MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon is in Goodyear, Arizona with the Cincinnati Reds at the moment, and he penned a pair of pitching-centric articles yesterday as pitchers and catchers reported for day one of spring training. While there’s ample information in both (that we’ll touch on in a second), when you connect the dots between them and break down what manager Bryan Price had to say about things, one name in particular becomes of particular interest, especially when you consider where things stood just one year ago today.
First, Sheldon broke down the candidates to claim spots in the rotation come Opening Day, with the predictable quartet of Luis Castillo, Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, and Brandon Finnegan penciled in for four of the five spots. While the likes of Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, and Michael Lorenzen were pegged as the likeliest of candidates, Sheldon notes Price mentioning that both Jackson Stephens and Amir Garrett “might get starts this spring,” but that’s far from a ringing endorsement of their respective chances.
If you’ll follow me to Sheldon’s other article from yesterday, you’ll get the goods on DeSclafani entering camp healthy after a lost 2017 season. Obviously, a healthy Disco would go miles towards improving not just the starting rotation, but also the load lumped on the beleaguered bullpen, and that’s a story that’s both encouraging and worth a fistpump. At the bottom, though, are blurbss from Price noting that Cody Reed will be battling for a bullpen spot in Goodyear and that Rookie Davis is the lone pitcher behind schedule due to injury, which are more pieces of information we can use in this growing, cryptic rotation battle discussion.
Considering the Reds’ lone pitching addition with any sort of outside shot of making the starting rotation has been Vance Worley (on a minor league deal), I think it’s safe to say that the quotes Sheldon got from Price back in December should still hold true (since the player pool and injuries haven’t changed things). Back then, he specifically said “I think we have at least two guys that have been primarily starters in our system that will compete for bullpen spots in Spring Training and bullpen spots only,” and that’s what’s stuck in my crawl at the moment. Reed, it would appear, is obviously one of those two, but given also that a) Amir Garrett isn’t listed as behind due to injury and b) isn’t listed as a legit candidate for the fifth starter role, where he stands in the current pitching landscape with the Reds might be getting a bit more obvious.
Garrett, of course, had a platelet-rich plasma injection into his ailing hip this offseason, a procedure to help an injury he largely played through without mentioning to anyone during his struggles in 2017. His hot start was incredible, though, as was his rise to the middle of most every Top 100 prospect list during his MiLB career, and the former NCAA basketball player seemed a lock just a year ago as getting repeated shots to be a starter at the big league level. His unique situation might well be working against him in this instance, as he’ll already be 26 years old this year and his galavanting days with basketball forced him to be added to the 40-man roster back in 2014 long before he was polished enough to be a big leaguer. He’ll reportedly get a 4th and final option year in 2018, but given the picture painted by Price’s quotes, there appear to only be two set scenarios for Garrett this spring:
Either he’s fighting solely for a bullpen role as that second unnamed pitcher alongside Cody Reed, or he’s already penciled in to start his season in Louisville and has been eliminated from consideration from the Opening Day rotation before spring training has even begun. After his 1.83 ERA through three excellent starts for the Reds just last April, that’s somewhat hard to fathom, but here we are.
In other news, Eno Sarris took a closer look at whether the Reds are too focused on “tools” for The Athletic, and while it’s behind a paywall, I’d continue to suggest you pony up for a subscription. The stable of incredible baseball writers they’ve cobbled together there is the best I may have ever seen.
Speaking of The Athletic, C. Trent Rosecrans calls it home now, too, and checked in from Goodyear with some video of the early goings-on. The sounds, y’all...man, those sounds.
Finally, a note from RotoGraphs on Eugenio Suarez that’s worth a read. It’s more fantasy-centric than most things that get linked here, but it is at least a statistical dive into whether or not he’ll be able to replicate the breakout season he produced in 2017. According to author Scott Strandberg, that breakout looks sustainable, which is obviously great news for the Cincinnati lineup - wherever Suarez ends up actually playing defensively.