Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 13

Lotzkar to Return to Pensacola

Kyle Lotzkar had stuff on the mound that made him an exciting prospect when the Reds drafted him with a high choice in 2007. He's gone through some challenges since, most notably Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for all or part of three seasons. Last year he made it out of single A and will be one of the top pitchers in the Pensacola rotation to start this season.

2012 marked a career high for Kyle Lotzkar in games and innings pitched. That's not surprising since his first full professional season in 2008 was ended early for Tommy John surgery which kept him out of action through most of 2010. Understandably the Reds have been cautious using him since and one of the questions looming over his future is durability. They still have high hopes that he will reach close to the high ceiling that was projected earlier and he remains on their 40-man roster to protect against the Rule 5 draft.

Lotzkar originally came to the Reds out of British Columbia from a supplemental first round selection in 2007 as compensation for losing Scott Schoneweis. He was one of six players from that draft that remained standing in the Cincinnati organization by the end of last season. Three of them, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, and Zach Cozart spent all or nearly all of last season with the parent team. Meanwhile Lotzkar made it out of single A for the first time.

He began his professional career after the draft at the tender age of 17 that next season in the rookie leagues and was promoted to Dayton the next season. On the mound he looked like a good choice for the early selection before he was sidelined. It probably felt strange for him to return to the Dragons three years later and last season he started off hot in five appearances at Bakersfield. After that the Reds fast-tracked him to Pensacola where he ran into some challenges and finished with an ERA above five over eighteen AA appearances. He actually started off well for the Blue Wahoos before he was hit hard in July, perhaps feeling the effects of more work in his season.

The Reds have accumulated impressive rotation depth within their organization but they are still optimistic that Lotzker figures into their future. Questions on his durability and third pitch may eventually move him to the bullpen, but for now they are content to leave the 6'4" right-hander as a starter. Those concerns have reared their head a bit recently as he's dealt with shoulder problems at spring training, but he did throw off the mound for the first time Thursday. He figures to return to Pensacola this year to get another crack at Southern League hitters.

Lotzkar brings a low/mid-90's fastball that he mixes with a hard curve and he's also working on a changeup. He's a strikeout pitcher, fanning more than one batter per inning, but that comes with control issues, especially against AA hitters last season. Since he debuted six years ago it's easy to forget that he's still only 23 years old. He's moved down a bit on the Reds prospect list and 2013 could be a watershed season. He's got the potential to re-establish himself as a top Reds pitching prospect, but on the other hand, if he can't reduce his walk rate (career 11%) the Reds will have to face some hard questions on his future as a starter. For now he projects as a solid mid-rotation guy and Cincinnati is hoping he will be banging on the door to Louisville before the end of the season.

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