This year, all of the rookie pitchers have started for the Reds. The word “all” may feel imprecise to you, but it’s true, go look it up. (Stop, it isn’t really true). The thing about rookies is there rookie-ness. That is, who knows what to expect with small samples and yada, yada, yada. But I want to gather some idea of what we might see since these young men are likely The Future Of The Reds. And so, I wondered what it would look like if we pretended all the rookies were just one rookie.
Thus, I have combined all the rookie starting pitchers minus Josh Smith (we will cut him some slack for that one disastrous start) into an ur-rookie made of parts of DeSclafani, Lorenzen, Iglesias, and Moscot, who has pitched enough innings to tell us something (ignoring that there is no good reason for combining the performances of four separate pitchers). Here is what said pitcher looks like (note, these numbers do not include DeSclafani’s solid start last night):
Avg. Age: 24
Innings Pitched: 174.2
Okay, so that’s definitely a pitcher and not a belly-itcher. I find that relieving. I was little afraid the peripherals would make it really ugly, but they don’t. In fact, the ur-rookie has been fairly close to a league-average pitcher. Some of that is because of some likely home run luck (as in, we’d expect more homers in the future), but the picture is not bleak. The FIP isn’t great, but it’s okay. The strikeouts need to go up a bit and the walks need to go down a bit, but again, things are okay, especially when we look at some mitigating factors. With the exception of DeSclafani, none of them were really supposed to be up this year; you have, in that sample, three guys who weren’t really ready. Also, their average age is just 24, meaning there is still time for growth as these players mature. It would be different if we were looking at a crop of 28-year-olds. Fortunately, we aren’t.
So what might the future hold?
Generally speaking, starting-pitcher performance holds steady until about age-28, when it starts to decline steadily. If we were to make the most conservative possible assumption, which is that these pitchers don’t improve at all, the Reds can expect to squeeze two or three mid-to-bottom of the rotation starters from this group through their free agent years, at which point, they’d generally be expected to let them go as they’ll all be hitting the decline phase.
There are four different pitchers in that sample, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see one of them break out. If I were guessing who that would be, I’d guess Iglesias, but you can’t make much money guessing on pitchers. In the end, it’s best to assume that one of the four will wash out, two of them will be perfectly solid starters and the fourth will be a kind of wildcard. Maybe the Reds get something excellent from him, maybe they get nothing.
For a team that looks as though it may have only Homer Bailey returning next year, this is more promising that I’d expected. There are still good prospects in the minors where Stephenson and Garrett seem to be getting it together nicely.
In recent years, the pitching has been so good, that a lot of Reds fans have forgotten that there is value in league-average pitchers. Every team needs some of them, and better to have them in the system than to try and sign them out of free agency.
Frankly, this exercise has made me much more at peace with the idea of a firesale. If the Reds can load up on prospects, a turnaround might happen much faster than we would have expected, as it seems that a new pitching rotation might not be so hard to put together after all.