Lorenzen using AFL to transition into starting pitcher
Former college star among eight Reds prospects playing for Glendale
Michael Lorenzen batted .335/.412/.515 as a center fielder at Cal State Fullerton this spring. He's an athletic 6-foot-3, 180-pounder with solid power potential and speed, not to mention above-average center-field skills and a cannon for an arm.
However, the Reds didn't draft Lorenzen 38th overall in June and hand him a $1.5 million bonus to become an everyday player. That's not a real shock, because he also starred as a closer for the Titans. He had three wins and 19 saves in 22 pitching appearances this spring, displaying a clean delivery, a mid-90s fastball and the makings of a plus curveball.
Used as a reliever in his pro debut, Lorenzen posted a 3.00 ERA in 22 appearances and finished the year at Double-A Pensacola. His fastball topped out at 99 mph this summer. But Cincinnati doesn't see him coming out of its big league bullpen in the future.
Instead, the Reds hope to turn Lorenzen into a starter. That's why they've sent him to the Arizona Fall League and put him in the rotation for the first time since he was a 12-year-old playing travel ball. While he'd love to be an everyday player -- and starting pitching is taking some getting used to -- he never before had cleats with a pitching toeplate. Lorenzen is happy to follow orders.
"I'm just ready to compete, and I'm working my butt off to get my body in good enough shape -- in pitcher's shape, not center-field shape -- to where I have that longevity and I'm not just a power guy," Lorenzen said. "I'm still going to throw hard and I'm still going to come at you. But I think there's more of a strategy to it than just coming out and throwing my hardest and having the power breaking ball and all that."
Transitioning to becoming a starting pitcher will take some time. In his first three outings for the Glendale Desert Dogs, opponents tagged him for 19 hits (including four homers) and 15 runs (14 earned) in 9 2/3 innings. He walked five and struck out just three, a far cry from his dominating days as a Fullerton reliever.
While he certainly hoped for better initial results, his AFL numbers don't really matter. The main concern is getting him ready for a full season of starts in 2014.
"I think the biggest thing is just building up my arm strength, getting better command of all three of my pitches and just figuring out what kind of pitcher I'm going to be," Lorenzen said. "Just getting used to the starting role."
If starting pitching doesn't work out for Lorenzen in the long run, he has more fallback options than most prospects. The Reds could always move him back to the bullpen or center field, knowing he has excelled in both roles.
Reds hitters in the AFL
• One of the better defensive catchers in the minors, Tucker Barnhart has above-average throwing and receiving skills and erased 37 percent of basestealers in Double-A this year. A 10th-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Brownsburg (Ind.) High -- which also produced Lance Lynn and Drew Storen -- he projects as a big league backup with a modest bat.
• Like Barnhart, Ryan LaMarre could carve out a role as a reserve in the Majors, thanks to his defense. The 2010 second-round pick from Michigan gets easy plus grades for his speed and center-field ability. He'll need to show more consistency at the plate, though he did hit a career-high 10 homers in Double-A this year.
• A Phillies second-round choice out of a Washington high school in 2007, corner infielder Travis Mattair took the 2010 season off while pursuing an opportunity to play basketball at Boise State. He returned to baseball a year later, and went to the Reds in the Triple-A phase of the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. He has some raw power and arm strength, but struggles to make consistent hard contact.
• Though outfielder Yorman Rodriguez has been slow to develop since signing for a then-Venezuelan record $2.5 million bonus in 2008, he did have his best full season and reached Double-A this year. He still exhibits five-tool potential, but undermines himself at the plate by being overly aggressive.
Reds pitchers in the AFL
• Right-hander Drew Hayes has legitimate big league velocity, working at 91-94 mph with his fastball. An 11th-round selection from Vanderbilt in 2010, he has spent the last two years in Double-A trying to improve his fastball life, secondary pitches and control.
• Shortly after the Reds drafted him in the 28th round out of Galveston (Texas) Community College in 2010, right-hander Chad Rogers had a run-in with a shark while surfing in the Gulf of Mexico and required 60 stitches in his right foot. A starter, he throws strikes and works primarily with an 87-93 mph sinker and a mid-80s cutter/slider.
• A two-way star at Division II Mercyhurst (Pa.), right-hander Jamie Walczak became a full-time pitcher after signing as a 15th-rounder in 2009. His fastball tops out in the low 90s, and his changeup is often his best pitch.