The 2014 season is quickly approaching, and the time has come to break down the Reds' pitchers and catchers.
The team returns essentially the same pitching staff from last season, with the only major differences being the loss of Bronson Arroyo and subsequent addition of Tony Cingrani as a full-time starter.
The catching situation has changed rather dramatically this offseason though, as Devin Mesoraco is set to take over full-time catching duties this year following the departure of teammate Ryan Hanigan. Additionally, the team brought in veteran backstop Brayan Pena to serve as Mesoraco's backup.
In the bullpen, not much changes. Aside from the prospect of having both Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall available for a full, healthy season, the bullpen is pretty well set. With the composition of the three units essentially decided on, the Reds have a total of 14 players between their pitching staff and catching unit.
Over the remainder of this article, we'll look at scouting reports for each player as well as some projections for their 2014 stat lines.
Pitch usage rates and velocities courtesy of Brooksbaseball.net.
Role: Backup Catcher
DOB: 01/07/1982 (Age: 32)
Height/Weight: 5'9", 230 pounds
MLB Experience: 6.081 Years
Brayan Pena will step in this season as the Reds' new backup catcher, replacing long-time Red, Ryan Hanigan.
Pena, a 32-year-old and career backup, is as aggressive as any hitter in baseball. Over his nine-year career, Pena has averaged 3.75 pitches per plate appearance. Pena does, however, have an insanely high contact rate of 86.4 percent and a balls in play percentage of 81 percent.
Because of Pena's aggressiveness and advanced feel for the strike zone, he doesn't walk much. Pena's career walk rate rests at a 4.6 percent—nearly half the MLB average over his career.
In short, if Pena's plate appearances don't result in hits, don't expect to see him on base much.
Defensively, Pena is a significant downgrade from Hanigan—then again, so is just about every catcher not named Molina. The veteran backstop is deceptively quick behind the plate and has a good enough arm to throw out an above-average percentage of would-be base stealers—29 percent for his career, compared to the nine-year league average of 27 percent.
2014 Projections: 56 G, 227 PA 210 AB, .252/.295/.352, 3 HR, 11 2B, 23 RBI, 19 R, 25:13 K/BB
Role: Starting Catcher
DOB: 06/19/1988 (Age: 25)
Height/Weight: 6'1", 230 pounds
MLB Experience: 2.028 years
Devin Mesoraco was once one of the most highly touted catching prospects in all of baseball, clocking in at No. 16 on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list for the 2012 season.
The 25-year-old has just over a full season's worth of games under his belt and is the owner of a .225/.282/.359 slash line, 16 home runs, 24 doubles, 62 RBI, 53 runs scored and a 104:44 K/BB ratio. Mesoraco's counting stats are solid given the inconsistencies in his starting opportunities, however, concerns surrounding his batting average and OBP are an issue.
Mesoraco, like Pena, takes an aggressive approach to hitting, so walks are few and far between. Over his career, Mesoraco has averaged 3.68 pitches per at-bat. Additionally, the Pennsylvania native swings at 78.9 percent of strikes seen and 50.2 percent of pitches in general—both above league average during his career.
Luckily, Mesoraco has a great feel for the strike zone and, when he runs into one, he's going to hit it hard. Over his 175-game career, Mesoraco boasts a line-drive rate of 22 percent (compared to the league average of 20 percent over his career) and a HR/FB percentage of 8.0 percent (league average for his career is 7.7 percent).
Defensively, Mesoraco is right around league average. For his career, Mesoraco boasts a 25 percent caught stealing percentage, three percentage points lower than league average over that same time. In addition to a league-average attack against would-be base runners, Mesoraco is slightly above-average in terms of blocking balls in the dirt, as indicated by his 2.0 RPP last season.
2014 Projections: 125 G, 507 PA, 461 AB, .252/.312/.408. 16 HR, 24 2B, 69 RBI, 51 R, 89:41 K/BB
Role: Long Relief
DOB: 05/08/1981 (Age: 32)
Height/Weight: 6'6", 265 pounds
MLB Experience: 4.142 Years
The Cincinnati Reds made an outstanding pickup when they grabbed Alfredo Simon off waivers at the start of the 2012 season. Simon was right in the middle of attempting to transition to a relief role from a not-so-good starting pitcher role when the Reds snagged him, and it's been a match made in heaven.
