Lowder hits the ground running in first spring camp

February 25th, 2024

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.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After being selected by the Reds with the seventh overall pick out of Wake Forest in the 2023 MLB Draft, right-handed pitching prospect Rhett Lowder did not pitch last summer.

But Lowder, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati's No. 2 prospect and No. 34 overall, didn't show any setbacks with his stuff through his first two sessions of live batting practice against Reds hitters.

"I think all the guys who faced him out there were pretty impressed with it," said outfielder Spencer Steer, who batted against Lowder on Thursday. "Really good fastball. It’s got late movement, it’s firm. I didn’t see every pitch he’s got -- just the fastball and changeup -- but you could tell he’s a pitcher. He was putting the ball where he wanted it. It was really impressive."

Known for having a superb changeup and control, Lowder was also listed at No. 6 among all right-handed pitching prospects in MLB. He has a power arm, with his fastball velocity sitting in the mid-90s and going as high as 97 mph.

Reds manager David Bell was among those who watched Thursday's session. No. 6 prospect Chase Petty followed Lowder.

"They looked great," Bell said. "You try not to put too much [weight] on anything. You could definitely see the talent. Petty looked like he was locked in like a game. So was Rhett, but you could see the maturity in how they were handling the live BP. They weren’t trying to overthrow or anything. Their talent was just shining through that day."

Lowder did get pro exposure last season when he was sent to High-A Dayton. But he was already at his innings limit, so he only did some limited work in the Fall Instructional League. Now, his first Spring Training is at big league camp.

Facing big league hitters has shown him that the stuff he had in college plays well.

"It’s been a long time coming since I got drafted," Lowder said. "It was definitely fun to get out there, especially at big league camp."

Lowder, 22, received a $5.7 million Draft signing bonus after he posted a 1.87 ERA and 143 strikeouts over 120 1/3 innings in his final season for Wake Forest.

Spring Training environments at the college and pro levels haven't been too different for Lowder, so far.

"It’s the same work I would do every day, but everybody here is a lot more intentional, obviously," he said. "They’ve been doing it for a while. It’s cool to watch and sit back and look at what they do and try to take notes from everybody."

Lowder, who appears likely to begin the 2024 season at Double-A Chattanooga, is among a large cadre of young pitching in the Reds organization. He might be ready for the big leagues as soon as this year if he is able to force the club's hand.

"Ultimately, it’s out of my control," Lowder said. "I’m trying to go day by day and keep pitching. If I keep pitching, I’m sure I will be alright."

During camp, Lowder could be a candidate to see action in one of two games Reds prospects are playing for MLB's Spring Breakout. The event's inaugural edition will happen on March 14-17. Each club will field a team of their top prospects to play in seven-inning exhibition games against another club’s top prospects. Rosters, which will be revealed on March 7 on MLB Network, will be composed of organizations' top 20-25 prospects from all levels.

"That would be cool," Lowder said. "A lot of guys that I got drafted with or played against in college and then some other top prospects, that would be a super cool game to see all those guys again. But building innings is my main thing."