The Cincinnati Reds rebuild with a trio of Royals lefties

 

Jun 26, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) pitches during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals got stronger Sunday afternoon, readying their charge to defend the American League championship. The Cincinnati Reds walked away with some Minor League left handed pitching that they desperately needed. 

Johnny Cueto has had an eventful two days. Yesterday, rumor has it he was told he was going to miss his start because a trade had been finalized. The rumor was seemingly true, so much so that Michael Lorenzen was reportedly seen warming up alongside Cueto. After a failed physical by an unnamed Royals prospect, Cueto took the mound, but inevitably just prolonged the inevitable.

The Royals were able to pull off the deal without losing any of their top five prospects, but that didn’t mean that the Reds didn’t walk away winners. Early rumors were aswirl that Sean Manaea was in the mix, however at the end of the day, the Royals sent three promising young lefties to Cincinnati.

Last year’s feel good story Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed are heading to the senior circuit while the defending champs have arguably their best pitcher that they have had on their entire run.

So, who did the Reds score?

Jun 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Brandon Finnegan (27) pitches against the Houston Astros in the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

BRANDON FINNEGAN

Brandon Finnegan made headlines last season after being the first player to appear in both the College World Series and MLB World Series in the same season. Drafted 17th overall last season as a starter, Finnegan made it to the Royals as a left handed option out of the bullpen.

Despite a solid run through October, Finnegan began 2015 in the Minors to be stretched out for the rotation. The 22-year old lefty started in Double-A, but never looked comfortable once he got to Omaha. He started in four of his six appearances — allowing 11 runs over 14 innings — however he never made it past three innings before settling back in for the Royals bullpen in the Majors.

Standing at 5 foot 11, and 185 pounds, Finnegan still manages to pack some punch in his mid-90s fastball that has been clocked as high as 98. He has a hard slider that is well above average and is honing his change up to be a Major League average pitch. As long as he can command the change, it shouldn’t be a difficult task with the heat he is capable of bringing.

If you are curious about makeup, look no further than 2014. He certainly has the moxie.

The Reds biggest concerns should only focus on stamina and that pesky shoulder that gave him trouble in college. He hasn’t had any real reoccurring problems from the shoulder injury that dropped him out of the top ten on draft day, but he hasn’t thrown more than three innings in an appearance since college.

If the Reds are going to want Finnegan to become a fixture in their rotation, he should stay in Triple-A for the remainder of the season and be stretched out and ready to compete for a starting role in 2016. If they plan on moving Chapman and making Finnegan a premier part of their bullpen, then he may see action in Cincinnati soon.

Mar 11, 2015; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher John Lamb (38) pitches against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

JOHN LAMB

John Lamb was once one of the Royals prized left handed pitching prospects. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Lamb pitched well early in his career before Tommy John surgery essentially took his 2011 and 12 seasons away from him.

The road back was a long one, as Lamb no longer looked like an elite left handed prospect after parts of two seasons in Omaha’s rotation. That is until this year.

Lamb, now 25, was having a sensational season with the Storm Chasers. He sat at 9-1 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He has struck out 96 batters while walking only 29 over 94 PCL innings pitched. It is best walk per nine (2.77) and strikeout per nine (9.16) he has posted since pre-Tommy John surgery.

Here’s a glimpse at his long, smooth motion when throwing well:

His velocity dipped at the end of last season, but his fastball can usually hit in the lower 90s. The 6 foot 3, 185 pound lefty also has an average change and curve, and has developed a low 80s cutter. At 25 years of age, there probably isn’t much more heat coming from Lamb, no matter how much healthier he continues to get.

That means he needs his command to be nearly flawless, without a lot of room for mistakes if he wants to make an impact in the middle of the rotation. This makes Lamb more likely to be a nice back of the rotation arm.

CODY REED

Cody Reed was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Royals. He had quickly become a solid prospect in the Royals system. 

The 6 foot 5, 220 pound lefty has a mid-90s fastball that has some nice movement to it when he can get it to sink and cut across the strike zone. Reed also possesses a solid changeup and slider, with the former probably being his best secondary pitch.

Reed’s biggest issues in his young career have come with command. Early in his career, he had solid mechanics, but lacked the consistency in his delivery. Now that he has been able to repeat his motion and pound the strike zone, he has put the high ERAs and WHIPs of 2013 and 2014 in the rear view window and was putting together a solid season over two levels.

I like the video below which highlights his last outing as a Royals prospect. The first two strike outs are nearly identical, showing that consistency in repeating his motion.

Reed finished his Royals 2015 season with a combined 7-7 record, a 2.53 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 84:26 strikeout to walk ratio over 96 innings. With names like Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Nicholas Travieso and now Brandon Finnegan in their system, the Reds can exhibit some patience with the 22-year old, allow him to fine tune that delivery and become a solid middle of the rotation pitcher.

At the end of the day, both teams are winners. The Royals get the under-30 ace they desperately needed for a pennant run and the Reds started to rebuild their farm system’s pitching. You can be sure that the Reds are not done yet, but this is a solid start.