A Conversation with Cincinnati Reds Pitching Coordinator Kyle Boddy

Kyle Boddy has been playing an important role for the Cincinnati Reds since being hired as the club’s pitching coordinator last October, and his duties have included more than pitching initiatives. The Driveline Baseball founder has also contributed on the scouting side, particularly in assessing and recruiting undrafted free agents. Boddy was involved in the amateur draft as well, and while his efforts there weren’t as extensive, he now knows the respective skill sets of the pitchers the Reds selected as well as anyone. He discussed all three, and a few of the undrafted newcomers, in a recent phone conversation.

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David Laurila: Let’s start with your role in the scouting process.

Kyle Boddy: “I was involved right away helping with the scouting department, which is cool because that’s something I’d expressed a strong desire to be a part of. Like with everything else, the Reds held up their end of the deal on that. I started out on the professional scouting side — there was no amateur baseball when I signed my contract — so I immediately began identifying minor-league free agents to bring into camp. Of the ones we brought in, I probably contributed to signing four or five — identifying them, recruiting them, and bringing them in.”

Laurila: Who are the guys you contributed to signing?

Boddy: Dylan Rheault was one. Walker Weickel, a former first rounder by the Padres, was another. Those are the two prominent ones. A few others I gave some input on.”

Laurila: What made those ‘four or five’ guys appealing?

Boddy: “It wasn’t necessarily the performance work. We have the fifth most analysts in baseball, and they’re better at it than I am, so I let them do their job. A lot of it was character stuff — where they train, and are they a good fit for our player development system. That was the case on the amateur side, as well.

“We pride ourselves in having strong ‘actual’ scouting coverage. We have good area scouts, and it always starts with them. Especially when it comes to amateur guys. It starts with their reports and then we build off of that. On the pro side it’s a little more pitched in.”

Laurila: What was your role in the amateur draft?

Boddy: “I was more involved in the non-drafted process. By the nature of only having five rounds, there was only so much work to do. But I helped with mechanical breakdowns and video work, as well as character references.

“On the non-drafted side, I was extremely involved in recruiting. There were a lot of Zoom calls. A lot of these kids have 10-plus options — teams are trying to sign everyone — so I was explaining to them why the Reds are a good fit. We prepared a 25-page recruiting pamphlet, with a ton of GIFs. It was what we do and how we do it, who works here. I prepared all that documentation. We probably talked to 25 or so kids, answering questions and providing recommendations.”

Laurila: Had any of the undrafted signees trained at Driveline?

Boddy: “Yes, two of them: James Proctor, out of Princeton, and Tyler Keysor out of the University of Miami. In neither case did I specifically recommend them. Our scouts had been on both. It was kind of serendipitous in those cases.”

Laurila: Did you supply the team with Driveline-produced data on them?

Boddy: “We actually have something at Driveline that we call the ‘Chinese firewall.’ I’ve been locked out of TRAQ, our central database, in order to separate the two [roles]. In both cases, Proctor and Keysor agreed to share the data, and as long as they do that, we’re good with it. But I can’t unilaterally access it. I also haven’t been training players at Driveline for three years now; I’ve been mostly in an administrative role.”

Laurila: What can you tell me about the three pitchers the Reds took in the draft?

Boddy: “I’m excited about all of them. Christian Roa was our second-overall pick, and while I’d hesitate to say he’s under the radar because he was drafted so highly, there was obviously a lot more focus on Asa Lacy, his teammate [at Texas A&M], who was drafted [fourth overall] by the Royals. But Christian was really good. Yes, he had a five-plus ERA, but he took a huge leap forward. His fastball velocity increased significantly, and his Trackman information trended very positively. And we love his mechanics. We also love his demeanor and his personality.

“On the skill side, we saw huge leaps forward from 2018 to 2019, and from 2019 to 2020. A big marker for me has always been taking your baseline level from X, because one thing you’re going to need in professional baseball is the ability to get better. The skill of getting better is really important, and Roa has demonstrated he can do that.

“Christian’s ability to spin the ball has improved year over year, and not just in raw spin; he’s created more movement. He’s been able to convert a lot more raw spin into active spin, which suggests the ability to manipulate the ball better. He’s a high-fastball, high-carry guy, who’s got good vertical life.

