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Reading tea leaves while drinking coffee bean juice.esPlayoffsHistory/Hall of FamePeer into the FutureCincinnati Reds RumorsAn early look at the 2019 Cincinnati Reds pitching staffNew Nathan Eovaldi Jersey ,39commentsReading tea leaves while drinking coffee bean juice.what had been a six-man rotation. Backfilling that will be the chance for Cody Reed, as the lefty - who had pitched as a starter for AAA Louisville and just as a reliever for the Reds since being recalled - would join the rotation for at least a turn to show if his repertoire has matured. Of course, perhaps the biggest nugget came in the form of Matt Harvey being pulled back off waivers in lieu of being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, with the affinity for the player by team owner Bob Castellini becoming of public note.That cavalcade of rotation news paired with the team’s reluctance to trade any of their team-controlled bullpen options gives us a bit more insight into how they might value the arms on the current roster. More importantly, it might reveal just how many spots are open for the 2019 version of the pitching staff.Assuming the team chooses to carry 13 arms again next year - which they’ve done for most of 2018 - and assuming the relative health of all participants is a given, here’s a closer look at just how few spots appear to be open on the 2019 pitching staff prior to any winter moves, and who that might leave on the outside looking in.LocksIt’s probably easiest to work backwards through the bullpen to begin this list, since they’ve been infinitely more dependable in 2018 than the starting rotation - and are generally pretty obvious, at least to begin with.At the back of the ‘pen sits Raisel Iglesias (1), who’s an obvious lock. Controlled through the 2021 season should the Reds choose, he’s on an affordable contract and is again pitching quite well, his 173 ERA+ in 57 IP in-line with his excellent previous seasons.Backing Iglesias are both Jared Hughes (2) and David Hernandez (3), each of whom were brought in on similar 2-year contracts this past winter - with Hughes’ having an option for 2020. All they’ve done is combine for 4.3 bWAR as key options out of the bullpen, with 243 and 190 ERA+ marks, respectively.Backing them is Michael Lorenzen (4), who’ll be in his second arbitration year in 2019, and will be due a raise off his current $1.3 million salary into the ~$2 million range where Hughes and Hernandez sit. I wrote a week ago about how his surface stats would make him seem a lock while his peripheral stats were quite concerning, but his combination of elite stuff when locked-in and his ability to pinch-hit to make the bench that much more versatile/potent make him likely a lock for at least one more year.On the starting rotation side, things instantly get more murky. For the fourth consecutive winter, we’ll be hoping that Anthony DeSclafani (5) can maintain his health and above-average performance for a 30+ start season, as he has earned that opportunity with his performance while healthy over the years - especially since he’ll only be due a modest raise off his current $860K salary while entering his second year of arbitration eligibility. Next to him sits the electric Luis Castillo (6), whose 1.21 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, and manageable 2.9 BB/9 across 226 IP the last two years suggest that there’s still a candidate for a breakout, and that’s more than good enough to warrant lock consideration while still on a league-minimum pre-arbitration salary.Out of options beginning in 2019It’s this particular group of arms that actually prompted this entire exercise, as there are a handful of talented, wildly inconsistent arms that the Reds are running out of chances to learn about. Each of Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, and Amir Garrett will be out of options after the 2018 season, meaning none of the trio can simply be stashed in AAA for another year to figure things out. All have featured prominently on Top 100 overall prospect lists for years, yet each has managed to fizzle out in starting roles the point of bullpen demotions, with varying degrees of success.Garrett, obviously, was stellar early in 2018 http://www.raysfanproshop.com/authentic-evan-longoria-jersey , but has struggled mightily since that point. Given the lack of an obvious lefty for late inning situations out of the bullpen and his existing experience as a reliever, he’s probably the best bet of this trio to land a spot, but it’s hardly a lock.Reed and Stephenson, on the other hand, will have the final 30-some games of 2018 spring training 2019 to show what, if anything, they’ve been able to correct from previously faltering campaigns, albeit perhaps in different roles than they’ve been used to, as I mentioned earlier. There’s a fourth member of this group, though, who we still haven’t had a great chance to see. Matt Wisler, acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Adam Duvall trade, has 324.2 big league innings under his belt, which is nearly as many as the 341.0 IP DeSclafani had under his belt prior to this season. He’s spent his entire Reds career with AAA Louisville, however, working out of the bullpen almost exclusively with excellent results - 21/3 K/BB in 19.2 IP, with a 1.83 ERA, to boot. I can almost guarantee we’ll see him in September when rosters expand, and we’ll then get a better look at whether the former Top 50 overall prospect can carve out a spot going forward.On the bubble, but with