Cincinnati Reds: Taking a Look at the Potential 2011 Starting Pitching Rotation
Although the Reds didn't have a "true" ace this season, which cost them in the postseason, they had a ton of quality depth that helped them navigate through the 162-game meat grinder.
Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Aroldis Chapman and Homer Bailey are the seven names for the five available spots in the rotation.
Without further ado, here's a look at the individuals, and their potential for making the five-man rotation in 2011.
It is assumed that the Reds will pick up the option on Arroyo's contract, as both parties involved are happy with the current situation.
Arroyo, 33, put together his finest year this season, posting 17 wins with a 3.88 ERA.
With this man, you know exactly what you are going to get on a yearly basis, as he's never hurt. Though he's not a prototypical staff ace, he keeps them in ballgames and often goes deep into them.
Assuming the Reds don't acquire big name free agent or make a trade, Arroyo will be the top guy once again, and I have few qualms about that.
He's not a Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum, but I have few complains about Arroyo, and the fine work he has put together in Cincinnati.
In 2010, Cueto didn't receive the fanfare of some of the other young pitchers on the staff, but he quietly put together a quality year.
A 3.68 ERA and 12 wins are proof of that, as Cueto really grew up this season.
He is a man that, in the past, would let his emotions get the best of him, but he showed a degree of mental toughness on the mound that we haven't seen in the past, the infamous August start against the Cardinals notwithstanding.
In the past, when Cueto would struggle early in ballgames, he would pretty much cave in, but he really showed a tendancy to rebound, and though some final statlines would look ugly, he would keep his team in ballgames through guts and determination.
Still only 24-years-old, Cueto will continue to grow, and along with Arroyo, is a virtual lock to be in the rotation.
I'm a huge Edinson Volquez fan, and will defend him to a degree in which most people won't.
I have no regrets about the Josh Hamilton trade, as we needed pitching at the time. Certainly, Volquez has had a bumpy path along the way, but he earned the confidence of the coaching staff, enough so that they wanted him to be their game 1 starter of the NLDS.
Obviously, the results of that weren't pretty, but he has more potential, and raw ability, than anyone on the staff not named Aroldis Chapman.
The further removed he gets from the Tommy John surgery, the better I think he will become, and when he's on his game, he can match any ace in this game pitch for pitch.
Given his performance in the final month of the season, he one of the men whom I would say is a lock to be a starter this year.
Perhaps forgotten in the drive to the NL Central title was Mike Leake, a man who was insturmental in the first half success of the team.
He wore down as the season went along and was shut down, but without his contributions, the Reds would not have made the postseason, and what he did gives them a tremendous amount of hope for the future.
The next challenge will be finding a way to endure an entire season (his career high in college was 142 innings), and make adjustments to a league that adjusted to him.
This is where things get murky, in terms of assembling the rotation. With the Aroldis Chapman situation, and guys like Homer Bailey and Travis Wood, I wouldn't quite say that Leake is a lock to be in the five man rotation.
Needless to say, there will be a lot of heated competition when spring training rolls around.
When you draw comparisons to Cliff Lee, that can only do good things for your career.
Wood, the Minor League Pitcher of the Year from the prior season, was called upon midseason, and he didn't disappoint one bit, accumulating five wins and a 3.54 ERA.
His demeanor, and relaxed delivery were all keys for Wood, as left handed batters hit a measly .136 off him.
After taking over for Volquez in the NLDS, he shut down the high-powered Phillies offense.
His next task will be to do it over the course of a full season, and to adjust to hitters who will have an entire offseason to break down videotape on him.
At the moment, I think he will make the rotation, and perhaps has better odds over Leake, who not only wore down, but has less experience pitching professional baseball.
I've always felt that Bailey is a man that you want to keep around, as I would hate to see what another pitching coach could do with that wonderfully talented arm.
Even though it seems like he has been in the Majors for awhile, Bailey is still only 24-years-old, and has electric stuff.
Also, it seems like he is finally figuring out his craft, but we were also saying the same thing last year, and he struggled at the start of the 2010 season, so he will have to prove himself for that six month marathon known as the regular season.
I think his track record, in limited moments, shows that he's not a "bust," and when you look at contributors to the 2010 team, Bailey deserves honorable mention, but it's time for him to take the next step.
If he doesn't make the rotation coming out of spring training, which I think is a possibility, he will certainly be the first man called upon if someone gets hurt or is ineffective.
What Chapman did in his brief time in 2010 will never be forgotten around these parts, as he brought an electricity to Reds baseball that hasn't been seen in quite some time.
It's absolutely amazing that the Reds, as opposed to someone else (like the Yankees or Red Sox) have this guy on their side, and as we look ahead, the sky is the limit for Chapman, who has stuff comparable to Randy Johnson in his prime.
With that said, I seriously doubt he will begin the 2011 season in the starting rotation.
The Reds may look to treat him like the Rays did David Price. That is, bring him up into the bullpen, give him further minor league seasoning after that, and after awhile, eventually place him in the rotation.
If all goes according to plan, the Reds have their future ace that can carry them on his back to places that Reds fans haven't seen in a long time.