“Again, our analysts are really good. They probably know 400 players I’ve never heard of, and they’re all really involved in the draft process. They’ll say, ‘Here’s all the TrackMan data, and here are our interpretations.’ If I disagree, which is once in a blue moon, then I voice my opinion and we talk it out. There’s kind of a trend in America to not listen to people that know more than you, and I’m glad to say that I haven’t signed up for that yet.”

Laurila: Which is easier to improve on, the spin on a breaking ball or the spin on a fastball?

Boddy: “The breaking stuff is almost always easier to fix. Going after guys with good fastballs is pretty important, and that can mean anything. It can be a guy who throws 100 mph, like our fifth rounder [Joe Boyle], or it can be a guy that has really good command of an average-velocity fastball that has really good spin. A good example of that is Leo Nierenberg, one of our non-drafted players out of the University of Washington. He’s a shorter guy, but he’s good carry on his fastball. He’s got a good approach angle, and he does some stuff with the ball that we think is really exciting.”

Laurila: Who is a good example of someone the team drafted, or signed, where an adjustment could be specially meaningful?

Boddy: “One of them is Joe Boyle, our fifth rounder out of Notre Dame. Joe lives 99-plus; he’s got truly electric stuff. He was available in the fifth round mostly because of command issues. Our scouts decided, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity to get a huge arm and work with him.’ Joe was the captain at Notre Dame, and his coach speaks extremely highly of him. The desire to care, and the desire to work, was never in question. And he really put it together in the Cape Cod League one year.

“His coach on the Cape was Jerry Weinstein — a legendary coach in baseball — and Jerry loved the kid. Jerry is a hard guy to play for, so all those factors went into [Boyle] having a big upside. If we can take his command to an average level… I mean, guys with an average fastball velocity of 99 aren’t easy to find.

“On the non-drafted side, Braxton Roxby had a nine-something ERA this year at [University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown], but the kid can really spin the ball. He’s also incredibly intelligent. He really fits what we’re trying to do here. He cares about analytical approach, is a hard worker, and looked good on the Cape. There were 15 teams in on Braxton, and we came out the winner, in part because he buys in to what we’re doing.”

Laurila: To a certain extent, young players are equating the Reds with Driveline…

Boddy: “No question. They are, and that’s how we were able to land some of our players. Braxton Roxby was really interested in this. A couple of other guys also brought it up. But while that becomes a big selling point, others are skeptical about the process. Carson Spiers, who we signed out of Clemson… his father is Bill Spiers, who played 13 years in the big leagues. They’re a baseball family, so there’s a ton of baseball knowledge there.

“Carson and his father had a lot of questions about things like weighted balls, because Carson really hadn’t used them much. So those things come up in conversations, and it’s an opportunity to tell them what we’re trying to do, and what we’re integrating here with the Reds. Our scouts ask about that before we ever even talk to the kids. Have you used weighted balls? Would you use them, or not use them? I think our scouts said that not a single person they talked to this year wouldn’t want to do it.”

Laurila: We’ve talked about Roa and Boyle, but not the other pitcher taken in the draft. What can you tell me about [third-round pick] Bryce Bonnin?

Boddy: “He’s a transfer out of Arkansas, to Texas Tech, which was a better opportunity for him. He really exploded there. He killed it. Bryce has been a starter, although he’s done both. He’s got a really live fastball — he’s been up to 97-98 — and he’s not a guy who just flashes high velocity; he holds it. His slider is pretty legit. He’s mostly a two-pitch pitcher, fastball-slider, although he does throw a four-seam fastball and a two-seam fastball.

“We could maybe put Bryce in the pen right away and he could move insanely fast. That’s a possible future for him, and maybe it’s what will happen in the near future. A lot of teams do that with young players — if you’re good enough, you pitch in the big leagues out of the pen, and over time they figure out what to do with you. The Atlanta Braves have shown that’s a viable model. They’ve done it for a long time.

“But Bryce is a high-strikeout guy, a high-velocity guy, and that’s kind of the mentality we’re looking for. Great American Ballpark isn’t a great place if contact is your plan. So with our internal metrics, when we draft we really care about swing-and-miss, and we really care about strikeouts. We can live with some walks here and there. Swing-and-miss and strikeouts is what our major league staff cares about, it’s what [pitching coach] Derek Johnson cares about. As a result, it’s what I care about.”

We hoped you liked reading A Conversation with Cincinnati Reds Pitching Coordinator Kyle Boddy by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Mike Scott
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Mike Scott

Great interview!