The Cincinnati Reds rotation is set for the 2014 season unless there is a major injury moving forward. While the order isn’t entirely determined yet the Reds will have right handers Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mat Latos and Mike Leake along with left hander Tony Cingrani as their five starters.
For the past two seasons the Reds rotation has been one of the best in baseball and those five guys, along with former Red Bronson Arroyo were the keys to that. The Reds lost a little bit of depth when Arroyo left in free agency as the sixth starter is very likely to be a downgrade from Tony Cingrani for the 2014 season. What is a reasonable expectation for the Reds five starting pitchers?
To answer that question we can head over to Fangraphs.com to get a look at the various projection systems and what they have to say about each player. To get a general answer rather than rely on just one system, I went ahead and grouped together the ZiPS, Fans, Steamer and Oliver projections to come up with one overall projection for each of the five projected starters.
The Steamer system had the worst outlook for Cueto where it projected him for a 3.74 ERA in 182 innings. Clearly the innings projected would be a big upgrade from 2013, but that would be his highest ERA in quite a few years. The average of the four systems projects Cueto to post a 3.35 ERA in 156 innings pitched. That would be his highest ERA since the 2010 season.The innings projections where all over the place, which given the history for the right hander is expected.
The lowest system on Bailey was the Steamer system which projected a 3.78 ERA in 173 innings. The Fans projection was the best with a 3.44 ERA in 213 innings pitched. The overall average of the four systems was for a 3.57 ERA in 194 innings which would put Bailey line with where he has been the last two seasons.
The worst projection for Latos is from Steamer, which projects him for a 3.85 ERA in 192 innings pitched. The Fans projection was the best as it projected a 3.16 ERA in 217 innings. The overall average of the four systems was for a 3.41 ERA in 206 innings, which is right in line with where he has performed for the last three seasons.
The Steamer system continued its reign as the system that was the lowest on the Reds pitchers as it projected Mike Leake for a 4.18 ERA in 173 innings pitched. The Oliver system was the highest as it projected a 3.82 ERA over 186 innings. Overall the average of the four systems came up with a 4.00 ERA and 180 innings. Those numbers would put him on target for his career numbers.
The lowest system on the Reds left hander was the Fans who project a 3.49 ERA in 155 innings. The Oliver system was the highest on Cingrani in terms of ERA where it projects a 3.23 ERA but in just 128 innings. Overall the average of the four systems comes to a 3.38 ERA in 149 innings pitched. The systems aren’t likely accounting for a full time role for Cingrani since they all use past results.
The systems all seem to be well within general ranges for each of the guys when it comes to ERA outputs, though the do mostly seem a tad light on innings pitched when assuming health from them all (which of course can be a big if and is certainly reflected on a guy like Cueto who has had past issues). The projected ERA for the five starters is 3.55 and they are projected to throw a total of 885 innings between them.
The Reds are probably hoping for a little bit better ERA from just about everyone on the list though and really looking for more innings out of Cueto and Cingrani than the system average was for each guy. While Alfredo Simon may make a start to begin the year to cover for Mat Latos if he isn’t ready, down the line the next starter is likely to be David Holmberg. The system average has him posting a 4.71 ERA, so it is quite a downgrade from a projection standpoint between him and any of the other five starters. If the main five make it to the second half healthy then perhaps top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson makes his way into the running for an injury related call up and that could sway things as far as a downgrade goes.
Health is going to be a big factor for the Reds starting rotation. You can say that about any team in baseball of course, and things this spring have been interesting as Johnny Cueto is the only one who hasn’t had some type of minor injury yet (knock on wood) but they are all expected to be ready in April at this point. The projection systems seem to think that the rotation as a whole will take a step backwards during 2014 but that it is still going to be quite strong.