Cincinnati Pitching Prospect Nick Lodolo Profiles as a Fast Mover

Nick Lodolo went into last year’s draft rated as the top pitching prospect in a pool heavily populated by position players. Subsequently selected seventh overall by the Cincinnati Reds, the left-hander out of Texas Christian University now enters his first full professional season as a potential, if not probable, fast-mover. In big league camp despite a dearth of experience, Lodolo has impressed with both his arm and his demeanor. More on the latter in a moment.

Lodolo is ranked No. 92 on our 2020 Top 100 Prospects list, with pitchability perhaps his greatest attribute. He’s not your prototypical flamethrower — his heater sits 93-95 and touches 96 — but is rather a craftsman-in-the making. He’s also silky smooth. As Eric Longenhagen wrote in Lodolo’s scouting summary, the 6-foot-6, 195 pound southpaw’s “frame is ideal, his delivery elegant and repeatable.”

On Tuesday, I asked Lodolo for a self-scouting report. His response came as anything but a surprise.

“I’m obviously a guy who attacks the zone,” said Lodolo, who turned 22 last month. “I move my fastball in and out really well. I’ll pretty much throw anything for a strike, whenever in the count. I don’t think of myself as a power pitcher, although [power] is something I do kind of have. Luckily. I’ll use that to my advantage — for instance when I work up in the zone — but for the most the part, I take pride in my command, and in limiting free bases.”

He didn’t give up any freebies in his first taste of professional action. In 18 1/3 innings between Rookie-level Billings and Low-A Dayton, Lodolo didn’t issue a single walk. He fanned 30, and surrendered 18 hits.

The number of pitches in his repertoire is a matter of classification. The La Verne, California native throws both two- and four-seam fastballs, a changeup, and what he referred to as “a curveball/slider.”

“It’s the same pitch, but I manipulate them with my hand,” Lodolo explained. “So in a way it’s two, but I think of it as one because it’s the same grip. I’ll get more sweep if I come around it, and if I stay on top and drive it down like a slider, it’s shorter.”

The curveball came first. The slider is relatively new, having been introduced to Lodolo’s mix just last year. He added it at the suggestion of TCU pitching coach Kirk Saarloos, and the results were pleasing. Per Lodolo, the pitch contributed heavily to last season’s success.

“My heater plays well, especially in to righties, and [Saarloos] felt that something a little firmer, coming in off that same plane, would be to my advantage,” Lodolo told me. “That’s versus a curveball, which you’re kind of casting out. It became a good swing-and-miss pitch for me. I can tunnel my slider off my four-seamer, with one of them dropping, and the other not dropping.”

His two-seamer gets tail, and to a lesser extent, his four-seamer does as well. The four-seamer gets ride, but also has “a little comeback to it, a slight tail.” The action is to the lefty’s liking, particularly when he’s going arm side.

Lodolo’s changeup is thrown with a standard two-seam circle grip, and at 87-89 mph isn’t markedly slower than his heaters. Separation isn’t as important to him as action. Pointing out that some of the best changeups in the majors are on the firmer side, he views the pitch more as a sinker than as a pure change-of-pace offering.

And then there’s the aforementioned demeanor. Lodolo is calm, cool, collected, and confident — but by no means cocky — qualities that are clearly standing out to Cincinnati’s manager, coaching staff, and front office. Again, this is a player who was pitching collegiately less than a calendar year ago.

“This is a young player who has never been in a professional spring training, stepping into a major league clubhouse and really holding his own,” manager David Bell said yesterday. “The amount of confidence he has in himself, and knowing who he is, the maturity level… sometimes you’re concerned about putting a young player into an environment he might not be ready to handle, and he just fits in like one of the guys. Talent is important, but I don’t ever want to underestimate how important a young player’s personality can be — how his mind works, the way he handles situations.”

I asked the 47-year-old skipper if that suggests the young lefty may not need a long run of innings innings at the minor league level, but could instead be in the majors in the not-too-distant future.

“You don’t want to put young players in a situation that will set them back,” Bell responded. “But if you know that they can handle things mentally and emotionally, you feel more comfortable pushing them. I think it would be unfair to draw that up until we see him pitch more at the professional level, but he’s doing everything he can. With who he is as a person, and the athlete he is, it could happen quicker than with other guys.”

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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Cave Dameron
2 years ago

A fast mover? Can I borrow his truck.

2 years ago
Reply to  Cave Dameron

Hell, I’ll pay for the truck, as long as I can pay him by the hour.

Cave Dameron
2 years ago
Reply to  dsalmanson

Just some local college kids to do it for pizza and beer.