Simon features a deep repertoire including a fastball, sinker, cutter, curveball and splitter which he uses to generate decent strikeout totals—7.0 K/9 in Cincinnati—while also displaying impeccable command—2.9 BB/9 in Cincinnati.
Simon is a clutch performer as well. Although his appearances generally carry a below-average level of pressure—.778 aLI as a Red—Simon generally comes through when inheriting baserunners, as indicated by his 20 percent inherited runners scored percentage as a Red.
Simon isn't required for high-leverage situations, as the Reds have a considerable number of pitchers better suited for those roles. However, when given the chance Simon generally delivers with key multi-inning performances.
2014 Projections: 60 G, 81.1 IP, 3-2 W-L, 3.43 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 2.50 K/BB, 7.4 H/9
Role: Middle Relief/Left-Handed Specialist
DOB: 10/30/1982 (Age: 31)
Height/Weight: 6'3", 205 pounds
MLB Experience: 6.063 Years
Despite a rocky start to the 2013 season—8.44 ERA through Jun. 7th—Manny Parra was able to right the ship and turn in an all-around impressive campaign. Over 57 appearances, Parra logged 46 innings with a 3.33 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and per-nine ratios of 11.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 7.8 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9.
Parra's repertoire consists primarily of a fastball and a slider, but he does occasionally mix in a splitter and a sinker—11.48 and 9.88 percent usage rates in 2013.
Despite the presence of the splitter and sinker, Parra relies heavily on his fastball and slider, and that plays in his favor when facing left-handed batters. Parra, like most left-handed pitchers, throws a fastball that tails in on left-handed hitters and works perfectly as a set-up pitch for his wipe-out slider.
While Parra's pitch selection and movement favor his use as a left-handed specialist, so do his mechanics. Parra does little to hide the ball throughout his throwing motion and, because of that, right-handed hitters have an easier time keying in on his hand placement and, subsequently, pitch location.
These tendencies present themselves in Parra's splits against left-handed and right-handed batters.
Against lefties, Parra carries a career slash line against of .253/.334/.392 compared to a .291/.371/.442 slash line allowed against right-handed hitters—this includes his time as a starting pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers.
That said, as a reliever, the difference between the two slash lines allowed becomes even more stark. Last season, Parra allowed a .167/.237/.238 slash line against left-handed hitters and a .310/.370/.524 slash line against right-handed hitters.
Provided he isn't overused against right-handed hitters, Parra should continue to be an effective reliever for the Reds over the duration of his new, two-year contract.
2014 Projections: 53 G, 42.2 IP, 1-3 W-L, 3.16 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 3.85 K/BB, 7.8 H/9
Role: Middle Relief
DOB: 05/04/1984 (Age: 29)
Height/Weight: 6'0", 205 pounds
MLB Experience: 3.072 Years
Despite a lack of plus velocity—his fastball averaged out at 89.65 miles-per hour—Sam LeCure has managed to insert his name into the discussion of the most reliable relievers in the game.
What LeCure lacks in velocity, he makes up for in pitch selection and movement. LeCure features a five-pitch repertoire and does an outstanding job of balancing out his pitch selection—four of his five pitches carried a usage rate above 10 percent in 2013.
LeCure's off-speed pitches display enough movement to generate high whiff percentages—the percent of times a pitch results in a swing and miss. Over the 2013 season, LeCure's slider and curve generated whiff percentages of 15.25 and 21.25 percent, respectively.
LeCure's understanding of the game helps him in key situations as well. The team relied upon LeCure heavily in high-pressure situations—1.352 aLI in 2013—and LeCure lived up to expectations time in and time out. Over 60 appearances, LeCure allowed just 11 percent of inherited runners to score—the lowest percentage of any reliever on this list.
LeCure isn't going to blow any batters away with a fastball. However, he has command and confidence in all five of his pitches, giving him the ability to keep hitters off balance. Simply put, LeCure knows how to pitch, and his baseball IQ is as high as anyone in the Reds' bullpen.
2014 Projections: 56 G, 60 IP, 3-1 W-L, 2.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.95 K/BB, 7.3 H/9
Role: Middle/Late Reliever
DOB: 09/13/1987 (Age: 26)
Height/Weight: 6'3", 225 pounds
MLB Experience: 1.102
Since joining the Reds at the start of the 2012 season, J.J. Hoover has quickly become one of their most relied upon relief pitchers. Hoover has done this through improved command, increased aggressiveness and a solid fastball-curveball combo.
