Left-handed pitching prospect Cody Reed nearly won a job in the Reds' rotation out of Spring Training. Erring on the side of developmental caution, the Reds' No. 3 prospect (No. 60 overall) began the year in Triple-A, his first taste of competition above the Double-A level.
After 11 starts, the Reds decided they'd seen enough development and summoned the southpaw to make his Major League debut Saturday in Houston. What's fair to expect of the 23-year-old who came to the Reds last summer in the Johnny Cueto deal?
Reed has come a very long way in a relatively short amount of time. Taken as a high-ceiling amateur from junior college in 2013 by the Royals, he took a huge step forward in 2015. In a season that saw him reach Double-A for the first time, Reed lowered his hits allowed rate by 3.4 hits per nine and his walk rate by 1.3 walks per nine innings. He did that while missing a lot more bats than he had in 2014 (8.9 K/9 compared to 6.2).
The big reason? Improved command. Reed has always had very good stuff, with both his fastball and slider grading out as plus pitches. He can touch 96-97 mph at times and he generates a lot of swings and misses with his wipeout breaking ball. His changeup is a touch behind, but that's gotten better, too. But more than anything else, Reed not only started finding the strike zone more consistently, he started hitting spots within it regularly as well. The results showed up clearly in his stat line. He didn't miss a beat when was traded, either, pitching extremely well in the Southern League down the stretch.
This spring, Reed showed his stuff can get big league hitters out and there is no reason to think that can't happen now. There might be some bumps along the way as he continues to refine his command, especially within the zone (he's given up 8.2 hits per nine so far in Triple-A this year). If he can trust his stuff and continue to learn how to pitch, and not just throw, he should get better as the season wears on.
With the Reds at the bottom of the NL Central in this rebuilding year and with a league-worst 5.44 team ERA, it was only a matter of time before Reed got a shot. A total of 11 Triple-A starts, the Reds are hoping, was all the added development time he needed. Reed's work ethic and makeup will allow him to deal with the inevitable struggles he'll face this year. Even if he's not ready and is forced back down to Triple-A, that's not the kind of setback that will derail him permanently.
But don't look for that to happen. His stuff will be there often enough, and his command will continue to improve, so Reds fans can watch him evolve into an eventual No. 2 type starter.