 16.2% 1.8
Tommy Bergjans 25 78.2 5.0% 16.0% 3.2
Wyatt Strahan 25 120.0 9.6% 15.1% 1.6
Justin Nicolino 26 134.1 6.0% 14.7% 2.5
Andrew Jordan 20 87.2 11.1% 14.7% 1.3
Wennington Romero 20 130.2 6.5% 13.9% 2.1
Ricky Karcher 20 31.1 16.3% 13.3% 0.8

The chart is sorted by highest-to-lowest strikeout rate. Hunter Greene is a notch ahead of everyone else in that regard. That’s not terribly surprising. He’s the top pitching prospect in the organization and among the best in all of minor league baseball.

One name that really jumps out at you, though, is Alexis Diaz. He’s tied with Robert Stephenson for the second highest strikeout rate in the organization at 28.9%. His walk rate is also quite good, especially in comparison to his strikeout rate. The other thing that jumped out to me was Lucas Sims. One of the rubs on him has been that he’s struggled to keep his walks under control. That was not the case at all when he joined the Triple-A Louisville Bats after being acquired in the Adam Duvall trade. The sample size was small, but his walks virtually disappeared.

Three guys stick out for their high walk rates, too. Ricky Karcher was the only starter who had more walks than strikeouts during the season. That was a combination of both a very high walk rate, and a very low strikeout rate. Luis Alecis and Jacob Heatherly both also had high walk rates, but they also have high strikeout rates. All three will need to lower their walk rates if they are going to remain in the rotation long term.

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9 Responses

  1. MK

    It seems the base on balls stands between all our prospects and success. The hitters don’t receive enough and the pitchers issue to many. If we could just figure a way for our hitters to face our pitchers at least half the group would be happy.

  2. SultanofSwaff

    Great job. My takeaway is that help for the big club won’t be coming from the lower levels. My strong preference is to unload multiple (blocked) prospects and acquire the starting pitching they need via trade. Outside of Corbin, I’m not sure I’d sign any of the top names to a big contract.

    • Stock

      I would not sign Corbin. Huge injury risk.

      If you sign a FA sign Keuchel.

      If Keuchel resigns with Houston I would love to trade for Collin McHugh

  3. MichaelA

    I’m curious as to whether or not Sims changed anything after he was traded to the Reds. Have you heard anything? I’m hoping this may be another case of the Reds seeing something in a pitcher and making an adjustment-See Castillo, Disco and Straily.

  4. Shawn

    Thanks Doug. Looks like that was a lot of hard work getting this chart together. Very interesting. A lot of information on an easy to understand chart. You outdid yourself!

    • Doug Gray

      If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I’d put the odds more on the side of the two not being together next year. And that’s when there’s only 3 or 4 spots available.

  5. Stock

    The Reds have 4 prospects with a K% > 25% and a K/BB ratio of at least 3.5. One of these 4 is not even a prospect anymore (technically). So we have Greene, Gray and Diaz as good prospects. All are in my top 25. Lower the K% to 20% and Santillan, Gutierrez, Salinas and Packy Naughton join the list. Cody Reed is close but like Sims is not a prospect anymore. Santillan and Gutierrez are in my top 25 from this group but Salinas and Naughton are not.

    Lyon Richardson is on this list and in my top 25 but neither his BB% or his K% is very good yet. He is very inexperienced though so I have him in my top 25 in spite of his performance.

    Finally one pitcher made my top 25 but is not included on here. Although Jose Salvador’s BB% is a little high (9.8%) his K% (35.1%) and that of Raul Hernandez (35.8%) were easily the best in the organization among SP. Both pitched in the DSL but both are worth watching and I am so impressed by Salvador that I had to put him in my top 25.