The Situation: When Alfredo Simon pitching every five days is Plan A, virtually any other pitcher is an upgrade. Simon lost his rotation spot, Daniel Wright stepped in and now the Reds will summon Reed to pitch Saturday after the latter was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Reed had to play the waiting game to avoid reaching Super Two status and should be in Cincinnati for the long haul now that the deadline has passed.
Background: Drafted out of Northwest Mississippi Community College with the Royals’ second-round pick in 2013, Reed stalled in his first two pro seasons as he fought his command. But after finding a more repeatable delivery, he was able to reverse his control issues and pound the strike zone. The Reds flipped Johnny Cueto for Reed, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb at the trade deadline last summer; coincidentally, all three will start for Cincinnati against Houston this weekend. Reed put up gaudy numbers in the Southern League, capping a breakout season with a career-best 10.87 K/9 in eight starts for Double-A Pensacola. He kept a similarly impressive pace in five spring training games, joining the Louisville rotation after the Reds’ last round of cuts and averaging just under a strikeout per inning.
Scouting report: What makes the southpaw special is the movement he can generate on his two plus pitches. With some good weight added to his 6-foot-5 frame, Reed picked up some velocity in junior college. His fastball currently sits in the mid-90s and touches 97 with late life and some arm-side run. He favors his upper-80s slider as an out pitch but throws it comfortably in any count. Its two-plane break gets swings and misses from both sides; left-handers chase it out of the zone, while the 1-7 tilt drops under right-handed hitters’ barrels. Although Reed doesn’t throw his changeup as often, it’s made strides over the past year and profiles as an average offering.
Reed throws from a three-quarters slot with an easy finish, which allows his fastball and slider to play low in the zone. His improved ability to repeat his mechanics also adds a layer of deception to his game, hiding his slider to keep hitters off balance. —Kourage Kundahl
Immediate Big-League Future: While Finnegan was the bigger name in the deal for Cueto, Reed looks like the best player in the package and will be one of the biggest pieces in the Reds’ rebuilding efforts. His arrival is an immediate shot in the arm for the National League’s worst (by ERA and FIP) pitching staff. He already looks like a mid-rotation starter, and when Robert Stephenson returns, the Reds could have a tantalizing 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for years to come.
Fantasy Analysis: One of the most electrifying starters left in the minor leagues, Reed’s fantasy stock soared as a result of his stellar performance (2.41 ERA with 144 strikeouts in 145 2/3 innings) and inclusion as one of the ancillary pieces in the high-profile Johnny Cueto trade last season. The 6-foot-5 southpaw operates from a low three-quarters arm slot, with a mid-90s fastball juxtaposed with a devastating mid-80s slider, which have enabled him to rack up strikeouts at a prodigious rate. The 23-year-old owns a 3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP with 63 strikeouts (8.8 K/9) and just 17 walks (2.4 BB/9) in 11 starts at Triple-A Louisville this season. Reed’s 3.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB) is 14th-best among Triple-A starters, above highly touted prospects like Blake Snell (3.21) and Tyler Glasnow (2.39).
With the Reds rotation in flux, the tantalizing combination of strikeout potential and job security gives Reed a relatively safe floor, making him a worthwhile target in all fantasy formats, even shallow mixed leagues. Owners should feel comfortable investing $10-$15 of their remaining FAAB in mixed leagues and upwards of $20-25 in NL-only formats. –George Bissell