Bats Preview: Starting Pitching Edition
Due to the lack of stability in the Cincinnati Reds’ pitching staff, the Louisville Bats enter 2017 with plenty of uncertainty surrounding their rotation. It appeared the Reds would need to fill only one spot in the rotation after signing veteran Scott Feldman to a one-year deal in the offseason, but Homer Bailey’s unexpected elbow surgery one week prior to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training altered that perception.
The Reds will now be forced to choose two pitchers who spent the majority of last season at Triple-A to occupy those vacancies, depleting the Bats’ starting pitching staff even further. The leading candidates to pitch in the back-end of the Reds’ rotation include Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, and Tim Adleman.
If Stephenson and Garrett, the top two pitching prospects in the Reds’ farm system, pitch halfway decent in spring training, you figure those two guys will have the upper hand unless someone else has overwhelming success leading up to Opening Day. That would mean Reed, barring catastrophic results in spring training, likely joins the Reds’ bullpen to give the club another southpaw along with Tony Cingrani.
If all this ends up happening (don’t take my word for it), then Adleman would start the season at Louisville and help anchor the Bats’ rotation. Adleman dominated Triple-A hitters last year before ultimately getting promoted to the big league club, going 3–1 with a 2.38 ERA in 10 starts with the Bats.
Rookie Davis, Sal Romano, Jackson Stephens, and Nick Travieso, who all pitched predominantly at Double-A Pensacola a year ago,will likely fill out the rest of the rotation.
Acquired in the Aroldis Chapman trade back in 2015, Davis impressed in his first season in the Reds’ organization. The right-hander went 10–3 in 19 starts while accruing a 2.94 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with Double-A Pensacola. Davis was promoted to Triple-A Louisville towards the end of the year, but struggled in a small sample size with the Bats.
Davis isn’t the only one who had success at Double-A last year. Romano enjoyed a breakout season with the Blue Wahoos, registering a 3.52 ERA in a career-high 156 innings pitched. The 6-foot-5 right-hander generated an ample amount of whiffs, as he ranked second in the Southern League in strikeouts with 144, while his 22 percent strikeout rate was the highest of his professional career. Romano has the type of repertoire that could force the Reds’ hand at some point in 2017.
Stephens exploded onto the scene last year with Pensacola, as he was named a Southern League All-Star and a MiLB.com Organization All-Star. Like Romano, Stephens experienced career-highs in innings pitched (151.1) and strikeout rate (20.5 percent) in 2016. He also limited opponents to a career-best .254 batting average and allowed the fewest home runs of any member of the Blue Wahoos’ rotation.
Travieso’s success at the Single-A level throughout his brief career failed to cross over to Double-A in 2016. The former first round pick uncharacteristically struggled with his command at Pensacola, resulting in a 10.4 percent walk rate — a 3.2 percent increase from his career total. Perhaps injuries played a role in that spike, as he wound up on the disabled list twice with a strained right groin and a bruised right shoulder. Travieso dropped 10 spots on Baseball America’s top 30 Reds prospects list, going from No. 7 in 2016 to No. 17 entering 2017.