optionsHere’s where we run square into a glut of arms, some of whom can marinate in AAA again, some who’ll earn active roster spots, and some who might just be AAAA fodder. Obviously, it’s clear that both Sal Romano and Wandy Peralta are in this mix, as both are currently on the Reds active roster. Romano has been consistently sub-par as a starter over the last two years, owning an 83 ERA+ in 43 games (40 starts) across 217 IP. Peralta, on the other hand, backed up a solid 2017 with an ugly start to 2018, and were he not a lefty he’d likely still be stuck in AAA working on cutting his walk rate, but the lack of other solid lefty candidates has given him a bit more of a shot.Backing those two as obviously promising candidates are both Tyler Mahle and Lucas Sims. Mahle, of course, flashed brilliance while with the Reds earlier in 2018, and at 23 years old, he’s going to continue to get shots at being a cog in the team’s starting rotation for as long as he needs. I’d consider him firmly in the mix for a starting spot for 2019 Matt Andriese Jersey , barring outside moves, but that’s still something he’ll have to show some improvement to fully claim. Sims, on the other hand, is a former 1st round pick and Top 100 overall prospect who was the centerpiece of the Duvall deal with Atlanta, and while he, too, has struggled in his early big league action - all while with the Braves - his AAA track record and age (still just 24) means we’ll a) see him in September and b) see him in the mix for a spot somewhere on the Cincinnati Reds staff in 2019.Beyond those arms slot the likes of Austin Brice, Tanner Rainey, Zack Weiss, Keury Mella, Jose Lopez, Jesus Reyes, and Jackson Stephens. All but Lopez have seen at least a sniff of big league team, and all are currently on the active roster, but at this point they all have the feel of backup options should the other pieces around them not work out.Wild CardsMy god, what a horrendous pair of years for Brandon Finnegan. After suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that cut short his 2017 season, Finnegan shredded his other shoulder in a boat-dock fail, and was forced to rehab both of them entering 2018. Then, his 2018 season went off the rails immediately, and since being optioned to AAA, things have somehow actually gotten worse. Currently the owner of a 7.21 ERA and 1.93 WHIP as both a starter and reliever with Louisville, it’s hard to get a feel for where, if ever, he’ll re-carve a role with the Reds, though he’s obviously shown plenty of ability when healthy for years as a top prospect, college ace, and effective early big league pitcher.Then, there’s Jimmy Herget, who looks the part of the lone obvious addition to the 40-man roster the Reds will need to make this winter prior to the Rule 5 Draft. The lanky 24 year old has been a bit more hittable in 2018 than in 2017, but still owns a solid 9.9 K/9 in his 55.2 IP, and his throwing motion would certainly provide the big league bullpen with a different look.A full 126 MLB pitchers have thrown at least 90 IP in the big leagues this year. Dead last among all of them in ERA is Homer Bailey, at 6.17. Almost dead last among all of them in FIP is Homer Bailey, at 5.61, sitting just 0.01 behind both Lucas Giolito and Francisco Liriano’s obscene 5.62 marks. Due $23 million for 2019 with a $5 million buyout on a $25 million 2020 option C. J. Cron Jersey , the Reds have finally, finally reached the point where they might be willing to eat a big pile of money to get Homer as far from ruining a rotation as possible, though that’s still completely up in the air. Should they not move him - or cut him outright - he’ll still be around in the mix for a spot on the roster, likely as a starter given his disdain for working in a relief role. That, of course, will throw a huge wrench into how the staff shakes out, but there’s little to deny that the only reason he’d ‘earn’ a spot among the 13 staff arms next season would be financially driven.Finally, there’s Harvey, who’s set to be a free agent at season’s end. If the rumblings around the Reds are true - that owner Bob Castellini is imminently interested in signing him to stick around beyond 2018, as both ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and FanCred’s Jon Heyman alluded to when he was pulled off waivers last week - then a third ‘lock’ in the 2019 rotation might already be in-house, even if he’s not yet signed on the dotted line of a new contract next to the signature of agent Scott Boras. I’m not about to get into what that would entail, both financially and philosophically, but that would effectively add another ‘lock’ to this list, bringing that grand total to just 7. The Crawfish Boxes Top 30 Astros Prospects list will be revealed shortly before the season- here are the players that I found myself furthest apart from AstrosFuture on."Collaborating on a prospect list is always an illuminating exercise, and often leads to my opinions changing rapidly over the course of discussion. That is something that has happened recently as I’ve discussed my rankings with AstrosFuture, but there are a handful of players I feel strongly about, one way or another, and continue to differ on. Here’s a look at some of those names ahead of the full list’s release. Luis Santana, 2BThe first of two players acquired in the J.D. Davis deal that will appear in this article, Santana has typically been placed near the back of Astros top 30s this spring. While he isn’t a physical prospect and has an unorthodox hitting style, it’s one that really works for him