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Dugger Gets Nod Over Dunn & Williamson, Romine Activated, Papierski Stays

Dugger Gets Nod Over Dunn & Williamson, Romine Activated, Papierski Stays
By Reds Content Plus • Issue #300 • View online
Today’s Reds news and analysis:
  • Dugger Starts Tonight
  • Romine Activated, Kolozsvary Optioned
  • Checking in on the Trade Acquisitions
  • Scouting Brewers SP Eric Lauer
This issue was written by Matt Wilkes.

Dugger Gets Start Tonight
As the Reds return to a five-man rotation, they only needed to fill one spot after the trades of Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. The writing was on the wall when the team added Robert Dugger to the taxi squad during the trip to Miami, and he will indeed start tonight in Milwaukee. Whether he remains in the rotation beyond today remains to be seen.
Dugger has made three big-league appearances this season, all in emergency long-relief spots — one with the Rays and two with the Reds. He’s pitched well in those appearances, posting a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings. Thanks to his 17 strikeouts against only three walks, he has an even better 2.12 FIP and 2.02 xFIP. If your “small sample size” senses are tingling, your instincts are correct.
His results in Triple-A haven’t been as impressive. In 58.2 innings and 15 appearances, including 12 starts, Dugger has a 4.30 ERA and 4.82 FIP with subpar strikeout and walk rates (18.3 K%, 9.8 BB%). His uninspiring minor-league performance is likely why Dugger hasn’t stuck in the big leagues and has been designated for assignment four times in 2022. This time around, however, he may have a chance to stay for a while.
Justin Dunn and Brandon Williamson, both acquired in the Jesse Winker-Eugenio Suárez trade with the Mariners, are currently pitching in Triple-A. Presumably, they’ll each have a role with the Reds at some point in the future. But neither has pitched well for Louisville.
In seven starts and 26 innings since returning from a shoulder injury, Dunn has an ugly 6.92 ERA, 6.13 FIP, and 6.11 xFIP. Control continues to be a problem for the 27-year-old, as he has a 12.4% walk rate. He was optioned to Louisville when his rehab assignment ended.
Williamson has had similar struggles. He began the year in Double-A, where he ended last season and pitched well with the Mariners. The Reds likely expected Williamson to earn a quick promotion to Triple-A, but he hasn’t thrown nearly as well as he did in 2021. In the same number of innings in Double-A as last season (67.1), Williamson’s strikeout rate dropped from 33.0% to 24.8% and his walk rate jumped from 8.1% to 13.4%. Despite disappointing production, the Reds promoted the 24-year-old to Triple-A at the beginning of July. Williamson hasn’t wowed in Louisville, either. He has a sparkling 3.27 ERA, but the underlying numbers are concerning. A below-average 16.3% strikeout rate and a 12.5% walk rate have led to a 5.02 FIP and 6.03 xFIP in 22 innings.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Dunn and Williamson with the Reds later in the season when Graham Ashcraft and Hunter Greene hit their innings limits. (Williamson may have a limit of his own after throwing just 98.1 innings in the minors last year.) But the two pitchers simply haven’t forced the issue enough to warrant a call-up. There’s not much reason to throw either pitcher to the wolves right now.
Romine Activated, Koloszvary Optioned
News: The Reds activated catcher Austin Romine, who was acquired from the Cardinals on Tuesday for cash considerations. In a corresponding move, catcher Mark Kolozsvary was optioned to Triple-A. The team also optioned reliever Dauri Moreta to Triple-A, presumably to make room for Robert Dugger.
Analysis: The Mike Papierski era lives on — despite him being nothing short of anemic at the plate (13 wRC+) and rating as a below average pitch framer, blocker, and thrower behind the plate. We haven’t seen much from Kolozsvary, only 10 games and 21 plate appearances, but he’s at least provided something offensively (82 wRC+) and hasn’t stood out in a negative way defensively.
Romine has been a career-long backup catcher. The 33-year-old is not much of a hitter (career 67 wRC+), with most of his production coming against left-handed pitchers (90 wRC+). His defensive metrics have slipped in recent years. Romine has played in 14 games this season, hitting .176/.222/.206 in 37 plate appearances (25 wRC+). He was regarded as a great pitch framer earlier in his career but now ranks below average, per Statcast. With 448 career games under his belt, though, he has far more experience managing an MLB pitching staff than Papierski or Koloszvary, which could be particularly valuable for the rookie trio of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft.
