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Cincinnati Reds Bullpen: Depth Chart Discussions

In 2012, Aroldis Chapman threw 71.2 thrilling innings out of the bullpen for Cincinnati with 38 saves, an absurd 122 strike outs and a 1.51 ERA with an equally (and likely more) impressive 1.55 FIP. In 2013, or at least at this point in the middle of spring training, Aroldis is still slated to be in the Rotation for the Reds which certainly changes the bullpen landscape. Whether Aroldis stays in the rotation or ends up back in pen will largely depend on his early results, health, the effectiveness of the rest of the bullpen and Dusty BakerI don’t think I’m the only baseball fan who drools at the thought of 200 innings from the Cuban Missile, so let’s hope he stays in the rotation while we talk about the Reds bullpen. 

The Closer:
Jonathan Broxton

Acquired from the Royals at the trading deadline last year, Broxton threw 22.1 solid innings for the Reds striking out 20 batters while only issuing 3 walks and for the year Broxton finished with a shiny 2.48 ERA, albeit with a less than stellar 3.62 xFIP. Nonetheless, Broxton resigned with the Reds this offseason, agreeing to a three-year, $21 million contract and Broxton can now give the Reds 21 million reasons why they should keep Aroldis in the rotation.

Gone are the days of throwing 98 mph gas but Broxton still dialed it up to an average 94.7 mph last year. That is still plenty fast but it wasn’t enough to generate all that many strikeouts. Brox has a career 10.96 K/9 but that number was a meager (by his standards) 6.98 in 2012 and his 18.9% strikeout rate was actually below the league average of 19.8%. This new Broxton clearly still throws hard but instead of generating swings and misses (7.8% swinging strikeout rate) Broxton now limits his walks (7.1% walk rate, career 9.8%) and kills worms with a 53.8% ground ball rate, which helps a lot in the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark. Reds fans and fantasy owners would all prefer the old Broxton on their team but the new version is still pretty good and so long as Aroldis isn’t breathing down his neck, Broxton should have ample opportunities for saves on a solid Reds team.

The Setup Guys:
Sean Marshall (L)
Jose Arredondo

Sean Marshall received the first shot at saves in 2012 after Ryan Madson required Tommy John Surgery but after a few early blips he lost the job to Aroldis Chapman. However, even when Marshall was pitching poorly last year he actually wasn’t. On May 19 last year Marshall had a 5.02 ERA but with 21 strikeouts, three walks and a .488 BABIP one would have to say he was actually pitching quite well. Anywho, without using much of a fastball Marshall finished the year with a 2.51 ERA and a 10.92 K/9 and since 2010, Marshall has averaged a 2.47 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 70 innings pitched per season. Although he is a lefty, Marshall is able to get out opposite handed hitters adequately and should remain a top notch relief ace for the Reds in 2013. If Broxton were to get hurt and Aroldis stay in the rotation, Marshall should get another look at the ninth inning and the guess here is he won’t lose it.

Jose Arredondo doesn’t exactly have what most people would classify as “control” with a career 4.50 BB/9  that has been over five the last two seasons and he doesn’t throw as hard as he used to in his Angels career. However, Arredondo can still rack up a few strikeouts (8.7 K/9 since 2011) and as a righty set up man, he should receive several opportunities for holds and even a few saves if things really fall apart in Cincy’s bullpen.

Middle Relief:
Logan Ondrusek
Alfredo Simon
Sam LeCure

Logan Ondrusek actually recorded two saves last year but he has the same control problems that Arredondo has (5.1 BB/9 in 2012) but without the strikeout ability (6.4 K/9 in 2012). At 6-8, Ondrusek could theoretically be imposing on the mound but his 4.71 FIP would have to say otherwise.

Alfredo Simon saved 17  games for the Orioles in 2010 but he also did it with an ERA closer to five than four. Like Ondrusek, Simon both recorded a save in 2012 and likely won’t sniff any save opportunities in 2013, but his 2.66 ERA on the heels of a 3.19 FIP in 2012 is certainly promising, especially since it’s accompanied by a fantastic 54% ground ball rate. Simon has bounced around from the minors, the rotation and bullpen in his career and for the first time he might find some stability in Cincinnati.

2012 was the first year in which LeCure didn’t pitch out of the rotation at some point in the season and the results were pretty great. In 57 innings pitched LeCure struck out 61 batters and pitched to a 2.90 FIP. Arredondo might start higher on the totem pole but LeCure profiles as the better pitcher.

Manny Parra (L)
Mike Leake

After pitching mostly out of the rotation and mostly poorly for Milwaukee for several seasons Manny Parra found himself strictly in the bullpen in 2012 and the results were still mostly poor. Parra has a few things going for him in that he uses his left arm to pitch and can strike out a batter but he’s yet to achieve consistent results. The silver lining is that his peripheral stats have always looked better than his ERA and 2012 was certainly no different – 5.06 ERA/3.62 FIP. And he’s left-handed. Still, what was once an intriguing starting pitcher with strikeout ability is now a lefty reliever with more in common with Oliver Perez in 2013. If Parra stays on the MLB roster in Cincinnati he’ll likely be called on to face lefties as Marshall is the only other southpaw on the squad.

Mike Leake is more intriguing as a starting pitcher and with Aroldis Chapman likely under an innings pitched limit, he may find himself there yet again. I’m not Dusty Baker, but if I was, I’d use the luxury I have in an above average sixth starter, and have Leake pitch in Chapman’s spot every once in a while in the rotation. However, unless Leake is going to be in the rotation full-time he likely won’t be relevant in fantasy baseball, save for a few deep, NL-Only leagues.