The big story heading into Tuesday night’s nationally televised game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Angels was the return to the mound in a game for Hunter Greene. The Reds top prospect hadn’t been on the mound for an actual game since July of 2018. While the results weren’t exactly what he’d have liked, he was impressive at times – topping out at 103 MPH multiple times – and his catcher and manager both had complimentary things to say about his outing. The game also featured several other pitching prospects, and it was Lyon Richardson who may have been the most impressive of all of them.
When the Cincinnati Reds selected Lyon Richardson in the 2nd round of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft he quickly signed and was sent to Greeneville. Things didn’t go as hoped for the then 18-year-old as he posted a 7.14 ERA in 11 starts that spanned 29.0 innings. His velocity wasn’t where it had been during his time in high school and reports were that he looked like a longer season had gotten to him (high school seasons plus the Greeneville season). The next season he was sent out to join the Dayton Dragons as a 19-year-old, which is a bit of an aggressive move for the Reds to send a teenage pitcher to Low-A, but Richardson handled it well. The right-handed starter made 26 starts and posted a 4.15 ERA in 112.2 innings with 33 walks and 106 strikeouts.
His stuff wouldn’t wow you, but looked average-ish across the board. Still missing was his fastball velocity that he had shown in high school. After hitting 98 in high school, he topped out at 95 MPH in the 2019 season with Dayton, and mostly pitched 90-92 MPH with his fastball. What he did do well was work in the strikezone and mix things up.
On Tuesday night, a now 21-year-old Lyon Richardson got a chance to pitch in a big league spring training game and he took full advantage to show what he’s got. He tossed a perfect inning and picked up two strikeouts. His fastball was 93-95 MPH in the inning and his breaking ball looked better than it has in the past, showing more depth and bite to it.
It wasn’t just myself and other viewers at home who were watching the game that were impressed with Lyon Richardson – he caught the eye of manager David Bell, too.
“A lot of guys I was really looking forward to seeing – Lyon Richardson, he came in and looked like he had been pitching in the big leagues for a lot of years,” said Bell. “He just really attacked, went after the hitters, clearly has the stuff to match it. He’s a guy who never played above A-ball, and you wouldn’t have known that watching him tonight. Yeah, it’s fun and it’s one of the best parts of what we do is watching these young guys figure it out and compete at this level.”
Without a 2020 season to play in, many players were left on their own to get their work in. For most of the year, that was the case for Lyon Richardson. The Reds did bring him to the alternate training site, but he was not brought in until September 10th, when there were only two weeks remaining at the alternate sites before the season came to an end.
While we didn’t get to see the work done for Richardson in 2020, on Tuesday night we got to get a taste of the results of the work that he put in during 2020. And it tasted good. He looked very different than the last time he had been on the mound in a game setting. More velocity. Better breaking ball. Same quality of working in the zone.