What does the future hold for the Reds starting pitching corps?
On paper, the Cincinnati Reds enter the upcoming season with their strongest roster since their three playoff appearances during a four-year span to usher in the previous decade. The key to establishing any sort of long-term success begins and ends with starting pitching. Fortunately, you don’t have to look too hard to see a successful stretch of baseball returning to the Queen City.
As the Redlegs hit the field for Opening Day at Great Amerian Ball Park to begin the 2023 season, rest assured it will be Luis Castillo taking the mound. Given his current trajectory, it’s not difficult to imagine La Piedra as one of the best pitchers in the game.
Castillo would be entering his final season before becoming eligible for free agency. Additionally, Castillo will be 30-years old to begin his 2023 campaign, so it could very well be his swan song season as a member of the Reds.
Who follows La Piedra in the rotation that season? Here’s where some speculation comes into play. Sonny Gray will enter free agency following the 2022 season, and at 32-years old, the Reds front office will most likely thank him for service and move on.
Gray’s departure will allow former first-rounder Hunter Greene to ascend to the No. 2 role in the rotation. By the time 2023, arrives Greene will be four years removed from Tommy John surgery and barring any setbacks, it’s plausible he’ll make his debut with the Reds no later than the 2022 season. Having a 23-year-old flame thrower would be a welcomed sight following Castillo in the rotation.
For years, one of the biggest weaknesses for the Reds pitching staff has been the lack of an effective left-handed starter. Finding a reliable southpaw for the rotation has proven more difficult for the Reds front office than Indiana Jones discovering the Holy Grail. For instance, the last Reds left-hander to make 20 starts in a season was Brandon Finnegan in 2016. Enough said.
That should not be an issue in 2023, as another former first-rounder Nick Lodolo will remedy that problem. Lodolo will be just 25-years old entering the 2023 season and, along with Hunter Greene, will provide the Reds will a couple of young exciting arms they haven’t had at the big league level in years.
How about a familiar face falling in behind the two youngsters in the rotation. Even though he’ll be eligible for free agency after this season, don’t be surprised to see Anthony DeSclafani remain in the organization.
On a personal level, this season is a nightmare for pending free agents. When healthy Disco is an above-average starter, as evidenced by his career 102 ERA+ number. I can foresee a situation where the Reds and Disco would both benefit for some stability and come to an agreement before letting DeScalfani potentially walk away.
Rounding out the rotation will be another familiar name in Tyler Mahle. The right-hander has shown flashes of being an effective starter in the majors, however, consistency has eluded him. Like Castillo, Mahle will be entering his final season before being eligible for free agency. Let’s hope by that time consistency is no longer an issue for the native Californian.
Obviously, the 2020 season will be impossible to predict. However, going forward it’s easy to envision the Reds starting this decade as they did the previous one and making multiple trips to the postseason.