“I have greater concern probably this year about our pitching health than I did last year,” Reds VP of player development Shawn Pender told The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale and other reporters about the club’s minor league hurlers. After the canceled 2020 minor league season and a shortened 2021 minor league season, there really isn’t any sense of normality in 2022, especially since the Triple-A schedule will actually be longer than usual. Returning pitching prospects to their old routine isn’t feasible after two seasons of a staggered or non-existent workload, especially since many of the younger arms entering the minor league ranks over the last two years have never really had any sort of set routine.
How teams plan to deal with this issue will vary from organization to organization, but the Reds’ plan for the moment is to have 16-17 pitchers available at each minor league level, either on an active roster or on a developmental list to act as extra depth. Many of the youngest (under age-23) pitchers in Cincinnati’s system have yet to arrive at early minor league camp, as Pender said the team is thus far focusing on its more experienced minor league pitchers “so we give them more of an opportunity to build up properly under our watch as opposed to sending them directions about things we want them to do.” In general, the Reds’ minor league relievers are all being prepared for multi-inning relief outings or even short, opener-style starts, to give extra cover to the regular starting pitchers as they continue to build up their workloads.
More from around the majors…
- The Phillies believe they’ve found a hidden gem in 2021 fifth-round draft pick Griff McGarry, a hard-throwing right-hander from the University of Virginia. The Athletic’s Matt Gelb reports that other teams asked the Phils about McGarry in trade talks prior to the lockout, after McGarry posted a 2.96 ERA over his first 24 1/3 pro innings and struck out a whopping 43 of 100 batters faced. A lack of control led to a lot of inconsistency in McGarry’s collegiate career (explaining his drop to the fifth round), and that issue has yet to be entirely solved, as evidenced by the righty’s 14% walk rate in 2021. However, McGarry has already shown enough that “at worst, the Phillies think McGarry is a high-octane reliever in the majors,” Gelb writes. Philadelphia director of player development Preston Mattingly cited McGarry’s “four pitches that can all grade out as plus,” and with this kind of repertoire, it isn’t surprising that the Phillies will give McGarry every opportunity to start.
- Finding quality catchers has never been easy, and the mental aspect of the position and a young catcher’s ability to handle and connect with a pitcher remains an x-factor even in a sport increasingly dominated by analytics. “Unfortunately, there is no way to absolutely quantify catching,” one National League GM tells The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, and thus each team approaches the position in a different manner. Some clubs are looking at players in their systems who play other positions and experimenting with them behind the plate, while other teams go the traditional route and draft catchers out of college or high school. The potential problem with the latter tactic, in the opinion of another GM, is that college coaches “want to call every pitch, so a lot of big programs don’t develop the mental part of catching” and “increasingly high school kids are playing the showcase circuit, where it’s not important to build relationships and all that is important is the individual skills.”