Cincinnati Reds #3 Prospect: Tyler Mahle Doug Gray November 8, 2017 22 Comments For the large part of his career, Tyler Mahle had dominated at each level. In 2016 he stumbled late in the year in Double-A. The Cincinnati Reds sent the 22-year-old right hander back to Double-A to start the year. He didn’t waste much time establishing his authority. In his first three starts he allowed two earned runs in 17.2 innings with 19 strikeouts. That was just a teaser. On April 22nd in a road game in Mobile, Mahle took things to the next level. He would face 27 batters and he would retire them all. It was his second no-hitter in his minor league career and the first perfect game. He capped off April with 6.0 shutout innings against Biloxi. The struggles in Pensacola to end 2016 were behind him. After five starts in April, he had a 0.55 ERA in 32.2 innings with just six walks and 34 strikeouts. With such an incredible April it is no surprise that May wasn’t quite as good. The month began with his worst outing of the year for the Blue Wahoos. In Chattanooga he allowed a whole three runs over 5.0 innings. Yes, that was his worst outing in Double-A during 2017. The rest of the month was outstanding and he would finish with 37.0 innings over six starts. That came along with 10 walks and 38 strikeouts. June began with more of the same. He made three starts between the beginning of the month and the 16th, allowing three runs in 15.1 innings. His third start was short, just 3.0 innings, but would allow him to start the Southern League All-Star game in Pensacola. Unfortunately the game was rained out. He was promoted to Triple-A Louisville after that. The first start at the new level came on the road in Norfolk. The defense wasn’t helpful as he was charged with three unearned runs over 6.0 innings. That came with a walk and nine strikeouts. Tyler Mahle finished the month with a 1.27 ERA in 21.1 innings with just two walks and 24 total strikeouts. The month of July began with another game where the defense struggled behind him. Three unearned runs on top of three earned in 7.0 innings against Indianapolis. The next outing was arguably the worst of Tyler Mahle’s career. Against Charlotte he allowed five runs in 1.1 innings of work with two walks and a strikeout. He would rebound well over the final three starts of the month, allowing three runs in 20.0 innings. It was the worst month of the season, but still resulted in a 3.49 ERA. That also came with seven walks and 24 strikeouts in 28.1 innings pitched. The strong finish in July carried over into August for Tyler Mahle. The first four starts of the month he allowed just seven runs in 25.0 innings (2.52 ERA). The month would end with a dream coming true for the right hander. On August 27th he would make his debut in Cincinnati against the Pirates. Things could have gone better, but he was solid as he allowed three runs in 5.0 innings. Where he struggled, surprisingly, was his control. He walked four batters in the game. The next time out, on September 2nd, he faced the Pirates again, this time in Pittsburgh. He tossed 6.0 shutout innings with no walks and three strikeouts. The Mets had success against Mahle on the 7th. New York would scored three runs in 4.0 innings against him and walk four times with just two strikeouts. His final start of the year came on September 13th against St. Louis. He shut down the Cardinals over 5.0 innings, allowing no runs, walking three and striking out four. For all 2017 Season Reviews and Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out during the week throughout the offseason). Tyler Mahle Scouting Report Fastball | While this is lumped together as one, Mahle throws different versions of the pitch. When he is working in the low 90’s, the pitch shows good movement on both planes. When he wants to, he can reach back and throw into the mid-90’s, up to 97/98 MPH every so often, but the pitch loses a lot of it’s movement. What makes the pitch play up, beyond those things, though, is that he’s able to pound the zone with it, and especially at the lower velocity, he can command it at times. Slider | The pitch he goes to most of the time out of his secondary offerings, the slider works in the mid-to-upper 80’s. It’s an average offering a large majority of the time. Every so often it will show good, hard biting action that would give it above-average looks – but he rarely finds the strikezone when it’s at it’s best. Change Up | The third pitch in the repertoire, the change up works in the mid-80’s. It’s a fringe-average offering that can be a little bit straight at times. Curveball | A pitch that he doesn’t go too all that often, but can bust it out when he needs to show a different look. It works in the mid-to-upper 70’s. He rarely