I haven’t written anything of substance in a while. No, really, I tried to look it up and couldn’t find it. Sometimes, life just hits you on the nose and you get complacent. However, if you’ve read the Farmers Onlys I’ve written in the past couple years, you know I have a very favorite prospect. I have several from Nick Senzel, Gavin LaValley, Jesse Winker, etc., but there has been one I’ve been harping on for a while that tops my list. No, I’m not talking about Juan Silva. I decided to grow up and write something different for a change.
I’m talking about Tyler Mahle.
It’s a baseball love story if there ever was one.
Tyler Mahle was a 7th round in 2013 out of Westminster HS out of California. His brother, Greg, is a former 15th Round pick that has spent some time as a lefty out of the pen with Anaheim. They were supposed to go to UC Santa Barbara together, but Tyler took over slot money (some $200k+) to sign with the Reds. There may have also been some animosity or at least some innocent brotherly rivalry.
We couldn't stand each other growing up. But then we got close and I was really looking forward to being with him in college. When we were young, we were always at each other's throats. Now I'm his biggest fan and he's mine.
Ok, that’s not really animosity. Brothers are brothers. They hate and they love. They also, eventually, change. Tyler changed in a way his brother didn’t. He grew to be 6’4, two inches larger than his brother, and has grown into one of the most exciting minor league arms in the nation. He’s never moved himself up into top prospect lists. Meaning, he’s never cracked the National Top 100, but has stayed in the 10-30 range on the list with the Reds. However, his pure stuff, constantly good control, and improving secondary offerings have only grown as he has. Now, he’s a scouts darling and one of the most advanced arms out there. With his results, he’s quietly moved himself into a position of one of the most looked at minor league pitchers in the system. The Reds have noticed too, obviously. He was the Reds 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and probably would have been in 2016 if not for Amir Garrett.
So, that’s a little bit of background. It doesn’t mean too much. It says a bit, but I wasn’t meaning to write this as some sappy baseball biography. Though, I’m afraid it’s going to read much like one.
I don’t really remember the first time I noticed Tyler Mahle. I do a decent amount of minor league research, though I’ve been slacking lately, but it’s been at least three years that I’ve been watching him closely. I tried to find some of the first things I wrote about him, but SBN’s search function eats its own poop and Google wasn’t much help either. The earliest I could gather of past lists was from this article. It was a compilation of our lists, very not scientific, from 2014-2016. If you don’t know the Community Prospect Rankings they’re voted on by us with our own stupid opinions. Again, not very scientific. We’ll vote for a dog licking its own nuts if it shows promise.
Difficult as it was, I wanted to see the first time I noticed Tyler Mahle. Well, it was in 2015 before he ever pitched within 500 miles of Cincinnati. I did my own ranking before the 2015 season and gave Mahle some props earlier than I expected. Don’t judge me on the rest of that list, but this is what I said about Mahle...
21. Tyler Mahle, SP
People talk about Jeremy Kivel, but they need to talk more about Tyler Mahle. He is young, but hasn't failed at a level yet. He has a career 4.39 K/BB ratio, and should start in Dayton. Quietly, he was the best pitcher on the Billings staff.
I didn’t know much about him, but I was getting bored with some of the younger pitchers and went stat hunting. Tyler Mahle is what I found and just ran with it.
In 2015, in a full year at Class A Dayton, he pitched 152 innings with a 2.43 ERA. He struck out 21.8% of batters faced and only walked 4.0% for a 5.4 K/BB ratio. That’s fantastic. You wanna know how we rated him after that? We’re dumb. We gave him a #15, which I’m pretty sure was better than the rest of the prospect people, but still kind of low.
What held him back?
Well, he had the best control in the system, but he didn’t have anything else scouts drooled over. His fastball sat at 88-92, and his velocity was never stable. He also never really showed scouts off speed pitches they were excited about. There was plenty of projection with body type, but people saw a guy with a low ceiling that was hard to project. It was understandable. However, he did win an award for best pitching prospect in the system over guys like Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett. They were the high ceiling guys everyone loved.
