Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2009 Top Prospect List: #10 Kyle Lotzkar, rhp

Kyle Lotzkar
Height 6-4, Weight 200, B/T: L/R, DOB: 10/24/1989
2008 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: #16

Kyle Lotzkar's 2008 season was probably one of the least surprising in the entire system, in fact he did almost exactly what I thought he'd do. Of course, that description carries with it both positive and negative connotations. On the plus side, he demonstrated the flashes of brilliance that we have already come to expect from his young right arm. Unfortunately, on the downside, he suffered a not altogether unexpected arm injury, which prematurely ended his season.

It's still too early to tell, but his 2008 season may be indicative of his entire career. He has the ability to be a top of the rotation starter, but he also has some issues with his mechanics that increase his injury risk and could prevent him from reaching his impressive ceiling. For Lotzkar, it will continue to be a battle between high performance upside and heightened injury risk. Hopefully for Reds fans, the former will win out over the latter.


After a very strong 2007 debut, the Reds opted to keep Lotzkar in extended spring training to start the season. Given his age, they likely didn't want to throw him right into the mix against more advanced competition, but he was also dealing with a sore neck which ensured that the Reds would be cautious with him. Lotzkar stayed and worked out in extended spring training until the beginning of June when the Reds sent him him to low-A Dayton Dragons.

For the Dragons, Lotzkar demonstrated the kind of high-end performance that makes him a very intriguing pitching prospect. He made his Dayton debut on June 13, which was the first of 10 starts he'd make on the season. Lotzkar pitched 37.2 total innings which of course works out to only 3.2 innings per start. Given his high walk and whiff rates, it's not surprising that Lotzkar never worked past the 5th inning, as both of those outcomes require a lot of pitches. In his 10 starts, Lotzkar posted a 3.58 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 5.7 BB/9, 12.0 K/9, and a 0.74 GB/FB ratio. And, a look at his component stats indicate that he was as good as his ERA indicates. His FIP was 3.65 and his BABIP was .321.

Unfortunately, when Lotzkar toed the slab on August 3rd against the Quad City River Bandits it would be his last outing of the season. He worked 2.2 innings before injury struck and he was forced to leave the game with a small stress fracture in his elbow.


Fortunately, Lotzkar's stress fracture was a small one, even so it's a rather unusual injury for a pitcher.

In short, a stress fracture is an overuse injury that is frequently seen in athletes. A fracture, or broken bone, is typically caused by very high force that causes the bone to break. However, a stress fracture is caused by a much lower level of force that happens repetitively over a long period of time. What makes it an unusual injury for Lotzkar is that stress fractures are most often seen in the bones below the knee (i.e. shin bones, bones of the foot, etc). Stress fractures in the upper body are rare because the weight of the body is not supported by the arms the way it is by the legs. A good example of a lower body stress fracture is fellow Cincinnati Red Chris Dickerson, whose 2008 season ended when he had to have surgery to remove a piece of bone from a stress fracture in his left ankle.

Stress fractures are usually seen in athletes who increase their level of activity over a short period of time. In Lotzkar's case, he was working his first full professional season and throwing more than he ever had in his baseball career. Typically, bones will adapt to increased workload by becoming stronger in the high stress areas, but a stress fracture may result if the bone cannot maintain the pace of the repetitive work. The typical treatment for a stress fracture is rest, but more serious fractures can require corrective surgery.

Recently, former Baltimore Oriole pitching prospect Adam Loewen was forced to give up pitching after suffering a recurring elbow fracture. Loewen originally suffered the stress fracture in 2007 and had corrective surgery that inserted a screw to stabilize the joint. Only recently tests revealed that he had reaggravated the fracture, which had widened again. Ultimately, Loewen decided not to have another corrective surgery which would keep him out until 2010, but to instead give up pitching to focus on converting to the outfield.

Seattle Mariner pitching prospect Cesar Jimenez is another prospect who suffered a stress fracture of the elbow. He opted for surgery and missed most of the 2007 season. Upon his return, the Mariners shifted him to the bullpen in part due to questions about his durability. Even so, he is throwing the ball well and should have the opportunity to pitch out of the Mariner bullpen in 2009.

A couple of other pitchers suffering from stress fractures are Yankee pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo (elbow) and Tiger flamethrower Joel Zumaya (shoulder).

