I watched all three of Tony Cingrani's 2013 minor league starts to evaluate the pitcher he is today and the pitcher he could become.
It’s easy to see why the Reds are excited about Cingrani. Despite his big frame, he has a smooth and controlled motion. His high release point allows him to have a good amount of cut on his fourseam fastball, and batters in the minor leagues consistently swung over the top of the pitch. His curveball has big, sweeping movement, and he throws it with confidence to both left- and right-handed batters. He has a slider as well as a changeup, both of which he seldom throws (mostly due to the fact that he is so easily able to retire minor league hitters using only his fastball and curveball). To be successful in the major leagues, however, he will have to incorporate his changeup much more, which likely won’t be a problem for him.
Cingrani's biggest question mark, in my eyes, is his ability to pitch inside to left-handed batters and away to right-handed batters. When he’s not getting on top of his pitches, he has a tendency to miss up-and-away to right-handed batters, and I think that tendency gives him reservations about coming inside to left-handed batters. Additionally, major league hitters aren’t going to swing through his fastball as often as minor leaguers have, so his ability to locate will also be a big factor. Cingrani certainly has the stuff to be successful at the major league level; if he can effectively develop his changeup, which may already be close to being an average to above-average pitch, he projects at least as a solid No. 3 starter.
My reports on each of his 2013 Triple-A starts are below:
4/14/2013 at Toledo Mud Hens
Scouting Report: Making his last Triple-A appearance before replacing Johnny Cueto in the Reds’ rotation, Cingrani was in fine form. He attacked with his fastball, which he threw 91-95 MPH. His curveball had big, sweeping break, and he commanded it well. He pitched effectively on the inner half of the plate to right-handed batters, but he had trouble locating his pitches on the outer half of the plate.
Batters Faced: 7
Ground Balls: 1
Fly Balls: 1
Strikeout Breakdown: 1 looking, 4 swinging; 3 with fastball, 2 with curveball; 0 vs. LH batter, 5 vs. RH batter.
4/8/13 vs. Columbus Clippers
Scouting Report: At times Cingrani struggled with his command, especially on the outer part of the plate to right-handed batters, but he only walked one batter. He did also hit a batter. There was almost zero hard contact made against him; two of the three hits he allowed were infield singles. He pitched out of a couple jams thanks to a pickoff (he has a great move) and a runner being thrown out at third base attempting to tag up on a fly ball. He got many swing-throughs with his fastball, especially against right-handed batters. His curveball was inconsistent, but looked really good at times. He had trouble at times staying on top of his pitches, especially against right-handed batters, causing him to miss up-and-away with both his fastball and curveball. He seemed to be a little weary of pitching inside to left-handed batters.
Batters Faced: 22
Ground Balls: 5
Fly Balls: 8
Strikeout Breakdown: 2 looking, 5 swinging; 6 with fastball, 1 with curveball; 2 vs. LH batter, 5 vs. RH batter.
4/4/2013 vs. Toledo Mud Hens
Scouting Report: Making his Triple-A debut, Cingrani was more than impressive. He struck out the first seven batters he faced and didn’t allow any hard contact through six innings, facing only one batter over the minimum. His knee-buckling curveball, which he was consistently able to locate down in the strike zone, served as a weapon against both left- and right-handed batters. He mixed in his changeup a few times, and he was able to throw it for called-strikes low in the zone. He also threw a slider, albeit rarely, that looked like a smaller version of his curve. Most of his outs, however, came by way of the fastball, which he threw 91-95 MPH with late cutting movement. He wasn’t always able to locate the fastball well, especially up-and-away to right-handed batters, but he really didn’t need to, as most hitters swung over the top of the pitch even when he threw it down the middle.
Batters Faced: 19
Ground Balls: 1
Fly Balls: 3
Strikeout Breakdown: 4 looking, 10 swinging; 12 with fastball, 2 with curveball; 5 vs. LH batter, 9 vs. RH batter.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattFosterPP.