The Cincinnati Reds have extended invitations to six minor leaguers for big league spring training. Cincinnati’s third rated prospect, Nick Lodolo, headlines the group of minor leaguers that got the invitations this week. He’ll be joined by fellow lefty Phillip Diehl, right-handed pitchers Graham Ashcraft and Joel Kuhnel, as well as catchers Chris Okey and Chuckie Robinson.
The four pitchers may all head into spring training with a belief that they could possibly make the team with a good showing. Both Phillip Diehl and Joel Kuhnel have big league experience in the 2019 and 2020 seasons (Kuhnel with Cincinnati and Diehl with Colorado). Kuhnel missed much of the 2021 season after having shoulder surgery, but he returned late in the year and pitched well in eight games between the complex level ACL Reds and Triple-A Louisville, giving up just 1 runs in 8.0 innings while striking out 11. Diehl spent his entire season in Louisville’s bullpen where he posted a 2.47 ERA in 58 games that spanned 54.2 innings with just 12 walks and 71 strikeouts.
Nick Lodolo, who was recently rated as the 2nd best left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, spent much of his season with Double-A Chattanooga. The lefty dealt with a blister problem that kept him off of the mound for some time and limited him when he did return, but was dominant when he was toeing the rubber. He threw just 6.2 innings after a call up to Triple-A before he was shut down for the final month of the year with shoulder fatigue. Between his two stops he had a 2.31 ERA with 78 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 50.2 innings.
Graham Ashcraft didn’t reach Triple-A last season. The big righty began the year in High-A Dayton and then was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. At one point during the summer he didn’t allow an earned run in 44.0 consecutive innings between the two teams. Over his 111.0 innings he posted a 3.00 ERA with just four home runs allowed thanks to big time ground ball rates. He also missed plenty of bats, striking out 129 hitters with just 37 walks.
You can never have enough catchers, just like you can never have enough pitchers. While Tyler Stephenson seems to have the starting role locked down for the Reds heading into the 2022 season it’s an unknown as to who his backup will be. Stephenson and Mark Kolozsvary are the only two catchers on the 40-man roster as things stand today. Cincinnati may explore trades or free agency to fill the backup role, but if not they have invited four non-roster catchers into spring training.
Aramis Garcia and Andrew Knapp had already gotten their invites, but now they’ll be joined by Chris Okey and Chuckie Robinson. Okey spent his entire season in Triple-A where he split action, playing in 71 games and hitting .237/.330/.379 for the Bats with 22 walks and 47 strikeouts. Robinson spent his entire year in Double-A where he was splitting time behind the plate and hit .248/.353/.400 with 28 walks and 46 strikeouts in 66 games played.
With these six invites the Reds now have a spring training roster of 57 players. Here’s the full list (as of January 21):