Reds news: Spin-rate lands Heath Hembree in Cincinnati

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 06: Heath Hembree of the Philadelphia Phillies prepares to pitch. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 06: Heath Hembree of the Philadelphia Phillies prepares to pitch. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds agreed a minor-league contract with right-handed pitcher Heath Hembree on Monday. The former Boston Red Sox reliever gives the Reds something their coaching staff covets; a high spin-rate.

It should come as no surprise, that anytime Cincinnati pulls off a trade or under-the-radar signing, that players likely matches up very well with what the baseball operations department is looking for. Recently, the Reds have focused on landing pitchers with a high spin-rate.

Heath Hembree fits the Reds’ mold.

Heath Hembree, who last pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020, was part of the Cleveland Indians’ roster this spring. The Tribe released Hembree over the weekend, and Cincinnati, who shares the complex in Goodyear with Cleveland, jumped at the opportunity to sign the 32-year-old.

According to Baseball Savant, Hembree’s fastball spin is in the 93rd percentile, and his curveball spin is in the 76th percentile. Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson seems to covet those types of arms, and who are we to argue?

Fans have seen Lucas Sims blossom under Johnson’s tutelage. The former Atlanta Braves starter has excelled out of the Reds bullpen, and according to Baseball Savant, Sims’ fastball and curveball spin is among the best in baseball.

Heath Hembree has an outside chance to make the Reds roster.

Being that the Cincinnati Reds signed Hembree to a minor-league deal, any chance of the right-hander landing on the Opening Day roster means that someone on teams 40-man roster will have to be let go. Heembree isn’t the only non-roster invitee fighting for a spot on Cincy’s 26-man roster.

Brandon Finnegan, Cam Bedrosian, and Jesse Biddle are all in battle to snag one of the final couple spots in the Cincinnati bullpen. Not one of those three pitchers have elevated themselves above the fray, and David Bell may have some difficult decisions before April 1st’s opener versus the St. Louis Cardinals.

Heath Hembree has been spectacular this spring. The South Carolina native has posted a 1.42 ERA in seven appearances out of the Indians’ bullpen this spring and struck out eight batters over 6.1 innings of work. Hembree has issued six walks and four hits, including one home run.

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But, compared to the others in contention for a roster spot, Hembree’s stats put him slightly above the group of relievers duking it out for seat in the Reds’ bullpen. Hembree’s presence may see the competition increase over the final week of Cactus League play.