The Situation: The Reds found themselves without Homer Bailey and Anthony Desclafani, the former due to bone chips, the latter to an elbow sprain. Cincinnati decided to press some of their young prospect arms into service, and Amir Garrettâ€”their top pitching prospectâ€”will get the ball every fifth day at the back of the Redlegs rotation.
The Background: The Reds drafted Garrett in the 22nd round of the 2011 draft, but gave him a cool million bucks as part of a two-sport deal that also allowed him to play basketball at St. Johnâ€™s. As youâ€™d expect, he moved rather slowly through the Cincinnati system, not getting an extended full-season ball assignment until 2014, while playing 20+ minutes a game as a swingman for the Red Storm in the offseason. Since he started focusing fully on baseball, Garrettâ€™s stuff and performance ticked up and posted sub-3.00 ERAs the last two years, striking out nearly a batter an inning. He will turn 25 in a month, but there may be more improvements yet to come considering how late he came to baseball full-time.
Scouting Report:Â Amir Garrett clocked in at no. 31 on our 2017 Top 101, which places him at the top of the very long â€œpotential-future-mid-rotation-starterâ€ tier that gives me fits when I am trying to write the blurbs for the Annual. Garrettâ€™s stuff is exactly what you would effect from that profile. He has a plus fastball that touches the mid-90s and features late arm-side run. Thereâ€™s a low-80s slider that flashes plus due to its late tilt. Thereâ€™s also the usual question marks. His changeup is below average and there are command issues due to some crossfire in his mechanics and a slingy arm action. Heâ€™s a premium athlete, and one with less mound experience than your usual 24-year-old major-league debutante. So we are banking on there being more in the tank here, which is why he ended up at the top of those maybe-future-third-starters.
Immediate Big League Future: ThatÂ remaining projection may not help the Reds immediately though. Whether immediate success is a priority for them is up for debate, but they wonâ€™t lack for options. Elbows can be tricky, but Bailey is already throwing off flat ground, and the Reds have young arms of note in their bullpen in the form of Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson. So the Reds will have options if Garrett scuffles early. Iâ€™d expect an up-and-down first trip through the league, but Cincinnati could be rewarded if they stick with Garrett and let him make adjustments against major league hitters.
And ah what the heck, hereâ€™s Garrettâ€™s high school basketball mixtape:
Fantasy Impact: Garrett is an interesting fantasy case because of his background. Heâ€™s older than most prospects who would be at a similar stage of development. On one hand, that means you should probably temper your expectations regarding his production. However, it also means the Reds might be inclined to give him a longer leash than others in this role. He should be one of the safer bets among Cincinnatiâ€™s young arms to get regular starts this season.
The fact that Garrett doesnâ€™t have the same level of experience as other pitchers his age might be partly to blame for secondary pitches that arenâ€™t finished products yet. In 2016, he struck out 8.2 batters per nine, but youâ€™d have to imagine that total is going to come down at the major-league level. The primary concern with Garrett tends to be his control. Over five minor league seasons he walked 3.7 hitters per nine, and that number was at 4.1 during his 11 starts in Triple A.
These factors mean you should be cautious about investing in Garrett for fantasy purposes. If youâ€™re in the market for a pitcher who should get regular starts and probably wonâ€™t tank your categories, then Garrett might be your man. However, heâ€™s unlikely to rack up many wins in Cincinnati, and he could quickly become a drain on your WHIP if his command struggles surface. Itâ€™s not a bad idea to stash him on your roster, but donâ€™t expect a pitcher who will significantly aid your pitching totals over the next few months. â€”Eric Roseberry