One year ago as spring training was beginning for the Cincinnati Reds, I would venture to say that very few Reds fans had ever heard of a former college relief pitcher named Tony Cingrani. But, fast forward to the beginning of spring training 2013, and I would venture to say that there are very few Reds fans who have not heard of him.
To date, Cingrani has logged 202.1 professional innings over two seasons, mostly as a starter. Five of them have come at the major league level—his only innings in relief.
During those innings, he produced a 1.74 ERA, allowed a mere 137 hits and struck out a staggering 261 batters. To say he has been a dominant pitcher is like saying the sky is blue on a bright and sunny day—the clues speak for themselves.
The 23-yea- old left-hander has produced at every level and deserves a spot on the 25-man roster. But, adding him to the 25-man means that someone who is expected to make the roster out of camp will not. This creates a dilemma for Dusty Baker and Walt Jocketty.
So just who might Cingrani unseat from the bullpen bench? It probably comes down to one of two people: the newly signed Manny Parra or last season's scrap-heap pickup Alfredo Simon.
Let's take a look at Alfredo Simon first. Simon ate up some valuable innings last season and played his role very admirably. Over his 36 games and 61 IP, he produced a very respectable 2.66 ERA. His 1.43 WHIP leaves a little room for concern though.
It seems a bit unrealistic to expect him to repeat his 2012 performance, but not so unrealistic to expect a 3.50-ish ERA in 2013. For the role that Simon would be expected to play, such a performance would be very acceptable.
The Reds' recent signing of former Brewer Manny Parra has to be one of the more mind-boggling moves of the entire offseason. Parra's 2012 ERA was 5.06. His two previous seasons weren't any better, as he posted 5.02 and 6.36 ERA's during each of them. He also maintains a 1.65 career WHIP.
The two most obvious choices to lose a roster spot to Cingrani seem to narrow themselves down to one, single, obvious choice: Manny Parra.
Tony Cingrani's future is going to be as a starter, but being a starter in the minors in 2013 is not going to do him or the Reds any good. It's also obvious that he isn't going to be a regular starter at the major league level in 2013 either, as dictated by the Reds' current plethora of starters on the current roster.
He does, however, need to test his dominant fastball against major league batters on a regular basis. Getting his reps in as a reliever and as a possible spot starter will only benefit his development.
Let's address that spot starter comment. The Reds are most assuredly going to require a spot start or two, or three or 10 this season. Last season's remarkable health by the rotation was an anomaly. Possible injuries would open the door for Cingrani to truly show off his stuff.
A year from now, it should be safe to suggest that Cingrani will be in spring camp and in line for a spot in the rotation. Bronson Arroyo is in the last year of a 3-year, $23.5 million contract. With Cincy's recent extensions to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jonathon Broxton, among others, the Reds will be looking to lock up starters Mat Latos and Homer Bailey to extended contracts.
All of this leaves little room to bring Arroyo back and will open the door for another one of Cincy's young starters to step in. Once again, all the more reason to get Cingrani a full cup of tea with the big club this season.
Would you bring Tony Cingrani up for good right now? Would you rather bring another prospect up for good? If so, who? Be sure to chime in below with your thoughts and comments.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @JRamCincy
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