Sunday, January 23, 2022

Reds top prospects 2022: Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene should be in Cincinnati’s rotation soon

Major League Baseball’s owners may have locked out the players, triggering the league’s first work stoppage since 1994-95 and bringing the offseason to a halt, but that doesn’t mean we’re letting it derail our typical offseason plans. Indeed, CBS Sports is in the process of highlighting the top three prospects for all 30 teams, as well as naming the top 50 prospects in the minors, regardless of team affiliation. 

That journey finds us today focusing on the Cincinnati Reds‘ farm system. 

Do note that these lists are formed after conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development folks from around the league. There is personal bias baked in, as one would expect from subjective exercises, so some disagreement is to be expected.

Now, onto the gasbaggery. 

1. Nick Lodolo, LHP (No. 20 on MLB top 20)

Lodolo was the first pitcher to come off the board during that 2019 draft, albeit relatively late at No. 7. He’s atoned for it by zipping through the minors, accruing a 2.31 ERA and a 7.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 starts across Double- and Triple-A in his first full professional season. (He was hampered by blisters and shoulder fatigue.) Lodolo doesn’t have loud stuff; he does have a good slider and a broad arsenal of average-ish offerings that play up because of his command and the deception he creates with a lower release point. Provided Lodolo is hearty and hale, he ought to debut early this spring, with a straightforward path toward mid-rotation status.

2. Hunter Greene, RHP

Greene, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, made his first regular-season appearances since 2018 after missing time because of Tommy John surgery and the pandemic. He didn’t disappoint; rather, he posted a 3.30 ERA and a 3.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 106 innings in 2021, with most of those coming in Triple-A. Greene still has big-time arm strength, but there’ve long been concerns about the pitch’s lack of movement. He still needs to work on his command and his changeup, too. Greene’s pure velocity and promising slider should help him survive until he can make up for lost reps.

3. Matt McLain, SS

Despite being held as one of the safest picks in last summer’s draft, McLain slipped all the way to the Reds at No. 17 — ostensibly in part because of a perceived lack of upside. He took out whatever frustration that may have caused him by hitting .283/.389/.462 in his 31-game introduction to professional baseball. McLain is an above-average runner with a hit-over-power profile who should be able to stick somewhere up the middle, be it at short, second, or even in center field. Depending on how much McLain hits, he could develop into a fast-moving second-division starter. 

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