By: Noah Wright
Michael Lorenzen. He’s one of the most interesting players currently in baseball. Yesterday, he saw his first action in centerfield, while also getting some time on the mound. This is the first step the Cincinnati Reds and Lorenzen are hoping for Lorenzen to become a 2-way player. Right now, this experiment is in its early stages, but how well will it work out in the end?
We all know Lorenzen was a former center fielder back in his college days at California State University Fullerton. He was a pretty notable bat back during his college years. During his 3 years at Cal. State University, Lorenzen put up an OPS above .900 in 2/3 seasons. While he wasn’t a huge slugger, he did swipe some bags, having 45 SBS in his 164 college games. Michael also showed off some real pitching talent, having recorded an ERA under 2 in both seasons he pitched (2012, 2013). He mainly served as the team’s closer, and had shown impressive control. After his 2012 season, Lorenzen was even up for John Olerud Two-Way Player Of The Year Award. In 2011, Lorenzen was on team USA, and had batted for a .317 average, and blasted a home run.
When 2013 rolled around, Lorenzen was up for the draft again. He had previously been drafted by the Rays in the 7th round of the 2010 draft out of high school, but had opted to go to college. Lorenzen was ranked as a top 50 draft pick, having been placed at 45 by MLB.com, and 52 by Baseball America. His primary position was centerfield, according to MLB.com. The Reds drafted Michael Lorenzen with the 38th overall pick in the first round. However, the Reds decided to have Lorenzen drop his hitting, and focus on his pitching. He showed he had very good potential as a starter, having a 3.00 ERA but 1.571 WHIP in 21 innings between Low and High A, rookie ball, and Double-A. 2014 was the first year Lorenzen got a full year in the minors, and he pitched fairly well. Through 120 and two thirds innings, Lorenzen had a 3.13 ERA and had given up only 9 home runs. He had also finished the year with a solid 1.293 WHIP. Though his FIP was 4.01, Lorenzen ranked as the 63rd best prospect entering 2015.
Since coming to the bigs, Lorenzen has been a solid, but inconsistent pitcher. Last year, he had a 3.11 ERA, but a 4.16 FIP. During 2017, Lorenzen had a 4.45 ERA and a 4.01 FIP. He’s yet to string together consecutive good seasons, however his bat has gotten better. Between 2015 and 2017, Lorenzen only stepped to the plate 58 times, and 41 of those plate appearances all came in his 2015 rookie season. Regardless, he had struggled, only amassing a .618 OPS and 12 hits including 1 home run.
Even though it had been 5 whole seasons since Lorenzen was getting any sort of regular at bats, things changed in 2018. During the most recent MLB season, Michael was getting at bats here and there throughout the year, and for a good reason. Lorenzen started to receive some notoriety for his bat during June when he blasted 3 home runs in the last week of June. In comparison, Harper had just 2 in the same month. In total, Lorenzen came in as a pinch hitter 14 times during the year. He had drawn 2 walks, had a double, and finished the season with a 1.043 OPS.
Lorenzen showed he can more than handle himself with the bat at the MLB level. And with a new wave of 2-way players coming in, the Reds decided ‘why not’ and are going to try Lorenzen as a 2-way experiment. Next year, along with pitching, he’ll also see some time in the outfield. But the question on everyone’s mind is, how successful will this experiment be? Well for one, I don’t think he’ll be any sort of Shohei Ohtani. However I also don’t think he’ll be a complete flop. Lorenzen has experience as a 2-way player back in college, so this role isn’t that unfamiliar to him. He showed he can hit MLB pitching, as well as do decent against MLB hitting. I think he’ll do fair in the role if he’s given regular at bats. Let’s assume he gets in total, 250 plate appearances in the year. If the Reds stick with this plan, I could see Lorenzen batting a solid .260/.300/.450 with 10 home runs, and pitching to a 3.80 ERA/FIP. If he can pitch and hit to around there, I would call this experiment a success. His outfield defense, well that might be another question, but since he can dial his fastball up into the high 90’s, his arm will definitely fit the outfield. So long as he isn’t as bad as Rhys Hoskins, Nick Castellanos, or Bryce Harper with the glove, he’ll be fine in the grass.
This experiment has tons of potential to work, but Lorenzen could struggle. We know he wasn’t that great of a batter between his first few seasons in the bigs, and only broke out with the bat during 2018. However, I think there’s a greater chance of this working, than flopping.