Scouting the Reds’ Cody Reed Before His Debut

When Cody Reed takes the mound on Saturday he’ll likely be wearing the same pair of rec specs he’s worn since his sophomore year of high school. Reed donned the glasses after he had a hard time picking up signs from his catcher — especially during night games — as a freshman and has continued to wear them as a pro. Though, when Reed is pitching well, it’s opposing hitters who look like they could use a pair.

Reed was a late second-rounder out of Northwest Mississippi Community College in 2013. At the time the industry thought there was a good chance he’d just end up as a reliever. There was arm strength, there was an above-average slider, but the strike-throwing and changeup were both behind, and Reed’s firebrand mound presence had many considering him a potential closer. Now the velocity remains but the slider, and Reed’s usage of it, has improved — as has the changeup. He still has some issues throwing strikes, but things have progressed enough in that area that instead of his control dictating whether or not he starts or relieves, it’s going to dictate just how good of a starter he’s going to be.

Of course, Reed was part of Cincinnati’s return from Kansas City in the Johnny Cueto trade last summer. Kansas City got themselves a ring and the Reds added Reed, John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan just as Reed was taking off. He touched 99 in the 2015 Carolina/Cal League All-Star Game but then struggled after the Royals promoted him to Double-A, allowing 15 runs in his last 22.2 innings for NW Arkansas before the trade. He was given extra rest before his next start, his first with Cincinnati, and the stuff took off.

Right now, Reed will work 90-95 and touch as high as 97. The slider sits 84-87 but will get as high as 89 and features short but late-biting two-plane movement. It is plus and his best pitch both as far as pure stuff and utility are concerned.

Because Reed’s arm slot is just below the three-quarters mark and his arm action is a little long, right-handed hitters get a nice, long look at the ball out of his hand and will punish his fastball if it catches too much of the plate or if he falls behind and into obvious fastball counts. When Reed is successfully locating the fastball inside to right-handed hitters though, everything comes together. This allows him to run his slider just a tad further inside and miss right-handed bats or induce weak-early count contact.

With an arm slot like Reed’s and tertiary changeup, there’s going to be some concern over platoon splits and indeed up until this season Reed had shown significant disparity in his performance against lefties and righties. In 2015, lefties hit .163/.234/.190 off of him while righties slashed .263/.315/.371. Strangely, things have flipped this season and lefties are now hitting .239/.320/.373 off of Reed while right-handed hitters have produced a sub-.300 OBP against him and are slugging just .356. The only tangible explanation for this (other than that 2016’s sample is still small) is a more direct line to the plate. Reed cut his delivery off toward the first-base side while with Kansas City and was releasing the ball behind left-handed hitters which, combined with the velo and slider, spelled doom for them. This year Reed’s front foot is landing more directly toward the plate, and while it’s probably suppressed his dominance against left-handed hitters, it’s probably aided his ability to throw strikes.

Reed’s changeup has improved and now flashes average while sitting a half-grade below that. He generally maintains his fastball’s arm speed when he throws it, and the pitch does have some movement, a nifty little byproduct of that low-ish arm slot. I’ve seen Reed use it against righties when he’s fallen behind as a way to coax over-aggressive swings out of hitters who are cheating on his fastball. I don’t think it’s ever going to be better than average but it certainly is useful for situations like the one I just described and could play up a bit because of how hard the fastball is.

There is a concern or two. Reed’s control is below average and has been spottier than usual over the last month or so. He’s had some trouble throwing an effective slider to his arm side (either back door to right-handers or off the hip of left-handers for strikes), and locating one’s breaking ball there is a pretty ubiquitous trait of successful major-league starters. I think his stuff is good enough to mask these issues and I still expect him to compete in the majors and be good for about five or six inefficient, but peripherally effective, innings right away. If Reed’s command as it stands now is the best we ever see of him, then he’s probably a fourth starter who lives off of his stuff but doesn’t work efficiently enough to amass enough innings to attain three-plus wins annually. If the above-average control he’s shown in spurts (like the eight-inning opus he threw against Tyler Glasnow in May — a report I got from that start was ridiculous) becomes a regular occurrence, I think he’s a #3.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Great article. I’ve heard he’s got electric stuff, but like you mentioned, he doesn’t really have any deception in his delivery so RHBs can pick him up pretty well. Could he maybe try pitching from the far 1B side of the rubber to hide that ball just a tic or two longer?