Unless one happens to be a regular at Billings Mustangs games, it is easy to overlook Cincinnati Reds pitching prospect Tyler Mahle. Check out his number this season playing rookie ball in Billings, 4.43 ERA and a .255 BAA — not exactly eye popping. Now, let’s take a closer look and try to understand why this guy could easily be the fourth best pitching prospect in the Reds’ system behind — in order — Michael Lorenzen, Ben Lively and Robert Stephenson. Mahle seems more advanced than Cincinnati’s first-round 2014 MLB Draft pick Nick Howard.
So, who is this Mahle character and why should Reds fans remember his name? He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Westminster High School in southern California. Notable alum of Westminster include former 16-year MLB veteran Ryan Klesko and Penelope Spheeris, director of the classic 1981 punk rock documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization.
Mahle throws from a high three-quarter arm slot. He features a low-90s four-seamer with nice riding life. By all accounts, his curve needs work. However, there’s a YouTube video floating around of a Mahle three inning performance where the curve looked like his best pitch. The game was played in Minnesota’s Metrodome, so there was no humidity to give him a better grip. Maybe he was just getting lucky, but on that day his bender had very late life and excellent depth. It was a true 12-to-6 curve. Scouts obviously know more than a guy who has watched a few videos, but the potential for a plus-curve is there; Mahle’s change-up needs to improve.
Other things to get excited about include an effortless and repeatable delivery to the dish. At 19 years old, Mahle’s mechanics are more polished than Stephenson, who most call the Reds’ No. 1 prospect. At 6-foot-2 and less than 180 pounds, Mahle will put on more muscle and his velocity is likely to rise from low-90s to mid-90s. He’s quick off the mound and especially athletic.
Remember that 4.43 ERA at Billings? It is very misleading. He’s started 13 games, three of which have been total disasters to the tune of 8.1 innings, 27 hits, and 18 earned runs. In Mahle’s other 10 starts, he’s thrown 56.2 innings, allowing 39 hits, 14 walks, two home runs while striking out 51 batters. That’s a 2.22 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 3.6 K/BB ratio. The 39 hits and two homers in 56.2 innings prove his command is exceptional, and his 14 walks display above-average control.
Mahle is a true under-the-radar Reds’ prospect. He will crack 2015 preseason prospect publications, likely in the lower third of 30 Reds’ prospects. If that is the case, Mahle deserves a higher rank.