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Cincinnati Reds Top 20 2014 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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Billy Hamilton
Billy Hamilton
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue our organization reviews with a look at the Cincinnati Reds. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades. This is a review of 2014, not a detailed preview for 2015.

This list was originally published January 22, 2014

1) Robert Stephenson, RHP, Grade A: 4.74 ERA with 140/74 K/BB in 137 innings for Double-A Pensacola, 114 hits. No questions about the stuff, but walk rate rose a great deal compared to A-ball, spiking the ERA. Age 22.

2) Billy Hamilton, OF, Grade B+: Hitting .256/.298/.364 with 33 walks, 113 strikeouts in 546 at-bats, 56 steals, outstanding defense pushes his WAR value up to 3.5 despite weak on-base abilities. I think he will gradually improve the hitting. Just turned 24.

3) Phillip Ervin, OF, Grade B+: Hit .237/.305/.376 with 34 doubles, seven homers, 46 walks, 110 strikeouts, 30 steals in 498 at-bats for Low-A Dayton. Highly disappointing season, less power and weaker plate discipline than expected. Age 22.

4) Jesse Winker, OF, Grade B+: Hit .317/.426/.580 in 205 at-bats for Bakersfield in the High-A California League, then just .208/.326/.351 in 77 at-bats for Pensacola before going down with a wrist injury. Double-A sample too small to worry about. Age 21.

5) David Holmberg, LHP, Grade B-: 4.66 ERA with 56/33 K/BB in 93 innings for Triple-A Louisville, 119 hits. In the majors, 13/12 K/BB with 6.00 ERA in 18 innings thus far. Not a great year, below his previous standards. Age 23.

6) Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Grade B-: 3.13 ERA in 121 innings for Pensacola, 84/44 K/BB, 112 hits. Good fastball, would like to see a higher strikeout rate but gets lots of grounders, age 22.

7) Ben Lively, RHP, Grade B-: Dominated Cal League: 2.28 ERA, 95/16 K/BB in 79 innings, just 57 hits. Some early command glitches after moving up to Double-A (3.88 ERA, 76/36 K/BB in 72 innings, 60 hits) but finished strong. Excellent K/IP and H/IP marks auger well. Age 22.

8) Carlos Contreras, RHP, Grade C+: 2.70 ERA with 27/11 K/BB in 20 innings for Pensacola, 6.52 ERA with 19/17 K/BB in 19 innings in the majors. Good stuff but obviously needs better control. Age 23.

9) Yorman Rodriguez, OF, Grade C+: Hit .262/.331/.389 with 20 doubles, nine homers, 47 walks, 117 strikeouts in 450 at-bats for Pensacola. Age 22, still shows tremendous physical potential but remains unrefined.

10) Jon Moscot, RHP, Grade C+: 3.40 ERA in 28 starts for Pensacola and Louisville, 120/50 K/BB in 167 innings, 160 hits. Strike-thrower with decent stuff, potential fourth starter, should be ready for a trial sometime next year. Age 23.

11) Nick Travieso, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, solid year for Dayton in the Midwest League, 3.03 ERA with 114/44 K/BB in 143 innings, 123 hits. Considerably improved over last year.

12) Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B, Grade C+:
Strong in the Cal League (.300/.396/.476 in 267 at-bats) but didn’t carry this to Pensacola (.235/.333/.323 in 226 at-bats). Retained good plate discipline even when struggling so I wouldn’t give up yet. Age 23.

13) Daniel Corcino, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. 4.13 ERA with 113/70 K/BB in 144 innings for Pensacola, 123 hits. 13/6 K/BB in his first 14 big league innings with 4.40 ERA. Age 24, erratic track record but has talent.

14) Tucker Barnhart, C, Grade C: Borderline C+. Age 23, hit .246/.319/.316 in 256 at-bats for Louisville, .182/.250/.250 in 44 at-bats for the Reds. Looking for career as glove-oriented reserve.

15) Chad Rogers, RHP, Grade C: Borderline C+. 4.08 ERA in 53 innings for Louisville, 34/37 K/BB, 58 hits. Not a very good season at all at age 25, despite succeeding as a starter at the same level last year. Slipping but could still turn into a 12th man.

16) Ismael Guillon, LHP, Grade C: Age 22, strong at Dayton (3.17 ERA, 69/27 K/BB in 65 innings, 41 hits) but some trouble for Bakersfield (6.79 ERA, 45/28 K/BB in 58 innings, 68 hits). Young enough to overcome that.

17) Jeremy Kivel, RHP, Grade C: 5.31 ERA with 44/21 K/BB in 41 innings for Billings in the Pioneer League, 54 hits. He’s just 20, has one of the best arms in the system but raw.

18) Junior Arias, OF, Grade C: High-ceiling player had injuries, hit .236/.336/.349 with 15 steals in 106 at-bats spread between Cal League and rookie ball rehab assignment. Age 22, samples too small to mean much.

19) Kevin Garcia, OF, Grade C: Age 21, has some tools, played well in rookie ball in ’13 but didn’t play in ’14, have to track down why.

20) Tyler Mahle, RHP, Grade C: Age 19, 3.87 ERA with 71/15 K/BB in 77 innings in the Pioneer League, 80 hits. I expect a breakout in ’15.

Although the major league team had problems and few rookies contributed much, not everything is bleak here. Billy Hamilton has had some ups and downs but I think his defense will keep him in the lineup long enough for him to adjust offensively.

Down on the farm, I think the strength is pitching. Robert Stephenson’s command issues prevented him from dominating Double-A, but there’s still no question about his stuff and I remain confident in him as long as he remains healthy. Ben Lively found it more difficult to trick Double-A hitters but he made steady adjustments and ended up maintaining a strong K/IP and H/IP clip.

High-ceiling lefty Amir Garrett thrived after turning his attention away from basketball, posting a 3.65 ERA with a 127/51 K/BB in 133 innings in Low-A. He will rank highly in the ’15 list. 2014 first-rounder Nick Howard will also rank highly, and Michael Lorenzen and Jon Moscot will be ready for major league trials next year. Dan Corcino rebounded enough from a difficult ’13 to earn a September cup of coffee.


Daniel Corcino, photo by Benny Sieu, USA Today Sports

Hitting is thinner. I love Jesse Winker but he needs to show that the wrist injury will be OK. Ervin’s season was very disappointing, and it has proven difficult to turn high-ceiling low-polish players like Yorman Rodriguez and Neftali Soto into skilled major leaguers. First-rounder Alex Blandino out of Stanford debuted strongly and will rank highly on the ’15 list.

Pre-season, I ranked the Reds 14th among major league farm systems. I think they are still a middle-of-the-pack system.