There’s nothing I like seeing more than a pitcher develop over the years. I’m not a fan of throwing a guy into the Major League experience with nothing prior to show for. You always see organizations rush players because of spring training stats. Usually, those players do well and then a debacle occurs.
This situation has presented itself this season with the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are dealing with the issue of who’s going to be their five man in the starting rotation. You can pick the pitcher everyone wants to see, with no experience (Arnoldis Chapman), the college phenom with no experience (Mike Leake), or the crafted lefty with years of minor league experience (Travis Wood).
But for myself, Travis Wood deserves the fifth starting spot in the 2009 Cincinnati Reds rotation. Wood posted a combined record of 13-5 with a 1.77 ERA in Double A Carolina and Triple A Louisville. He was the Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher. A Topps Double-A All-Star.
On top of that all, he was the MLB.com Double-A Starting Pitcher of the Year, winning the award over the likes of Rays prospect Jeremy Hellickson. The south paw also held hitters to a devastating .206 batting average.
There's not much to be said about Arnoldis Chapman. The Reds gave the man a six year deal worth about thirty million dollars. He's pitched in the 2009 World Baseball Classic for his country of Cuba. While he's dazzled this year in the Cactus League, he's been labeled with maturity issues. The 21-year-old also has to work on his awkward mechanics before getting the call. You don't want your prize possession getting hurt.
Finally, you now have Mike Leake. A first round pick of of last years after from Arizona St., Leake has absolutely nothing to show for. Leake went 16-1 for the Sun Devils last year, posting a 1.71 ERA while being named an NCAA All-American.
Leake signed very late with the Reds, so he didn't see any action during the regular season. However, he pitched in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Saguaros. He yet again posted impressive number, going 1-2 with a 1.35 ERA and a WHIP of 1.15.
It all comes down to one mans decision now. What will manager Dusty Baker do. It seems pretty clear to myself that the smart decision would be to name Travis Wood the fifth starter.
The Reds lack difference in their rotation. The 2010 rotation will go like this: Harang, Cueto, Arroyo, Bailey, blank. Right there, you have four right-handed pitchers. That isn't the greatest way to make a team adjust, even though all four of them are extremely talented.
Second reason: Travis Wood has spent five years in the Reds minor league system. It's not like you're calling the kid up from Double A with no experience beyond that. He pitched in Triple A last season and performed very well. With Leake and Chapman, you haven't seen what they've done against the minor leagues.
My third reason is health concerns. Like I've said, Wood has played in the minor leagues before. He knows how to prepare himself for the every fifth day start. Mike Leake on the other hand was strictly a Friday starter, where in college you have a selected day during the week when you would pitch. With Chapman, no one really knows what to expect. There's hardly any video available of him and very little scouting reports.
Both Leake and Wood faced off Friday against the Seattle Mariners. And to make the decision even harder for Dusty, they both matched each others performances. Both going four innings each, both surrendering a run. While Leake looked sharper than Wood, the race is becoming a little clearer. Chapman is scheduled to pitch Sunday due to a stiff back.
If I were Dusty Bake, the decision would be clear. Go with the crafted young lefty. He's the same age as Leake and has way more experience. You don't want to ruin two young talents (Leake and Chapman) because everyone in the world wants to see them. Remember Kerry Wood? Mark Prior? Don't let this happen to one of the more promising rotations in years to come.