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2015 in Review: Michael Lorenzen

Fast-tracked to the Majors, and then 2015.

Lorenzen has a VERY consistent pitchface
Lorenzen has a VERY consistent pitchface
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Lorenzen was drafted 38th overall by the Reds in the 2013 draft, and since day one, he has been on the fast-track to MLB.  After about a year and a half of minor league seasoning, Lorenzen was called up early in 2015 and placed in the rotation.  The results might make you wonder why the Reds have pushed him so doggedly through the ranks, just to start his service time in a wasted year.

By the Numbers

27 G, 21 GS, 113.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, 135 ERA-, 1.66 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 6.6 K/9, 41% GB%

The numbers aren't pretty.  But they also aren't far from what his minor league performances would have suggested.  Ultimately, Lorenzen was very hittable, very HR prone, and walked a lot of batters.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the poor results were really driven by much if any bad luck, either.  Lorenzen had one of the lowest soft-contact percentages in MLB in 2015, and the single worst line drive percentage (by a lot) of all pitchers with 100+ innings, which both explain why his BABIP was higher than league average.  He is a flyball pitcher, which explains (along with the previous numbers and his home ballpark) why his HR rate was above average.  If Lorenzen doesn't discover some secrets to generating softer contact, all of these numbers could reasonably repeat themselves.  One thing Lorenzen should be able to do better is control the walks.  His walk rate was about 50% higher than his minor league career average, though that may be the result of being hesitant to pitch to MLB hitters in the zone due to how hard he was getting hit.

Lorenzen has been a low-strikeout pitcher throughout his professional career, despite possessing a fastball that averages 94 MPH.  His four-seam fastball, while it has slight arm-side movement, has no sink (actually, it is a "rising" fastball that sinks less than it should due to the spin he puts on it), which is mainly why he doesn't get many groundballs, since this is his primary pitch.  The lack of movement on his fastball is also why I suspect hitters have no trouble with it, despite the velocity.  Looking at all of Lorenzen's pitches, the only one that isn't a "rising" pitch is his curveball.  With an arsenal like that, HRs are bound to be an issue playing in GABP, most likely.

M Lorenzen Fastball

Vertical movement of Michael Lorenzen's 4-seam fastball

V Movement M Lorenzen Pitches

Vertical movement of Michael Lorenzen's Pitch Repertoire 2015

It's interesting to note that Lorenzen tried to develop a cutter in September and October.  Refinement of a distinct fastball from his four-seamer will probably be an important aspect of Lorenzen's development and adaptation to MLB.  His slider is his best pitch, and right now he relies very heavily on that and his fastball.  As a result, he has extreme struggles against left-handed hitters, and will need to work on his curveball and/or changeup so that they can be more than "show" pitches.  If he can't figure out lefties, it could ultimately send him to the bullpen (lefties had a collective 174 OPS+ against Lorenzen in 2015).

Looking Forward

Drafted out of college in the supplemental first round, and then fast-tracked to the MLB, the organization is obviously very high on Lorenzen.  His athleticism and apparent coachability, not to mention his above average power on the mound, are promising for his future success, and there is no doubt he remains at the forefront of the team's plans moving forward.  Why he was promoted so aggressively despite mediocre results in the minors is a moot question at this point.  He has demonstrated the stamina and the stuff to be a starting pitcher, and with the Reds' current rotation (and competitive cycle) situation, Lorenzen will find himself there to begin next season barring injury.  Along with Desclafani and perhaps John Lamb, he will be one of the few pitchers who likely will have no sort of innings restriction.  The obvious caveat: except that defined by his performance.

Chance of making 2016 Reds opening day roster: 99%