MLB Pipeline is gearing up for their 2020 Top 100 Prospect list, which will come out January 25th. As a build up to that list, the crew of Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis have been releasing their top 10’s by positions, and when they looked at the left-handed pitchers they ranked Nick Lodolo as the #5 prospect among all lefties in the minors.
Nick Lodolo got the top nod among the group in both the best control category and the highest floor category. Being listed as the left-handed pitcher with the best control isn’t much of a surprise. In his junior season with TCU he walked 25 batters, and after being drafted he walked no one. That gives him 25 walks after facing 492 batters in 2019 – that’s a 5.1% walk rate.
Having the kind of control is one of the reasons he’s also got the highest floor. The ability to throw strikes is a big part of having a high floor because you can’t get to the Majors without it in most cases. But that’s only a part of what Nick Lodolo has that gives him that high floor. The stuff is above-average to plus, too. He’s a pitcher, not just a thrower. He knows how to attack hitters, how to mix his pitches, how to set guys up. That’s why he’s got the high floor. That’s why he’s believed to be a guy who can reach the Major Leagues in a very quick manner.
ZiPS on the Prospects
Dan Szymborski released the ZiPS projections for the 2020 season over at Fangraphs on Tuesday. For the Reds specifically, they actually look pretty good. The improvement over last year is huge. As I wrote over at Redleg Nation, there were some good projections and a few that weren’t so good. What wasn’t really touched upon there is the prospects, since it’s not expected that many are going to be a factor for the Reds during the season. Among the Top 25 Reds prospects only three of them were in Triple-A last season – Jose Siri – who struggled in his month with the Bats, Vladimir Gutierrez – who also struggled in Louisville, and Joel Kuhnel.
ZiPS thinks that Joel Kuhnel will be a little better than league average when it comes to ERA, projecting him for a 106 ERA+ and a 4.11 ERA on the season. Among the prospects, that’s the best projection from the pitching side of things. When it comes to the position guys it’s Jonathan India and Tyler Stephenson at the top of the projections for the prospects – but the system doesn’t exactly have either as doing much at the plate in 2020. ZiPS projects them to hit .228/.316/.377 (India) and .229/.303/.355 (Stephenson) on the year. Mark Payton, the Rule 5 pick by the Reds is projected for a .255/.315/.449 line and 0.9 WAR on the season.
Historically speaking, ZiPS and other projection systems don’t have great outlooks for guys who have never been in the Major Leagues before. The rare exceptions are when guys are seemingly other worldly talents who are both incredibly young and incredibly dominant in the upper minor leagues. Take Gavin Lux for example – last season he hit .347/.421/.607 in Double-A and Triple-A as a 21-year-old. He spent a month in the Majors and posted a .705 OPS. He’s among the best prospects in the game. Lux is Major League ready right now and has destroyed Triple-A. He’s projected to hit .267/.331/.456. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, especially from a young middle infielder. But it’s just an example to show that until you’ve done it in the Major Leagues, projection systems are rarely going to have a prospect show up and immediately beat up on Major Leaguers.