Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 2

Tony Cingrani was a four-year college player and didn't start pitching professionally until he was 21. He didn't waste any time and last year advanced all the way to a major league debut in his first full season. Unless the Reds need another left-handed reliever he figures to spent 2013 continuing to develop in the Louisville rotation

Of all the pitchers in the minor leagues last season Tony Cingrani possibly had the best season of the bunch. The southpaw skipped low-A after debuting at Billings in 2011 and rocketed all the way to five innings for the Reds after roster expansion. He made two stops along the way, first dominating the hitter-friendly California League with a 1.11 ERA/0.918 WHIP over ten games. After a midseason promotion he kept a 2.12 /1.097 at Pensacola. His cup of coffee with the parent team would have been run-free had it not been for a solo home run. After that performance he crashed the top 100 prospects list and sits at no. 64 going into this season.

Cingrani was an unlikely candidate for a major league starter while pitching collegiately. At Rice University he struggled in that role before the Owls moved him into the pen where he became a dominant closer. The Reds picked him in the third round of the 2011 draft, which is early for a reliever. Whatever made them decide to start him materialized immediately when he put up ridiculous stats in the Pioneer League that fall. They've been careful to limit his innings after the conversion and he averaged less than four frames per outing his first season. Last year they stretched him out more for around 5 2/3 inns per appearance. That's about the only break opponents got during his turns to take the mound.

Cingrani brings a mid-90's fastball and changeup that he throws with good command. Behind them he is working on a slider for a third offering. He's maintained double digit strikeouts per nine innings at every level, but his walk rate took a jump to 3.9 per nine against more advanced hitters in the Southern League. He'll have all season long to work on that at Louisville and be ready for another call-up.

The move of Aroldis Chapman into the rotation and departure of Bill Bray left only one lefty reliever in the Reds pen and there had been some speculation that Cingrani might join Sean Marshall there on the opening day roster. Comments made by GM Walt Jocketty stated that they preferred letting him continue developing as a starter and a subsequent signing of veteran Manny Parra added some confirmation to that. After finishing a senior season at Rice he was a little older than the competition in the lower levels, but a prospect is no longer behind schedule when he reaches the majors in his first full professional season.

In Reds rotations of the not-so-distant past Cingrani would have probably been pulled into MLB duty at this stage of his development. Now that they have a deep pitching staff it affords them the luxury of having him polish skills more at the highest minor league level. Having a southpaw in the rotation has been a bit rare in Cincinnati where lefties have started only sixty games over the last six years. Baseball has a long season and if he brings his dominance to the new level he could start adding to that total regularly in 2014 pending on how things transpire with a couple of pitchers that will be eligible for free agency after this season.

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