2 pitchers who should replace Luis Cessa in the Reds rotation and 2 who shouldn't

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Levi Stoudt
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Levi Stoudt / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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It's just not working. The "Luis Cessa is a Starting Pitcher Experiment" has fallen on tough times. The right-hander was off his game once again on Wednesday in San Diego, and it's time for the Reds to move forward with Cessa as part of the bullpen, not the rotation.

That brings about a quandary, however. Who should replace Cessa in the rotation? With Connor Overton and Justin Dunn on the Injured List, it would appear as though the Reds may have to dip into the minor leagues in order to find a replacement.

While there are some talented hurlers down on the farm, not every one of the Cincinnati Reds pitching prospects is off to a stellar start in 2023. Which two pitchers should be up for consideration to replace Cessa in the rotation, and which two need to stay in the minor leagues for now?

Levi Stoudt should replace Luis Cessa in the Reds starting rotation.

Okay, so his first start didn't quite go according to plan. The Tampa Bay Rays absolutely decimated Stoudt before he got a chance to settle in. It was a spot start for the former Seattle Mariners prospect, but his first experience in the major leagues couldn't have gone much worse.

So, one would think that it can only go up from there, right? Stoudt's minor league numbers are not bad, but they're not great either. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA and only 16 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched.

However, it's not so much the strikeouts that are concerning. It's the walks. Stoudt has issued at least three free passes in four of his five starts for Triple-A Louisville this season, including a game last week that saw the 25-year-old walk six batters.

On the plus side, Levi Stoudt is part of the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster, so it would require little more than optioning a player like Casey Legumina or Reiver Sanmartin down to Triple-A. Stoudt isn't the best option, but he's an option.

Ben Lively should replace Luis Cessa in the Reds starting rotation.

The Cincinnati Reds traded veteran pitcher Chase Anderson to the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this week. Otherwise, he'd be the odds-on favorite to replace Luis Cessa in the Reds starting rotation. Second on that list, however, should've been Ben Lively. With Anderson gone, Lively should be elevated to No. 1.

Lively is an interesting case as the 31-year-old was originally drafed by the Reds back in 2014. Lively was then part of a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies that sent Marlon Byrd to Cincinnati. Lively has since seen time with the Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Samsun Lions of the KBO.

Lively signed a minor league deal with the Reds last spring and rejoined the organization on another minor league contract this offseason. Lively has been dealing down at Triple-A Louisville and desreves a look.

Lively is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA and 1.074 WHIP. Lively has typically done a decent job of keeping the ball in the ball park with a 0.7 HR/9 over the past two seasons at Triple-A Louisville. He's never going to light up the radar gun, nor is he going to rack up double-digit strikeouts on a nightly basis.

But Ben Lively could be a nice stop-gap option until the Cincinnati Reds deem some of their younger arms ready for the big leagues. Levi Stoudt's struggles were mentioned earlier, but he's not the only Reds pitching prospect who's faltered this season.

Andrew Abbott should not replace Luis Cessa in the Reds starting rotation.

The way Andrew Aboott was dispatching of hitters at Double-A Chattanooga made it look like he was playing against eighth graders. Abbott was absolutely decimating the opposition and was quickly bumped up to Triple-A Louisville.

However, Abbott has been at Triple-A for about a week and several Reds fans believe he's the second coming of Nolan Ryan. Abbott has a great mix of pitches, and while he gets a lot of punch outs, he does so without a ton of velocity.

Having spent four seasons at the University of Virginia, Abbott is an advanced pitcher and is likely to get a call-up to the big leagues at some point this season. But, not being on the team's 40-man roster is a detriment at this point in time.

That's not to say it couldn't happen, but in order to make room for Andrew Abbott, someone on the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster would have to be placed on the 60-day IL or be designated for assignment.

Abbott has looked very good during his first week-plus in Triple-A. Let's see how good he looks after spending a month or two in the Derby City before moving anointing him as the next member of the Cincinnati Reds rotation.

Brandon Williamson should not replace Luis Cessa in the Reds starting rotation.

The Cincinnati Reds have a problem on their hands when it comes to what to do with Brandon Williamson. A key piece in the trade that sent Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to the Seattle Mariners, the left-hander has been nothing short of abysmal in 2023.

Williamson had a chance to be part of the Cincinnati rotation prior to the start of the season. Williamson, until the very last week of spring training, was in the hunt for one of those elusive spots. But Williamson laid an egg in his final Cactus League start, was reassigned to minor league camp, and began his 2023 season at Triple-A Louisville.

The southpaw has looked lost on the mound since the season began. How bad has it been? In six starts for the Louisville Bats this season, Williamson is 1-3 with an ERA of 8.46. According to FanGraphs, Williamson has the same K/9 (6.45) as he does BB/9.

Opponents are teeing off on Williamson. He's allowed a .375 batting average against and has a walk-rate of nearly 14-percent. The lefty is also serving a up gopher balls at a rate of 2.01 HR/9. It honestly can't get much worse for the Reds top pitching prospect.

At this rate, the Cincinnati Reds may need to attempt to move Brandon Williamson to the bullpen or perhaps even reassign him to Double-A Chattanooga in order to help him regain his confidence. Williamson has fallen on tough times, but it's unwise to give him a shot in the big leagues if his performance has been as bad as the numbers are reflecting.

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