Tejay Antone: Reds 2020 Rookie Of The Year
When the Reds' Opening Day roster was announced they didn’t have a single rookie on it despite it being 30 players deep.
One day later a set of roster moves brought 26-year-old righthander Tejay Antone to the roster, making him the lone rookie for the Reds in the early part of the season. He never looked back.
On a roster that eventually saw several Top 10 Prospects join the team, it was Antone—the organization’s No. 22 prospect entering the year—who stood out among the Reds' rookies.
“I’ll do anything for this team, whatever role they need me” Antone said.
He made a handful of spot starts during the season and also pitched out of the bullpen—often times in key spots as Cincinnati chased and secured a spot in the playoffs.
In 13 appearances, including four starts, Antone recorded a 2.80 ERA over 35.1 innings. He struck out 45 and walked 16, allowing 20 hits and four home runs.
“He’s proving to be one of the reliable guys at the back end (of our bullpen)," Reds catcher Curt Casali said, "which is awesome, especially considering this is his first go of it—first time in the bullpen, too . . .
"The fact that he’s coming in and pumping 97-98 (mph) right at you, and then two different breaking balls—he gives you everything he’s got every time he goes out there.”
Newfound velocity has been a big key to the success for Antone. After working in the 89-92 mph range for most of his minor league career, he averaged 96 and topped out at 99 this season.
It wasn’t just Antone's fastball that led to a strong season. His curveball and his slider both rated among the best in the league according to the FanGraphs run value metric. The combination of that stuff led to a strikeout rate of 11.5 per nine innings and WHIP of 1.02.
Cincinnati didn’t have much playing time for rookies in 2020. But the time that they gave to Antone worked out in their favor while he put together a breakout year.
— While shortstop Jose Garcia struggled at the plate in 2020, which was understandable given that he had never played above the high Class A Florida State League, his defense in the majors came as advertised. Garcia showed off both range and a plus arm.
— After a slow start to the season, 32-year-old Japanese rookie outfielder Shogo Akiyama made the adjustment in September. In 23 games he hit .317/.456/.365 with 15 walks and 12 strikeouts.