What to expect from Nick Lodolo

April 12th, 2022

Ever since the Reds took Nick Lodolo No. 7 overall in the 2019 Draft, the first pitcher taken in the first round that year, visions of a Hunter Greene-Lodolo dynamic duo in the big league rotation started dancing in Reds Nation’s collective heads.

It’s taken a little bit longer than some might have anticipated, with Greene’s Tommy John surgery and the lost 2020 season for both pitchers. But the time has finally arrived. Greene made his highly anticipated debut on Sunday and Lodolo’s turn comes on Wednesday. Lodolo is No. 41 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 and No. 2 on the Top 10 left-handed pitching prospects list, but a high ranking is just about all he shares in common with Greene, who created quite a buzz on Sunday with his 100-mph heater. In many ways, they are perfect foils for one another as Lodolo will show that there’s more than one way to get big league hitters out.

That’s not to say the Texas Christian product doesn’t have good stuff. He is not a soft-tossing lefty, though his ability to fill up the strike zone and mix his pitches stands out more than any one true out pitch. You’re going to see more than enough velocity from the 6-foot-6 lefty, with a fastball that usually sits in the low-90s, but one he can dial up to 96-97 mph when he needs it. As he progresses and continues to mature, there is belief he’s going to throw consistently harder. But he makes low-90s work just fine, throwing the pitch down in the zone with a lot of sink, a big reason why he had a 1.72 ground out/air out ratio in 2021.

His low-80s slider will flash plus at times and he misses plenty of bats with it. It started showing more depth in '21, a contributor to his 13.9 strikeout-per-nine rate last year. He has a very good changeup as well, one he sells well with deceptive arm speed that has good fade and tumble (good for missing bats and generating weak contact on the ground). He hadn’t always used it consistently, but that improved in '21 as well.

Lodolo will use all three pitches to keep hitters guessing and fills up the strike zone. He can throw any pitch at any count and walked just 2.0 per nine a year ago. One other thing he might share with Greene is tremendous mound presence and a big time competitive streak. So expect him to go right after hitters and show no fear, regardless of the situation or who is at the plate.

One thing we don’t really know is how well the southpaw will hold up. In 2019, his draft year, he threw 121 1/3 total innings (103 with TCU). Then there was the shutdown in 2020 and in 2021 he dealt with a blister and, potentially more concerning, a shoulder issue. So while he did reach Triple-A briefly, he only threw 50 2/3 total innings in what was, officially, his first full season.

He entered this spring with a clean bill of health and obviously threw well in Cactus League action to earn this spot in the rotation. Just like with Greene, the Reds will proceed with caution in terms of his workload, not only because of the shoulder, but because they’ll be wary of expecting too much of a leap in innings pitched after last year’s low total. Assuming health, he has the chance to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter for a very long time in Cincinnati.