Despite an increase in his ERA over the 2012 season, Hoover continued to emerge as a reliable candidate in the Reds' bullpen—as evidenced by the increase in his aLI from 1.14 in 2012 to 1.34 in 2013. Despite the increase in the average level of pressure Hoover faced in a given outing, the 26-year-old showed progression in his walk rate, inherited runners scored percentage and WAR.
As Hoover progresses, it will be interesting to see how his changeup and slider progress. Hoover would benefit greatly from expanding his pitch arsenal to include an offering that looks more like his fastball, in an attempt to keep hitters off-balance.
Additionally, Hoover will need to continue his efforts to keep inherited runners from coming around to score. While he showed improvement in 2013, his IS% was still the highest of any consistent member of the Reds' bullpen.
2014 Projections: 65 G, 62.1 IP, 5-3 W-L, 3.03 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.78 K/BB, 6.3 H/9
Role: Setup/Late Relief
DOB: 06/16/1984 (Age: 29)
Height/Weight: 6'4", 310 pounds
MLB Experience: 8.020 Years
After acquiring him at the trade deadline during the 2012 season, Jonathan Broxton turned in an impressive performance over the season's second half. That performance netted him a three-year, $21 million contract through the 2015 season.
In 2013, the first year of his contract, the big right-hander allowed a 4.11 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP over 34 appearances. Though Reds fans have soured on Broxton a bit after his disappointing showing last seasons, a few things went into that stat line that warrant a closer look.
Broxton suffered through various injuries in 2013, and those injuries came to a head when the 29-year-old underwent season-ending surgery in August to repair a torn flexor mass in his forearm. In addition to that, Broxton was experimenting with new pitches through much of the season.
Take a look at the differences in pitch usage rates between Broxton's 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Broxton's arsenal went through a massive overhaul during the 2013 season. That, and the nagging injuries he dealt with certainly played a role in the regression we saw last season.
Expect Broxton to bounce back toward his pre-2013 form.
2014 Projections: 53 G, 53 IP, 2-2 W-L, 3.73 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.58 K/BB, 8.3 H/9
Role: Setup/Late Relief
DOB: 08/30/1982 (Age: 31)
Height/Weight: 6'7", 225 pounds
MLB Experience: 7.088 Years
Like Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall suffered through a season marred by injuries. The 31-year-old spent a prolonged period of time on the DL last season and didn't appear in a single game from May 21 through Sept. 16.
Unlike Broxton, however, when Marshall was on the mound, he was incredibly effective. The veteran lefty allowed a 1.74 ERA and a 0.58 WHIP while averaging 8.7 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 5.0 K/BB and 3.5 H/9.
Marshall compiled that impressive stat line through the use of a good sinker, a decent slider and an outstanding curve. Marshall relies mostly on those three pitches—they accounted for 93.33 percent of his pitches last season—and they generally produce great results.
Over the course of his big league career, Marshall owns a GB/FB rate of 1.00. More impressively, with the Reds, that GB/FB rate jumps up to 1.27.
Essentially, Marshall generates 1.27 ground balls for every fly ball he allows. Compare that to the big league average of 0.80 over his big league career, and it's easy to see why Marshall has allowed a .218/.276/.284 slash line over his two seasons with the Reds.
With a full offseason of rehab and strength training, expect Marshall to be in top form over the 2014 season.
2014 Projections: 46 G, 45.2 IP, 3-3 W-L, 2.96 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 3.75 K/BB, 7.9 H/9
DOB: 02/28/1988 (Age: 25)
Height/Weight: 6'4", 205 pounds
MLB Experience: 3.034 Years
Aside from possibly Craig Kimbrel, no closer in baseball is more electric than Aroldis Chapman. The 6'4" lefty has velocity for days (his fastball averaged 98.20 miles-per hour in 2013), and when he chooses to throw it, his slider can be downright devastating.
Over the past four seasons, Chapman has generated incredible whiff percentages with his slider—29.82, 23.36, 23.31 and 23.38 percent in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. As you can imagine, based on the whiff percentages previously outlined, Chapman's opponents have a hard time hitting his slider—opposing hitters batted .103 against his slider in 2013.
Despite the outrageous success rate his slider carries with it, Chapman still draws heavily on his fastball, but it's hard to fault him for it.
