Amir Garrett’s disastrous 2017 season saw him enter camp with the Cincinnati Reds in 2018 as a bit of an afterthought, at least as far as potential 5th starter candidates in the Opening Day rotation go. Despite a stellar three-start beginning to his rookie campaign, the talented lefty was shelled early and often from thereon out, allowing a seemingly unfathomable 9.53 ERA and 1.073 OPS in his final 51.0 IP, a stint that saw him allow a whopping 22 dingers somehow, some way.
Of course, there was a latent hip issue barking at him throughout that awful few months, and with a platelet-rich plasma injection and some thorough rehab, the Amir Garrett we’ve seen in spring camp this year looks almost nothing like the one that was torched on command last year. In fact, he looks a ton more like the pitcher that Baseball Prospectus ranked as the #32 overall prospect in the game prior to 2017, the one that spun 285 innings of 2.50 ERA ball between Daytona, Pensacola, and Louisville during the 2015-2016 seasons. And after his 4 scoreless innings on Sunday, he looks poised to be on the Opening Day roster in some form or fashion, as he’s outpitched absolutely every other arm in Goodyear so far this spring.
MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon caught up with Garrett after his outing yesterday, the one that included just an infield single and a walk against 4 Ks. While Garrett has admirably taken the diplomatic approach to where he stands among his peers on the rotation pecking order, the fact is that he’s got an age advantage on most of them, carries plenty of prospect pedigree to warrant a spot even if he’d been pitching slightly less good of late, and with the injuries to the other arms around him, he’s done everything he possibly could to earn a rotation spot. In fact, I think it’d be a bit ridiculous to see him plugged into the bullpen to start the season, especially since the team went to great lengths to get an additional option approved for him this year.
The fact is, he’s got the ability to be an elite starter and a minor league career that doesn’t suggest anything to the contrary, and the only thing that has felled that attempt at the big league level has been an injury. He’s now healthy, the Reds need starters, and even if he somehow gets pipped for a spot in the rotation come Opening Day, the extra option should keep him on the mound slicing up opposing eyeballs every fifth day until his time is called.
In other news, friend of the blog Doug Gray has finally made it to Arizona after his countrywide road trip, and he immediately dove into the minor league action on the back fields. He’s got a not-so-good update on the status of talented outfielder Jose Siri, notes on the bench battle between Brandon Dixon and Alex Blandino, and the numbers on Tyler Stephenson’s big day at the plate yesterday in a minor league game.
As camps begin to trim players and focus more on getting their best 25 ready for Opening Day, there’ll be ample amount of roster cuts league-wide. Some of those players will be optioned to minor league affiliates, and some will simply be reassigned as they’re merely under team control but not yet on a roster. Others, though, will be forced onto waivers as out-of-options players who simply couldn’t find a way onto their existing team’s roster, much in the same way that Dilson Herrera was with the Reds last week. MLB Trade Rumors has a comprehensive look at those players on every MLB team, and its inevitable that teams like the Reds - who still have open 40-man roster spots - will be eyeing this list extensively as cuts are announced. You just never know when a fringe guy on another club will hit waivers as a perfect potential fit with another club, a la Scooter Gennett and Dan Straily in recent years, and the out-of-options bunch is always the most likely to be available.
Finally, FanGraphs has begun their positional power rankings, with the catchers league-wide the first to be profiled. Obviously, a healthy and productive Devin Mesoraco paired with the Tucker Barnhart we saw break out last year is as good of a combo as can be (especially given their respective platoon splits), which makes it somewhat surprising to see where the Reds rank on this particular list. Keep in mind, however, that they’re based purely on their own Depth Chart projections, which often undersell players prohibitively. It’s also worth noting that Barnhart was valued much, much more by Baseball Reference last year than FanGraphs, which contributes to the overall ranking almost as much as Mesorcao’s injury history. Fact is, though, that if these two are healthy in 2018, it’s hard to imagine a much better 1-2 tandem.