Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 3

Corcino Readies for AAA

Efforts to tap into Caribbean talent landed Cincinnati a couple of elite arms in Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman. 22 year-old Dominican Daniel Corcino is now the top candidate to join them. He's entered some top 100 lists and after starting out as a 17 year-old in the Dominican League he's now set for AAA.

The first thing that comes to mind when looking at Daniel Corcino is Johnny Cueto. It's not really fair to place expectations on a prospect to become a Cy Young contender, but the similarities are there. Both signed free agent contracts with the Reds out of the Dominican Republic and they have comparable deliveries with similar physiques. They started seasons at Dayton when they were 20 years old and pitched in AA the next year. They will diverge career paths a bit this season. When Cueto was 22 in 2008 rotation deficiencies caused Cincinnati to skip him over AAA and he spent the entire season with the parent team. He showed promise that year but hitters still hit him for a near-five ERA. That will not be the case in 2013 and Corcino figures to spend his season getting additional development at Louisville.

Corcino started his professional career getting knocked around as a seventeen year-old reliever in the Dominican League. That did not stop the Reds from moving him stateside the next year when he didn't fare much better in the Pioneer League. In year three he Reds converted him to a starter and he earned a mid-season promotion to single A. He entered the radar with a mid-three ERA/1.16 WHIP at Dayton in 2011 and was invited to spring training last year. When it was over Cincinnati skipped him over high-A to Pensacola where he put up a flat three ernie that was on the way down when the season ended.

The area where Corcino impressed most while in single A was his command and his K/BB was 156/34 over 139 innings during his full season at Dayton. That became an issue last season when he started out against more disciplined hitters in the Southern League and over his first six appearances it was 23/15. That wasn't surprising after skipping a level and he made gains during the season, bringing it up to 103/50 over the next twenty outings. The highlight of his year was throwing eight innings of a no-hitter with nine strikeouts on June 16.

Still, Corcino needs to reduce walks from his rate last season which was over four per nine innings. His strikeout rate dipped from 10.1 to 7.9 per nine, but it's not really fair to compare his 2011/12 seasons because he went from facing low-A batters to AA. Of course, as is often the case with shorter prospects, there's going to be durability concerns but he has stayed healthy while making 26 minor league starts in both of the last two years. Besides, the Reds know from first-hand experience that top-rotation pitchers don't always have to be six feet tall. Actually they might have gone through a bit of a learning curve because Corcino's delivery utilizes good lower body rotation to generate additional power similar to what Cueto adopted after he came off the DL in 2011.

On the other hand, one rate Corcino maintained after the jump is the most important one of all: he kept a low frequency of opposing players crossing the plate. It certainly helped that he limited his number of home run pitches to nine in 143 innings. He did that with a mid-90's fastball, solid change-up, and an effective slider that could stand some improvement on consistency. He worked in the Dominican Winter League over the offseason to prep for a full AAA season and make a case for an expansion call-up. Hanging expectations on a youngster of being another Cueto might be unfair, but then again it's not necessarily a bad thing either. Anticipation is high and while the Reds have moved several top prospects in trade packages they've made sure that he remained. Corcino should be MLB-ready in 2014 after a couple of pitchers in their current rotation are eligible for free agency.

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