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.

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:

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.

11 Responses

  1. CFD3000

    Great update Jeff. There are two things I really like here and one I don’t. First the don’t: Why only 3 innings? Sounds like he was pretty pitch efficient with no walks, so I’m disappointed that he’s on such a short leash. Now the likes: I love that he hasn’t issued a walk yet. That tells me not only that he has mature control, but also that he’s not a nibbler. Nibblers do not succeed at the major league level. And I love that he’s throwing in the mid-90’s. One of the criticisms I’d seen of this pick was that he’s a crafty lefty, and crafty in college is not the same as in Cincinnati. But ttphats a major league fastball, and combined with the slider and change offers some real contrast in speeds. Suddenly I’m much more optimistic about this selection. Here’s hoping he continues to stay healthy, pitch with confidence, and move up through the system. Thanks!

    • CFD3000

      *that’s a major league fastball… Covfefe!

    • Jeff Carr

      Thanks CFD, the big thing that has them limiting him to 3 innings is that he pitched 103 innings for TCU, before being drafted. He pitched just 11.1 innings in three starts at Billings, so I gotta believe this is where they keep him for as long they have planned to pitch him, the rest of 2019.

  2. TR

    I doubt the Reds will drag Lodolo out and make him a reliever as long as Derek Johnson is head of the pitching department.

  3. David

    It will take him some time (hard to determine at first) to develop the stamina to take a turn every 5 days and pitch 6-7 innings. He has also pitched something like 103 innings in college this spring. He has to get used to taking the ball and pitching every 5 days. I think that because after a few appearances at Billings, he is at Low A, means the Reds know exactly what they have and are moving him.
    To avoid injury (like TJ surgery on Greene) they want to limit arm fatigue and his innings this summer.

    Probably won’t pitch more than 140-145 innings total (including his ~ 103 college innings).

    • Michael E

      Stamina wasn’t a problem a few months ago in college. I can understand giving him a few weeks off or skipping a start or two or going every 6 days, but I don’t get shorter reps. It’s like going backwards.

      If I were running things, with college pitchers already used to pitching 100 innings, I’d give them a few weeks of R&R and then get back at it. I can see limiting pitches to 85 or so for rest of first pro season, but I don’t get 3 innings or 50 pitch limit or whatever is going on.

      We’re retraining Lodolo to have no stamina for starting, and possibly forcing a move to the bullpen. I just don’t get it. I know (or hope) 2020 means less babying and going 6 or 7 innings regularly, but honestly, if they were smart they’d keep him where he was already at, not help him regress, regarding stamina. A solution looking for a problem.

      • LWblogger2

        I disagree. From an intuition standpoint what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. With the new Reds’ focus on analytical data, I believe the Reds are following a plan that allows for the most development and least risk of injury. There’s probably data out there about the best way to bring guys along. I don’t think they are retraining him or limiting his stamina. It’s not going be be hard to get him stretched out to 60, 80, 100 pitches. Guys do it every year in Spring Training.

  4. David

    Well, Koufax control SUCKED early in his career. He threw really hard, but couldn’t locate his fastball. Then he developed a curve, and was a very dominant pitcher for 5-6 years, and then hurt his elbow and his career was over.

  5. Satchmo

    +Has the frame, arm slot, and delivery to be murder on lefties. To a left-handed hitter, that slider must look like it’s coming off a mountain located on first base.
    +MLB ready two-seam fastball with pinpoint control that runs away from righties. Combine that with the circle change that also runs away from righties and you have a left-hander that isn’t vulnerable to right-handed hitters.
    +If righties start leaning over the plate for the heat and/or change, bury that slider on their back foot or in on their fist.

    Someone did an excellent job explaining to this kid that his stuff will get lefties out, and that he should prepare for a lineup full of right-handed platoon players. In turn, he’s developed a quiver of pitches that neutralize right handed hitters. He very much reminds of a big version of Tom Glavine, a lefty that had better splits vs. righties because of having the ability to get weak contact.

  6. TR

    And to think that Sandy was enrolled and pitched at UC prior to signing with the Dodgers.

  7. Indy Red Man

    Looks just like Chuck Finley to me!!!