Hard Work Pays Off For Tejay Antone
When the Reds added prospects to the 40-man roster in November to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, some of them were names that don the top prospect label and have been talked about for years.
But 26-year-old righthander Tejay Antone has only ranked inside the Reds' Top 30 Prospects list once before being protected, and that was after the 2015 season when he ranked No. 27. Cincinnati drafted him in the fifth round in 2014 out of Weatherford (Texas) JC.
After missing the entire 2017 season and the first two months of 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Antone returned to the mound and began working his way back from the injury.
"He navigated it really well,” senior director of player development Eric Lee said. "He’s an incredibly hard worker. He didn’t take it for granted.”
Antone's hard work began to pay off in the first half of 2019 at Double-A Chattanooga. After 13 starts he had a 3.38 ERA through 74.2 innings. That performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A Louisville in mid-June.
His first two starts were a bit of a struggle. He allowed 10 earned runs in 11.1 innings, but Antone settled in well after that.
"He’s got a high groundball rate. He does have bat-missing stuff, and it started to come on in Louisville,” Lee said. "The slider really took off there, working with (coaches) Jon Moscot and Jeff Fassero.”
In the final two starts of the year, Antone struck out 19 batters for Louisville as he capped off his first full season since 2016.
With a fastball that typically works in the 89-93 mph range and touches a little higher, it’s Antone's secondary stuff that sticks out. He saw his swinging-strike rate (among all strikes thrown) jump from 14 percent at Double-A to 19 percent at Triple-A in 2019.
By adding Antone to the 40-man roster, the Reds are hoping his uptick in swing-and-miss stuff will play well with the elite groundball rate he has demonstrated in the minors.
— Many minor leaguers are participating in winter leagues around the world, but few are as young as 18-year-old Misael Lopez. The lefthander signed with the Reds in June but didn’t pitch during the 2019 season. He has found time on the mound in a limited relief role in the Mexican Pacific League, allowing only one hit in four appearances that have spanned five innings.