Cincinnati Reds: Tejay Antone’s report card for the 2020 season

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 29: Tejay Antone #42 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the game against the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 29: Tejay Antone #42 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the game against the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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Tejay Antone earned his stripes during his first year with the Reds.

Raise your hand if you had Tejay Antone as the best rookie on the Cincinnati Reds this season. No one? That’s what I thought. Nobody saw Tejay Antone coming, and I think it’s fair to say that of David Bell and anyone else on the Reds staff. Let’s give Antone a grade for his performance in 2020.

Antone started the season ranked among the Top 30 prospects in the Reds organization according to MLB Pipeline, but he played like a Top 5 prospect. In 13 games, including four starts, the right-hander went 0-3 with a 2.80 ERA and a 1.019 WHIP.

Antone has a nice arsenal of four pitches, though he rarely uses his changeup. Instead, the 26-year-old relies heavily on a mix of his two-seam ,sinking fastball and a mix of breaking balls including a slider and curve ball.

. RHP. Cincinnati Reds. TEJAY ANTONE. B+

Tejay Antone was merciless against opposing hitters. The right-hander came right at batters early and often, essentially daring them to take a swing. When it came to soft contact, Antone was one of the best on the team. According to FanGraphs, his 25.6% soft contact was better than both Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer.

Antone’s strikeout-rate was quite impressive as well. Owning a K-rate of 31.9%, Antone bested both Luis Castillo (30.5%) and Tyler Mahle (29.9%) in that category and was off the pace set by Bauer (36.0%), who’ll likely take home the NL Cy Young Award this season.

Antone’s downfall in 2020 was the free passes he gave up. While striking out 45 batters over 35.1 innings of work is quite the feat for a rookie, Antone showed his inexperience and lack of control with 16 walks. Going into 2021, his 11.3% walk-rate must improve. His 2.81 strikeout-to-walk ratio is below every starter except Gray and Wade Miley.

I have no doubt that Tejay Antone will work on that part of his game over the winter, and if he excels in spring training, David Bell and his staff will have quite the conundrum when it comes to putting together a starting rotation.

Obviously, Gray and Castillo will be among those in the rotation, and you can include Miley as well. Tyler Mahle will most certainly have the inside track between he and Antone, and then there’s the matter of Trevor Bauer. Will he re-sign with the Cincinnati Reds or go elsewhere. Bauer’s decision may greatly affect Antone’s role in 2021.

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Regardless of starting or coming out of the bullpen, Tejay Antone is a sure-fire bet to be part of the Reds Opening Day roster in 2021. According to Baseball Savant, Antone compares quite favorably to Kenta Maeda, Zach Eflin and Brandon Woodruff. If Antone reaches that level, the Reds front office should be quite pleased.