Billy Hamilton - Michael Chang
Cincinnati Reds Top 20 Prospects for 2013
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
THIS LIST WAS UPDATED JANUARY 14, 2013
1) Billy Hamilton, OF, Grade A-: His speed is nothing short of incredible and he knows how to use it, with fearlessness and aggression. I think he'll be a decent enough hitter for it to matter, and he fits better in the outfield than at shortstop.
2) Robert Stephenson, RHP; Grade B+: Looks like a future number two starter to me, with plus fastball, good changeup and curveball. Command slipped some at Dayton but not a big flaw at this stage in his career. It will be interesting to see how he handles a larger workload.
3) Tony Cingrani, LHP, Grade B+: He was sure effective for a guy with a mediocre breaking ball, relying on fastball/changeup combination. Given the improvements he's made over the last three years, I think the breaking ball can become at least average, which would make him a number three starter, maybe more.
4) Daniel Corcino, RHP, Grade B+: The Johnny Cueto comp is obvious though I don't know if Corcino will be quite that good. Needs to get the walk rate down, but fastball/slider/changeup combo is enough for him to be a good solid number three.
5) Jesse Winker, OF, Grade B: Borderline B+. Led the Pioneer League in OBP at age 18/19. More power should come too. If he slows down too much he might wind up at first base, but the bat should play there.
6) J.J. Hoover, RHP, Grade B-: I have loved this guy since he was in junior college and he is thriving in relief, real steal from the Braves if he becomes a closer eventually, which I think he can.
7) Nick Travieso, RHP, Grade B-: First round pick is somewhat raw and will need development time, but potential to be number two starter is there, or a power closer if his changeup doesn't come along.
8) Kyle Lotzkar, RHP, Grade C+: Canadian with excellent stuff is still figuring out his command. At least he stayed healthy this year and the K/IP marks remain strong. Needs to get the walks down of course.
9) Dan Langfield, RHP, Grade C+: Another live arm with mid-90s heat and proved more polished than he showed in college after the Reds revised his mechanics. Arsenal seems diverse enough to start, could shoot up the lists in 2013.
10) Henry Rodriguez, 2B-3B, Grade C+: I think his bat is better than what he showed in Triple-A. Should hit for average, provide gap power, versatile defense around the infield.
11) Ismael Guillon, LHP, Grade C+: Best pitch is excellent changeup, fastball and curveball are inconsistent. Dominated the Pioneer League anyway but his past track record isn't too impressive and I want to see more. If his four strong starts at Dayton are any indication, he is another candidate to move well up the list.
12) Jeff Gelalich, OF, Grade C+: UCLA star with speed and power didn't hit in the Pioneer League. Was this because of a hand injury, or because of a hitch in his swing that some scouts detected in college? I guess we'll find out.
13) Jonathan Reynoso, OF, Grade C+: Uber-tools player stole 30 bases and hit .311 in rookie ball, but his plate discipline is quite poor and power is under-developed. Extremely high ceiling but the Reds haven't had a lot of luck with these guys of late.
14) Jon Moscot, RHP, Grade C+: Pepperdine control artist gets grounders, throws strikes, could advance rapidly as a mid-rotation candidate. Was kept on short workload leash in Pioneer League after long spring.
15) Ryan Wright, 2B, Grade C+: Consistently performs above his tools, hit .282/.331/.443 with 17 steals in 19 attempts, 10 homers, with underrated defense in A-ball. I think he will continue to outperform expectations, assuming he doesn't let the strike zone get away from him.
16) Tanner Rahier, 3B, Grade C+: Very tough to rank. California prep star draws praise for his polish, hitting ability, arm strength and fielding, but he hit just .192/.266/.311 in rookie ball and struggled defensively. This was pretty much the opposite of all the scouting reports so I don't know what to make of it. He did control the strike zone reasonably well and he hustles.
17) Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B, Grade C+: Known at University of Arizona as a contact hitter with a strong glove, hit just one homer in college this spring but knocked eight in Pioneer League with .313/.389/.536 line. Controls zone well, could herald a genuine breakthrough.
18) Yorman Rodriguez, OF, Grade C: May have the best toolset in the organization but still has no idea how to use it, whiffed 100 times in 348 at-bats between Low-A and High-A, with combined .241/.274/.371 line. Saving grace is age at 20, but we can only make excuses for so long.
19) David Vidal, 3B, Grade C: Very impressive glove at third base, but hit just .230/.294/.397 at Double-A Pensacola due to plate discipline failure. 23 now, needs to get it going.
20) Kyle Waldrop, OF, Grade C: Exciting athlete is making slow but steady progress developing his hitting, batted .284/.346/.421 in Midwest League at age 20. Cal League breakthrough in 2013?
OTHERS: James Allen, RHP; Beau Amaral, OF; Tucker Barnhart, C; Sean Buckley, 1B; Drew Cisco, RHP; Carlos Contreras, RHP; Josh Fellhauer, OF, Amir Garrett, LHP; Stalin Gerson, RHP; Drew Hayes, RHP; Jeremy Kivel, RHP; Donald Lutz, 1B-OF; Curtis Partch, RHP; Brent Peterson, SS; Chad Rogers, RHP; Sal Romano, RHP; Gabriel Rosa, 3B; Steve Selsky, OF; Neftali Soto, 1B; Pedro Villarreal, RHP.
NOTE: You can make a case for most of these Grade C guys to rank somewhere in the 15-20 range. Your mileage may vary.
The Reds farm system is in transition right now. The major league roster is filled with homegrown talent and the organization has proven it can develop players from within. The actual minor league list is top-heavy right now, very impressive in the first five or six slots but thinning out very rapidly after that. That is to be expected and should not be considered damning, especially since many of the Grade C guys are players who have high ceilings but are just getting started or that we need more data about.
Billy Hamilton is for real and his speed is historically extreme, yet he is gradually but steadily polishing up the other areas of his game. He won't develop much power, but his on-base and contact hitting skills are advancing and that's all he needs. I trust his ability to become a good defensive outfielder. After him the group of hitting prospects thins out quickly, with Winker looking good as a future regular but a bunch of enigmas after him. The parade of toolsy players with very raw skills continues, with the more polished but less tool-laden types like Wright and Steve Selsky often outperforming them. There were some intriguing bats taken in the 2012 draft, with Rahier and Gelalich leading the way, though they had weird debuts too. Mejias-Brean looks very interesting.
Pitching is stronger, with three Grade B+ types and several arms beyond them with talent and potential. Hoover is ready, Cingrani and Corcino will be soon. Stephenson has the highest ceiling but is the furthest away of the top group. Langfield could move very quickly, and nobody should give up on Lotzkar of the Hill People just yet. A bunch of the Grade C guys could reinforce the bullpen within the next year or two. Chad Rogers and Drew Cisco are command-oriented sleepers to watch.
Overall, there will be some settling in 2013 and some questions need answering, but Reds fans should be pleased in general with the state of the system.