The Reds finally made a decision on the 5th starter and it was a surprise. They went with the 2009 first round pick Mike Leake. He has never pitched in the minors. This should be interesting. Let's look at the staff separated into 2 distinct groups:
The Old Guys
Aaron Harang, 32 (6-14, 4.23 ERA, 1.411 WHIP, 102 ERA+)
Bronson Arroyo, 33 (15-13, 3.84 ERA, 1.266 WHIP, 112 ERA+)
After back-to-back 16 win seasons, Harang has had back-to-back 6 win seasons. His performance has not been as bad as the wins suggest but it has been a little worse. The big win seasons saw his K/BB ratio close to 4. The past 2 years it has been close to 3. In order to turn it around he will need to increase strikeouts and cut down on walks. Sounds simple but is very difficult when you are 32 years old and have over 1300 innings on the arm. I expect him to rebound and win a dozen games or so with an ERA about 3.70. He also needs to stay healthy and get back to pitching 200 innings. Dusty is the main reason for this as I talked about here and here. If Dusty took his hands off him for a full season he could be the top of the rotation guy he used to be.
Bronson does the the same thing every year. It isn't spectacular, it isn't horrendous, it just is. He always throws 200 innings and wins double digit games while losing almost the same. He has a few brilliant efforts, a few catastrophes and a bunch of mediocre outings. One red flag with him is his K/BB ratio dipped below 2. He had been in the mid 2s for the past 3 seasons so he will need to improve on that or he will struggle. Most of this is due to his K/9 rate going from 7.3 to 5.2. That is 2 balls in play that normally would have been strikeouts and over the course of a season, those add up. His BB/9 decreased a little so he will need to continue that while improving his strikeouts. I think he will boost his K/BB back up over 2 and keep cranking out 13-15 wins and 8-12 losses while throwing 200 innings.
The Young Guns
Johnny Cueto, 24 (11-11, 4.41 ERA, 1.360 WHIP, 97 ERA+)
Homer Bailey, 23 (8-5, 4.53 ERA, 1.474 WHIP, 95 ERA+)
Mike Leake, 22 (College and Arizona Fall League)
Johnny now has over 340 innings in the big leagues and seems ready to take his place as a solid starter. Last season he was able to drop his H/9, HR/9, and BB/9 from his rookie season. His K/9 also fell slightly but he kept his K/BB over 2. Still very young at 24, he should continue to improve and eventually take over at the top of the rotation if the Reds trade Harang, Arroyo, or both. He will also be a great help with the young Cuban Aroldis Chapman, another young Latin trying to make it in the big leagues with the Reds. I expect a dozen wins and a better ERA and WHIP while improving his K/9 rate. Let's hope Dusty hasn't torn his arm up yet like Volquez. Kind of feels like a ticking time bomb.
Homer Bailey is looking to build of a great finish to last season when he rolled through the final 6 weeks posting a 6-1 record and 1.70 ERA. Sure he faced some bad teams but they were still major leaguers. He has nearly 200 innings and has shown maturity in spring training by pitching well, working hard, and losing the chip on his shoulder he had with the media his first few years. His K/BB ration rose from 1 to 1.6 last season and if he can get that over 2 he will be just fine as the #4 starter. He doesn't turn 24 until May so he is still very young and has plenty of room to grow. I can't wait to see him up in Cincy on a regular basis and I think he will be the breakout star of the Reds rotation, more so then Chapman who still has a lot to learn, baseball and otherwise.
I have no idea what to expect from Leake. I have never seen him pitch but Walt trusts him enough to give him a shot. Dusty is licking his chops at a chance to give another young guy a bunch of innings. To learn more I suggest reading up on him. Here is Cnai.com's take on him getting the spot. Rob Neyer weighs in here. I'm sure more will be written since he won't actually start until April 11 thanks to an extra off day that allows Harang and extra start. I am happy the Reds went with the best pitcher, even if it may cost some money, but still a little worried at a young arm in placed into Dusty's hands. Let's hope this works out but don't be surprised with a DL trip in May or June.
I really like the 5 starters. The two old guys are horses who will take the ball every 5 days and give you above average outings. The young guys can be brilliant and frustrating but there is plenty of room for each to improve. I expect starting pitching to be a strength this season and in the future. There is also Chapman waiting to come up in May or June if something opens due to poor performance or injury. Great to have all these great arms ready to go in Cincinnati.
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