This is the fourth installment of a series of stories previewing the Reds' Spring Training.
CINCINNATI -- More than ever, Major League teams can only go as far as their starting pitching takes them. For a still-developing group of pitchers entering this season, that will mean the Reds demanding a lot from several young players. How far they can go is certainly a question without an answer, but it would not be realistic at this point to think it's a playoff-caliber group just yet.
Following the July 2015 trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, rookies started a Major League record 64 straight games to end the season. The team went 20-44 during that stretch.
"I think we realized, obviously last year, that we transitioned from a veteran bunch of starting pitchers we had in years prior to a much younger group," manager Bryan Price said. "Unfortunately, it didn't go real well."
• Prospects | Comeback candidates | Newcomers
With Spring Training set to open on Thursday, the makeup of the Reds' rotation is far from a sure thing.
Based on their often strong showings during their rookie seasons, Anthony DeSclafani (9-13, 4.05 ERA) and Raisel Iglesias (3-7, 4.15 ERA) seem like locks for two spots. Veteran Homer Bailey will be the longest-tenured member of the rotation, but he won't return from Tommy John surgery until sometime in May.
That leaves three spots in the Opening Day rotation, with up to nine pitchers set to compete -- each with varied stages remaining in their development.
Michael Lorenzen, John Lamb, Jon Moscot, Keyvius Sampson and Brandon Finnegan all got some Major League exposure last season. From this group, Lorenzen led the way with 21 starts in the big leagues, which included nice outings and a lengthy stretch of struggles. He went 4-9 with a 5.40 ERA as a starter.
Lamb (1-5, 5.80 ERA), acquired from the Royals in the Cueto trade, made 10 starts, but he underwent back surgery in December that puts his readiness into question. Moscot posted a 1-1 record with a 4.63 ERA in three starts and seemed headed in the right direction until a diving tag mishap in June left him with a separated non-throwing left shoulder that required season-ending surgery. Sampson (2-6, 6.66 ERA) was roughed up in most of his 12 starts, while Finnegan transitioned from being a reliever to a starter after being part of the Cueto trade.He went 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA in six games (four starts).
A bolder play would be to elevate any of the following three prospects: Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed or Rookie Davis. Stephenson, ranked the No. 35 prospect by MLBPipeline, was the 27th pick in the 2011 Draft. He went 8-11 with a 3.83 ERA betweeb Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville. Reed, ranked as the No. 66 prospect, was the third piece in the Cueto trade. A left-handed power arm, Reed moved up to Double-A in 2015, going 8-4 with a 2.64 ERA. Davis, who came over from the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman trade, split last year between High A and Double-A (8-7, 3.86 ERA) and seems to be a longshot.
The only other veteran -- besides Bailey -- in the mix to join the Reds' rotation is lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez, a non-roster invitee, is far from a sure thing considering he hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2013.
Even if some of these pitchers don't make the rotation, their chances of breaking camp on the 25-man roster are not sunk. There are multiple open spots in the bullpen.
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Away vs. Indians, March 1 at 3:05 p.m. ET
Home vs. Phillies, April 4 at 4:10 p.m. ET