and I rate his feel for the game highly. He’s undersized and doesn’t bring five-tool potential, but I really believe in Santana’s ability to hit and that’s enough for me to rank him aggressively as it’s the rarest skill in young prospects. I see Santana as a potential regular with medium risk at second base and thus ranked him as the #12 prospect in the system. Yordan Alvarez, Corner/DHAnyone who follows me on Twitter is probably familiar with my evaluation of Alvarez, whom I see as a longshot to handle serious outfield work at the major league level. His bat still profiles just fine at first base or DH, but I don’t think he is a top 50 prospect in that role, more of a fringe top 100 prospect in baseball. That shouldn’t be seen as shade, and there’s no question that Alvarez brings plus-to-plus-plus power and potential for average hitting ability to the table which on its own makes him an exciting prospect regardless of his long-term defensive home. He made strides with his approach in 2018 which bolsters his projection, but doesn’t have the immaculate discipline of a Seth Beer. This shouldn’t be taken as me saying Alvarez won’t make it in the bigs, this is just an extremely strong system with some players that I like even more. There has been some positive buzz about Alvarez’s outfield work this spring out of the Astros camp, and if he ends up holding down a LF job every day in the big leagues I will gleefully eat crow. Brandon Bailey, RHPLike the first two prospects mentioned, Bailey was acquired by the Astros via a trade for a player on the periphery of the ML roster. I’ve written about Bailey extensively here on Crawfish Boxes and most of our readers are likely familiar with why I like him so much at this point. His fastball is a plus pitch in the low 90s with explosive arm-side run, and he can really spin a breaking ball as well. He’s an undersized righty and his offspeed stuff is more solid than wipeout, but it has been improving recently and I think there is plenty of potential for Bailey to beat the odds and become a long-term starting pitcher. He also profiles well in the bullpen if the rotation doesn’t work out. I currently have Bailey ranked all the way up at #13 in the system. Myles Straw http://www.raysfanproshop.com/authentic-evan-longoria-jersey , CFI agree with most assessments of Straw’s ability, I just think his profile is being undervalued by prospect evaluators. He has next-to-no power, but the rest of his game is strong enough that I still see a 2-win player with extremely low risk. Straw covers a lot of ground in CF, has surprising arm strength, great bat-to-ball ability and is a 7 runner. Most evaluations agree with all of those points, but still place Straw in the teens somewhere. Personally I think his very high floor warrants a ranking in the back end of the top ten, and I placed him 9th- a meteoric rise for the former walk-on. AstrosFuture and I actually agree on Straw, and his inclusion in this post represents (mild) disagreement with the opinions of the prospect evaluation community at large. Framber Valdez, LHPAnother player I am a bit lower on, I place Valdez behind pitching prospects such as the aforementioned Bailey, Rogelio Armenteros, Bryan Abreu and Jayson Schroeder. Valdez can contribute in the big leagues now, but I don’t think he will be able to establish himself as either a long-term starter or late inning reliever, as he is largely a two-pitch guy with lacking command, which I don’t see as projecting especially well to either role. He can get big leaguers out, but I think his future is as a middle or long reliever which pushed him down into the 20s on the organizational ranking for me. Ross Adolph, OFYet another trade acquisition. Adolph was acquired alongside Santana in the Astros’ swindling of the Mets earlier this offseason, and could make a leap in the Astros’ organizational rankings if he is able to stay healthy and his tools continue to pop. A surprising athlete, Adolph brings average-to-above average power and speed to the table, and could be the type of player that can handle CF occasionally on off days. He’s struggled greatly with injury going back to his prep days, but his 2018 was a healthy, bounceback year in which he dominated NCAA pitching and had a strong pro debut in short-season ball. Adolph may well end up profiling as a reserve outfielder, but I think the tools here are pretty real and see a potential 20/20 threat if it all comes together. I ranked him as the #21 prospect in the system and considered him a few spots higher. Jeremy Pena, SSI’m not too far off from overall opinion on Pena as most evaluators seem to be fans, but I do have him a handful of spots higher on my list than on most others I’ve seen and wanted to take the opportunity to praise his play. A third-round selection out of Maine, Pena is a glove-first shortstop with speed and some feel for hitting. He’s unlikely to ever make power a big part of his game, but that’s okay given the rest of his profile. Pena is a lock to stay up the middle and is pairs his plus speed with good instincts. I am a fan of Pena’s contact ability and see him developing into an average hitter whose glove can earn him a spot near the bottom of a lineup, where his baserunning ability can make him a modest offensive contributor. With his fielding and running ability, Pena brings two very stable and valuable skills to the table and won’t need to set the world on fire with his bat to produce. I placed him inside the Astros Top-25 prospects.
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