Cincinnati Reds: This is the perfect starting rotation for the 2021 season

ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates after recording the final out of the game. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates after recording the final out of the game. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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Reds non-roster invitee pitcher Nick Lodolo (86) delivers in the bullpen.
Reds non-roster invitee pitcher Nick Lodolo (86) delivers in the bullpen.Cincinnati Reds Spring Training 2 23 2020 /

4. Nick Lodolo, Reds left-handed pitcher

Hey, we said “perfect” starting rotation, right? If the Cincinnati Reds are ready to head into 2021 with the mindset of competing for the National League Central Division crown, then former first-round pick Nick Lodolo needs to be in the rotation.

I know we’ve not yet seen a lot out of the former Texas Christian standout, and the lack of a minor league season in 2020 definitely didn’t help Lodolo’s development. That said, the left-hander was an advanced arm coming out of college, and many experts and scouts projected the 6-foot-6 southpaw to be in the big leagues by 2021.

According to MLB Pipeline, Lodolo is the Reds No. 1 prospect. Taken with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Lodolo’s command is what sets him apart from other young pitchers. The 22-year-old has a sinking fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and will mix in a changeup and slider.

Would it be a risk for Cincinnati to throw Lodolo to the wolves having not played above A-Ball? Well, last season, out of desperation for what the front office assumed to be a lost season, we saw the Reds insert José García into the starting lineup as the team’s shortstop. García hadn’t played above A-Ball before getting the call midway through last season.

We also saw the Chicago White Sox turn to rookie hurler Garrett Crochet after drafting him in the 2020 MLB Draft, so there’s some precedent for giving Nick Lodolo a shot out of the gates. The concern may lie with whether or not the lefty is ready for a full season of 30-plus starts. If Lodolo is not on the Opening Day roster, I’d still expect him to make his major league debut next season.