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The Red Report 2018 - Michael Lorenzen

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Is he an MLB starter? Probably not.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds-Media Day Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

  • Born Jan. 4, 1992 in Anaheim, CA.
  • Played two ways in college, starting as Cal-State Fullerton’s primary center fielder and closer.
  • Hit the Reds’ coolest home run of 2016, the backstory of which is worth catching up on in this fantastic story by The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan, then working for the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2017.
  • After not starting a game since 2015, has apparently been worked back into the mix for a rotation spot in 2018. So, that’s something.

Organization History

  • Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 7th round of the 2010 draft out of Fullerton Union HS, but passed it up in favor of college ball.
  • Drafted by the Reds in the first round (38th overall) of the 2013 draft out of California State Fullerton.
  • Debut: April 29, 2015 (Age 23) vs. MIL (5 IP, 8 H, 5 SO, 1 BB, 3 ER).
  • Exceeded rookie limits during 2015 season.
  • Arb Eligible in 2019, eligible for free agency in 2022.

Career Stats

Scouting Report

Everything Lorenzen throws is fast. Really, really fast. Unfortunately, not many of his pitches move much, which is why his strikeout numbers lag behind what one might expect from his raw velocity. Second image above is from 2015, when he mostly started, and the third image is from 2017, when he was exclusively a reliever.

2018 Projections

Outlook

Michael Lorenzen has been a star college outfielder, a two-way player, a first round draft pick, a top pitching prospect, a major league starting pitcher, a bum elbow, a shutdown reliever, a two-way player again, and a possible major league starting pitcher again. He has been all of these things, and he’s just 69 nice days removed from turning 26 years old.

Lorenzen is in the running for the most enigmatic player on this year’s Reds roster, which is really saying something. He was a very good reliever in 2016, coming back from an elbow injury to pack 50 innings of 2.88 ERA ball into 35 appearances. He then started the 2017 season with six innings of two-hit, seven-strikeout baseball, after which he proclaimed, and I’m paraphrasing, all major league hitters are shit, and I, as a pitcher, am the opposite of shit. No one will ever score against me again. He then allowed eight runs in his next six innings pitched.

That’s just kind of how Lorenzen’s 2017 season went. He allowed two runs in 15 innings in the month of May, good for a 1.20 ERA. Then he had a 3.29 ERA in June, a 6.57 ERA in July, a 4.76 ERA in August, and a 6.17 ERA in September. He struck out almost a batter per inning, but also saw his walk rate jump 3 percent from the year before. His home run rate was almost exactly 1.0 per nine innings.

Now, Lorenzen is back in the mix for a starting rotation spot, competing with the likes of Tyler Mahle, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano and Cody Reed for one of two spots now up for grabs after the injury to Anthony DeSclafani. It comes as a bit of a surprise, throwing Lorenzen back into the mix since, a year ago, the Reds had essentially put his days of starting in the past.

But then, are the Reds actually in much of a position to pigeonhole its pitchers into a specific role? Iglesias’ shoulder history already put an end to his starting days, but aside from him, the Reds’ rotation woes of the past two years should make them pretty open to anyone they feel might be able to carry the load. Lorenzen started in the minors and saw a bit of success with it. And again, he just turned 26, which places him only a couple of years older than those guys listed above. Hell, he’s only four months older than Garrett.

Still, it’s tough to see Lorenzen getting a serious starting shot anytime soon. Yes, DeSclafani’s oblique problems open an extra spot, but Mahle and Garrett have looked damn impressive this spring, and Romano and Stephenson turned in extended periods of looking like bona-fide mid-rotation starters on the mound last season. Lorenzen, meanwhile, allowed an .887 OPS as a starter in 2015, and has a 9.45 ERA in three spring appearances this month. Granted, that’s a small sample of 6.2 IP, and his peripherals (12.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, zero homers) look great, but one would think he would have had to dominate this spring to have any reasonable shot at being placed back in the rotation.

Just as it did a year ago, Lorenzen’s ultimate path seems to be that of a long-to-middle relief pitcher. It would be great to see him be the kind of dominant guy that can put up Iglesias-like numbers in the middle of games, but the fact is Lorenzen just doesn’t seem to miss enough bats and gives up way too hard of contact for that to be the case.

He’s still young enough to think that maybe, just maybe, his best years are ahead of him. But even then, he’s probably just a middle reliever when all is said done. And that’s okay. At least he’s good for a couple dingers along the way.