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5 Reasons Reds Phenom Tony Cingrani Can Already Be MLB Star in 2013

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2013

5 Reasons Reds Phenom Tony Cingrani Can Already Be MLB Star in 2013

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    He's no Johnny Cueto, but Cincinnati Reds starter Tony Cingrani looks like he has the makings of a star after his first two MLB starts.

    When Cueto went down with an injury, Cingrani was the easy choice to call up. The southpaw dominated the minors last year. 

    It's still way too early to declare him a star, but he has been outstanding through two starts with the club. If he keeps pitching this way, he's going to put a lot of pressure on Mike Leake to keep his hot streak up.

    Reds fans may have panicked after Cueto got injured. Cingrani has done enough to put those worries aside and let Cueto take his time recovering from his injury.

    What makes Cingrani a rising star?

     

    *All stats are courtesy of baseball-reference.com

Strikeouts

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    Cingrani's biggest weapon is his ability to get strikeouts. He doesn't have a blazing fastball like Aroldis Chapman, but it gets the hitters out anyway.

    FanGraphs lists his average fastball as 92 mph. That's nothing special, but he elevates it easily and gets hitters to chase it.

    When Monday night's game (box score courtesy of MLB.com) began, Cingrani was ready to go. He struck out the side in the first on 12 pitches. He finished the game with nine strikeouts in seven frames, which gives him 17 in only 12 innings through two starts.

    Between Louisville and Cincinnati, he is averaging 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings this season. He has never finished a season below 10 strikeouts per nine. His career average is 13.8 strikeouts per nine, and that is a ridiculous number for a starter.

    As long as the hitters continue to chase his high fastball, Cingrani will continue to rack up strikeouts. 

    Reds pitchers have 201 strikeouts on the season,which ranks second behind the Boston Red Sox for the most in baseball, so Cingrani fits right in. 

Great Control

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    The strikeout numbers suggest that Cingrani has pretty good control, and the walk numbers show it as well.

    In 26.1 innings in 2013, the left-hander has walked five batters. He has issued only three free passes in 12 innings with the Reds, and he is averaging nearly six strikeouts per walk. That's a pretty good line for any pitcher, but it's remarkable for a youngster.

    Cingrani has thrown 228.2 innings with the organization, but he has only walked 65 batters. That equates to 2.6 walks per nine innings. In comparison, Homer Bailey has only finished below that mark three times in his career and look how good he has turned out to be.

    Bailey was dominant in the minors, but he never finished averaging more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings. Cingrani has better strikeout and walk rates than his teammate did, so it bodes well for the future.

    Pitching in Great American Ball Park is tough. Limiting the walks is one way to make it easier, and Cingrani has pounded the strike zone in his career.

Unhittable Stuff

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    As the strikeouts would indicate, Tony Cingrani is tough to hit.

    The 23-year-old has allowed 10 hits in 12 innings with the Reds this season. He has allowed only five hits in each of his starts in 2013, and opposing hitters are having a hard time making solid contact.

    His numbers in the minors were ridiculous. He was as good as it gets in his first start of the year in Louisville, and it was such an outstanding performance that it won him the International Player of the Week.

    #Bats pitcher Tony Cingrani has been named the IL's Pitcher of the Week following his six no-hit innings w/ 14 K against Toledo on Thursday.

    — Louisville Bats (@LouisvilleBats) April 8, 2013

    He struck out 14 batters in only six innings of work and threw only 84 pitches. The only blemish was a walk, but he dominated the Toledo Mud Hens.

    In 14 innings with Louisville, he allowed three hits. His numbers are off the chart, and it looks like he is ready for the majors.

    Cingrani's current 2.25 ERA is the highest it has ever been. He has a career 1.65 ERA, which includes his major league numbers.

    He has held hitters in the minors to a .183 average, and he has allowed only 14 hits in 17 innings in two seasons with the Reds.

    Pitching in the minors is different than pitching in the majors, but Cingrani has been missing bats everywhere he has pitched.

Keeps the Ball in the Ballpark

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    The key to pitching in Great American Ball Park is knowing how to keep the ball in the park. Tony Cingrani hasn't had to worry about serving up home runs in his career, and he will be tough to beat if he continues to avoid them.

    In 211.1 innings in the the minors, he has allowed only 10 home runs. That's an average of 21 innings between long balls. Johnny Cueto went an average of 14 innings in between home runs last year.

    However, Cingrani did fall victim to the ballpark's reputation. He allowed a first-row shot to Cody Ransom of the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, video courtesy of MLB.com. It was certainly a ball that could have been robbed, but it found the seats.

    He has allowed two homers in two starts with the Reds, but they haven't been long shots. It may show up in the stat sheet as a home run, but it's a promising sign to see that hitters aren't launching the ball off the 23-year-old.

Bryan Price

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    Pitching coaches often get too much of the blame but none of the credit. Bryan Price gets a lot of credit for his work with Cincinnati's staff, and he deserves it for how well they have performed in recent years.

    Price has helped Homer Bailey mature as a pitcher and become a stud. The pitching coach has also helped Aroldis Chapman work through some struggles. Even Johnny Cueto has benefited from having Price's help.

    After a strong seven innings of work on Tuesday, Cingrani was met in the dugout by Price. The pitching coach was giving him feedback despite a fantastic performance. 

    It probably helps Cingrani to have catcher Corky Miller up here as well. The veteran catcher has worked with Cingrani in the minors, so a familiar face is good to have.

    Price has turned a staff loaded with young arms into one of the best in baseball. He had only one starting pitcher above 26 years old last season and finished with the fifth-best ERA in the majors.

    Cincinnati has developed many young arms in recent years, and Price has been the man behind the product. With a great pitching coach to work with, Cingrani should blossom into a star in no time.

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