Tyler Mahle’s development will strengthen the Cincinnati Reds rotation

GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 19: Tyler Mahle #30 poses during Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 19: Tyler Mahle #30 poses during Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Tyler Mahle’s improvements will be key to the Reds success in 2020.

Tyler Mahle won just three games in 25 starts last season and saw an ERA of 5.14; the worst among every Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher in 2019 with more than 20 starts. However, Mahle will be needed in 2020 perhaps more than most fans are willing to admit. While, at times, Mahle’s performance was shaky, he also showed great resolve heading into the final month of 2019.

Mahle was selected in the seventh round of the 2013 MLB Draft. A product of Westminster High School in California, Mahle quickly rose up the ranks of the Cincinnati farm system and earned a spot in the Reds rotation in 2018. That year, the then 23-year-old Mahle was hoping to build off the brief experience he gained in four starts during the 2017 season.

In 2018, Tyler Mahle went 7-9 with a 4.98 ERA in 23 starts. Last year, in looking at those same statistics, most fans would believe that Mahle struggled during his second year in the rotation. That’s a fair analysis seeing as how the right-hander went 3-12 over 25 starts with a 5.14 ERA. But those stats don’t tell the whole story.

One look a little deeper will reveal that Mahle showed great improvements in 2019. According to FanGraphs, Mahle’s strikeout-rate rose from 21.7% in 2018 to 23.2% last year. Newly acquired Reds hurler Wade Miley put up a strikeout-rate of just 19.4% last season. Mahle’s walk-rate of just 6.1% was actually better than that of Sonny Gray (9.6%), Anthony DeSclafani (7.0%) and Luis Castillo (10.1%).

That statistic alone should be enough to make fans pay attention. Castillo, the Reds top starting pitcher in 2019, had 79 walks in 190.2 innings of work (3.73 BB/9) while Mahle walked just 34 free passes in 129.2 innings pitched (2.36 BB/9).

While Mahle’s ability to throw strikes should be reason for optimism, the long ball was his demise last season. After giving up 22 home runs in 23 starts during the 2018 season, last season didn’t offer much better results. Mahle surrendered 25 round trippers in 25 starts and 1.74 HR/9. If Mahle can show improvement in that one area, the sky is the limit for 25-year-old.

This season, while consisting of just 60 games, will be very important for Tyler Mahle. He’ll likely have limited exposure, maybe starting a handful of games or possibly coming in as a reliever. However, with DeSclafani and Trevor Bauer will be free agents at the end of the season, Mahle will likely be thrust into a starting role in 2021.

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Some of the Reds top pitching prospects (Hunter Greene, Tony Santillan and Nick Lodolo) will not have a minor league season with which to develop, and all three may fall short of making their big league debut next season. Mahle has a golden opportunity to solidify himself as starter of the present and the future, but he’ll have to execute during the abbreviated 2020 season.