Hard-throwing Reds prospect takes next step toward major league debut

The big right-hander throws 100 mph and is now on the verge of a major league call-up
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee pitcher Zach Maxwell throws live batting practice during spring training workouts, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at the team   s spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee pitcher Zach Maxwell throws live batting practice during spring training workouts, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at the team s spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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On Tuesday afternoon, the Cincinnati Reds promoted right-handed pitcher Zach Maxwell to Triple-A Louisville. Maxwell has been tearing it up at Double-A Chattanooga this year, pitching to a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 innings. He's currently striking out just over 46% of batters and has yet to allow a home run this season.

Maxwell arrived in the Reds system back in 2022. He was a sixth round pick out of Georgia Tech with an explosive fastball that touches triple digits, and a power slider that misses a ton of bats. He worked primarily as a reliever in college and the Reds have used him exclusively out of the bullpen during his pro career.

One advantage Maxwell has is his big frame. He clocks in at 6-foot-6, 275-pounds and his height gives him great extension on his pitches. He's able to use his velocity to blow the ball by hitters and his strikeout rates reflect that.

Reds prospect Zach Maxwell promoted to Triple-A Louisville Bats

Entering the year, FanGraphs listed Maxwell as the Reds' 11th-best prospect. He's viewed by multiple prospect evaluators as a potential late-inning option thanks to the velocity and that nasty slider.

The Reds clearly agreed with the assessment because they extended Maxwell a non-roster invite to spring training in Goodyear earlier this year. Maxwell posted three scoreless appearances in four tries and punched out seven batters along the way.

Zach Maxwell could make his Reds' debut this summer

The way he's pitching, Maxwell has a chance to debut in Cincinnati later this year. He isn't on the 40-man roster and there are a couple guys ahead of him in the pecking order but you can't deny the talent he possesses.

One big weakness for Maxwell is his inconsistency throwing strikes. He's posted walk rates around 15% during his professional career, though that's an improvement over where he was at in college. If Maxwell is going to be a true shutdown reliever at the major league level, it has to start there.

Maxwell's stuff looks good enough to get whiffs at the highest level, and batters have been punching the ball straight into the ground, as evidenced by the 54.5% ground ball rate this year. However, major league hitters are significantly more advanced than the guys Maxwell is currently facing. He needs to be able to work his pitches around the edges of the zone if he's going to be successful in Cincinnati.

Despite the control issues, the path to the majors is clear. Keep inducing weak contact, keep getting strikeouts, and stay healthy. The Reds' bullpen isn't exactly killing it right now so when they inevitably need help due to performance or injury, Maxwell will be ready and waiting.

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