Fortunately, Lotzkar's stress fracture, which only required rest, was not as serious as Loewen's career ending injury. After resting his elbow for just a month, Lotzar was throwing again without pain. All in all, this could be nothing more than a very minor bump in the road for Lotzkar, but it certainly bears watching. Hopefully, there won't be a recurrence of the injury, because, as Adam Loewen demonstrated, it can pose a serious threat to a pitcher's career.


Lotzkar features three quality pitches: a 90-93 mph fastball with good movement, a biting curveball that he has tightened up, and a developing change-up. He has a good feel for pitching, which helps his pitches play up a tick, and he's comfortable throwing all of his pitches. His biggest problem is his control, as he issues a lot of free passes, which really isn't surprising given his age. Fortunately, that's a problem that can be corrected with experience and improvement would really unleash his potential.

As for his mechanics, Lotzkar still has a red flag in his delivery. He has a fairly loose arm action, but he brings his pitching elbow up above shoulder height after breaking his hands (see Zumaya photo, who shares both the high pitching elbow and "coincidentally" the stress fracture injury), which can increase the stress on the arm. Given the heightened risk of injury created by his delivery, it's not surprising that he suffered an arm injury during his first full season. Hopefully, it's not a sign of things to come.


Overall, the only real drawback on Kyle Lotzkar is the risk of injury. Outside of that, he's got the body type that scouts dream on, the pure stuff to be a dominant pitcher, and a good feel for pitching. In addition, he seems to have good makeup and a strong work ethic, which are underrated attributes in prospects.

Lotzkar has tremendous upside and injury might be the only thing that prevents him from reaching it. It's also the only thing that prevents me from ranking him much higher on this list. For now, he checks in at #10.


  1. Great articles about the Reds' prospects. I especially like the comments on pitching mechanics. Is it too late to correct Lotzkar's mechanics?

  2. Hey Floyd,

    Thanks for the comment!!

    As for mechanics, theoretically changes and even major overhauls can be made, but it can be a serious undertaking.

    For whatever reason, whenever each of us picked up a baseball and threw it for the first time, one way felt the most comfortable to each of us. And, gradually muscle memory took over as we continued using the same motion over and over and over again.

    Muscle memory is the process of the neuromuscular system memorizing motor skills. Muscle memory is formed over time through repetition of a motor skill and the ability through brain activity to instill it to the point that it becomes automatic. So, given that, you can see the difficulty in retraining yourself to throw a baseball in a different manner than you have your entire life.

    By and large, I'd say simple changes to a pitcher's delivery can be made. However, in Lotzkar's case (i.e. high pitching elbow), you would be trying to change his actual arm action, which would be MUCH more difficult.

    Can it be done? Absolutely. If you are a golf fan, you know that Tiger Woods has completely overhauled his golf swing at least once. Earlier in his career, he had tremendous success, but didn't feel that the swing would play well as he aged. So, he showed extraordinary confidence in himself and completely reworked his swing. It took him about 8-10 months of nonstop pounding golf balls with his new swing to completely retrain himself.

    Of course, what makes Tiger's decision so amazing is that you just don't know how well you'll perform if you retrain yourself. Will you be able to perform at the same high level after your rework your mechanics? Honestly, regardless of whether it's golf or baseball, I'd say most of the time the answer is no. You have to have a ton of skill and confidence to make that kind of change. Will you have the same velocity? The same bite on your breaking pitches? The same control?

    The A's just had tremendous success in converting Brad Ziegler to a submarine style pitcher, but Ziegler wasn't having much success before the conversion, so there was little downside to it. Obviously, that's just not the case with Lotzkar.

    That's why organizations are wise to take a pitcher's mechanics into account when drafting them. It should definitely be a part of the decision, because it's difficult to change a pitcher's arm action.

    It's entirely possible that the Reds took that into consideration and Lotzkar's stuff, makeup, and upside outweighed it. Also, it's possible that Lotzkar won't have any more arm trouble because of his high elbow. There aren't a lot of hard and fast rules that apply to all pitchers.

    At this point, I think the best plan is to let Lotzkar continue to use his current arm action and hope that he can reduce his heightened injury risk through his good work ethic. After all, not everyone can be Tiger Woods.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!!


  3. love the site, always read but never post. I was just wondering when the number 9 prospect was going to be posted, its been a while and Im getting excited lol

  4. Hey Anon,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I'm working on #9, so it should be up tonight or Friday. And, I'm hoping to get #8 up this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled.


