Cincinnati Reds: Will the starting rotation still hold the team back?

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani #28 of the Cincinnati Reds throws in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 22, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani #28 of the Cincinnati Reds throws in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 22, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Reds biggest hurdle is still starting pitching despite the additions made to the starting staff this offseason.

This past offseason saw the Cincinnati Reds made several additions to their roster. In addition to trading for power bats, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, the Reds bolstered their starting rotation with the addition of three arms. The team acquired Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, and Sonny Gray all via trade. However, those additions still may not be enough to put the Reds over the hump.

Cincinnati’s new trio will join Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani in the Reds new-look starting rotation. On paper, this rotation looks far improved from the one that finished the 2018 season with the sixth highest combined ERA (5.02) of any starting staff. However, even with the additions, there still are a question marks surrounding the Reds rotation that could hold the team back from contending in 2019.

The two returning members of the Cincinnati Reds rotation have both flashed potential but haven’t proved to be reliable for a full season in their careers. Luis Castillo will be entering his third season in the majors. In 46 career starts the 26-year-old has posted a respectable ERA of 3.89.

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However, what is concerning is the number of home runs Castillo has given up. In 15 starts in 2017, Castillo gave up 11 home runs and in 2018 he allowed 28 big flies in 31 starts. The inability to keep the ball in the ballpark is a big problem in Great American Ballpark. Unless Castillo proves he can keep hitters on the ground rather than in the air, there could still be concerns about the young right-hander.

As for Anthony DeSclafani, he will be entering his fourth season in the Reds starting rotation. In his first four seasons, the 28-year-old has only posted one season where he finished with an ERA below four (3.28 in 2016). There’s no telling which version of Disco the Cincinnati Reds will get in 2019.

Even though the new rotation is an upgrade for the Reds, each of the newly acquired Reds starters come with at least a small concern. Alex Wood who has been the most consistent of the three acquired starters has spent time on the disabled list two of the past three seasons, thus keeping him healthy is not an easy task.

Sonny Gray was once an All-Star for the Oakland Athletics, but is coming off a brutal season with the New York Yankees that saw him pitch to a 4.90 ERA and lose his starting rotation spot after 23 games. If Gray fails to find some semblance of his All-Star form, he may fail in the Queen City the same way he did in the Big Apple.

Lastly, Tanner Roark is coming off back-to-back seasons of posting an ERA over 4.00. In addition, he has had his own troubles with the home run ball as he’s given up a combined 47 home runs the past two seasons despite playing half his games in Nationals Park, which is more of a pitcher’s park than GABP.

Even if one or maybe two of these starters falter, the Cincinnati Reds have options. Matt WislerTyler Mahle, and Brandon Finnegan all have starting experience and could slide into a fifth rotation slot, but there’s no telling if they’d be effective.

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When looking at some of these statistics, it still makes one a little uneasy about the Reds starting rotation. With no true ace, the Cincinnati Reds will need one or two starters to step up as consistent inning eaters. If not, the starting rotation could still be the hurdle that trips them up while trying to make a postseason run.