Pitching has been the strength of the Cincinnati Reds the past few seasons, and stability in the rotation is the reason that the club is going to continue to contend.
Cincinnati's rotation finished near the top of the majors in most of the major categories. Despite pitching in Great American Ball Park, the staff has found a way to get the job done.
There isn't much to guess about when it comes to what the Reds rotation will look like in 2014.
Whether or not the club was going to bring back Bronson Arroyo was the only question about the rotation heading into the offseason. It looks like the organization has made its decision, so keep reading to see what that decision is.
Starting pitching can win a championship, so let's see who will be a part of the Cincinnati rotation in the upcoming season.
*All stats are via MLB.com.
2013 stats: 11 GS, 5-2, 2.82 ERA, 60.2 IP, 7 HR, 51 K/18 BB, 1.05 WHIP
When healthy, Johnny Cueto is the ace of the staff. Staying healthy is the key, however.
The 27-year-old made only 11 starts in 2013. He injured his side in the 2012 NLDS, and he had side issues throughout this past season. He made an adjustment to his twisting windup, so hopefully that will be enough to stay healthy.
Cueto has been an absolute stud in recent years. Here are his earned run averages from 2011 to 2013: 2.31, 2.78 and 2.82. Those are incredible numbers, even more impressive given his home ballpark.
He won 19 games in 2012, so there is potential for him to be in the running for the National League Cy Young Award when he makes 30 starts in a season.
Pitching to contact rather than going for strikeouts has been the key for Cueto. The right-hander has learned to keep his pitch count under control in order to go deep into games. Even when a runner gets on base, he is lucky if he can move up a base. Cueto has allowed only four stolen bases in the past three seasons combined, thanks to a strong move to first base.
A full offseason and a modified windup should help the ace stay healthy. If Cueto can take the ball every fifth day in 2014, the Reds will be serious contenders.
2013 stats: 32 GS (1 CG), 14-7, 3.16 ERA, 210.2 IP, 14 HR, 187 K/58 BB, 1.21 WHIP
Not many teams could survive without their ace. The Reds are fortunate to be one team that can, thanks to Mat Latos.
Johnny Cueto goes down in the 2012 playoffs; Latos steps in. Cueto goes down again this past season; Latos turns it up.
Over his first two seasons in Cincinnati, the 26-year-old has made himself right at home. He is 28-11 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP in 65 starts with the Reds. He has topped the 200-inning mark in both seasons, so he has become a workhorse.
In 2013, the right-hander went 9-2 with a 2.77 ERA at Great American Ball Park. Many pitchers struggle to pitch in the hitter-friendly park. His earned run average in Cincinnati (2.94) is lower than what it is in San Diego (2.99). That's crazy.
Fans should be thrilled about the next stat. Latos went 3-1 with a 2.38 ERA against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013. He knows how to pitch against the team's biggest rival, so that is great news.
Unfortunately for the Reds, Latos suffered an injury at the wrong time last year. He had bone chips in his throwing elbow, which caused him to miss the Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The pitcher had surgery to remove the bone chips shortly after the season and should be ready to go in the spring, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay.
A combination of Cueto and Latos at the front of the rotation gives the Reds a pair of top-notch starters.
2013 stats: 32 GS (2 CG/1 SO), 11-12, 3.49 ERA, 20 HR, 199 K/54 BB, 1.12 WHIP
Homer Bailey is entering the final year of his contract, which meant the team could have tried to shop him this offseason. The team isn't interested in doing so and is looking to lock up the star pitcher, according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
As Sheldon wrote, Jocketty doesn't think that it will be easy to sign the 27-year-old to a long-term contract.
Bailey set personal bests in innings pitched, earned run average, WHIP and strikeouts this past season. He continues to get better, which gives the Reds a great chance of winning the NL Central in 2014.
The right-hander has two no-hitters to his name. Although Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos have better overall numbers, Bailey has arguably the best stuff of any pitcher in the rotation. He has learned to save his arm in the early innings and pull out a 97-mph heater when needed.
There may still be some doubt as to whether or not Bailey will spend the season in Cincinnati. His contract situation makes it a difficult decision, but there is no question that the Reds would be better off with Bailey on the roster.
Outside of the Los Angeles Dodgers, there may not be a team in the majors with a better front of the rotation than the Reds. Bailey gives the Reds three aces, which gives the team a great chance to make a run in October.
2013 stats: 31 GS, 14-7, 3.37 ERA, 192.1 IP, 21 HR, 122 K/48 BB, 1.25 WHIP
Many Reds fans were pleasantly surprised by Mike Leake in 2013. He had a rough 2012 campaign, but he turned things around in a hurry.
Leake got off to a slow start this past season. He allowed at least four runs in each of his first two starts. He allowed more than four runs in a game only twice over his next 20 starts.
Through July, the 26-year-old was worthy of making the All-Star team. He hit a wall in August, but he allowed only six runs over his final four starts.
Leake still allows runners, but he succeeded because of his ability to induce double plays. Opposing batters hit into 23 double plays last year, which was easily the best total of his career.
The right-hander has increased his innings total by at least 12 in each of his first four seasons. If he continues that pace, he will top the 200-inning mark for the first time.
Fans tend to forget that he went from college straight to the majors. He has gone 42-29 with a 3.99 ERA in four seasons in the majors. For a No. 5 starter, he has been a great find.
Now that he has shown just how good he can be, there will be pressure on him to repeat his great season. Bronson Arroyo was a key influence on Leake. With the veteran gone, Leake will have to adjust to be the No. 4 pitcher on his own.
Leake has to show that he can pitch great in back-to-back seasons, something he has yet to do. He took a big step forward in 2013, and now he will be asked to put up similar numbers again this year.
2013 stats (as starter): 18 GS, 7-4, 2.77 ERA, 97.1 IP, 14 HR, 109 K/36 BB, 1.04 WHIP
The Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay reported that Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said Bronson Arroyo doesn't fit in the team's budget. Assuming that nothing changes, Tony Cingrani will grab the final spot in the rotation.
Johnny Cueto's multiple trips to the disabled list could have been devastating. Luckily for Cincinnati, it had Cingrani dominating in the minors.
The southpaw put up phenomenal numbers in his first year in the majors. He struck out more than one per inning and posted a strong earned run average and WHIP.
Cingrani has a great fastball, which is what he relies on. When he got to an 0-2 count on hitters, batters got only one hit compared to 51 strikeouts in 80 at-bats against him.
As a starter, he held batters to a .192 average. He held right-handers to a .200 average and left-handers to a .186 average. That's with using his fastball the majority of the time.
Cingrani's fastball is great, but he still does need to develop his secondary pitches. The 24-year-old used his fastball 81 percent of the time, according to FanGraphs. It worked for him during his first year in the majors, but now that hitters have seen him, he may have to adjust.
A back injury caused him to miss time late in the season. That is one concern that the organization should have entering the 2014 season. When healthy, the rotation is as good as it gets. However, Cueto and Cingrani both dealt with injuries this past season. Arroyo is as durable as it gets, which is key for a team that doesn't have much pitching depth in the minors.
The expectation is for Cingrani to be the No. 5 starter in Cincinnati this year. He has had an offseason to prepare for his role and develop secondary pitches. If he can mix up his pitches, Cingrani will be even tougher to hit.