The Rays have now concluded a mostly quiet trade deadline, and the biggest move they made to help their injured pitching staff was to send pitching prospect Riley O’Brien to the Cincinnati Reds for DFA’d lefty reliever Cody Reed.
It’s a smallish move, but it’s the kind of move I expected, which is why I wrote a five-part series, mining the Pitch Info leaderboards for under the radar pitchers whose stuff the Rays might really like. I’m kind of annoyed that I didn’t identify Reed, but the main reason is that I wasn’t looking for Reds. With their currently 48% playoff odds, the Reds aren’t prototypical sellers, and this series was for trade candidates, not intriguing DFA candidates.
But if one were to spend their time looking at the stuff of Cincinnati pitchers, what would they think about Cody Reed?
That Sinking Feeling
The first note is that his two-seam fastball, which has averaged 94 mph in 2020, has a lot of run to it. By the Pitch Info numbers (slightly different than what you see on the graph here), there’s 9.5 inches of armside run. Only 21 pitchers in 2020 have averaged as much or more armside run on their sinker.
Now flipping over to vertical movement, the folks at Pitch Info think Reed’s rose only 2.7 inches (which is less than the five inches you see on this graph, because pitch classifications can be tricky). That knocks out eleven pitchers from the comparison. Notable comparisons that drop off here are Jake Diekman and Taylor Rogers.
Now let’s talk speed. Reed’s sinker has come in at 94.2 mph, which knocks out another eight comparisons. Put your hands down Adam Kolarek, Ryan Sherriff, Aaron Loup, Josh Fleming, and four other guys.
Wait, what? Only nine players have more run and more sink on their sinkers than does Reed, and four of them are Rays?
Yeah. Seems like somebody has a type.
Now that we’ve factored in speed, that leaves only one pitcher in all of baseball whose sinker exceeds the measurements of Cody Reed’s on all three factors of run, sink, and speed. That one pitcher is Joely Rodriguez (who I profiled here as a potential target, and who is really very good).
So far that sounds like a pretty unique, potentially-special sinker, right? But that’s just 2020 that we’ve been looking at. When we flip back to 2018 and 2019 — a period where he threw 49.1 innings, including seven starts, with a 3.65 ERA, a 3.59 FIP, and a 3.37 xFIP — then we see a different sinker. A better one.
Back in 2018, one didn’t even need to use all three dimensions to show that Reed’s sinker was unique. With only half an inch of rise, and 92.5 miles average velocity, only one pitcher (Carson Smith) outsped and outsunk Cody Reed.
We can play a similar game with Reed’s slider. Only 69 pitchers have at least 87.9 mph on their sliders in 2020. Only six have done so while averaging at least .8 inches of drop. Only one other (Travis Lakins, a RHP on the Orioles) has done those things while also averaging 3.4 inches of run.
Watching video of Reed, I was struck by how far above his sliders batters are swinging when they miss. It looks sweepy, but the amount of drop is sneaky, and it seems to fool hitters pretty well.
This is a long way of saying that Cody Reed has a combo of hard sinkers and sliders that get impressive and unique movement for their speed.
How the Rays win this trade
How does a player like this end up on on the trading block after being designated for assignment in 2020? How does he do so after having found major league success in 2018 and then briefly in 2019? After having been the Baseball America 34th ranked prospect in 2017 and 69th ranked prospect in 2018?
Well, he sprains a ligament in his knee, and then tries to come back too soon and ends up losing most of a year, and then when he does make it back to alleged health he has trouble throwing strikes over his first nine innings.
We don’t know how long it will take for Reed to work back to his old self, or if he’ll ever actually get there. He has no MiLB options remaining, so he’ll have to do it at the major league level. But FanGraphs currently gives the Rays a 100% chance to make the playoffs, so they’re in a position to give a pitcher like Reed the work he needs.
What the Rays have on their side is time, because underneath the walks there’s a really good pitcher in there, still trying to come back. And the Rays can help him do that.