used it in the Majors, but would go to it the second or third time through the lineup in the minors. It’s another fringe-average to average offering that he brings. For Tyler Mahle he lives and dies with the fastball. Sometimes that can be to a fault. The right hander throws a lot of fastballs. It’s not Tony Cingrani level, but it’s higher than normal. With all of the different ways he can use his fastball, though, it’s giving hitters different looks despite them falling under the “fastball” category. How his secondary stuff plays against Major Leaguers will be the most interesting part of his future development. As things stand right now, I expect his strikeout rate to decline and his walk rate to increase a little bit from his minor league time. The secondary pitches just aren’t put-away caliber and while he can pound the zone, big leaguers will be able to spoil things that minor leaguers couldn’t. With all of that said, he’s a high floor prospect. It’s hard to see how Tyler Mahle isn’t going to be a big league starting pitcher. He’s got four pitches that are at least fringe-average offerings and he throws a bunch of strikes. There’s some debate about exactly what his upside is, though most scouts believe he could be a #3 caliber starter in the long run. If his hard biting slider can become more consistent it would give him the necessary secondary pitch to put Major League hitters away and take that next step towards reaching his ceiling. 22 Responses Kap November 8, 2017 I think he can comfortably in the back of the reds rotation and stays there. Like doug said, control is good enough to remain a starter and stuff isn’t good enough to be a front line starter Shamrock November 8, 2017 So, would you say that Mike Leake is the expectation……with an absolute floor of Cingrani………and a ceiling of WHO in recent Reds history?? The Duke November 8, 2017 Leake had better offspeed pitches, but not as good of a fastball. Not sure the comparison is all that solid outside of both being known for good control, of which Mahle hasn’t proven at the big league level yet, but control I think does come. He’s a very smart pitcher, and while I absolutely think he sticks in the Reds rotation, I think he may end up more of a 4 than a 3. Like Doug said, if the slider can become a consistent put away pitch, then him being a 3 looks a lot more plausible. The Reds really need Castillo and Stephenson to put it together, because those 2 guys have the stuff to carry a rotation. Castillo Stephenson Disco/Finnegan/Gutierrez/Homer Mahle Romano Colorado Red November 8, 2017 I would agree with you Duke. The cup of coffee last year, looked real promising. Doug Gray November 8, 2017 I mean, an absolute floor is that he never reaches the Majors again. That would likely involve an injury that takes away ability, of course. I think that the floor could be something like a useful, but not great reliever – if there’s no injury. I doubt that’s a likely outcome, of course, but I could see it working out that way. Mk November 8, 2017 Mahle’s performance has always been better than his stuff would project. He is finally getting more respect because his solid performances have continued up the system. I have no doubt he will continue to make adjustments to continue this in big leagues. sultanofswaff November 8, 2017 Nice to see the Reds draft a kid this low who will likely go on to have a ML career–we need to produce more players outside the first round to compete with the big spenders. The question is, who gets first crack at the rotation? In my mind, Mahle’s strikeout numbers don’t warrant a spot at the front of the line, but instead he is AAA insurance for the time being. My list of who gets the first chances: Castillo Disco Bailey Stephenson Finnegan Romano Mahle Lorenzen Garrett It would be nice to have the last 4 starting in Louisville every 5 days. The Duke November 8, 2017 Mahle is also younger and has less MLB service time than most and would most easily get that extra year by starting him in AAA. Also, if he starts the year in the bigs and sticks, we’ll lose that year. He shouldn’t have much of an innings limit in 2018 after throwing 150 IP in 2016 and 166 IP in 2017. He can get close to 200 IP in 2018 without going much over 30 IP more than last year. Start him in AAA at the beginning of 2018 and by mid-May or early June odds are someone is hurt or not performing to where they can call him up. I also don’t want to get in the heads of Romano or Stephenson as they both ended 2017 strong after some struggles and they have earned a shot to start 2018 in the rotation. Reds4ever November 8, 2017 Low? He was like 4th or 5th round. You can say this about Garrett and Romano as they were 22nd and23rd round Doug Gray November 8, 2017 