Cincinnati Reds: Who would grab the final spot in a six-man rotation?

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 21: Nick Lodolo #86 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning during an exhibition game. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 21: Nick Lodolo #86 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning during an exhibition game. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Jose De Leon #42 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches.
CINCINNATI, OH – AUGUST 30: Jose De Leon #42 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

José De León, Reds right-handed pitcher

We did not see the best of José De León in 2020. Appearing in just five games, De León lasted just six innings, struck out 10 batters, and posted a horrendous 18.00 ERA and 2.833 WHIP. De León issued 11 walks while allowing six hits and 12 earned runs. The bottom line was, the free passes destroyed any chance De León had to impress the coaching staff last season.

Thankfully, De León will get the opportunity during spring training to show that 2020 was not his best. In fact, during play in the Puerto Rican Winter League, De León went 2-1 in four starts with 31 punch outs over 17 innings of work. The right-hander posted a 3.18 ERA and a 1.059 WHIP.

José De León looks like a surefire bet to be part of the Cincinnati bullpen. The 28-year-old does not have any minor league options remaining. In 2016, De León was viewed as one of the top prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays organization and was listed as the 33rd best prospect in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline.

The talent is there, and Cincinnati saw a tremendous increase in De León’s velocity during last season with an average of 95.1-MPH on his fastball according to FanGraphs. If De León cuts down on his walks, he’ll be in contention for a spot in the rotation regardless of how many starters David Bell runs out in 2021.