Analyzing prospects in Cueto deal
Reds receive trio of southpaws with Major upside
Looking to go one step further than they did in 2014, the Royals found a true No. 1 starter for their rotation on Sunday. They acquired Johnny Cueto from the Reds in exchange for three promising left-handers: Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and John Lamb.
Cueto gives Kansas City its best starter since Zack Greinke departed in a trade with the Brewers following the 2010 season. Cueto is posting a sub-3.00 ERA for the fifth straight season, with a 7-6, 2.62 record in 19 starts. He has a 120/29 K/BB ratio in 130 2/3 innings a year after leading the National League with 242 strikeouts.
Cueto, 29, works with a fastball that sits around 92-95 mph and a slider and changeup that both operate around 83-85. His fastball is his best pitch, and he'll throw two-seam, four-seam and cut variations of it. The only real concern with him is durability, as he missed much of 2013 with lat issues and lost two starts to elbow soreness this May.
He'll be eligible for free agency when his five-year, $36.2 million contract concludes at the end of the season. The Royals won't be able to get a first-round pick as compensation if Cueto leaves, because they're unable to make him a qualifying offer since he was not with them all season.
All three of the lefties acquired by Cincinnati have a chance to be big league starters. The highest profile belongs to Finnegan, who made history in 2014 as the first player to appear in the College World Series and World Series in the same calendar year. The 17th overall pick the 2014 Draft, he signed for $2,220,600.
Video: [email protected]: Finnegan escapes two-on, no-out jamFinnegan, 22, has shuttled this year between relieving in Kansas City (3-0, 2.96 ERA, 21/13 K/BB in 24 1/3 innings) and primarily starting in the Minors between Double-A and Triple-A (0-3, 5.00 ERA, 32/19 K/BB in 27 innings). Though he lacks size at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he has a big fastball that can reach 98 mph. His low-80s slider gives him a solid second offering, and he also has an effective changeup.
Video: Top Prospects: Cody Reed, LHP, RedsReed, 22, has blossomed in 2015 after struggling in his first two pro seasons. Signed for $1,198,500 in the second round of the 2013 Draft, he throws a 90-96-mph fastball with sink and cut and backs it up with a slider and changeup that could become above-average secondary pitches. In 18 appearances (15 starts) between high Class A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas this year, he has gone 7-7, 2.53 with an 84/26 K/BB ratio in 96 innings.
Video: Top Prospects: John Lamb, LHP, RedsLamb, 25, developed into one of baseball's top lefty prospects before blowing out his elbow in 2011. He hasn't fully reclaimed his stuff since Tommy John surgery, but he has reinvented himself and has performed well in Triple-A. He has gone 9-1, 2.67 in 17 starts at Omaha with a 96/29 K/BB in 94 1/3 innings.
A fifth-round pick in 2008, Lamb now pitches with an 89-93-mph fastball that tops out at 96 and a low-80s cutter that helps him against right-handers. His changeup used to be a plus-pitch, but it's now merely average, and he also has a soft curveball.
The Royals had more pitching depth in the Minors than they've had in recent years, so they could afford to sacrifice some to land a frontline starter who could help them win their first World Series in 30 years. The Reds weren't going to be able to re-sign Cueto, so turning him into three promising southpaws makes more sense than taking a first-round pick as compensation.