Top Starter Candidates Once Harvey Is Traded

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Trade season is underway. Manny Machado is taking his talents to Hollywood, and Matt Harvey is on his way to… somewhere. Honestly, I won’t be surprised if Harvey is traded before this column is published. He’s the only player on the Reds roster who absolutely has to be traded. The Reds got him hoping they could flip him, and he’s pitched well. So he’s out the door.

For those of us watching the Reds daily, that might not be so great. After all, Harvey has pitched very well lately and someone else is going to have to take those starts. Let’s take a look at the top candidates.

Homer Bailey

Recent History: It seems the Homer-to-the-pen experiment is over before it started. He’s still got that big contract, and even though it’s a sunk cost, it seems ownership wants to give him another go in the rotation. His recent starts in Louisville have mostly gone well, so he’s going to get a shot.

What to Expect: Grittiness? I really don’t know. Best case is probably a No. 4 starter. At no point since he returned last year has he struck out batters like he needs to, and I see no reason to expect him to magically start doing it again. But I’ve been wrong before.

Robert Stephenson

Recent History: The mercurial and perpetual prospect is looking like he might, maybe, possibly have figured it out. Since June 13, he’s had a stretch of six starts in which he’s pitched 36 innings while walking 12 and striking out 47. Those numbers are excellent.

What to Expect: If he can continue to keep his walks down (he’s averaged more than five walks per nine innings in the majors), he is unquestionably the best option to join the rotation. Cross your fingers that he keeps it up, because if there is one thing that’s marked his career, it’s inconsistency. It has been several years since he had a run like this, but it’s impossible to tell. I think a mid-rotation starter is the least likely result. It feels like he’ll either be an ace or a disaster.

Cody Reed

Recent History: While the results haven’t been quite as good, the peripheral numbers say Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson have performed equally well this year. Reed has struck out fewer batters, but he’s also walked fewer. He hasn’t had the same run of sustained success that Stephenson has, however. That means if he’s in the rotation, it’s likely because his schedule lines up and they need him for a spot start or two.

What to Expect: Reed has a similar ceiling to Stephenson even if it feels like it will be a little harder for him to reach. If he has his head on straight now, there’s no reason to think he won’t be a major league pitcher, even if it’s only a middle-relief guy. He doesn’t have much longer to prove he can stick as a starter.

Jose Lopez

Recent History: While his overall numbers in Louisville are far from impressive, it’s mostly been the result of a few blow-up starts. I’ve talked to Lopez and Bats manager Dick Schofield. The impression is that Lopez is someone who works hard and is ready to listen to coaches and make adjustments when there’s a kink in the system. He has good command of the strike zone, walking only 2.81 batters per nine innings, and while he doesn’t have a crazy strikeout rate like Stephenson, he does generate a lot of weak contact.

What to Expect: The least likely of all the pitchers listed to be in the rotation is still a fair bet to eventually get an extended shot. He projects to be more of a control artist than and over-powering force, meaning he’s a No. 3-5 starter more than likely. Guys like him do have a way of sticking around for a long time if they’re able to perform.

Jason Linden is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, Redleg Nation, and The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @JasonLinden.

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