Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Mike Leake, Travis Wood, and Aroldis Chapman are just a few names that come to mind when I am asked over and over on Twitter and by other Reds fans who will eventually become the Reds ace.
Well so far this season, Reds fans have seen inconsistent pitching from their starters which has led to mixed results through a month of the season.
4 games ago, the Reds had the same record this season as they did at the end of April in 2010. Beginning in May, the Reds won 9 of 10 and announced to the rest of the National League that they were for real. Fast forward to 2011, and the Reds have won 3 of 4, and have an opportunity today to make that 4 of 5 with one of their best pitchers making their season debut.
Johnny Cueto has improved his wins total and ERA every year that he has been in the majors. Bryan Price has been impressed with Cueto’s consistency since taking over for Dick Pole as the pitching coach before the 2010 season.
The voice of the Reds, Marty Brennaman, has often pointed out that Cueto seems to have a half inning per game where his concentration has waned which has often sullied an otherwise excellent start for Cueto. He appears very close to becoming a complete and threatening pitcher for the National League.
His walk rate has also decreased while his strikeout percentage has balanced around 6.9 K/9.
The other potential starters whom the Reds hope will someday develop to a dominant #1 starter have been inconsistent so far this season.
The exception of course is Homer Bailey who has made just one start on the year. He got the win after pitching well against the Houston Astros. Bailey has been good in the minors on his rehab, and I wrote earlier this year that Bailey was the most likely candidate to become the Reds “ace.”
I stick by that prediction if Bailey can stay healthy. He and Edinson Volquez have the best “stuff” of any of the potential candidates (with the exception of Chapman who is in the pen for now), but Edinson Volquez has now shown that he is often prone to extreme wildness despite possessing one of the best changeups in baseball.
For now, Bailey appears to be ahead of Volquez because he possesses better control, and the addition of a split-finger fastball to Bailey’s repertoire has provided him with a sinking pitch to counter his lively fastball.
So today as Johnny Cueto walks to the hill for the first time in 2011, the Reds will breath easier knowing that they finally have their full complement of starters healthy. About 40 days into the season, the Reds are just reaching full strength with the starting staff which should be a scary notion to the rest of the NL Central.