One of the most interesting story lines to follow this spring training will be the story of Tony Cingrani, the 6-foot-4 hard throwing lefty for the Cincinnati Reds. Drafted out of Rice University by the Reds in the 2011 Amateur Draft, Cingrani has been solid at each stop along his path towards the big leagues.
During his first two seasons of professional ball, Cingrani held an ERA under 2.00 in each of his stints with the Reds minor league affiliates. He debuted for the Reds in 2012 and pitched five innings in three games for the team, giving up just four hits and one earned run which happened to be a home run. Last season in AAA Louisville, Cingrani was 3-0 with a 1.15 ERA and WHIP of just .80 before being called up to fill a void in the Reds’ starting rotation.
Cingrani boasts a strong arsenal of pitches for the Reds rotation. His fastball has been rated an 80 on the 20/80 scale by many big league scouts, and his stats can back that grade up. In his 23 games as a Red last season, Cingrani struck out 120 batters in 105 innings of work, a 10.6 SO/9 ratio. His reliance on his fastball is a little alarming, though, throwing fastballs in over 80 percent of all his pitches.
Aside from his mid 90s fastball, Cingrani brings control to the rotation. Before coming up to the Reds last season, Cingrani had only walked 71 batters in over 200 innings of work. Last season, his walk rate was a bit elevated, but he was still only a rookie in the heat of a pennant chase for much of the season. Just by design, Great American Ballpark is a tough venue to pitch at, giving up the second most home runs last season in the majors. If Cingrani is going to find success in 2014, he needs to be aware of the strike zone and not get himself into situations that can escalate quickly.
During this past off season, Cingrani was hard at work with Reds former pitching coach and new manager Bryan Price. Together, the two worked on honing Cingrani’s slider for a little more movement and speed, now being thrown in the low 80s. Cingrani will enter spring training with the mentality he has had his entire life; he has to earn his keep to make it on the roster. After a disappointing freshman season at Rice, Cingrani came back stronger than ever and eventually became a top pitching prospect.
There is little doubt that he will not be able to duplicate the results he had last season as a rookie. If anything, Reds fans can expect Cingrani to come back stronger and with a little more finesse, meaning more strikeouts and less balls in play. Cingrani did a great job while filling in last season for Johnny Cueto while he was out with an injured back, so Cingrani should be a strong candidate to be in the starting rotation.
Spring Training 2014 will certainly be an exciting time to see what the Reds’ rotation will end up looking like. If most predictions are right, we will have a classic NL East battle all summer long between the Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates to bring home some hardware.