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The Red Report 2019 - Tanner Roark

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Is the new acquisition already a forgotten man?

Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Fast Facts

  • Born October 5, 1986, in Wilmington, IL
  • Attended the University of Illinois, alma mater of such baseball luminaries as Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau, the legendary Hoot Evers, Scott Spiezio’s chin mullet, and a big pile of Jims, Dons, Herbs, and Bobs from the first half of the 20th century
  • Led all MLB pitchers in triples in 2018...with 1

Organizational History

Career Stats

Scouting Report

Punny Headline About GIFs and Tanner Roark

I don’t know what to do with my hands!

But I do know what to do with my curveball!

Projections

FanGraphs

Outlook

Tanner Roark has logged basically five and a half seasons as a big league pitcher, in which time he’s totaled an impressive 17.2 bWAR. Even though FanGraphs is more skeptical of his contributions over that span - they value his work at just 12.2 fWAR - that’s still the overall output of a cromulent, competent big league starting pitcher, something the Cincinnati Reds have been starved of during most of that very same spell.

So, when the Reds picked Roark up via trade for the low cost of Tanner Rainey this past December, it was a move that made a lot of sense in any circumstance, let alone one where the Reds had precisely zero comparable, durable starters on their roster. That they immediately moved on to add Alex Wood and Sonny Gray somewhat rendered Roark to the roll of forgotten man of the rotation before he ever even threw a pitch for the Reds was somewhat unfortunate in hindsight, though that’s a roll in which Roark has largely thrived for his entire career.

You’ll remember that he came from the Washington Nationals, the same club that doled out mega-contracts to superstars Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, paid a tremendous price to land Patrick Corbin (despite a sketchier career ledger than that of even Roark), and had Gio Gonzalez twice finish in the Top 6 of NL Cy Young voting.

Through that all, Roark ho-hummed his way to 162 averages of a 3.59 ERA and 197 IP. Dear god, if he comes even close to replicating that with the Reds...

That’s the one thing regarding Roark, I suppose, that’s the slightest of concerns. Despite his overall excellent career to date, his previous two seasons haven’t been nearly as good as those averages. In that span, he’s been a tremendous innings-eater (361.2) - and that still has value - but that has also featured a 4.20 FIP, 4.50 ERA, and 97 ERA+ that hardly stand out as groundbreaking. Well, not to most teams, but even that would be a boon for the Cincinnati rotation, provided that the pieces surrounding him there perform at levels reasonably close to how we hope they will.

Slotting Roark in at his projections somewhere around the team’s #4 starter would be just fine, really, and would certainly mean the team’s overall rotation had improved mightily from previous years. That said, it’s not as if Roark, 32, has fallen off a cliff stuff-wise from his peak seasons, as he was never much of a hard-thrower. In fact, a quick check of his pitch types over his career shows that his last two seasons featured more or less the same dang guy on the mound as he was when he debuted at a late 26 years old. In other words, a change of scenery, a new hyped pitching coach, and the chance to land his first big payday - he’s earned just over $12 million in his career to date - might well be the perfect recipe to stumble into another really, really solid year.

That’s what the Reds will be hoping for, to be sure. Even if they just get the same ol’ Roark, though, that’ll be a big boost over what they’ve had before. It will certainly be interesting to see what the Reds choose to do with Roark come trade deadline season, too, since there’s a chance he could be moved even if the Reds are performing well, since the depth of SP options they’ve got projected to start the year behind him in AAA might - might - finally be knocking down the door for promotions during the second half of the season, and getting something akin to a wild card arm that can hit 100 mph might well be worth exploring even if the Reds have been winning games unlike we’ve seen in recent years.

Either way, he’ll be there every fifth day, because that’s who Tanner Roark has been his entire career, and that’s a welcome sight for beleaguered Reds fans.