Yesterday the Cincinnati Reds promoted right-handed pitching prospect Layne Somsen to the major league roster. He is little-known outside of Reds circles but has a shot at contributing some good innings in the bullpen. Here's a quick profile.
A native of Yankton, South Dakota, Somsen attended South Dakota State University. After an erratic freshman campaign in 2009 (5.32 ERA, 36/44 K/BB in 64 innings), he hurt his arm and missed most of 2010 and all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery and recovery. He returned in 2012 with a somewhat better campaign as a junior (4.53, 53/36 in 56), then stepped forward as a senior in 2013 with a 1.87 ERA and 91/30 K/BB in 91 innings.
Somsen interested upper Midwest area scouts with his live arm and general athleticism, but his size and injury history limited his draft stock to the later rounds. He was selected in the 22nd round by the Reds and converted to the bullpen. He's made a steady progression since then, reaching the major leagues within three years of being drafted, an achievement for anyone but especially a 22nd round pick. In 173 minor league innings, Somsen has a 2.49 ERA with a 175/68 K/BB and 132 hits allowed. He was off to a good start in Triple-A, with a 1.04 ERA and an 11/3 K/BB with four hits allowed.
As noted, Somsen isn't a big guy, listed officially at 6-0, 190 but more probably 5-11 in reality. There's athleticism there and enough arm strength to get his fastball to 94 MPH peaks with general readings around 90-91. The fastball has movement, looks more like a cutter at times, and often plays up. He'll mix in a curveball and change-up and delivers everything with mechanics that draw frequent comparisons to Tim Lincecum. Doug Gray at RedsMinorLeagues.com notes that Somsen's command could be tighter but he gets a lot of ground balls and profiles as a middle or long reliever.
Doug's assessment is spot-on. Overall, if Somsen throws enough strikes he has the ability to be a viable bullpen asset, a very nice thing to find in the 22nd round.
Here's a nice slow-motion view of Somsen's delivery from Moore Baseball:
This video from Zach Borg is three years old but has different angles on his delivery.
(Editor's Note: For practical reasons haven't been fully satisfied with the title "What to Expect" with the rookie reports we've been doing recently, so I've decided to change the name of the series to "MLB Rookie Report." The content will remain the same, it is just a different title).