We move from an NL Central team that has little to offer in fantasy in the Cubs to one that is loaded at starting pitcher with the Reds. Let us see what the Queen City hurlers have to offer fantasy players in 2014.
Starting Pitching Rotation Analysis
Potential Rotation Alternatives
ADP designated by * indicates no reported ADP as of date of publication. Projections are based on a compilation of several sources (ZiPS, Oliver, Steamer, RotoChamp), given equal weight.
"When healthy" is the key phrase when discussing the presumptive ace of the Reds' staff. Johnny Cueto can pitch lights out when everything is going right, but the frequent DL stints diminish his value tremendously. The ERA and WHIP can be elite (2.82 and 1.05 respectively in 2013), despite only average strikeout numbers. He did see a slight increase in his K rate in 2013 when he was able to take the mound, and coupled with his extreme groundball percentage, makes him an intriguing mid round draft choice, if you believe he will stay healthy, for at least most of the season.
Mat Latos is not going to be ready for the season opener, but should be ready for the first road series in April. He posts good but not great numbers in most categories, with the exception of a low ERA (3.16 in 2013). It would be nice to see his strikeout numbers get back to the better than one per inning he showcased in San Diego in 2010 and 2011, but he is still near an 8 K/9 ratio and an acceptable 2.48 BB/9. With his injury recovery and the fact he will not be ready exactly on Opening Day means a potential value could be had on draft day.
It seems as though Homer Bailey has finally learned how to become a pitcher as opposed to a thrower. An uptick in fastball velocity undoubtedly assisted his progression, moving from 92.5 in 2012 to 94.1 last season. Limiting walks and generating a fair amount of grounders were also factors in his growth as a SP2/3. He tweaked his groin recently this spring, and that is always worrisome for a pitcher, but we have to be patient to learn how this will affect his availability to be ready for the start of the season. Like Latos above, this may be a blessing to those targeting him, making him a slightly better value as skittish drafters avoid him.
Mike Leake is coming off an abdomen injury and in his last spring start, tossed two innings. The Reds believe he will be ready for the Opening Day roster, so don't panic too much. Do expect some regression from a very good 2013, though, as he does pitch to contact, relying on groundballs and not strikeouts to get him through his starts. As an extremely late pick, he is easily dropped if he disappoints, and a steal if he can repeat his 2013 success.
Tony Cingrani may well prove to be the best Cincinnati pitcher in the rotation, although it is expected that the youngster will have some developing to reach that status. The 10.32 K/9 rate from 2013 leaps out at you, as does the 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He walks too many batters still, and needs to work on keeping the ball in the park, but with his stuff, he could soon be the ace of the Cincinnati staff.
Alfredo Simon looks to see time in the rotation with Latos likely to miss the start of the season. He could also see early game action if the Reds want to bring Latos and/or Leake up to speed as they gain strength after this injuries. He has a good mid-90s fastball that does not translate into a ton of strikeouts, but his control is also good and he generates a good amount of groundballs to limit the damage fly balls can do in The Great American Ballpark. Still, with his limited strikeout potential and no set starting role, he is fantasy irrelevant.
Once the Reds' rotation is healthy (always a risk with Cueto on the staff), the starting pitching looks excellent and should keep their team in games all season long. I would draft any of these pitchers with the possible exception of Leake, and even he has decent value in a deep league or a NL-only league.
If you disagree with my assessments, or just want to discuss starting pitching, I can be reached at email@example.com. I enjoy comments and am more than willing to engage in discussion about fantasy baseball, so feel free to write.