I’m not sure there has been a pitcher at any level of professional baseball who has been more impressive than left hander Tony Cingrani. The Cincinnati Reds hurler will make his season debut (and first major league start) this evening when the Reds host the Miami Marlins at Great American Ballpark. If you don’t have MLB.tv, this is a good time to consider investing in it.
Cingrani, who came in at number 63 on our Top-115 Prospects list earlier this year, was darn near perfect on Opening Day and he hasn’t fallen off much, if at all, over his next two starts, either. The former third-round pick (2011) out of Rice, Cingrani has worked a total of 14.1 innings at Triple-A Louisville this year and in that time he’s struck out 26 batters. What might be even more impressive is that he’s allowed a total of five baserunners (three hits, two walks) and zero runs.
As impressive as Cingrani has been, his opposite number is at least as big a story so far. Jose Fernandez was a shocking addition to Miami’s Opening Day roster after being assigned to minor league camp early in Spring Training. Fernandez comes with a boat load of talent and we ranked him as the sixth-best prospect in the game.
Just 20 years old, Fernandez has made a pair of starts for the Fish this season and has yet to factor in a decision. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t pitched well enough to win. He’s worked 11 innings and fanned 13 hitters against just three walks while allowing only five hits and a single earned run (0.82 ERA).
Fernandez was selected in the same draft as Cingrani, but was the 14th overall selection out of a Tampa high school. In his first full professional season in 2012, all he did was make 25 starts and go 14-1 with a sterling 1.75 ERA while striking out 158 batters in 134 innings.
If you like watching guys with pure stuff on the mound, this game is pretty much baseball porn. Don’t expect anything that matches what Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer did on Wednesday night in Seattle, because neither hurler is anywhere near as refined as those two, but understand that there is more than enough talent taking the mound tonight in Cincinnati that something special could happen.
There is so much that can go wrong in the development of a pitcher that it’s impossible to really project anyone with any great certainty. If things go as well as they could, however, tonight might simply be the first meeting of two of the better pitchers in the National League for years to come.