If you were to hand out the Cincinnati Reds minor league post-season awards right now, Tyler Mahle would be the run away winner for Pitcher of the Year. The 22-year-old right hander has posted a 1.97 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 132.1 innings. That’s come with just 29 walks and 129 strikeouts in 22 starts.
With the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the first half, Tyler Mahle posted a 1.59 ERA in 85.0 innings over 14 starts. He’s barely missed a beat with the promotion to Triple-A. In his eight starts with Louisville he’s posted a 2.66 ERA in 47.1 innings for the Bats. This is all just more of the same for Mahle, who posted a 2.43 ERA last season between Advanced-A Daytona and Pensacola.
The California native is not on the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster currently. He will need to be added to the 40-man in the offseason in order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. The only chance in which he isn’t protected by the Reds is if they trade him before he needs to be added in the 4th week of November. If he’s still in the organization, he will be protected.
With his performance this season, and the general performance of the Cincinnati Reds starting pitching as a whole, the question floating around everywhere is whether or not the Reds should put him into the rotation in September to get a look at what he can do in preparation for the 2018 season. It’s not an easy question to answer, but let’s take a look at both sides of the argument.
The argument to call up Tyler Mahle
While he’s not on the 40-man roster, he has to be added in the offseason, so adding him in September wouldn’t be adding him well before it’s needed and wouldn’t use up an option that you otherwise wouldn’t use. From a purely numbers perspective, he’s dominated both levels he’s been at. He pounds the strikezone most of the time and has limited walks throughout his entire career.
Getting Tyler Mahle experience in the Major Leagues now would give the team, and himself a better idea of what to expect in 2018. If there are things he needs to work on, he can enter spring training next year knowing what those things are and possibly be better prepared for that. It would also give him the chance to get any of those “rookie jitters” out of the way if he were going to have them.
The argument for not calling up Tyler Mahle
The big argument is that Tyler Mahle isn’t on the 40-man roster and to get him there you would need to remove someone else. In a rebuild you want to keep as much talent as possible and you would be risking losing talent for a few starts in September of a lost season by making that move. Calling him up in September would also give him service time, meaning that next year, if you believed he was ready, you’d have to keep him down longer in order to gain an extra year of control, or avoid Super 2 status if that’s the angle you wanted as well.
Another argument is that you’ve got plenty of time to get information on Tyler Mahle, but you’ve got less time with other players. Tyler Mahle will not have to stick on the big league roster until the 2021 season at the earliest. Amir Garrett will be out of options next spring and has to stick on the roster. It’s probably a lot more important to see what he can do in September than what Mahle can when it comes to planning out the near-term future. There is also the question of his secondary offerings. As I wrote after he made his Triple-A debut, they just don’t stick out at all right now. Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser spoke with Bats pitching coach Jeff Fassero last night after Mahle’s start in Durham and he had this to say about his secondary offerings:
His off-speed pitches still need to be better,” Fassero said. “They’re not outstanding yet. They’re maybe average, maybe a little bit below.
With lackluster, so-to-speak secondary offerings, perhaps more time in the minor leagues to work on that would be beneficial rather than having him come in and show off an above-average fastball, but struggle to put hitters away with any secondary offerings, leaving him to rely on his fastball.
Both sides of the argument can be made and have plenty of validity. It will be interesting to see how the Reds play it. We will know over the next four weeks what their decision will be and whichever one it is, it’s going to make sense to a lot of people. Some others, though, may not understand the move nearly as much.