Top Reds pitching views Nick Lodolo will make his Major League debut tomorrow, the team announced. Lodolo, the overall number 7 in 2019, starts tomorrow’s match against the Guardians and joins other top prospects Hunter Greene in the rotation. Greene impressed with seven punchouts and a barrage of three-digit heaters in his own MLB debut this past weekend. Lodolo has not yet been selected to the 40-man list, so Cincinnati will have to make a similar move before formally advancing to the major leagues.
It has been expected since the season opened that Lodolo would take the mound this week and make his big league debut, but it is nonetheless remarkable that Cincinnati has now made it official and set the stage for an upcoming 40-man move to add the valued young leftist. to the roster. Lodolo split the 2021 season between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville, pitching to a combined 2.31 ERA with a striking 38.8% strikeout rate, just a 5.5% walk rate and a 54.3% ground -ball rate.
As impressive as those numbers were, Lodolo also missed the time last year with bladder problems and, far more worryingly, with a shoulder strain that ended his season in August. He looked very sharp in the spring, throwing 11 1/3 innings of 2.38 ERA ball with a 12-to-2 K / BB ratio, so it certainly looks like he has put the shoulder problems behind him now. Still, those injuries limited Lodolo to just 50 2/3 innings in 2021, and he obviously didn’t hit up at all in 2020, when there was no minor league season.
The biggest workload Lodolo has ever recorded is the total of 121 1/3 innings he struck between his junior season at Texas Christian University and the Reds’ lower minor league levels in 2019 when he was drafted. It is natural that Cincinnati will be relatively cautious when it comes to managing its innings.
Although the Reds limit his innings on the season as a whole or on a start-by-start basis, there is good reason to be excited about the left-wing arrival on the pitch. As one would expect for a pitcher with the high moves and the glorious 2021s, Lodolo is widely regarded as one of baseball’s most promising young pitchers. He ranked as a top-100 prospect at Baseball America (No. 32), MLB.com (No. 42), Baseball Prospectus (No. 42), FanGraphs (No. 52) and ESPN (No. 79).
There is a fairly broad split on how high Lodolo should be considered, though most scout reports about him will characterize him as a likely mid-rotation arm. Still, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin wrote that Lodolo was one of the “more divisive” players discussed with evaluators as they wrote their top rankings for leads, noting that while analytics-driven evaluations love his change, scouts question it and wonder why he threw it is so little (9%) if it really is one of his best deals.
FanGraphs hails Lodolo for having three plus spots, while Baseball America believes the slider is Lodolo’s only plus offer. Athletic’s Keith Law omitted Lodolo from his Top 100 hero, but placed him in fifth place in the Cincinnati system, while considering the lack of a third plus pitch, comparing Lodolo’s slider and arm slits to the Andrew Miller.
Divided camps are nothing new when it comes to prospect evaluation, and there is certainly still consensus that Lodolo is a major league talent who will play a role with the Reds in the years to come. Data-driven models and traditional scouting may not agree on the left-wing ceiling, but Lodolo will have the opportunity to start proving that skeptics are wrong from tomorrow. He will take a heater from the mid-90s, a quality slider and the divisive change with him to Great American Ball Park, and there is a clear long-term opportunity in the rotation now that Cincinnati has acted Sonny Gray and fell Wade Miley via dispensations.
If Lodolo is in the big leagues forever, there is still enough time on the calendar for him to log a full year of service – regardless of his end-of-year end-of-year awards. He would be eligible for arbitration after the 2024 season and would be controlled through the 2027 campaign via arbitration. Of course, future optional assignments may affect that timeline, but Lodolo’s fate is largely in his own hands now that he’s getting his first look at the big leagues at a time when rotation has such ample opportunities.