Minor League Prospect Report: Daniel Corcino, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Johnny Cueto is 5-10, 215 pounds. He's also one of the best pitchers in baseball. There is an old-fashioned scouting prejudice against short right-handed pitchers. Although fewer teams buy into that nowadays, the tendency to dismiss shorter pitching prospects as future relievers still persists. Cueto belied that stereotype. So does Daniel Corcino, a short, stocky, and successful young right-hander in the Reds system, drawing inevitable comparisons to his predecessor.
Corcino was signed by the Reds in 2008 from the Dominican Republic, earning a small $25,000 bonus. He didn't show much immediately, scuffling in rookie ball his first two seasons, then producing a mediocre campaign between the Pioneer and Midwest Leagues in '10. 2011 was much different: he took a big step forward with his command, going 11-7, 3.42 ERA with a 156/34 K/BB ratio in 139 innings for Dayton in the Low-A Midwest League at age 20/21.
The Reds gave him an aggressive assignment in 2012, skipping him past High-A, dispatching him to the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the Southern League. He had a solid campaign, going 8-8 (for a 68-70 team) in 26 starts with a 3.01 ERA and a 126/65 K/BB ratio in 143 innings, with 111 hits allowed, very credible performance for a 21-year-old (he turned 22 in late August) skipping a level.
Corcino was quite consistent, his ERA never exceeding 3.72 in any month. He was quite effective down the stretch in particular, with a 2.70 ERA in the second half. He ranked second in the league ERA hunt.
Despite the surface success, there are some statistical glitches. His FIP was higher than his ERA at 3.74, and he gave up 13 unearned runs. His walk rate rose from 2.20 BB/9 in 2011 to 4.08 BB/9 in 2012; his strikeout rate also slipped from 10.08 to 7.91. I think a lot of this was due to skipping a level and the jump in competition. He remained effective overall, but the ratio slippage is a sabermetric caution flag. He will likely need a good dose of Triple-A, and rushing him next spring could be counterproductive.
The scouting reports reflect what the numbers show. Corcino has a live arm with a 92-94 MPH fastball that hits 95-96 on his best days. His delivery has some cross-fire, cross-body effort in it, not unexpected due to his size, but he generally maintains his velocity without much problem. He relies on the fastball as his main pitch, but his secondaries (slider, changeup) are both promising, if still works-in-progress.
He goes to the slider more often than the changeup. At his best, the slider flashes plus, but Double-A hitters didn't chase it as readily as Low-A hitters did. That's normal, and something he can adjust to with more experience. The changeup is an average major league pitch that he could use more than he does. His main need right now is tighter command of all of his pitches, and of course good health.
Corcino's secondary pitches and his command aren't as good as Cueto's were at the same stage, but there are still a lot of things to like here. Unless he shows a dramatic leap forward in spring training, expect him to open 2013 in Triple-A, with a major league trial possible in the second half of the season. I gave Corcino a Grade B pre-season and that still seems like a reasonable rating to me.