The Dayton Dragons lost a late-inning stunner to the Great Lakes Loons 6-4 on Thursday night, but the outcome of the game was far from the most important thing. Thursday night was the Dragons debut of Reds 2019 first round pick, Nick Lodolo.
If you look at his stat line then you will see he tossed three innings, allowed one earned run, and struck out five. He hit his first batsman in his professional career (Great Lakes’ second baseman, Michael Busch, who left the game after taking a 94 MPH fastball off his elbow) and allowed three hits. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though.
Lodolo is a long (6’, 6”) southpaw with a three-quarters, almost sidearm delivery. What’s peculiar about his wind-up is he begins with toes pointed toward homeplate, then shifts his feet toward first base before then going into a quick leg kick and toss to the catcher. It almost appeared as if his wind-up was more of a from-the-stretch approach, but it’s just that he shifts his feet before his leg kick.
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) July 25, 2019
In his Low-A debut, he confounded right-handers, as much as lefties, as he has two pitches that move away from righties.
His first, a two-seam fastball that ran up to the plate around 94-95 MPH, has a late break that moves the ball right out of the spot where the hitter believed it would end up. Even though it has decent speed with nice break, the Reds’ first-rounder commanded it well. Where Kyle Farmer (making a rehab appearance) set his mitt, Lodolo put his two-seamer right there.
He also had a pseudo-circle change. I call it that, because I’m not 100% sure it is a circle change, but it faded away from righties at around 84 MPH. It’s movement is not near as dramatic as Luis Castillo’s (but, c’mon, whose is?) but it’s enough to induce soft contact…or twist hitters into the dirt, like so:
— Dayton Dragons (@DragonsBaseball) July 25, 2019
Lodolo’s bread-and-butter is his slider. Running up around 84-86 MPH, it sometimes acts as a curveball (though he, reportedly, uses the same grip) and slows to 80-82 MPH. This pitch he also drops on a dime. He buckled plenty of knees as the pitch appeared to begin far outside the strike zone, only to fall right over the plate for strike three.
The left-hander induced four called strike-three’s on the night (meaning just one of his five strikeouts were of the swinging variety). He also continues his young professional career without having issued a walk.
A key moment in his outing was in the second inning, after he had allowed the Loons to score, Farmer came out to the mound to meet with him. It was apparent, after the sequence that followed, that Farmer just went out and told them to blow em away. Reason I say that is, facing the next batter, Lodolo tossed three-straight low and away 95 MPH fastballs to induce an easy ground out to first base. Kid has composure.
His development will be interesting to witness. He is 21, already, and I have heard we may see him as early as 2021. Time will tell if that’s the case, but Thursday night was rather encouraging to witness.