The Cincinnati Reds starting pitching depth is probably the strongest asset in the system. Coming into the 2014 season Jeremy Kivel was ranked as the 15th best prospect in the system and the 9th ranked pitcher in the system following a solid debut with the Arizona League Reds where he posted a 3.91 ERA in 50.2 innings with 23 walks and 56 strikeouts over 13 appearances.
The team sent him to Billings for the 2014 campaign and things started out well enough through two starts, allowing just two runs in 8.1 combined innings with four walks and six strikeouts. After that though, the season hit a rough patch for the right hander as he posted a 9.33 ERA in his next five starts that lasted just 18.1 innings with 12 walks and 17 strikeouts.
Following the start on July 20th Kivel didn’t pitch for two weeks, returning on August 4th and coming out of the bullpen. While he stayed on a 5-day schedule like a starting pitcher, he pitched out of the bullpen for his following two appearances before returning to the rotation in his last two games. After the two weeks off, things have rebounded very well as he’s had a 1.54 ERA in 11.2 innings with four walks and 19 strikeouts over five games.
Fastball | The pitch works i the 93-95 MPH range but will touch 98 MPH. When the pitch stays up, it doesn’t have much movement to it, but when it’s down in the zone there is some good late sinking action on the pitch.
Slider | His putaway pitch is the slider and it flashes itself as a plus offering in the low-to-mid 80’s. The pitch will flatten out every now and again, but is usually at least an average offering and often much more with good biting action that lets the pitch drop off late.
Change Up | Not a pitch he uses very often, only a few times a game, if that. Clearly his third pitch, it’s a below-average offering now but it’s improved quite a bit over the last two seasons.
Other | At times he will overthrow and his mechanics will get away from him which will lead to control problems. While he is having success with his slider at the rookie level, he will need to improve his ability to throw it closer to the zone with more frequency as he moves up. Right now batters will chase the pitch that never started in the strikezone, but that won’t continue at the higher levels and at this point too many sliders are starting off as non-strikes.
He has a very raw arm. He only threw 6.0 innings in high school and is just now sitting at 89.0 innings as a professional. Building up stamina will be a key if he is going to remain as a starting pitcher and he is well behind the rest of the guys because of his lack of pitching experience during his high school years. With two above-average to potentially plus pitches with the fastball and the slider, the bullpen could always be a fallback plan if the stamina or control don’t develop as hoped. Kivel represents one of those high ceiling, but low floor kind of arms, but at the top of his game his arm is among the best in the system.