For the large part of his career, Tyler Mahle had dominated at each level. In 2016 he stumbled late in the year in Double-A. The Cincinnati Reds sent the 22-year-old right hander back to Double-A to start the year. He didn’t waste much time establishing his authority. In his first three starts he allowed two earned runs in 17.2 innings with 19 strikeouts. That was just a teaser. On April 22nd in a road game in Mobile, Mahle took things to the next level. He would face 27 batters and he would retire them all. It was his second no-hitter in his minor league career and the first perfect game. He capped off April with 6.0 shutout innings against Biloxi. The struggles in Pensacola to end 2016 were behind him. After five starts in April, he had a 0.55 ERA in 32.2 innings with just six walks and 34 strikeouts.
With such an incredible April it is no surprise that May wasn’t quite as good. The month began with his worst outing of the year for the Blue Wahoos. In Chattanooga he allowed a whole three runs over 5.0 innings. Yes, that was his worst outing in Double-A during 2017. The rest of the month was outstanding and he would finish with 37.0 innings over six starts. That came along with 10 walks and 38 strikeouts.
June began with more of the same. He made three starts between the beginning of the month and the 16th, allowing three runs in 15.1 innings. His third start was short, just 3.0 innings, but would allow him to start the Southern League All-Star game in Pensacola. Unfortunately the game was rained out. He was promoted to Triple-A Louisville after that. The first start at the new level came on the road in Norfolk. The defense wasn’t helpful as he was charged with three unearned runs over 6.0 innings. That came with a walk and nine strikeouts. Tyler Mahle finished the month with a 1.27 ERA in 21.1 innings with just two walks and 24 total strikeouts.
The month of July began with another game where the defense struggled behind him. Three unearned runs on top of three earned in 7.0 innings against Indianapolis. The next outing was arguably the worst of Tyler Mahle’s career. Against Charlotte he allowed five runs in 1.1 innings of work with two walks and a strikeout. He would rebound well over the final three starts of the month, allowing three runs in 20.0 innings. It was the worst month of the season, but still resulted in a 3.49 ERA. That also came with seven walks and 24 strikeouts in 28.1 innings pitched.
The strong finish in July carried over into August for Tyler Mahle. The first four starts of the month he allowed just seven runs in 25.0 innings (2.52 ERA). The month would end with a dream coming true for the right hander. On August 27th he would make his debut in Cincinnati against the Pirates. Things could have gone better, but he was solid as he allowed three runs in 5.0 innings. Where he struggled, surprisingly, was his control. He walked four batters in the game.
The next time out, on September 2nd, he faced the Pirates again, this time in Pittsburgh. He tossed 6.0 shutout innings with no walks and three strikeouts. The Mets had success against Mahle on the 7th. New York would scored three runs in 4.0 innings against him and walk four times with just two strikeouts. His final start of the year came on September 13th against St. Louis. He shut down the Cardinals over 5.0 innings, allowing no runs, walking three and striking out four.
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Tyler Mahle Scouting Report
Fastball | While this is lumped together as one, Mahle throws different versions of the pitch. When he is working in the low 90’s, the pitch shows good movement on both planes. When he wants to, he can reach back and throw into the mid-90’s, up to 97/98 MPH every so often, but the pitch loses a lot of it’s movement. What makes the pitch play up, beyond those things, though, is that he’s able to pound the zone with it, and especially at the lower velocity, he can command it at times.
Slider | The pitch he goes to most of the time out of his secondary offerings, the slider works in the mid-to-upper 80’s. It’s an average offering a large majority of the time. Every so often it will show good, hard biting action that would give it above-average looks – but he rarely finds the strikezone when it’s at it’s best.
Change Up | The third pitch in the repertoire, the change up works in the mid-80’s. It’s a fringe-average offering that can be a little bit straight at times.
Curveball | A pitch that he doesn’t go too all that often, but can bust it out when he needs to show a different look. It works in the mid-to-upper 70’s. He rarely used it in the Majors, but would go to it the second or third time through the lineup in the minors. It’s another fringe-average to average offering that he brings.
For Tyler Mahle he lives and dies with the fastball. Sometimes that can be to a fault. The right hander throws a lot of fastballs. It’s not Tony Cingrani level, but it’s higher than normal. With all of the different ways he can use his fastball, though, it’s giving hitters different looks despite them falling under the “fastball” category. How his secondary stuff plays against Major Leaguers will be the most interesting part of his future development. As things stand right now, I expect his strikeout rate to decline and his walk rate to increase a little bit from his minor league time. The secondary pitches just aren’t put-away caliber and while he can pound the zone, big leaguers will be able to spoil things that minor leaguers couldn’t.
With all of that said, he’s a high floor prospect. It’s hard to see how Tyler Mahle isn’t going to be a big league starting pitcher. He’s got four pitches that are at least fringe-average offerings and he throws a bunch of strikes. There’s some debate about exactly what his upside is, though most scouts believe he could be a #3 caliber starter in the long run. If his hard biting slider can become more consistent it would give him the necessary secondary pitch to put Major League hitters away and take that next step towards reaching his ceiling.