“Put him in the rotation.” Those were the words from Cincinnati Reds oufielder Nick Senzel. The pitcher he was talking about? 2019 first round pick and Cincinnati Reds #2 prospect Nick Lodolo. The two faced off this week in live batting practice. It wasn’t just Senzel that faced off against the left-handed pitcher, though. Jose Garcia and Derek Dietrich also saw time in the batters box against him. And according to the report from John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer no one put the ball in play against Lodolo on the day.
Over the last two decades there have only been three drafted pitchers reach the Major Leagues with incredible quickness for the Reds. Ryan Wagner came out of Houston as a 1st rounder in 2003 and he was in the Major Leagues six weeks after the draft. The reliever was dominant his first year, but he struggled to find consistency over the next few years and threw his final game in the Major Leagues when he was 24-years-old. Mike Leake was in the Major Leagues 11 months after he was drafted. Tony Cingrani reached the Major Leagues 16 months after he was drafted. Unless I’m forgetting someone – those three were the quickest to the Majors among Reds drafted pitchers over the last two decades.
Nick Lodolo was drafted last June. As the first pitcher taken in the class, he is expected to move quickly. And in his professional debut last year, albeit in very limited action – he showed just about everything you wanted to see as he dominated hitters for both the rookie-level Billings Mustangs and Low-A Dayton Dragons. The lefty posted a 2.45 ERA in 18.1 innings with no walks, one home run allowed, and he struck out 30 batters.
That performance came on top of a dominant junior season at TCU where he posted a 2.36 ERA in 103.0 innings. He only walked 25 batters in that span and he struck out 131. And the stuff is there to back up the numbers, too.
The 6′ 6″ left-handed starter has a fastball that works 92-94 MPH and will touch 96. And there’s probably some room to add to that in the future, too. He shows two breaking balls, one that’s harder and more like a slider, and one that’s a bit slower and more of a curveball – both of them can be above-average offerings. And he’ll also bring a change up to the table.
Nick Lodolo is probably the most polished pitcher the Reds have drafted since Mike Leake. And we all saw what Leake was able to do and quickly at that. But the situation isn’t the same for Lodolo and for Leake. The Reds rotation is full today with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani, and Wade Miley. And behind them sits Tyler Mahle and Jose De Leon. Cincinnati doesn’t have a need for Lodolo at the big league level. At least not right now in March of 2020.
Nick Ldolo is in Major League camp, but you aren’t forgetting about a time he’s pitched this year if you don’t remember one – he hasn’t pitched in a game this spring. And he’s not expected to do so, either. He’s going to go to minor league camp before too long, and then he’s going to start pitching in games and building towards the start of the minor league season, which begins two weeks after the big league season.
The 2019 first round pick of the Reds isn’t going to match Mike Leake in terms of how quickly he reaches the Major Leagues. Fortunately for the Reds they won’t need him to do so. It’s probably too soon to take Nick Senzel’s advice and put him in the rotation now, but it may not be too long before Nick Lodolo finds himself truly knocking on the door of the majors.