This afternoon, right-handed pitcher Levi Stoudt will make his big-league debut as he makes a spot start for the Reds in their series finale against the Rays.
The 25-year-old was one of four players the Reds acquired from the Mariners in the Luis Castillo trade last summer. Stoudt wasn’t either of the headline prospects — that co-title belonged to Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo. But Stoudt was generally considered a top-20 prospect in the Seattle farm system at the time of the trade and has since been added to the Reds’ 40-man roster. Although he didn’t make the Cincinnati rotation out of spring training, he has seemingly passed Brandon Williamson on the organizational depth chart as he’s the first to get the call to the majors.
Let’s get to know Stoudt a little better.
In general, Stoudt is described by scouts as a good athlete and workman-like with a simple, repeatable delivery. He was viewed as an advanced college arm from Lehigh University when the Mariners selected him in the third round of the 2019 draft. Stoudt made 34 starts over three seasons with 181 strikeouts in 190 innings. In his final college season. Stoudt struck out 69 in 63 innings. Stoudt’s draft position fell because of looming Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in July 2019. After sitting out 2020 while rehabbing, Stoudt was assigned to the High-A Everett AquaSox where he made 12 starts over 64 innings. His 4.83 xFIP was indicative of a solid strikeout rate (25.5%) and high walk rate (11%). He did have a lower ERA (3.52).
The Mariners promoted Stoudt to their Double-A Arkansas Travelers affiliate for three starts at the end of the 2021 season. Over those 17 innings, Stoudt pitched about the same as he had in High-A with a 25.7% strikeout rate, a 10.8% walk rate, and 5.10 xFIP.
Seattle kept Stoudt at Double-A in 2022. He made 18 starts over 87 innings, or just under 5 innings per appearance. Stoudt improved on his walks (6 BB%), but his strikeouts also fell a bit (22 K%). His xFIP was 4.76 and ERA was similar at 5.28. Stoudt was dealt to the Reds on July 29. At the time of the trade, here were his prospect rankings in Mariners system:
- MLB Pipeline (#5)
- Baseball America (#10)
- FanGraphs (#14)
- Prospects1500 (#20)
And after the trade, in the Reds system:
- MLB Pipeline (#17)
- Reds Minor Leagues (#14)
Stoudt debuted with the organization at Double-A Chattanooga and made just one start, throwing five shutout innings and allowing two hits and one walk with six strikeouts. He was quickly promoted to Triple-A Louisville, where he had a strong 3.32 ERA in 19 innings over six starts. But his 5.93 xFIP indicated a strikeout rate that continued to fall (18.3%) and a rising walk rate (12.2%).
Heading into 2023, here’s where he ranked as a prospect in the Reds organization:
- MLB Pipeline (#14)
- Baseball America (#16)
- FanGraphs (#22)
- The Athletic (unranked)
- Reds Minor Leagues (unranked)
- Prospects1500 (#27)
After he was cut from big-league camp, Stoudt started this year back in Louisville. He’s made three starts spanning 11 innings thus far, and while the 4.09 ERA is respectable, his 8.01 FIP and 6.50 xFIP indicate his ongoing control problems. He’s walked nearly as many batters this season (9) as he’s struck out (10) while also giving up three home runs. One silver lining is that he’s generating a 53.3% ground-ball rate, but that’s well ahead of his mediocre career marks over a much larger sample.
Pitch Portfolio and Scouting Report
Stoudt throws four pitches: a four-seam fastball (48.9% usage this year), slider (32.8%), changeup (11.7%), and curveball (6.7%).
Stoudt throws a mid-90s four-seam fastball that can reach 98-99 mph. This year, the pitch has been sitting at 94.5 mph and maxing out at 96.6. It gets below-average spin, and scouting reports seem split on whether it has much life or has arm-side run or has a ton of ride up in the zone.
Stoudt’s slider has improved in his pro career, especially while he reworked his mechanics while recovering from elbow surgery, and can flash as a plus pitch at times. Last season, it was his most-used offering. It has a healthy 28.0% whiff rate this season and is getting ground balls two-thirds of the time it’s been put into play.
Scouting reports are mixed on his changeup; however, the general consensus is that it can flash as an above-average offering but is inconsistent. So far in 2023, it seems to be falling more in the former category as it has an excellent 50.0% whiff rate and 33.3% called strike plus whiff rate (CSW%). The continued development of the changeup will be important for Stoudt to get lefty hitters out.
Stoudt will throw a curveball occasionally, but it’s merely an average pitch that doesn’t get big spin or whiffs.
Eno Sarris’ Pitching+ model provides data from the Triple-A level, and through April 19, Stoudt was given above-average marks in Stuff+ (104.9) but well below average in Location+ (88.6) and Pitching+ (96.2). That checks out with the high walk numbers he’s posted so far this season and throughout his pro career.
Scouts seem divided about whether Stoudt has the portfolio to stick as a starting pitcher or whether he fits better in a relief role, where his fastball-slider combo could play up. Even among the optimists, Stoudt’s ceiling is a low-rotation guy. If you look past ERA (a noisy stat at best, especially in small inning samples) to strikeout and walks, Stoudt has been consistent during his time pitching in the minors. An xFIP around five in High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A doesn’t scream big-league starter.
But Stoudt is nowhere near a final product. He’s still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and getting used to a new motion developed during his rehab/COVID season. If he can cut down on the walks and show better command, it would significantly improve his outlook.
Bottom line: If Stoudt becomes a solid citizen in a future Reds bullpen, that’s a good outcome for the third- or fourth-best prospect in the Castillo deal. A #4 or #5 starter would be even better.
Featured photo: MLB Pipeline – Twitter