After a strange 2020 season, the 2021 MLB season will be starting on time. Currently, teams are slated to play all 162 games which means that pitchers will be back to what they are used to. They will get more innings and have time to actually ramp up, unlike in 2020. With that, teams will need to start setting their rotations. Here is a look at the Cincinnati Reds potential 2021 pitching rotation.
1.) Luis Castillo
While 2020 was not a great year, it was another solid one for Luis Castillo. He was bit by the bad-luck bug where he pitched really well but would be pinned with the loss because the offense wouldn’t show up. That lead to his 4-6 record. Even still he had a 3.21 era in 12 starters and was still nearly unhittable. He had 89 strikeouts in only 70 innings pitched and while walks were still a bit of an issue they were slightly better than 2019’s. One of the biggest steps he took was lowering the number of home runs he was giving up from one per nine innings to .06.
Luis Castillo is heading into his age 28 season and is a bonafide ace at this point. He will likely be given the chance to lead this Reds 2021 pitching rotation into battle once again. Hopefully this year he will truly be able to put it all together as it seemed like he was close to doing in 2020. If he can pitch even deeper into games, continue improving his walk rate while giving up less home runs and striking out more batters then the Reds could contend for their second straight Cy Young. Fans should be very happy that the Reds have him for at least the next three years, the hope is that they will start working on an extension with him soon.
2.) Sonny Gray
The tail-end of Sonny Gray’s season is not indicative of how well Gray really pitched last season. Throughout the first half of the season, Gray was amongst the best of the best in the MLB. When he is healthy, that is the Sonny Gray that fans should expect. Even with his highest walk-rate ever, again likely due to injury, he also was giving up fewer home runs and striking out more batters than ever.
Sonny Gray will be an elite pitcher for the Reds again in 2021. He survived trade rumors and fans should hope that the Front Office realizes how important he is to this team. Gray still has this year and next guaranteed on his contract with a team option that the Reds will take if he continues to pitch as he has in 2023. Having Gray along with Castillo at the top of the rotation makes a one-two punch that can matchup with just about anyone in baseball.
3.) Tyler Mahle
There were many who believed that Tyler Mahle’s two years of struggles had pushed him to the bullpen. Then when Wade Miley got injured along with Sonny Gray once Miley came back, Mahle stepped in and did a great job. He posted his highest strikeout numbers, lowest home runs given up and even though his walks per nine innings went up, his hits given up went down substantially. Noticing a trend yet?
Clearly, Derek Johnson is pushing the Reds pitching staff in the right direction. For Mahle specifically, those numbers previously mentioned prove that he is getting better. He will be in another pivotal year for his career. The hope for Mahle and Reds fans will be that this is the one that cements him in the rotation for years to come.
4.) Wade Miley
The Reds really barely had the chance to see Wade Miley last year. After getting signed alongside Castellanos and Moustakas, Miley was supposed to bring a stable veteran presence to the back end of the Reds rotation. Sadly injuries kept him to only four starts and 14.1 inning overall. It would be doing him a disservice to judge him based on last season. Normally his injury would have still allowed him to play most of the season, the shortened season did not help him whatsoever.
Now with a full season planned and Miley presumably healthy, it will time to see what the Reds paid for. The hope will be that he is able to solidify the back of what could be a very strong rotation in 2021. As the lone lefty in the rotation and one of the only contact pitchers on the team, he will also hopefully give the Reds a slightly different look when teams have to plan for them.
5.) Tejay Antone
The battle for the fifth spot on the Reds 2021 pitching rotation will be the second most important one, far behind the shortstop battle but still an important one. Choosing between Antone and Lorenzen was a very difficult decision. This one came down to looking toward the future, not just the present.
Antone is not only younger but he will be with the team until at least 2026. Whereas Lorenzen is due to be a free agent for the first time next year. If the Reds are still trying to stay on the cheaper end, having Lorenzen in a bullpen role will make him cheaper. Also, if he does walk, then the Reds didn’t waste valuable time and innings on experimenting with a player who leaves after one season. This is not to say that Lorenzen doesn’t deserve the chance but Antone could be a major cog in the Reds rotation for a long time and he is someone who has a lot of untapped potential. Giving him innings now to grow as opposed to Lorenzen who not only has already shown that he is a great back of the bullpen guy but could also leave the team once the season is over does not make much sense.
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