“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.
I long for the days when the best players, not the best contracts, made the trip north. At least filling a starting spot in 2021 when Bauer or Disco, or both, bolt won’t be as big a concern. The rotation could be even better then.
Prospects are prospects until they prove otherwise, but Lodolo certainly appears to have a huge future ahead of him as a MLB player. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was called up at the end of the year. One thing to remember is that he needs to build up his stamina for the majors. He is going to have to be able to pitch more than a 103 innings to slot into the rotation. They will probably target him for 135 – 170 this year. If he is to be the lefty we have longed for, they need to make sure he stays injury free. As far as open starting positions, I wouldn’t expect Bauer to return in 2020 and I don’t have much faith in Miley, so it will be nice to have Mahle and Lodolo ready to plug in. Hunter Greene might be ready by 2022. Service time rules.
I wouldn’t be so hard on Greene and India, there is plenty of time for them to develop into the players that they were projected to be when they were drafted.
That and Greene has had a long injury issue. Hopefully he starts turning that around this coming season.
Doug – where does Lodolo start the year?
They have said Daytona for Lodolo – though things could change. It usually doesn’t for top end prospects regardless of how their spring goes, but every so often it will.
I don’t believe Greene is throwing off of the mound just yet. He won’t be set for games until late May-ish.
Hunter Greene is 18 months younger than Nick Lodolo. Greene is likely to be at the same place in 18 months that Lodolo is in now, if not further advanced. People are far too quick to give up on Greene, and forget that pitchers like Walker Buehler also had TJ surgery AFTER they were drafted. Greene is still only 20 years old.
In any event, the Reds have a core of Lodolo, Santillan and Greene on the rise in their system, plus Tyler Mahle has been hitting 97 mph in spring training. The system is in the best shape for starting pitching that it’s been in since the Cueto/Bailey era.
Nice story on Kyle Boddy and the Reds leading the pitching revolution in the New York Times today.
That was an awesome read. The Reds might really be positioning themselves well. It will be interesting to see how Greene progresses. In an odd way, having TJ might have sidelined him at exactly the right time for him to skip the transition to Derek Johnson, Caleb, and Boddy. It sounds like he’ll be working under a unified philosophy throughout his minor league development.
thanks for the great article Daytonnati
He pitched 133 innings last year
Hard to believe they would hard cap him at 140 this year.
I could see the cap being 6 innings and trying to get him 25-28 starts every 5th day to get him used to the rhythm and length of the professional season
I think having Boddy on board makes this the most interesting year for the system in a long time.
Does Lodolo become a top 10 prospect in baseball?
Antone seems to have taken a major step forward this spring. Is this because of limited innings on the mound or because Boddy has added 2-3 mph on his FB.
Will Gutierrez become the SP I thought he would be 2 years ago?
Does Mahle take another step forward?
I was really looking forward to the progress of Lyon Richardson and Jose Salvador prior to Boddy joining the team but now even more so.
What impact will this have on Santillan, Miguel Madrano, Packy Naughton and other pitchers in the system?
Should the Reds change their draft strategy after round 10 – 15. My proposal would be to load up on HS pitchers. Tell them that they should sign with the Reds and work with Boddy to increase their chances of arriving in the major leagues. I think this scenario could convince a lot of HS pitchers to pass on college and join the Reds as a means of reaching their dream.
I wouldn’t be totally surprised if they put Lodolo in the Reds pen to end the year. That is if the innings lineup and Lodolo does what we all want him to do this season.