Cincinnati Reds rookie pitcher Michael Lorenzen will make his major league debut today against the Milwaukee Brewers. Lorenzen's rise has been very rapid, so let's take a look at what he offers.
Michael Lorenzen played three seasons of college baseball at Cal State Fullerton. He actually saw most of his playing time as an outfielder and he was a solid one, hitting .324/.394/.478 from 2011 through 2013. He also served as the team's closer and he was good at that too, posting a 1.60 ERA in 45 innings with a 37/5 K/BB while collecting 35 saves in his college career. Most teams preferred him as a pitcher and he moved to the mound full time when drafted, selected in the supplemental first round in 2013.
Although he relieved in college the Reds moved him into a starting role in 2014. He responded with a 3.13 ERA and an 84/44 K/BB in 121 innings for Double-A Pensacola. He was off to a good start in 2015 with a 2.84 ERA, 12/4 K/BB in 19 innings over three starts for Triple-A Louisville.
Lorenzen is a 6-3, 195 pounder born January 4, 1992. As befits a former outfielder he is a fine overall athlete. He showed upper-90s heat in college. In pro ball with a starter's workload he's lost a tick on the radar gun, generally working at 90-95, but the fastball has plenty of movement at the lower velocities and hitters have trouble driving it. His slider was solid in college and still is. He's developed a curveball and change-up to go with the hard stuff, though these pitches are still inconsistent and need more polish.
Sabermetrically, the main thing that stands out about Lorenzen is a relatively low strikeout rate, likely reflecting the need for more secondary pitch refinement. His control is often better than his command and his inexperience as a pitcher sometimes shows, particularly when going with his off-speed pitches, but his makeup and competitiveness are considered excellent and he's shown the ability to learn quickly.
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Assuming he stays healthy, Lorenzen has a good shot at being a fine number three starter, with relief work a backup plan should the off-speed pitches not make sufficient progress. With just three Triple-A starts on his resume, admittedly very good starts, you can make a case that Lorenzen is being rushed, but with Homer Bailey going on the disabled list the Reds see Lorenzen as the best internal option, or at least the most interesting one.
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