Inbox: How can Reds better develop pitching?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers questions from fans

November 26th, 2018

What do the Reds need to do to make sure that any new trades for Minor League and Major League pitching talent will be better than in the past? It seems that most of the Major League teams besides the Reds have had more success with their pitching and hitting prospects.
-- Robert M., Portsmouth, Ohio

The Reds have had some successes via trades for young pitchers like and, before his injury issues, . There have also been some good deals for younger position players like , and .
The club's biggest issue hasn't been the trades for pitching prospects -- it's been the inability to consistently develop pitchers. Many perform well in player development only to struggle in the big leagues. Hence, the Reds are working to overhaul their player development system. A new senior director was named in Shawn Pender, and a new Minor League field coordinator will be added. New pitching coach Derek Johnson will also be charged with creating a pitching philosophy that covers all levels of the system.
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I saw on the Diamondbacks' roster. I did not see anything about a trade.
-- Glenn, Louisville, Ky.

Simple explanation. They are two Cody Reeds, and both are left-handed pitchers. The Reds' Reed is still with the club. There wasn't a trade.

I'm excited for the new year as it looks like the Reds have a lot of great young pieces but uncertainty where they fit. With DeSclafani, Castillo and , I think they form a good young core. Is there any chance they could get Homer Bailey off the books? If they could re-sign Matt Harvey and add a veteran, I think they'd be in good shape. What do you think?
-- Dan M., Noblesville, Ind.

I don't think it can be assumed that the Reds' rotation is in good shape after it finished the 2018 season 14th out of 15 National League clubs in ERA and struggled in several other categories. Clearly at least two starters are needed, but that alone doesn't mean contending.
Castillo had some great stretches, but he needs to keep improving. And DeSclafani's year started on the disabled list and ended with a really rough final month. Romano could be a reliever or a starter. As for Bailey, getting "off the books" is a tall order considering he's owed $28 million for 2019, including his option buyout for '20.
For those not up on modern baseball analytics, can you describe what new assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker brings to coaching hitters? How does statistics analysis translate into swing mechanics?
-- Ron H., Coloma, Mich.

Using analytic data and cameras, coaches can track hitters' swing path, attack angle, launch angle and exit velocity, among other things. With that information, they can then try to alter the mechanics and how the bat meets the ball to maximize contact and the trajectory of the ball in play. In the past, a lot of the changes to swings and batting stances were trial and error, and sometimes they were based on how the hitter felt. The data makes outcomes of future swings more predictive.