Prospect's adjustments paying off

April 30th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CINCINNATI -- For the second season in a row, Reds left-handed pitching prospect  earned himself an early promotion. This time, however, Abbott is now one step away from pitching in the Major Leagues. 

The organization promoted Abbott from Double-A Chattanooga to Triple-A Louisville this past week and he made his debut on Wednesday vs. Iowa. In his first Triple-A inning, he struck out the side. 

Abbott, who turns 24 on June 1, finished with two earned runs, three hits and three walks allowed over five innings and struck out seven. 

“I just want to remain competitive and true to how I pitch,” Abbott said during Spring Training about his goals for this season. “I want to prove the work I put into the offseason is going to transfer to this current season.” 

Mission accomplished so far. In three starts and 15 2/3 innings for Chattanooga, Abbott had a 1.15 ERA and 0.57 WHIP. Of the 56 batters he faced overall, he struck out 36 and gave up only six hits with three walks. Add the seven K’s for Louisville, he leads all of Minor League Baseball with 43 strikeouts. 

Abbott is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati’s No. 10 prospect. He was the organization’s second-round selection in the 2021 Draft out of Virginia. With a four-seam fastball that averages around 92 mph, he’s not a power pitcher but one who thrives on locating and throwing strikes. 

In 2022, Abbott dominated at High-A Dayton (0.67 ERA in five games) and earned a quick call-up to Chattanooga, where he initially struggled to adjust. In 20 starts, he finished with a 4.75 ERA, 41 walks and 119 strikeouts over 91 innings. 

“The hitters got better so the adjustments had to be a little bit quicker,” Abbott said. “I was throwing every Sunday in Dayton, which is pretty much like a college rotation once a week. Adjusting to the five-man, five-day or six-day [rotation] in Chattanooga was the first little difference.”

Then Abbott had to get comfortable facing a high level of hitters. 

“They don’t swing at things they’re not looking for. You have to execute early in counts and get ahead of people,” he said. “You realize also that the Reds moved you up for a reason and now I’m just up here and have to figure it out. You get to college? You’ve got to figure it out. You get to your first year in pro ball? You’ve got to figure it out. Everything is the same.” 

The biggest and best adjustment Abbott made last season was adding a slider to his repertoire to go with his fastball, changeup and curveball. Chattanooga coaches Rob Wooten and Nate Irving and Minor League pitching coordinator Bryan Conger suggested the pitch and taught him how to throw it.  

First, Abbott tinkered with the pitch while playing catch and his side bullpen sessions. By the final month of last season, he was experimenting with it against hitters and saw the swings he was getting. 

“Oh, this could work,” Abbott was thinking. “I needed something to add another look for a hitter to focus on. It’s honestly one of my better pitches.” 

Over his final three starts last season, Abbott threw 16 scoreless innings with seven hits, three walks and 21 strikeouts. That success has carried over into 2023 and could put him near the front of the line for one more promotion this season -- to the big leagues.