The Cincinnati Reds have signed two pitchers to minor league deals for the 2021 season. Right-handed pitcher Matt Ball and left-handed pitcher Josh Osich signed deals with Cincinnati that include invitations to spring training.
Josh Osich has plenty of big league experience. The 32-year-old left-handed reliever has been in the big leagues in parts of the last six seasons. He spent 2015-2018 with the San Francisco Giants before seeing action with the Chicago White Sox in 2019, and splitting time between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs in 2020. In total he’s pitched in 234 games and thrown 206.1 innings with a 5.02 ERA in his big league career that includes 81 walks and 190 strikeouts.
Osich used to throw quite hard for a lefty. He averaged 96 MPH on his fastball from 2015-2018, but in 2019 that dropped to 95, and then dropped all the way down to 92.7 MPH. Along with his fastball he throws a cutter in the mid-to-upper 80’s and a slider in the upper 70’s.
Matt Ball will turn 26 next month. He was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox out of high school before joining the Rangers organization in mid 2016 (trade). He then joined the Los Angeles Angels organization following 2017 (waiver claim), and that’s where he had been until he was released this past August. Without a minor league season, he didn’t have a chance to pitch in affiliated ball but he was allowed to pitch for the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths in the Constellation Energy League – and independent league – this summer. He made five appearances and threw 10.0 innings with six walks and 14 strikeouts.
In his minor league career, Matt Ball has been used as both a starter and a reliever. He’s made 69 starts in his career and he’s come out of the bullpen in 56 games. In his last season of affiliated ball in 2019 he split time between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake. In Mobile he made eight starts and posted a 3.57 ERA in 35.1 innings with 13 walks and 45 strikeouts. In Triple-A he made seven starts and seven relief appearances and posted a 5.82 ERA in 43.1 innings with 28 walks and 43 strikeouts.
There’s a small sample size alert worth noting here, but he was more successful as a reliever in Triple-A than he was as a starter. His ERA was 4.43 out of the bullpen with 10 walks and 20 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. As a starting pitcher his ERA was 7.29 in 21.0 innings across seven starts and he walked 18 batters with 23 strikeouts. The obvious differentiator there was the walk rate, which was nearly doubled as a starting pitcher.
Baseball America rated Matt Ball as the #28 prospect in the Angels organization heading into the season. He’s a 4-pitch guy who has a fastball in the low-to-mid 90’s that he’ll mix with a curveball, slider, and a change up. His slider is considered an above-average pitch. His control likely pushes him to the bullpen in the future if he’s deemed ready to pitch in the Major Leagues.