Eh. Garrett and Romano both got more money than Mahle did. So while you could call them low round picks, it’s incredibly misleading because they got 1st and late 2nd round signing bonuses (at the time). Norwood Nate November 8, 2017 I think Mahle is one of our biggest trade chips this offseason. He’s a top 100 prospect that could reasonably be slotted into a ML rotation next season, but hasn’t pitched enough to undo any prospect hype he may have earned. I’m personally of the mind to try and cash in on that hype considering he’s not likely to be a true #1 or #2 type of pitcher. We have plenty of guys who should be able to slot into the 3-5 spots in the rotation. With a lot of shine coming off pitching prospects once they hit a bump or two in development recently, I’d try to be proactive this offseason. The Duke November 8, 2017 Depends on the target. If we could get someone like Yelich without giving up Senzel or Greene (which I don’t think the Reds are willing to trade either one) then bunding Mahle with a couple more players like Trammell and Long and maybe one of our struggling former prospects (Reed or Garrett) then that would be worth doing. I’m not sure the Marlins are trading Yelich without getting a top 25 guy back though, but if that package gets it done, do it, and then trade BHam for the best price you can get, be it a strong bullpen piece or prospects. The Duke November 8, 2017 Doug, an offseason article I’d like to see is a re-rank of the Reds pitching prospects by floor and ceiling. Your normal rankings are the mix of the two, but I think going 10-12 deep into a list of the highest ceiling pitchers and then the highest floor pitchers and contrasting the two lists would be interesting. Then in 3-4 years revisit that article and see how everything played out. If you start doing it every year, then in 3-4 years you can have a new floor/ceiling list article and a revisit of previous years articles every year and get lots of good data points on floor vs ceiling projection and which has provided the Reds more value over time. Just a thought and something I would find interesting. MK November 8, 2017 Off topic but doesn’t it seem like the Mariners are stockpiling former Reds prospects. Their recent addition of Zack Vincej allows him to join former teammates Kyle Waldrop and Seth Mejias-Brean. Must have had some positive scouting reports when they were considering Cozart trade. The Duke November 8, 2017 Sounds like they are filling out a AAA infield. Now they’ll pick up Brandon Dixon as a minor league free agent and slot him in at 2B 1B: Kyle Waldrop 2B: Brandon Dixon SS: Zach Vincej 3B: SMB Stock November 8, 2017 I think everyone is vastly under rating Mahle. Granted he doesn’t have Castillo’s FB. But there must be something about his FB that keeps hitters off balance. The isolated power on Mahle’s FB last year was .041. By comparison Luis Castillo’s was .273. Robert Stephenson .280. Mahle was clearly a better minor league pitcher than Stephenson. Luis Castillo had a great first half of the year in Penscola. His ERA was 2.58 and his WHIP was 1.01 and he struck out more than 9/9IP. Mahle was clearly better though. His ERA was a run lower. His WHIP was lower (0.87) and he struck out more per 9 IP than Castillo. Mahle’s control was so good in the minors (less than 2/9 IP) that I think his control problems in Cincinnati this year was an aberration. I took the liberty of comparing Mahle’s 2017 stint in the majors vs. 9 other players. For Homer and Arroyo I looked at their 2013 season. This is Homer’s best year. For Finnegan and Reed I looked at 2016. This was Finnegan’s full season and Reed was starting instead of relieving in 2016. GB %: Mahle had the second highest on the team behind Castillo. An decrease in Mahle’s GB rate would not surprise me though. Soft Hit %: Mahle had the highest soft hit %. Just above Castillo and Romano. Hard Hit %: Mahle had the lowest hard hit % and the second best (Castillo) wasn’t very close. Only Finnegan threw FB more often but Mahle was one of 6 pitchers who threw it more than 60% of the time. Swinging K%: Mahle was 8th out of ten (above Arroyo and DeSclafani) here but I think that will go up 1% – 2% when his control reverts to minor league levels. I am not sure how well this chart will translate but hear goes. Player | GB% | Soft | Hard | FB S/U | Swing K Mahle | 52.5% | 22.2% | 23.8% | 92.9/65.6% | 6.70% Reed | 51.9% | 16.0% | 39.90% | 92.8/52.7% | 9.30% Garrett | 43.4% | 13.4% | 40.7% | 91.7/62.1% | 8.60% Garett(April) | 49.3% | 14.9% | 41.8% | | Romano | 50.4% | 21.5% | 32.6% | 95.3/62.6% | 8.70% Stephenson | 37.5% | 12.8% | 38.4% | 93.7/54.3% | 12.50% DeSclafani | 41.9% | 16.0% | 30.2% | 92.9/56.2% | 6.50% Bailey (2013) | 44.6% | 16.5% | 31.0% | 