The only drawback to Chapman's game is the volatility of his fastball. Outside of an outstanding 2012 season in which he allowed just 2.9 BB/9, the 25-year-old has averaged 5.3 BB/9 over his big league career.
Chapman's walk rate hasn't held him back much to this point in his career, but if he's able to scale back his walks, the young lefty could cement his claim of the title of best closer in the game.
2014 Projections: 66 G, 72.2 IP, 4-3 W-L, 32 SV, 2.23 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 15.6 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 3.94 K/BB, 5.2 H/9
Role: No. 5 Starter
DOB: 06/06/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6'4", 215 pounds
MLB Experience: 0.163 Years
After appearing in a very limited relief role during the 2012 season, Tony Cingrani dazzled last year in his rookie season. Over 18 starts—23 total appearances—with the big league club, Cingrani allowed a 2.92 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and per-nine ratios of 10.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 6.2 H/9 and 1.2 HR/9.
In terms of raw stuff, Cingrani is an overachiever. The 24-year-old worked primarily through his fastball—81.89 percent usage rate in 2013—and has unrefined secondary offerings.
Cingrani relies heavily on his ability to hide the ball late through his throwing motion and also on his ability to locate his fastball and, in turn, expand the strike zone by making hitters chase marginal pitches.
Though this worked for him to this point, Cingrani will need to expand and refine his secondary pitches. Cingrani's slider shows the most potential moving forward based on whiff percentages, batting averages against and slugging percentages against.
In 2013, opposing batters mustered a paltry .040 batting average and a .040 slugging percentage against his slider. Additionally Cingrani's slider resulted in a swing and miss 15.46 percent of the time he threw it.
Though he had success using his slider against opposing hitters, Cingrani elected to throw the pitch just 97 times during the 2013 season. Baseball is a game of adjustments, and the league will adjust to Cingrani.
The Reds have had good success developing their pitchers' secondary offerings—something you'll see over the next four slides—but they'll need to work quickly with Cingrani to stave off a massive bout of regression.
2014 Projections: 25 GS, 141.2 IP, 9-7 W-L, 3.62 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 2.52 K/BB, 7.3 H/9
Role: No. 4 Starter
DOB: 11/12/1987 (Age: 26)
Height/Weight: 5'10", 185 pounds
MLB Experience: 4.000 Years
After a rocky 2012 season, Mike Leake put the pieces together and turned in an outstanding performance in 2013. Over 31 starts, Leake logged 192.1 innings with a 3.37 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and per-nine ratios of 5.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 9.0 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9.
Despite Leake's impressive showing last season, there are still a few flaws in his game that will hinder his ability to retain such a low ERA through the 2014 season. Leake has a six-pitch repertoire, and he mixes his pitches well—his fourseam fastball has the lowest usage rate at 4.39 percent.
The caveat here though, is that only Leake's curveball ranks as a plus pitch—9.0 wCB in 2013. Leake's next closest pitch, his fastball, clocked in at 0.8 runs above average.
Because of this, Leake tends to get hit hard by opposing hitters. Take a look at the batting averages players were able to compile against each of Leake's six pitches in 2013.
Overall, Leake allowed a .263/.311/.407 slash line to opposing hitters, marking an improvement over his career mark of .272/.321/.438.
The contact breakdown is where things start to get really shaky though. Leake's career HR%, XBH%, X/H%, LD%, HR/FB, SO% and IF/FB rates are all worse than league average.
Essentially, Leake allows more home runs, extra-base hits and line drives while inducing less strikeouts and infield fly balls. However, Leake does generate a well above-average number of ground balls (career GB/FB of .97), and he has control over all six of his pitches (career 2.3 BB/9), allowing him to be aggressive in his attack of the strike zone.
Leake may see some natural regression this season, but if he can continue to keep up his high GB/FB ratio, then the 26-year-old should continue to settle in as a well above-average No. 4 starter.
2014 Projections: 31 GS, 201.1 IP, 13-10, 3.62 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 2.81 K/BB, 9.4 H/9
Role: No. 3 Starter
DOB: 05/03/1986 (Age: 27)
Height/Weight: 6'4", 230 pounds
MLB Experience: 5.017 Years
It took him a while to get there, but Homer Bailey has finally reached his potential—that potential once had him ranked as Baseball America's No. 9 prospect prior to the 2008 season. Over the past two seasons, Bailey is the owner of the 3.58 ERA, a 1.18 ERA and per-nine ratios of 7.9 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 8.3 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9.
