In 2013, the Cincinnati Reds drafted Tyler Mahle in the 7th round , signing him to an above slot value signing bonus of $250,000. After throwing an impressive 34.1 innings in his debut season in the Arizona League, the Reds challenged the young right-handed pitcher with a promotion to Billings in 2014, his age 19 season.
After beginning the year in Extended Spring Training, Mahle would be tabbed as the Mustangs Opening Day starter on June 16th, when he allowed three runs on five hits with three walks and four punch outs in five innings. After his solid first start, Mahle was excellent in his second outing, striking out eight over five innings of one-run baseball. Unfortunately, Mahle followed this dominant performance with his worst start as a professional, as he allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 2.1 innings in his final start of June. For the month, he posted an ugly 8.76 ERA, despite solid peripherals, as he fanned 14 and walked only three in 12.1 innings.
The 19-year old California native would bounce back in July, by firing five scoreless innings in his first start of the month. Then, after a less than stellar next start, Mahle responded by pitching an outstanding complete game shutout versus the Ogden Raptors on July 13th, allowing three hits and zero free passes, while striking out six. Although his strikeout rate was slightly reduced and his walk rate slightly increased in July, he would finish the month with a much prettier 3.48 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
Mahle continued to build on his strong season when the calendar turned to August, as he had two strong outings to begin the month, surrendering only three earned runs in a combined 11 innings, striking out seven and walking only one batter. Unfortunately, he took a step backwards in his next start on August 15th, as he failed to pitch through the 4th inning, allowing nine runs (six earned) on nine hits. This outing turned out to be just a brief blip on Mahle’s radar; He dominated his final two starts of the month (including his second complete game of the year), as he did not allow an earned run in 13.2 innings, and produced a 13/2 K/BB ratio.
Mahle would make only one regular season start in the month of September, and it was very strong. He whiffed five, did not issue a free pass over five innings, and allowed just one run (on a solo homer) on five hits. The young righty received a no-decision in his only playoff start, but he was undoubtedly a huge part of the Billings Mustangs Pioneer League Championship run.
The Pioneer League was a significant challenge for Mahle, as he was a couple years younger than the average player in the league. However, the promising pitching prospect proved he was ready for the task by finishing 2nd in the league in ERA, among qualified hurlers, while posting very strong strikeout (22.0%) and walk (4.6%) rates. In 2015, Mahle will look to continue his progression on the mound for the Low-A Dayton Dragons.
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