In 2016, he was promoted up a level and got even better. He pitched 79.1 innings with Class A+ Daytona with a 2.50 ERA. He increased his strikeout percentage to 24.7 %, his walks jumped a bit to 5.5%, but that still came out to a K/BB ratio of 4.47 which is super damn fine. Mahle received a promotion to Class AA Pensacola where he had a blip on the radar. He saw an increase on his ERA to 4.92 over 71.1 innings. There was slight regression on his strikeout and walk numbers but nothing too severe. He went 21.0% K, 6.5% BB, and a 3.25 K/BB ratio. Anything over 3.0 K/BB is quite adequate.
How did we reward him?
We ranked him at #16. Though, I’m pretty sure that was still higher than a few national pundits. I’m pretty sure I argued him higher, but I guess it was understandable to be bullish. Tyler Mahle, though? He was having nothing with that.
This is why he’s my favorite prospect.
He’s struggled maybe once. The only thing he’s done since he was drafted with the Reds is strike people out, limit walks, and continue to get better. Here is his total line so far in 2017 when he repeated AA as a 22 year old.
85.0 IP, 1.59 ERA, 26.9 K%, 5.2 BB%, and a 5.12 K/BB ratio.
That’s fantastic. That’s not just fantastic. Those are top numbers in the minors. I forgot to mention that Mahle has already recorded a no hitter in his career. This year he topped that with a Perfect Game. He’s also the starter for the Southern Division squad in tonight’s Southern League All Star Game. Sadly, for the fans in Pensacola, it may be the last time they get to see him pitch in their city. His call up to AAA is all but imminent. Not just because he’s ready, but because he’s annihilated the competition.
However, I talked before about the drawbacks scouts used to see with Tyler Mahle.
What’s different now?
Well, for the most part it’s his fastball. Mahle used to suffer from inconsistency. He could dial it up to the mid 90’s on a good night. However, he’d sit in the 90-92 range and on some occasions struggle to get his fastball into the 90’s. He prospered due to excellent control and movement. Now, Mahle is sitting in the 93-96 MPH range with a fastball, reported during his perfect game, as high as 99-100. His off speed stuff has improved with his curveball being his most notable off speed pitch and most improved. There’s a good scouting report, pre-2017, here from Doug Gray. I’m sure Doug is giddy to get another look to see what has changed. The one thing everyone has agreed on is he’s throwing harder and his control is just as awesome.
There’s something simple about a pitcher that has always performed very well. Super well, in fact, but there was something kind of holding them back. To see a pitcher go from good, to great, to something to salivate over is tremendous. Especially, from a 7th round pick. To me, finding his stat lines used to be a hobby. Now? It borderlines on fanatic. I guess that’s the difference between a favorite prospect to FAVORITE prospect.
Pitching well in AA is typically the big hurdle for pitchers to make when they really look to be MLB pitchers. AAA is more for refinement. I’ve been on this bandwagon for a while, and I’m aware many are now jumping on it. I guess I’m kind of just tooting my own horn. Tyler Mahle has the skill and refinement to be the one pitcher you should be looking for in 2018. He has everything you want that scouts are now paying attention to. I’m not here to say that he’s going to be the next great thing, but he’s a pitcher I’ve been adoring for few years while others have been pessimistic about his stuff. I just feel he’s done all the things necessary and has the right opportunity. He may be the best pitching prospect in this farm system not named Hunter Greene, and I’m not even sure if that’s fair. Hunter Greene hasn’t thrown a professional pitch.
Tyler Mahle has, he’s done it well, and he’s about to be less than a two hour drive from Cincinnati. There is plenty of time for blunders and mistake, but if you have the opportunity you should take a trip down I-71 and check him out. I don’t think you’ll regret it.