MLB Pipeline Pitching Lab: Andrew Abbott

May 24th, 2023

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- As if the electric Elly De La Cruz or ascendant Matt McLain weren’t enough.

While a lot of attention is deservedly being paid to the Reds’ hitting prospects, Cincinnati also boasts No. 97 overall prospect Andrew Abbott, who leads the Minor Leagues in strikeouts (73) and strikeout percentage (45.3) through 40 2/3 innings at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.

A reliever who relied heavily on his fastball and curveball at the University of Virginia, the 2021 second-rounder is knocking on the door of the Majors as one of 2023’s top breakout pitching prospects with a fuller arsenal of weapons and could be closing in on a future Reds rotation alongside other young arms Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft.

“I’ve always felt ready,” said the 23-year-old left-hander. “I think it’s more or less just going out and continuing to prove that I’m ready and then just waiting for it. I’m not an anxious person. I’m going to keep going out and doing my job until that day comes.”

Abbott spoke to MLB Pipeline from the May Game of the Month in Louisville about the four-pitch mix that has him moving toward The Show. A video breakdown with Abbott’s four pitch grips and visuals of called strikes and whiffs from his May 19 outing against Jacksonville can be seen above.


Abbott’s four-seamer instantly became one of the most interesting in Triple-A upon his arrival in late April for reasons beyond his control.

The southpaw fanned 36 of the 56 batters he faced over three starts with Chattanooga to begin the season while using the pre-tacked ball put into use in the Southern League this season. Abbott has some velocity to his heater -- it’s been sitting around 93-95 mph this year -- but it’s the carry that helps him get whiffs at the top of the zone, no matter where he’s playing. That said, Abbott admitted the extra grip that came on the Southern League ball added a few extra inches of induced vertical break (IVB) to his fastball.

“I average probably 15 to 18 of vert with a big league ball, and I was, like, 21 at Double-A,” he said. “It was like a whole different profile that you would look at. … It’s a little bit harder to hit for sure.”

That isn’t to say Abbott’s fastball can’t still keep hitters off-guard in Triple-A and eventually the Majors. In the May 19 outing featured in the video above, he threw 52 fastballs and got 17 whiffs or called strikes on them for a 32.7 percent CSW rate (just north of the “good” standard of 30 percent).

“I think it’s more location-based definitely here,” he said. “You could get away with a little more stuff when the ball is doing a lot more. But with no tack, no anything like that, you really have to be precise and accurate. If I’m trying to go inside and if I miss middle, then guys are good enough here -- ex-big leaguers, prospects that you see every day -- they’re going to hit it. Have to miss in if I’m going in. Have to miss away, if I’m going away.”


Abbott describes his curve thusly: bread and butter.

The former Cavalier learned a deuce when he was 14, using a grip that puts two fingers inside the horseshoe and allows him to rip his middle finger to create the downward action needed to play well off the “rising” fastball. Since he’s relied on it so heavily for almost a decade, Abbott says he’s comfortable throwing the high-spin breaker against batters from either side, and it’s noteworthy that even righties are only hitting .177/.250/.310 off him to begin 2023.

“I've learned to throw it a little bit harder now,” Abbott said. “It was probably mid-to-upper 70s in college through the transition to pro ball. But now it's upper-70s, low-80s, so it's gotten to be a little bit harder of a pitch. I've actually added a little bit of vert to it since last year. But other than that, it's pretty much been the same throughout my entire life.”


A clarification: The Statcast system now available across Triple-A has Abbott down for only a curveball as his breaking ball, but the pitcher himself notes that he also uses a slider. The Reds hurler started implementing the pitch in the final three weeks of the 2022 season with guidance from then-Chattanooga pitching coach Rob Wooten.

“I try to throw it like a sweeper, try to get a lot of horizontal the other way just to add in a different eyesight for hitters,” Abbott said. “They’re not only seeing fastballs [up] and curveballs down, they’re also seeing this [glove-side] as well. It’s been a great pitch for me.”

Abbott added that his pair of breaking pitches can bleed into one another with similar velocities in the low-80s, allowing for classification confusion, but the slider notably broke as much as 17 inches horizontally to the pitcher’s right on May 19 while the curveball had horizontal break as low as five inches.


Like many Minor League pitchers, Abbott describes his changeup – thrown like a “pretty basic” circle change -- as a “big work in progress” but it could be the difference-maker in his effectiveness at the next level.

“That’s the big maturity thing that I’m learning here from all the veteran guys that we have,” he said. “No matter if you feel good with it, you have to throw it in order to get the feel. It’s just been another weapon honestly because it’s getting better the more that I throw it. I’m finally understanding what they’re saying.”

True to that statement, Abbott threw the cambio 21 times against Jacksonville last Friday, averaging 86.9 mph on the pitch, and got seven called strikes and whiffs (33.3 percent). The contact he did allow on the changeup was weak -- a pair of batted balls with 68.7 and 74.1 mph exit velocities -- and four of his eight strikeouts came on the changeup alone.

As he gets more comfortable with the newfound breaking ball, Abbott is also getting his changeup to play up as well.

“If your slider is going 15 [glove-side], then you’re creating 30 inches if [the changeup is] going 15 the other way,” he said.

Fastballs up. Sliders to his right. Changeups to his left. Curveballs down. It’s Abbott’s diversified mix that has Minor League hitters guessing (often incorrectly) and has Reds fans wondering when he’ll ship those four pitches up the Ohio River from Louisville to Cincinnati.