Cincinnati Reds 2015 Grades: Michael Lorenzen

It was known coming into 2015 that the Cincinnati Reds would have to rely on some rookies after two-fifths of their starting rotation was traded away in the offseason. It was a given that Anthony DeSclafani would be a part of the staff, but Michael Lorenzen was the most hyped Reds rookie after an impressive spring training.

Named the Reds’ fourth-best prospect by Baseball America before the season, Lorenzen only had one full year of experience as a starting pitcher and hadn’t pitched above the Double-A level. He was invited to spring training for the first time in his career and wound up being one of the stories for the Reds in the preseason, dazzling with his upper-90s fastball and electric slider. Lorenzen was ultimately one of the final cuts from the spring training roster, but made his way to the big leagues in late April after Homer Bailey went down with an elbow injury that ultimately put him out of commission for the season.

Once Lorenzen made it to the big leagues, he had mixed results. He pitched fairly well in the first half of the year, taking a 3.53 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) into the all-star break, but he had an enormous amount of trouble being pitch efficient and getting deep into games. As evidenced by his 47-to-39 strikeout-to-walk ratio, he needed to work on his control and not nibble around the strike zone so much.

The warning signs were all there for Lorenzen, and everything unraveled for him once the second half began. He allowed 27 earned runs over 19.1 innings (12.57 ERA) in five starts after the break, prompting the Reds to send him back to Triple-A Louisville.

Lorenzen was lights-out on the mound during his three-start stay with the Bats, allowing just three runs in 24 innings of work, and the Reds called him back up on Aug. 31. He made four more starts with Cincinnati and had more shaky results. His control was better, allowing only one walk in each start, but he gave up 12 runs and 30 hits in only 18 innings.

He was sent to the bullpen for the remainder of the season, and finished out the year strong, allowing one run and four hits in 4.2 innings of work, striking out five and walking none.

For the year, the right-hander finished with a 4-9 record, a 5.40 ERA, 5.40 FIP and 1.66 WHIP in 113.1 innings. Lorenzen struck out only 6.6 batters per nine innings while walking 4.5, numbers that will need to improve for him to be an effective starter. With a fastball that can reach 98 mph, he has the stuff to be an effective strikeout pitcher, but gaining more confidence his secondary pitches is going to be vital. He also had a tendency to give up the long ball in his rookie season, allowing 18 home runs, the highest total of any pitcher who threw less than 120 innings.

Lorenzen will be an interesting player to watch in 2016, as he’ll be one of five or six pitchers competing for two rotation spots. With a full year of major league experience under his belt and an entire offseason to work with Reds coaches and trainers, we should see some improvement from Lorenzen next season.

Like fellow rookie Brandon Finnegan, Lorenzen’s final destination could end up being the bullpen, but there’s no real reason to rush that move if you’re the Reds, especially when the team isn’t expected to be much more competitive in 2016 than they were in 2015. He has the stuff to be a solid starting pitcher in the major leagues, but patience is going to be key for the 23-year-old.

Grade: D

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