The Cincinnati Reds finished the season with a 64-98 record, securing the number two pick in the 2016 draft. They had an impending free agent in Johnny Cueto that they were not going to resign and could cash in on by moving him to a contender that was in search of an ace.
The Reds found a trade partner in the Kansas City Royals, who were willing to give up a trio of southpaws in exchange for the reigning runner-up in the National League Cy Young voting. Kansas City shipped Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed to Cincinnati. Finnegan was the big name in the deal. The TCU product shined on the national stage in 2014 and became the first pitcher in history to pitch in the College World Series and the World Series in the same season. Lamb was a former top prospect who required Tommy John Surgery and never fully regained the velocity and command that once made him a future frontline starter, but he can still fit at the back of a rotation.
Enter Reed, a 6’5” 220 southpaw that has three plus pitches as well as a good feel of the strike zone.
Reed was Kansas City’s second round selection (46th overall) in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Northwest Mississippi Community College where he threw a no-hitter his freshman year. He had command issues in JUCO, showed by his 72 walks in less than 140 innings and that carried over into his first stint in pro ball. Reed debuted in the Pioneer League and walked 7 batters per 9 innings. In 2014, the 22-year old pitched exclusively in the South Atlantic League and finished 3-9 with a 5.46 ERA. He cut his walk rate almost in half to 3.9, but he also gave up 105 hits in 84 innings.
Reed blossomed in 2015 as he simplified his mechanics, which made his delivery easier to repeat. He started pounding the strike zone with consistency and went 5-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 67.1 innings for the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the Carolina League. Reed saw his fastball tick up into the upper 90s more frequently and his power slider and changeup began to show signs of becoming above average pitches as well. Most importantly, he only walked 18 batters in 67.1 innings.
The Memphis, Tennessee native got the promotion to the hitter friendly Texas League after appearing in the Carolina League All-Star Game and held his own in five starts for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals before being shipped to Cincinnati on July 26th. The Reds sent him to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, their double-A affiliate in the Southern League, and Reed took off. In eight starts for his new organization, Reed went 6-2 with a sparkling 2.17 ERA. He struck out 60 batters over 49.2 innings (a 10.9 K/9 rate) and walked only 16 (2.9 BB/9). He finished 2015 a combined 13-9 with a 2.41 ERA. He struck out 144 and walked only 42 over 145.2 innings, cutting his walk rate from 7.0 to 2.6 in just two seasons. He also improved his strikeout rate from 6.2 in 2014 to 8.9 in 2015 and opponents hit only .235 off him compared to .312 a season ago.
Left-handed pitchers who throw in the upper 90s and have a feel for three plus pitches and the strike zone do not grow on trees. The Royals had two of them in their system in Reed and Sean Manaea that they drafted in the same year, and traded both of them at the deadline in an effort to win their first World Series title in 30 years. For all the hype that Manaea received coming out of Indiana State, one scout offered an interesting thought that Reed could be the better of the two:
Have talked to a scout today who said he’d rather have Cody Reed than Sean Manaea…One opinion, but an interesting one.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) July 27, 2015
There was never a doubt about Reed’s potential. He has an ideal frame that is built for durability and a power arm from the left side that teams covet. The Royals took a chance on a raw, power arm out of JUCO and he endured some rough patches early in his pro career. But Reed took significant strides in 2015, and the Reds may have landed a golden ticket.