Culminating in what was a terrible month in terms of being able to get out to baseball games and cover them, mostly because I couldn’t really walk or walk much for three weeks in the second part of April and early part of May thanks to a knee injury, I was able to get back to the ballpark and watch some baseball. I made the trip up to Dayton to watch 2015 Cincinnati Reds second round pick Tanner Rainey take the mound. There was also the pleasure of seeing Ariel Hernandez at what had to be his best on Friday night.

Tanner Rainey is known for his arm strength, and despite being in his first full season of starting after being a reliever in college, the velocity hasn’t dropped off a bit.

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I spent the first two innings of the game in the photo well, focusing on getting some pictures and video of the position guys at the plate, but kept an eye on the stadium radar gun. That’s when big numbers started showing up on the scoreboard and new ribbon board in Dayton when Tanner Rainey was on the mound. Usually the stadium gun there is accurate, but when 97 starts showing up regularly and 98 flashed up there, it requires a second check. In the third inning I made the move to behind the plate and sat down with some scouts and doubled checked on the velocity from the first inning. Rainey hit 98 once in the inning and hit 97 five other times, while sitting 94-95 for the first two innings.

He only threw four innings on the night, and his velocity did “dip” some in the 3rd and 4th inning as he was only throwing 92-95 in those innings. The good part is that there’s 97-98 in there when he’s not going full out in a one-inning relief stint. On the flip side, at least last night, according to the one scout I talked with, the control wasn’t there at all when he was between the 96-98 range.

Going from the starter to the final pitcher of the night, Ariel Hernandez continued to impress me when I see him in person. While he’s certainly older than the majority of his competition, the guy that took the mound last night would have gotten Major League hitters out if he had thrown those exact same two innings. His fastball was sitting 95-97. His curveball was sitting in the 84-85 MPH range. He showed a change up at 88-89 MPH. The scouts behind the plate were in awe. I was in awe. One scout said Hernandez showed the best breaking ball he’d ever seen. He said it’s an 80 offering. Another one laughed at one point after a change up and asked how a guy with three plus pitches was still in this league (Midwest). The answer to that question is that he’s had a long battle with the strikezone, but last night, he was absolutely nailing his spots outside of one batter that he walked. And I don’t mean he was in the zone – he was commanding the ball, locating it exactly where Tyler Stephenson was setting up with the exception of that one walk, where he was missing by small amounts. He’s walked 12 batters in 20.1 innings this season, but only one in his last 5.0 innings over three appearances. If he continues to look like he did last night in terms of commanding the strikezone, he is going to move up and move up quickly.

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5 Responses

  1. The Duke

    Always worth taking a flier on a power arm. Given his age, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hernandez aggressively promoted as long as the walks are kept somewhat in check.

    I’ll be shocked if Rainey ever starts in the bigs. Seems like a bullpen guy.

  2. Alex

    Rainey was signed for about half of his draft slot value and that saved them almost 400K so I assume they picked him to save some money. Still has a power arm but likely a bullpen piece if he does make it.

  3. RFM

    Ariel Hernandez has given up far more walks (123) than hits (105) in his 163 inning minor league career. Only 5 homeruns allowed. It seems like a hitter’s best approach is just not to swing, since his pitches are seemingly either unhittable or out of the strike zone…

    • Doug Gray

      In his career, that would certainly be the best plan of action. But on Friday night it wouldn’t have done them any good as he was hitting his spots.