If you missed it, it’s prospect list week this week. Baseball America released their Top 100 list on Monday. MLB Pipeline has been releasing their prospect rankings at each position, too. And the crew over there released their left-handed pitching prospect list and had Cincinnati Reds pitching prospect Nick Lodolo at #7 on their list among the left-handed pitchers.
Among the tools grades given out in the article, Nick Lodolo is at the top in just one: Control. While we are dealing with a very small sample size as a professional, Lodolo didn’t walk a single batter in 2019 after being drafted, while also striking out 30 batters in 18.1 innings between rookie-level Billings in the Pioneer League and Low-A Dayton in the Midwest League (which will be an Advanced-A league moving forward.). In his junior season at TCU he walked 25 batters in 103.0 innings before being drafted 7th overall by the Reds.
The first pitcher taken in the 2019 draft, Nick Lodolo also got the nod with having the highest floor among the left-handed pitching group.
Though Lodolo has the most ho-hum stuff among the Top 10 lefties, he still has three solid pitches and can put them wherever he wants. A good bet to be at least a No. 4 or 5 starter, he has just 18 1/3 innings of pro experience but shouldn’t need much more time in the Minors.
In 2020, Nick Lodolo was one of a handful of prospects that the Cincinnati Reds had at their alternate site as a part of the 60-man player pool for the full “year”. Leading up to the start of the regular season, the lefty pitched in one of the scrimmage games against the Detroit Tigers in Great American Ballpark and he struggled. On that day we saw him struggle to throw his fastball for strikes, with 10 of the 23 fastballs he threw winding up out of the strikezone.
After that, the left-handed pitcher headed over to Prasco Park in Mason and that’s where he spent the rest of the year. As has been noted before, this year’s prospect rankings are tougher than ever before – at least in the modern era. There was no season to be watched in person for 99% of prospects. Only the guys who saw action in the Major Leagues this past year were even really able to be watched on video by non-team employees. Most teams opted into a video and data sharing program from their alternate sites, so they did get to see some guys play via video.
With that said, they didn’t get that for every team. And they didn’t get to see an overwhelming majority of a teams prospects at all because most of them weren’t at the alternate sites. What was happening at the alternate sites, while attempting to mimic game conditions and situations, wasn’t quite the same – particularly for pitchers. Joel Kuhnel spoke about it last summer, but he’s not the only one who mentioned it – but pitching to teammates isn’t quite the same as pitching to true opponents. He mentioned that you don’t quite pound things inside as much as you would against an opponent because you think twice about one getting away a little bit and then hitting, and potentially injuring your teammate.
Little things like that take away effectiveness of a pitcher and they, in theory at least, allow the hitters to perform a little better. It’s unavoidable, of course, and it’s the reality we are all having to deal with in the last year – having to do things a little bit differently than we’ve had to in the past. But it’s also something that we need to acknowledge, especially with regards to the information we do hear from how guys performed at the alternate sites.