94.1/60.2% | 10.80% Finnegan (2016) | 38.1% | 16.4% | 35.9% | 93.0/69.3% | 9.60% Castillo | 58.8% | 22.1% | 29.6% | 97.5/62.4% | 12.60% Arroyo (2013) | 44.4% | 14.3% | 32.8% | 87.2/44.1% | 6.00% Doug Gray November 8, 2017 isolated power on a pitch he threw in four starts is useless data. His groundball rate, in 20 innings, is interesting, but probably useless data, too. He’s been a flyball guy his entire career – even this year in Triple-A. Small sample sizes make weird things happen. Mahle’s going to very likely have better walk rates than he showed in his brief stint in the Majors. I doubt it will be where it was in the minors, though. As I said in the article – big leaguers will fight off stuff that minor leaguers couldn’t. He’ll still have a better than average walk rate, though – just not an incredibly elite one in my mind. Stock November 8, 2017 I disagree Doug. In that Statistic textbooks that I own a sample size of 25-30 is all that is necessary to incorporate the normalization process. Hitters had 49 AB against Mahle’s FB. The standard deviation for 49 AB is much larger than the standard deviation for 500 AB but it is not useless. Because of this small sample size we should look at other things to determine if his low ISO on his FB is misleading. Does he do anything different with his FB? As you stated in your article he has two vastly different speeds with his FB. This is at least somewhat unique and I can see how it could keep hitters off balance. Now let’s look at a bigger sample size. Luis Castillo and Mahle both pitched 14 games for Penscola. Both pitched 7 at home and 7 on the road. Both had nearly identical BB/9 IP and K/9 IP. In spite of all these similarities Mahle’s ERA was a run per game lower than Castillo’s. Maybe luck played a role here but I think Mahle did an incredible job of keeping hitters off balance on every level last year including being better at doing it in AA. In fact he was better than Castillo in the majors also. Having a FB you can blow by hitters is great but pitching is about keeping hitters off balance. And no Red pitcher was better than Mahle at keeping hitters off balance in 2017. Doug Gray November 8, 2017 I just don’t agree with the sample size being enough, even if the statistics books tell you it is. I’m not suggesting that he doesn’t or can’t have a low IsoP on his fastball. What I am suggesting is that using the data from his MLB debut over 20 innings to say he does, is useless. Stock November 8, 2017 I am not suggesting that at all. If you read my two posts you will see I included a comparison of Mahle and Castillo in AA and in the majors in both of them. So really I have 100 innings of data. I have detailed data on just 20 innings because I don’t know a website that give me better data for the minors. I have no doubt you would see Mahle induced weak contact in AA too and to ignore his time in AA makes no sense. When you look at the numbers it seems that his results in AA stem from weak contact. Everything else matches up to Castillo. The results when Mahle allows contact are much better than when Castillo does. 14 starts should be enough to come away thinking that there must be something to the data provided in his 20 innings. To say that is useless is wrong mathematically. To say that is useless is wrong from a scientific point of view where you gather different sets of data and come up with a hypothesis. You may not like my hypothesis but to call it useless is flat out wrong. Maybe you looked at 20 innings but I looked at his entire season Doug Gray November 8, 2017 You started talking IsoP on his fastball, which limits you to 20 innings because you can’t get the data for his minor league team (unless you work for the Reds, of course). This is where I’ve got the biggest issue. It’s just not enough to tell us anything about the future. Mathematically doesn’t always work in sports because there are factors that aren’t applied. The same applicable rate for sports isn’t the same for asking if you’ve had a cold in the last year to determining how frequent people get colds per year. It’s just not the same. Stock November 8, 2017 You can include the innings Mahle put together in the minors. He dominated in the minors and per you his only plus pitch is his FB so it seems to me that he used it often in AA. Hard to convince me that his FB didn’t keep hitters off balance in AA because he absolutely dominated the league. 1.59 ERA means no one figured you out. And if not for his FB teams would have ate him alive. So yes I can use Math and Science to say his FB kept hitters off balance in AA. Just because I don’t have his AA FB ISO does not mean I have no clue if it was greater than .250, less than .150 or in between. I know I would bet on the less than .150.