As many of you know, the Reds recently recalled RHP prospect Tejay Antone from the minor league alternate camp and have been using him mostly in long relief as they attempt to find the right combination of pitching to overcome a rocky stretch with their bullpen. Antone was a prospect who, for the first two or three years of my time covering the Reds for Prospects1500, only existed on the periphery of my interest. He wasn’t doing anything particularly remarkable from 2014 to 2016, putting up K% in the middle teens and mediocre ERA’s and WHIP. On top of that, sometime in 2016 he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2017.
Antone returned to action in 2018 and pitched 96 innings at A+ Daytona, increasing his strikeout rate to 20%, and posting a 3.58 FIP, and while his walks per nine was an unsightly 2.72, he did a good job of limiting home runs, thanks to the high number of ground balls he generates on his sinker and curveball. 2019 brought some modest gains over previous seasons, pitching 146 innings between AA Chattanooga and AAA Louisville, increasing his strikeouts significantly, though he continued to struggle with walks.
Fast-forward to this year, Antone was assigned to the Reds’ alternate camp in late July, and a week later called up to the big leagues; he pitched 4.1 innings against the Cubs, and looked extremely sharp, only giving up 1 walk and a home run with 5 strikeouts in his debut. Antone made his next appearance on August 5th against the Indians, going 4.1 innings and giving up 1 run on 2 hits, and 4 walks, with no home runs and 4 strikeouts. His 2 inning stint against Kansas City on August 12th was yet another impressively smooth outing, only yielding 1 run on one hit and just one walk.
Antone is one of few bright spots in a bullpen that until recently has had a tough time of it. In 69 innings pitched, they’ve collectively posted an unsightly 5.36 FIP, a 12% walk rate, and a measly 59.8% LOB. The Reds are 29th in LOB %, and 6th worst in FIP. Though Tejay Antone has been a starter most of his minor league career so far, I actually think his stuff plays up better in relief; that being said, he certainly is capable of being a spot starter when needed, and his stuff is good enough in my view to contribute K’s and low ERA. The problem for his usefulness beyond that, from a fantasy standpoint, is that he’s blocked by Amir Garrett and Raisel Iglesias who hold the 8th and 9th innings for now. But should either of those two really stumble, and Iglesias in particular has at times, I could see David Bell giving Antone a shot at either the set up or closer roles.
To be clear, I don’t want to give the impression that I think Antone will be the next Josh Hader. I think part of his success at the moment is because major league batters are just getting their first look at him. But even with some regression, I still feel he has good enough stuff to make him worth rostering, at the very least as a back up in case you have a starter or reliever go on the IL.
Rudie Verougstraete is the Cincinnati Reds correspondent at Prospects1500. He lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife Shelly who is the Washington Nationals correspondent. He has been an avid baseball fan since 2015, participates in multiple fantasy baseball leagues, and attends Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants AA affiliate) and Washington Nationals games whenever he can! His favorite baseball function is First Pitch Arizona, a fantasy baseball conference hosted by Baseball HQ every year just outside Phoenix.