A Conversation With Cincinnati Reds Pitching Prospect Lyon Richardson

Lyon Richardson remains raw with a ton of potential. Ranked sixth on our Cincinnati Reds Top Prospects list, the 21-year-old right-hander has a 5.13 ERA in seven starts for High-A Dayton, but he also has a pair of a high-octane heaters, a plus changeup, and a hard curveball that gets side-to-side movement. What he lacks more than anything is experience on the mound. Primarily a position player as a Florida prep, Richardson didn’t become a starter until his senior year at Jensen Beach High School. It was then that he began turning heads. Enamored with his athleticism and explosive velocity, the Reds selected him with the 47th-overall pick of the 2018 draft.

Richardson discussed his arsenal, and the learning curve that goes along with it, late last week.


David Laurila: Describe yourself as a pitcher.

Lyon Richardson: “I haven’t been pitching for very long. I just try to learn as much as I can, and be as aggressive as I can. At this point, I don’t really have the ability to give in, if that makes any sense. So really, I just try to be as aggressive as possible and push the hitter.”

Laurila: Would you say you’re more of a “stuff guy” right now?

Richardson: “For the most part, in the history of me pitching, I’m a thrower. Historically, I’m a position player, so all I really knew was to throw hard. I’m trying to be more of a stuff guy, but it’s in production. It’s definitely a production.”

Laurila: By and large, you’re trying to be a stuff guy and learning to “pitch” at the same time?

Richardson: “Correct. So, my velocity is definitely up — especially over the past year — and being able to control the pitches with that velocity is definitely a big thing. In 2019, I think my average fastball was 89 to 92 [mph] — something like that. Out of high school, I was anywhere from 95 to 98. This year, it’s back up to right around high school range. I was up to 98 in spring training, and I’ve been up to 97 a bunch so far this season.”

Laurila: Why the temporary downturn in velocity? Was it mostly a workload type of deal?

Richardson: “That’s definitely… like, in high school you don’t have a five-day rotation. In pro ball, you do have a five-day rotation, so there’s definitely an adjustment period, and that usually takes a year. It’s a common thing for first-year guys to see their velo drop due to workload and different circumstances.”

Laurila: Are you throwing a four-seamer or a two-seamer?

Richardson: “Both. I started throwing the two-seam more consistently this spring training. I didn’t really have much confidence in it, so I decided I’d throw it and try to get it down a little bit.”

Laurila: What are the organization’s thoughts on that?

Richardson: “They like it. I mean, I assume they like it — they didn’t really comment a bunch. But it moves in to the batter, and anything that moves in or away, I assume somebody is going to like.”

Laurila: It’s more of a tailing two-seamer than a sinker…

Richardson: “Correct.”

Laurila: What about the movement on your four-seamer?

Richardson: “I have a little bit of ride — it’s not as much as I’d like — and a little natural cut.”

Laurila: Are there any pitchers you’ve been told to pay particular attention to?

Richardson: “In spring training, I was told to watch Sonny Gray a lot. That was more of my learning-curve type of person to watch, if that makes any sense. I don’t think it was really [because of] our stuff, and he’s obviously a big leaguer, and I’m not. They just told me to watch him — watch how he throws and how he goes about everything.”

Laurila: Are your repertoires the same?

Richardson: “For the most part, although I think he has a cutter. I do not. Not yet.”

Laurila: What do you consider your best pitch?

Richardson: “I always say my fastball, but nowadays it’s starting to become my changeup. I have the natural cut to my fastball, and I can cut my changeup, too. If I want to throw it out and have it cut, I can do that. If I want to throw it in and make it sink, I can do that. I can throw it for strikes, or I can throw it down. It’s a very throwable pitch to both sides of the plate for me.”

Laurila: How did you learn your changeup?

Richardson: “By accident. I did it a couple times by accident and was like, ‘Oh, that can actually work.’ I kind of built it from there. This was in 2019, in Low-A ball. Basically, it’s the same grip I’d had, but… it’s hand position, more or less. It’s release point and finger placement, how my hand is rotated towards the pitch.”

Laurila: What is the actual grip?

Richardson: “It’s more of a two-seam changeup. My middle two fingers are over the two seams. And I have fairly big hands, so I can kind of do a circle around the horseshoe of the ball. It’s back in my hands really far. [The velocity] is anywhere from 82 to 86, depending on which one I’m throwing.”

Laurila: Is there anything notable about your curveball?

Richardson: “It goes side-to-side a lot more than a 12-to-6 would. It has a little bit more horizontal movement.”

Laurila: You’re not throwing a slider or a cutter. Is that right?

Richardson: “I’m actually working on both right now. Not in games, but in pitch development — in bullpens and stuff like that. So we’re working on it, but it takes time because all three of those pitches can mix very easily. Then they’d all get bad.”

Laurila: Changing direction, you have the position-player background. Can you picture yourself as the next Michael Lorenzen?

Richardson: “To be honest, I don’t really like to compare myself to people; I just like to be me. But in that whole situation… I mean, I would love to do that, but I don’t really see it being an option. What I need to do is keep getting better as a pitcher.”

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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Great interview! I’m a big fan of Lyon and collect his baseball cards, specifically the 2019 Bowman 1st insert variation rainbow. So far I have completed the Paper rainbow, and just need 3 more cards to complete the Chrome, Mojo/Mega, and Chrome autographed rainbows. Thankfully I have four of the five Bowman 1/1’s already! I also have several of his earlier Leaf autographs including a few partial rainbows and a handful of 1/1’s. Keep up the great work Lyon and I can’t wait to see you play in the big leagues!