As is true of most pitchers who grow and thrive in the Great American Ball Park, Homer Bailey has done a masterful job of adjusting his pitch repertoire. Bailey has increased the diversity of his pitch selection and has also furthered the development of pitches with downward movement—specifically his sinker, curve, slider and splitter.
Bailey's pitches tend to move down and away from right-handed hitters, which explains the decrease in his H/9 (7.8 down from 9.1 in 2009) and also the increase in his K/9 (8.6 up from 6.8 in 2009). Bailey has also improved his command over all five pitches, allowing 2.3 BB/9 over each of the last three seasons—compared to 4.1 BB/9 in 2009.
On the back of this shift in his approach to pitching, Bailey has slowly become one of the better pitchers in baseball. Last season, Bailey ranked in the NL's top 10 in innings pitched, strikeouts, starts, complete games, shutouts and K/BB.
Bailey is in a contract year and is looking to prove that he is one of the game's elite pitchers and, in turn, deserving of a rather large contract. Look for Bailey to take another moderate step forward in his progression during the 2014 season.
2014 Projections: 32 GS, 213 IP, 15-9 W-L, 3.30 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.81 K/BB, 7.7 H/9
Role: No. 2 Starter
DOB: 02/15/1986 (Age: 27)
Height/Weight: 5'11", 215 pounds
MLB Experience: 6.000 Years
Johnny Cueto's 2012 campaign culminated in a fourth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting, but his showings in the 2012 postseason—and the 2013 season as a whole—raised significant doubts about the 27-year-old's durability.
One of Cueto's defining traits, his signature twist, could be the problem. Though the twist gives Cueto an edge—both in his ability to hide the ball longer into his throwing motion and because it's foreign to most hitters—it puts undue stress on his lat. Remember, it was a lat injury that caused Cueto to be pulled from his 2012 postseason start and cost him roughly 21 or 22 starts in 2013.
Cueto's ability to pitch, and pitch well, is rarely in question—2.61 ERA and 1.13 WHIP since 2011. Cueto, much like we'll see with Mat Latos, has worked to develop pitches that play well in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Consider Cueto's pitch usage rates and the differences between those usage rates in 2009 and 2013.
Cueto has shown a stark departure from his four-seam fastball and has relied more heavily on his sinker, cutter and changeup. The sinker, cutter and changeup all have downward motion, and the pitches either ride in on, or run away from opposing batters. These pitch types, in general, help to induce weaker contact, as evidenced by the batting averages opposing hitters have compiled against these pitches.
Despite Cueto's high baseball IQ, his showing in the 2013 postseason brought about significant questions regarding his ability to pitch in big-game situations. During the wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cueto was visibly shaken by the Pirates' faithful who bombarded him by repeatedly chanting his last name.
Cueto will need to make roughly 30 starts, at the level we've become accustomed to seeing, in order to quell some of the concerns regarding his durability and mental make up.
2014 Projections: 28 GS, 186.1, 11-7 W-L, 3.21 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 2.94 K/BB, 7.7 H/9
Role: No. 1 Starter
DOB: 12/09/1987 (Age: 26)
Height/Weight: 6'6", 245 pounds
MLB Experience: 4.079 Years
When the Reds acquired Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres prior to the 2012 season, much was made about the transition from the friendly confines of PetCo Park to Great American Ball Park and how it would influence his performance. After two seasons in Cincinnati, those concerns have been laid to rest.
The 26-year-old has adapted as well as anyone could imagine and is averaging 0.85 GB/FB in his time with the Reds—the league average over his career is 0.81. Additionally, despite an increase in his BAbip from 2012 to 2013, Latos saw decreases his HR%, XBH% and X/H%.
Latos has managed this seamless transition through the development of his secondary pitches and the increased implementation of said pitches. Consider the usage rates of Latos' four most used pitches and how those percentages have changed from 2010, Latos' last season as a Padre, and 2013, his most successful season as a Red.
Since 2010, Latos has moved away from his fastball and has relied more heavily on his heavy sinker, curve and slider. This has helped Latos keep hitters off-balance and has also aided in his push to induce more ground balls.
As this trend continues, expect Latos' numbers to improve as he furthers his push into Cy Young Award consideration.
2014 Projections: 33 GS, 215.1 IP, 17-7 W-L, 3.01 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 3.44 K/BB 8.2 H/9