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The Red Report 2019 — Michael Lorenzen

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What can the Reds expect from Lorenzen and his ever-evolving role on the team in 2019?

Cincinnati Reds Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Fast Facts

  • Right-handed pitcher
  • 27 years old
  • big swole boi
  • Homered four times in 2018, and slugged .710 in 34 plate appearances

Organizational history

  • Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round (38th overall) of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Cal State Fullerton.
  • Made his MLB debut on April 29, 2015.
  • Is in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and will be a free agent after the 2021 season.

Career stats

Scouting report


Source: FanGraphs

Ken Gif-y Jr.

Projections

Outlook

Beginning this by talking about Michael Lorenzen, the pitcher, feels a bit like burying the lede. It’s the thing he’s generated the most value with over the course of his career, finding enough success out of the bullpen to post a 121 ERA+ in 214 innings over the past three seasons. But it’s also the least interesting thing about him. Regardless of his track record pitching in relief, the most notable thing about Michael Lorenzen is that he can do this:

Now, I’ve written about how I feel regarding the best way to utilize Lorenzen’s talents from the Reds’ perspective, and I don’t know that I’ve changed my stance much. Using him as a possible multi-inning reliever and giving him an at-bat as often as you can when he’s pitching seemed like it worked wonderfully in 2018, and I’m on board with that being the focus moving forward. Cincinnati, however, sees it another way. Just over the weekend, Lorenzen pitched an inning on the mound in a spring training game, and then shifted into center field when it was time to bring in the next arm. The Reds don’t have a particularly strong defensive center fielder on the roster, and when Lorenzen was a two-way player at Cal State Fullerton, one of his calling cards as a position player was his outfield defense. He’s been vocal about wanting to add more innings in the field and more plate appearances this season, and the Cincinnati front office seems, at the very least, open to exploring what his limits might be.

Regardless of where you feel he best fits on this club, it’s hard to argue with the fact that there are few players in the sport more fun to watch than Lorenzen. The uproar caused by the arrival of Shohei Ohtani stateside was based largely around the idea that he could be the closest thing to Babe Ruth we’ve seen since, well, Babe freaking Ruth. Ohtani justified that hype early in the season, but unfortunately, ran into elbow troubles that necessitated Tommy John surgery. He’ll be limited to hitting duties only in 2019, which means that as far as two-way threats go across the sport, you can’t do any better than Lorenzen.

And while the dingers and exit velocities are what deservedly grab headlines when it comes to Lorenzen, a large part of his usefulness as a two-way player is the fact that he’s a pretty damn good pitcher. His underlying peripherals aren’t without spooks — his strikeouts per nine fell from 8.7 to 6.0 last year while his walk rate stayed roughly the same, his 4.16 FIP was substantially higher than his 3.11 ERA, and his xwOBA places him around the bottom third of all pitchers in baseball. But he has maintained his impressive fastball velocity to his point in his career, averaging over 95 piles per hour with both his sinker and four-seamer, and as far as his batted ball profile goes, he’s ranked among the best in baseball in opponents’ exit velocity over the past two seasons.

It will be important for Lorenzen to miss more bats in 2019, just as it will be important for him to maintain his sterling track record of limiting home runs (opponents hit just six in 81 innings last year). But he’s already damn close to the kind of player Cincinnati needs him to be. The Reds’ bullpen was a strong one last year, and with Raisel Iglesias, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez and Amir Garrett all returning, there isn’t any pressure for Lorenzen to take an extra step toward being an elite arm. His team would certainly take that, for sure, but they would also take a guy who looks just the way he did last year.

Big, honkin’ dingers included, of course.