Cincinnati Reds: Tejay Antone the next ace in baseball?

Cincinnati Reds logo. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Reds logo. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Cincinnati Reds fans see the title of this article and know exactly where I’m going with this. But to the vast majority of baseball fans today, Tejay Antone is someone not on their radars quite yet. That may soon change.

To make the case for Antone we first must look back at what the Reds franchise has been able to build in the department of pitching over the course of the last several years right under all of our noses.

Cincinnati Reds may have a burgeoning ace in Tejay Antone

The LA Dodgers built an elite unit of pitching that eventually led to them winning the World Series after consistently setting themselves up to do so in the Don Mattingly/Dave Roberts eras.

light. More Reds. Sims gets point across too late

The Tampa Bay Rays had long been known as a craftier, low-spending organization that did things out of the ordinary, but what they always consistently had was a strong pitching base.

The next team in line appears to be the Reds in that we’re starting to see how their pitching staff continues to develop and morph into an elite unit.

Derek Johnson, who many people don’t know, has done some extraordinary work as the pitching coach of both the Milwaukee Brewers from 2016-2018 and now the Reds since 2019. He even got his hooks into that young Cubs team that was coming up as their minor league pitching coordinator after leaving Vanderbilt University. Everywhere Johnson has gone, success has seemed to follow.

That brings us to the Cincinnati Reds of the last couple of years including this one.

Luis Castillo, until recently, was once widely regarded as the best young pitcher in baseball. The Reds stole him from the Marlins farm system in exchange for Dan Straily back in the day and he exploded onto the scene in 2019.

Sonny Gray got chased out of New York he was so bad as a member of the Yankees, but once he came to Cincinnati in 2019, his ERA plummeted to 2.87 (a 2.03 point drop-off from 2018 to 2019) and now has revitalized his career.

Trevor Bauer was a big personality who got traded to the Reds in 2019 on a whim and even though he struggled the second half of that year, he came right back in 2020 and won himself the CY Young in the National League.

There is something happening in this Reds organization in their pithing department and Red fans young and old should be nothing but excited about it because what we’re seeing from the vast majority of these pitchers is a wealth of potential and that potential slowly but surely being realized.

The uniting factor between each and every one of these pitchers from Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer to lesser-known players like Lucas Sims, Michael Lorenzen, Tyler Mahle, and our man Tejay Antone is most certainly spin rate.

Spin, for those that don’t know, is the RPMs (revolutions per minute) your ball spins. If we take a look at what baseball savant has to offer us, we see every one of these guys has elite level spin rate on their fastballs, and for the most part on their curveballs as well.

The breakdown for these key Reds pitchers and their spin rate percentile scores in 2020 goes as follows:

  • Trevor Bauer: 100th percentile for fastball/92nd for curveball
  • Sonny Gray: 89th percentile for fastball/94th for curveball
  • Tejay Antone: 98th percentile for fastball/95th for curveball
  • Lucas Sims: 100th percentile for both fastball and curveball
  • Michael Lorenzen: 95th percentile for fastball/40th for curveball
  • Tyler Mahle: 74th percentile for fastball/63rd for curveball

Michael Lorenzen’s curveball is the lone weak point in that bunch and as these are 2020’s lines, Tyler Mahle is currently sitting in the 89th percentile for fastball spin in 2021, so he’s now on his rise.

The two guys that are now struggling for the Reds are Luis Castillo and Amir Garrett; Castillo ranked in the 24th percentile last year for fastball spin and Amir Garrett ranked in the 35th. That’s not to say spin rate most definitely determines success in the Bigs, but I find it to be increasingly interesting how guys with top spin continue to ascend while guys with lower spin are finding themselves on the decline.

We’re not at a place yet where spin is the end-all be-all for determining who can pitch at the Major League level and who can’t, but I feel we are on that path, especially with the advancement of technology and the incorporation of (dare I say) “science” into the game. I know “science” is a broad term these days, but I find it to be really good for the game of baseball in how we evaluate players.

That brings me to Tejay Antone, who I believe is on his way to becoming one of, if not the best pitcher in baseball.

I want you guys to check out this video here:

The first pitch he throws is a 95 mph two-seamer that breaks back into the zone to freeze Willson Contreras on the high-outside part of the plate.

Then we see him mix in a slew of breaking balls to Cubs, Pirates, Indians, and Cardinals hitters that make them look silly if not completely freeze them.

This is footage of his outing just last Monday when he went 3 innings to get the win in extras over the Dodgers.

This guy is going to be legit in a couple of years. His 2-seamer has climbed in velocity from last year to this year. Now it sits at 96.5 mph. His curveball sits at 80 mph and gets up to about 84 mph.

His spin on all three of his pitches has increased an average of 76 RPMs and he’s added over 150 RPMs to his slider this season.

Once Tejay gets his control down pat, he’s going to slide right into that Reds rotation and become one of the top pitchers in baseball.

He’s got the dominant power stuff to do it and he gets more swings and misses than just about anybody in baseball in the present day. Extrapolate that to when he cuts down on the walks which aren’t even hurting him that much.

Next. Rose cannot stop himself. dark

I think we’re looking at one of the league’s most dominant pitchers in 2-3 years. He’s got the right organization and the right mentors around him past and present to help him get there. Cincinnati Reds fans really have a gem on their hands.