Baseball America recently tabbed Cincinnati Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo as the 36th best prospect in baseball. MLB Pipeline, a part of MLB.com, currently has Lodolo as the 31st best. Baseball Prospectus, meanwhile, ranks him 42nd.
It’s a pretty across-the-board consensus that he’s one of the better overall prospects in the game, something that was widely known and expected when the Reds drafted him 7th overall out of TCU back in 2019, a year in which he’d go on to throw 18.1 pro innings after being drafted with 30 strikeouts and not a single walk on his ledger.
Lodolo’s 2021 season then saw him breeze through 44.0 IP with AA Chattanooga, posting a nasty 1.84 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and absurd 68/9 K/BB before reaching AAA for the first time. Those were the kinds of dominant performances that suggested he was getting better, not worse - at least in the eyes of many.
Admittedly, a combination of persistent blisters on his throwing hand and left shoulder fatigue ended up curtailing his campaign early, with only 6.2 IP with AAA Louisville to show after his call-up. Perhaps it was that that led The Athletic’s Keith Law to omit Lodolo entirely from his 2022 list of the Top 100 prospects in the game, as was released on Monday morning.
(That said, Lodolo barely cracked the list at all back in 2021, too, checking in at 100th in last year’s rankings.)
Anyway, there was still some significant optimism from Law about the state of the Cincinnati farm, as Hunter Greene led the Reds contingent on the list at 12th overall, up from the 28th spot on last year’s (but down from #3 on Law’s mid-season update from 2021). It was a testament to Greene getting back on the mound for significant innings for the first time in nearly three full years, with 139 Ks across 106.1 IP split between AA-AAA indicative of his arm looking spry again after Tommy John surgery.
Law was also effusive in his praise of young Elly De La Cruz, too, who nicely checked in at 69th on the list. His upside is the thing of lore already, as Law notes in his potentially 70-grade skills, but obviously comes with what can pretty well be defined as a lack of polish at the moment. If he puts it all together, though...
Just behind Elly came Matt McLain on Law’s list, landing in spot #72. McLain is almost the perfect inverse of De La Cruz in that he’s just about as known and formed as can be at this juncture, with the only questions remaining being finding a spot for him to set and forget while not watching in earnest as he continues to improve. That’s not a knock, either - Law even mentions Jonathan India in detailing McLain’s strengths.
All told, it’s certainly a deviation in the evaluation of the cream of the crop of Reds prospects, one that will make how Lodolo and the rest of the crew perform in the coming years of particular interest.
It’s worth noting that Law did not include Jose Barrero, though it’s not clear if his nebulous status as a ‘prospect’ was behind that decision. Barrero did not make Law’s 2021 list or his mid-year update from 2021, either.