by: Jon Davis
#3 Tony Cingrani LHP
Next on the list is another starting pitcher selected in the 2011 Draft -- third-round selection Tony Cingrani. This big lefty, standing 6'4" 200 lbs, was a closer at Rice, but since being drafted has made a seamless transition to the rotation. In two years, he has compiled excellent stats across three levels. In 2011, pitching for Billings, he had a 1.75 ERA in 51.1 IP with 80 K's and only 6 walks leading to a dazzling 0.79 WHIP. In 2012, he duplicated his success starting the year in Bakersfield and finishing it getting a "cup of coffee" with the Reds. Between the two minor league stops he made he posted a 1.73 ERA & 1.02 WHIP in 146 IP with 172 K's. If that wasn't enough, he appeared in three games out of the Reds bullpen, striking out nine in five innings, showing what many believe to be his eventual landing spot.
Now, Cingrani's stuff profiles as a small step down from Robert Stephenson's, in my eyes. First, Cingrani has a plus fastball that sits 92-94, but like Stephenson, can reach the upper 90’s. His delivery is very deceptive because it’s all arms and legs at the moment but has nice arm action. He also has a very good change-up. The rub is his third pitch, the slider, which currently is seen as average and it is very hard to be a successful starter in the majors with only two pitches. I personally think that his slider is above average right now and that it will only get better. However, if Cingrani's third pitch doesn't "develop", he profiles as a late inning reliever that can dial it up to 98 mph, which will just make his change-up look even better.
As far as Cingrani's path to the majors? It depends on a lot of factors, but mostly health in the rotation and bullpen. First and foremost, do the Reds see him as a starter or reliever in the long term? I believe he's destined to be a starter. If so, then he will spend the majority of the year in Louisville with Billy Hamilton. In this scenario, he could possibly spend some time in the Cincy rotation, if the need arises due to injury for a fill-in starter. But he will likely be second in line behind Mike Leake. Also, if injuries were to hit the bullpen, he could be called upon to fill the role as well, just like Chapman this past year.
As far as his future goes, I believe 2014 is a more likely scenario for him to stick with the big club. There is going to be at least one possible vacancy in the Reds rotation with 2013 being the final year of Bronson Arroyo's contract and he would be at age 37 at the start of 2014. Another possibility is if the Reds aren't able to extend Homer Bailey they may look to move him next offseason as he would be going into his last year of team control. All this makes Cingrani's future one the most interesting stories to follow for the next 12 months. The only thing that is certain is that he looks like a very promising prospect as he has put up excellent numbers at every stop.
A look back on the previous prospect posts...
No. 1 - Billy Hamilton
No. 2 - Robert Stephenson