  5. thanks lark, your scouting reports are fun to read, they really good and in depth (this is anon) You should try to hook up with doug gray, he runs to get some more people to this site because its surprises me that there aren't hundreds of people checking this site out. Its definitely in the top 2 reds websites out there and more people should know about it

  6. Hey Smitty,

    Thanks for the comment and the kind words. The site is growing slowly but surely, but I'm not much of a promoter. So, I just try to put up quality content and hope it keeps people coming back.

    As for Doug, his site is the granddaddy of Reds minor league sites. He's been doing it for a long time and all the work he has put in has really paid off in terms of readership. Hopefully, if I keep working hard and putting in the effort this site will continue to grow.

    But, regardless, I enjoy writing about the Reds and it's great fun to discuss the team with other passionate fans. More than any other sport, baseball seems to lend itself to great substantive discussion, so it's just fun for me to take part in the discussion.

    Anyway, thanks again!!


  7. Well I will most certainly try to tell as many people as i can about the site to help promote it!

    What I was getting at before when mentioning Dougs site, he has several other reds blogs as links on the side of his page and i was just recommending that you contacted him to maybe have him add your site to the list. This site is better than most of the ones he has linked and it might help bring in new readers!

    Well just my thoughts trying to help, whatever you decide to do i am sure will be for the best as your a lot smarter than i am lol

    goodluck, i am sure the site will be huge! i know ill keep reading and cant wait for the rest of the prospect list!

  8. Well, thanks for spreading the word, smitty!

    Good point about Doug's blog roll. I haven't been over there in a while, so I forgot about his list of websites. I know (a quality site) recently added this site to their list of blogs, which I appreciated. Maybe I'll look into getting on other blog rolls.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback. I do appreciate it. Sometimes it's nice to know that what you cast out in cyberspace is being read by people.


  9. Lark I was wondering who your best guess would be for the Reds first round pick, 8th overall i believe, will be?

    Also, i am not a computer whiz but if you needed people to help with the site i would be glad to do anything you needed. I love the reds and would love to be a part of it [if only a small part]

  10. Hey Smitty,

    Thanks for the offer! At some point, I'll probably try to revise the layout somewhat and put up some new eye-catching graphics. I'm not very good with graphics, so maybe I'll need some help with that when I have time to rework the look of the site.


  11. when is lotzkar going to start throwing in the minors this year? ive been waiting to see his name come up

  12. Hey Anon,

    The Reds are taking things slow and easy with Lotzkar, which makes sense. Realistically speaking, the Reds aren't going to try to get Lotzkar a ton of innings this year. He's coming off injury and only worked in 37.2 innings last year, so they'll want to keep his workload light. It's a widely held belief in baseball circles that you shouldn't drastically increase a pitcher's innings pitched from one year to the next, as that may increase the injury risk.

    The last I heard about Lotzkar was from the beginning of April, when he was to be kept behind in extended spring training.

    Here's the link:

    I don't have any inside info on when we can expect him to arrive, but I'd be more than a little surprised if he isn't pitching by the beginning of June.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. I, too, have been looking forward to his arrival. Hopefully we won't have to wait too much longer.


  13. It's almost July now, what is the latest you have heard about lotzkar.

  14. Hey Anon,

    Unfortunately, I haven't heard anything new since it was reported that Lotzkar suffered a setback.

    At this point, I doubt there's even a timetable for his return, but rather just an effort to get him back to 100% healthy. Stress fractures in the pitching arm can be tricky, so at this point it really wouldn't surprise me to see him miss the entire 2009 season. There are only 2+ months of the minor league season left, so it makes sense to just shut him down for the season. It is clearly more serious than they initially considered it to be and if he re-fractured the bone then surgery may be a possibility.

    At this point, Reds fans should probably just hope for Lotzkar to be 100% healthy when the start of the 2010 season rolls around.

    Anyway, wish I had better news on that front.

    Thanks for the comment.


  15. Great info Lark.

    I coached Kyle when he was younger and he's always had a great arm. It's very unfortunate about his injury but I am confident he's going to come back a better pitcher. Last time I saw him he was working on getting back on the bump this spring. He's great young man and comes from a great family.



  16. Derek,

    I've never met Kyle, but the interviews I've seen and stories I've read always gave me the impression of a good, grounded, hardworking kid. So, I'm rooting for him and hope he gets back to health very soon.

    Thanks for the comment!