Two Rookie Relievers Who Could Make the Reds Bullpen out of Spring Training

Ricky Karcher throwing a pitch for the Billings Mustangs
Photo by: RION SANDERS/GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE

The 2023 Spring Training will be the most exciting for Reds Fans since 2019. With top prospects, Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Andrew Abbott, Matt McLain, Brandon Williamson, and many others are in key competition for roles on this next year’s team. But today I want to highlight some underappreciated relief pitchers within the Reds farm system, both on the 40-man roster.

Casey Legumina

Casey Legumina (43) pitching for the Minnesota Twins, Photo via @Reds

Casey Legumina was acquired from the Minnesota Twins this off-season in exchange for Kyle Farmer. Legumina pitched almost entirely for the Twins’ AA affiliate (The Wichita Wind Surge) last season, where he started 13 games, mainly towards the beginning of the season. He then appeared in 17 more games out of the bullpen, mainly towards the end of the season, where he ended with ten straight scoreless outings.

This transition to the bullpen gives me hope for him going into spring training and next year as a whole. Legumina has a great fastball/slider combination with excellent spin rates with each offering. His slider is perfect, making a lot of AA hitters look silly. He also topped out around 99 on his fastball after moving to the bullpen but sits typically around 96-97.

@RedsFan_Brandon on Twitter highlights Legumina’s nastiness after moving to the bullpen.

Despite having some troubles with the long ball throughout 2022, he only gave up two home runs after his final transition to the bullpen at the end of the season, something Legumina will have to keep working on to have success within the small confines of Great American Ballpark. His strikeout numbers give me a lot of hope, though, with a total of 27 strikeouts coming to a 34.2 K% over those last 17 crucial innings.

My hope with Legumina is that with a full off-season to spend with the Reds’ pitching coaches and training staff, is that he’ll hone in on not allowing home runs as he had done throughout 2021 and work on those spin rates to have even greater spin efficiency.

Ricky Karcher

Edwin Yon and Ricky Karcher celebrating for the Billings Mustangs (2019), Photo by AMY NELSON, Billings Gazette

Ricky Karcher is an incredibly talented relief pitcher with one problem: sometimes it feels like even he doesn’t know where the baseball is going. He has a walk rate of nearly 6BB/9 during the 2022 minor league season between AA Chattanooga and AAA Louisville, although it has been trending downwards over the past few seasons. Karcher has come down from over 10BB/9 in 2021, although he did not pitch more than 27.1 innings that season.

@joshbromans highlighting Karcher’s dominant stretch throughout August 2022

His strikeout numbers are something to behold. However, he has not posted a K/9 under ten since his 2019 rookie ball season. In 25 AA innings, he posted over a 15 K/9 rate with a 3.26 FIP. After being promoted to AAA Louisville, Karcher continued his dominant season by posting over a 13 K/9 and a 3.41 FIP over 31.2 innings.

@CharlieG_ comments on Ricky Karcher’s addition to the 40-man roster

According to Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds General Manager Nick Krall knew that adding Karcher to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft was a “no-brainer” decision. With Krall’s comments and Karcher’s progression over the 2022 season, I think there’s a very good chance that he makes the Reds’ bullpen out of camp. But he does need to keep the walks at bay, but there’s no doubt that his stuff is electric.

2023 Reds Bullpen Competition Summary

There are a lot of players in competition to join the Reds’ bullpen this season, so I want to highlight the three categories for bullpen arms going into next season and how spring training can affect the bullpen’s formation:

The Locks:

  • Alexis Diaz
  • Lucas Sims
  • Tejay Antone
  • Luis Cessa

In Competition:

  • Ian Gibaut
  • Reiver Sanmartin
  • Tony Santillan
  • Buck Farmer
  • Connor Overton
  • Ricky Karcher
  • Casey Legumina
  • Joel Kuhnel
  • Daniel Duarte
  • Alex Young
  • Derek Law
  • Jared Solomon
  • Vladimir Gutierrez

Long Shots:

  • Connor Phillips
  • Lyon Richardson
  • Kevin Herget
  • Tayron Guerrero
  • Andrew Abbott
  • Ben Lively
  • Silvino Bracho

A lot of exciting names! Probably not a lot that you have heard of, but I honestly feel there are many talented pitchers in here that could help the Reds throughout their 2023 campaign. I wish all of them, especially Karcher and Legumina, well in their campaign to make the major league roster out of camp this season.

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