Moreta pitched better in his second stint with the Reds this season. In 15 games and 16.2 innings after being recalled on June 19, the 26-year-old had a 3.24 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and 3.94 xFIP. Moreta got his walks under control (4.5 BB%), and his sky-high home-run rate from early in the season stabilized. He was one of only four relievers with options remaining, however. Alexis Diaz wasn’t going anywhere, and Reiver Sanmartin has pitched well since transitioning to the bullpen. Joel Kuhnel is the other reliever with options left, and he’s pitched better than his 5.63 ERA indicates (3.46 xERA, 4.15 FIP, 3.51 xFIP). The Reds could’ve designated Hunter Strickland for assignment, but it looks as if they’re going to ride that bad decision out until the end of the season.
Where Are the Reds' New Acquisitions Playing?
Noelvi Marte
Noelvi Marte
The Reds’ trade deadline acquisitions have officially joined the organization and been assigned to their respective minor-league affiliates. Here’s where they’re playing, in order of highest to lowest level:
  • 2B/SS/3B Spencer Steer (Triple-A)
  • RHP Levi Stoudt (Double-A)
  • 3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand (Double-A)
  • SS Noelvi Marte (High-A)
  • LHP Steve Hajjar (High-A)
  • SS Edwin Arroyo (Low-A)
  • RHP Andrew Moore (Low-A)
  • RHP Jose Acuna (Low-A)
  • CF Hector Rodriguez (Arizona Complex League)
  • SS Victor Acosta (TBD, but likely ACL)
Scouting Brewers SP Eric Lauer
The Reds will face Brewers left-hander Eric Lauer for the second time this season. The first came on June 17. The Reds hit three home runs against him that day, scoring four runs on six hits in 6.1 innings.
Lauer has developed into a solid #4 pitcher for the Brewers since he was acquired from the Padres in November 2019. Since the start of 2021, Lauer has a 3.45 ERA, 4.33 FIP, and 4.18 xFIP in 39 starts and 224.1 innings.
The 27-year-old got off to a blazing start in 2022, dramatically increasing his strikeout rate thanks in part to a jump in fastball velocity for the second year in a row. Coming into this season, he’d never struck out 10 or more hitters in a game in his MLB career. He did it in back-to-back starts on April 24 and 30. The league has caught up to him, though, and his strikeout rate (24.3%), while still above average, has fallen back toward his 2021 clip (23.9%).
Lauer is still having a strong season, carrying a 3.75 ERA, 3.99 xERA, and 4.08 xFIP into tonight’s start.
He’s a pitcher who relies more on command than flashy stuff. As mentioned, his fastball velocity has climbed in each of the last two years, gaining 2 mph since 2020. While his velo is still below average (39th percentile), the uptick — combined with his heater’s high spin efficiency (96%) — has helped him put up a career-best 29.4% whiff rate with his four-seamer. Lauer primarily throws his fastball up in the zone.
Lauer has thrown his slider and curveball more this year at the expense of his cutter and changeup. The slider is his best secondary pitch, holding opposing hitters to a .257 xwOBA this season.
After a rough month of June (6.83 ERA, 6.59 FIP, 4.87 xFIP), Lauer has stabilized a bit over his last five starts (2.96 ERA), although the peripheral numbers (4.36 FIP, 4.53 xFIP) don’t support a sub-3.00 ERA.
As we saw in his lone start against the Reds this year, Lauer’s biggest problem this season has been home runs. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher; only two qualified pitchers (Triston McKenzie and Nestor Cortes) have a higher flyball rate this season. Lauer given up 20 homers in 105.1 innings, 18 of them to right-handed hitters. Only five pitchers (Josiah Gray, Hunter Greene, Jose Berrios, Gerrit Cole, Robbie Ray) have given up more homers this season.
Notably, only one of the Reds hitters to homer against Lauer in June is still on the roster: Albert Almora Jr. The other two were Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham.
MORNING SPIN is the daily newsletter (Monday-Saturday) of Reds Content Plus. Its writers are Matt Wilkes, Steve Mancuso and Kyle Berger.
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