Cincinnati Reds: Anthony DeSclafani auditioning to be 2019 No. 1 starter

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 03: Anthony DeSclafani #28 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox at Great American Ball Park on July 3, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 03: Anthony DeSclafani #28 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox at Great American Ball Park on July 3, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Reds No. 1 starting pitcher, barring a blockbuster trade, for the 2019 season is already on the roster. Anthony DeSclafani has the remainder of the 2018 season to show why he’s that guy.

The Cincinnati Reds have a different Opening Day starting pitcher the past three seasons. This year Homer Bailey took the mound. In 2017 Scott Feldman took the mound for the first pitch of the Reds’ season, and Raisel Iglesias, now Cincinnati’s closer, toed the rubber to start the 2016 campaign. Will Anthony DeSclafani be the next Reds’ pitcher to start on Opening Day for the Redlegs?

The Cincinnati Reds’ starting pitching has been their biggest weakness this season. Rarely have their starters been able to go more than five innings. This has been taxing on the bullpen, who has been more than up to the task throughout the 2018 season. But, if the Reds really want to compete in 2019, they’re going to need more than 5-6 innings from their starters, especially their No. 1 starter.

Barring a blockbuster trade or major free agent signing, the Reds’ starting pitcher for Opening Day in 2019 is already on the roster. The Reds appear unlikely to re-sign Matt Harvey in the offseason, however, that is still a possibility. Bailey’s injury-riddled, roller-coaster season can’t give much hope to the Reds’ brass regarding his future.

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Though some of the young starters for the Reds, Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, and Luis Castillo, have shown promise during the 2018 season, all of them show flaws in their game. Mahle, who appeared to gain steam in the month of June was recently demoted to Triple-A Louisville. Romano and Castillo have both shown promise recently but had struggled earlier in the season.

The interesting name in the Reds’ starting rotation as 2018 gradually comes to a close in right-hander Anthony DeSclafani. Disco, as he’s known around the clubhouse, was originally drafted in the sixth round of 2011 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.

DeSclafani was part of a massive trade in 2012 which sent him and several other players to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes among others. Disco made his way to Cincinnati in December of 2014 when he and Chad Wallach were traded to the Reds in exchange for Mat Latos.

DeSclafani’s biggest hang up to becoming the dominant pitcher that the Reds think he can be is his health. After starting 31 games for the Reds in 2015, he was relegated to only 20 starts in 2016 due to several stints on the disabled list. Disco missed the entire 2017 season with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm.

Disco finally returned to the Reds lineup this season on June 5th against the Colorado Rockies. In 11 games so far this season, DeSclafani has a 5-3 record with a 4.98 ERA and a WHIP of 1.307. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but considering he hadn’t pitched in almost two years, they’re pretty impressive.

Over his last two starts, DeSclafani has gone 11.1 innings, allowed only 4 runs and struck out 9 batters. He allowed 1 home run during those two games, allowed opposing batters to hit only .256 and has an ERA of 3.18. Again, nothing mind-blowing, but nothing to sneeze at either.

DeSclafani is never going to be a power pitcher, able to overpower hitters at the plate. He’ll get his fair share of strikeouts, but most of his outs are going to come from those playing behind him. He has an array of four pitches he likes to throw, with his sinker being perhaps his best pitch.

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I think on most teams Disco is probably a No. 2 or maybe even a No. 3 starter, but the Reds do not have an established No. 1, especially with Bailey entering the final year of his contract. If DeSclafani can put together a nice string of games to close out the 2018 season, I think he’s very much in the mix to be the Cincinnati Reds’ Opening Day starter in 2019.