The Cincinnati Reds made four roster moves this afternoon. Among them was calling up right-handed pitcher Tejay Antone (Aristides Aquino was also called up among four transactions). This spring out in Goodyear it was Antone that, among the prospects at least, was the talk of the town. Entering spring training the right-handed starter wasn’t among the organization’s Top 25 prospects. That’s not to say he wasn’t a prospect, but he looked more like a 5th starters/6th inning reliever kind of guy who was close to the Majors. After what he’s shown this year in spring training and Summer Camp he’s jumped up to #15 on the list.
Everything changed when spring training started and his velocity that had been 89-92 MPH last year as a starter was 96-98 MPH in shorter stints while pitching in the bullpen for the big league club. That improvement kept showing up during the shutdown while he worked on his own, and when Summer Camp began in July – that velocity was still there in shorter stints. During one of the intrasquad scrimmages at Great American Ballpark Antone got the start and he struck out seven hitters in just three innings while working mostly with his fastball and slider.
Earlier this week he got action against the Detroit Tigers in the first exhibition game. That game was being run with the pitch tracking system in place and we were able to get our dirty little hands on the data. His velocity dipped to 94-96 in his second inning of work, but he averaged 95.3 MPH over his two innings and topped out at 96.7 MPH on the day with his 14 fastballs (12 of which were strikes). Known for his movement on his fastball before this year, the pitch still showed plenty of life on both planes even with the increase in velocity.
The slider shows off as an above-average to plus pitch. It’s one that took big steps forward last year – particularly in the second half of the season once he got to Triple-A. It will work in the low-80’s and in the minors last season had one of the higher swing-and-miss rates around. He will also show curveball in the mid-to-upper 70’s and a change up in the mid-80’s.
For his career, he’s been a guy who throws plenty of strikes. He’s also been a pitcher who has gotten a huge rate of ground balls in his minor league career. His 55.2% ground ball rate in the minors would tied Luis Castillo for 2nd best rate in the Major Leagues among qualified pitchers in 2019. While it doesn’t appear his role with Cincinnati is going to be as a starter right now, he’s shown the ability to pitch deep into games when asked to. His role will be out of the bullpen for now, but as a starter he could give you multiple innings there.
Background on Tejay Antone
The Cincinnati Reds selected Tejay Antone out of Weatherford College in the 5th round of the 2014 Major League Baseball draft. He initially played at TCU before transferring. Antone made stops at every level of the farm system as he worked his way up the chain, but missed all of 2017 and about half of 2018 after having Tommy John surgery.