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Robert Stephenson
Robert Stephenson
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Cincinnati Reds Top 20 prospects for 2016

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 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!

All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.


Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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

1) Robert Stephenson, RHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 22, 3.83 ERA with 140/70 K/BB in 134 innings, 104 hits between Double-A and Triple-A. Electric stuff remains but still making slowish progress due to erratic command. I remain entranced with his upside and am willing to override the sabermetrics (which say he should go down to B+) another year in his case. I still think he puts it together and becomes an anchor. Stubborn.

2) Jesse Winker, OF, Grade B+/A-:
Age 22, overcame slow start to hit .282/.390/.433 with 13 homers, 74 walks, 83 strikeouts in 443 at-bats in Double-A. Questions still exist about his raw power but he’s an exceptionally professional and polished hitter for his age, strong OBP player. I have been hovering between A- and B+ here for days. May ultimately go back to A- depending on slotting when I get to the Top 50 hitters part of the project.

3) Jose Peraza, INF, Grade B+:
Age 21, hit .293/.316/.378 with 17 walks, 45 strikeouts, 33 steals in 481 at-bats between Braves and Dodgers Triple-A teams, hit .182 in 22 big league at-bats with three steals. He was overhyped entering 2015 but I think some folks are over-correcting entering 2016. The underlying skill set for both good (contact hitting, plus speed) and bad (lack of power, erratic glove) has not changed. Maybe a cross between Rafael Furcal and Dee Gordon?

4) Cody Reed, LHP, Grade B+:
Age 22, acquired from Royals in Johnny Cueto deal, couldn’t get rookie ball hitters out two years ago but took massive step forward in ’15, between High-A and Double-A posted 2.41 ERA with 144/42 K/BB in 146 innings, 127 hits, gigantic improvement in K/BB ratios, another 92-95 heater with movement, plus slider, improving change-up. Potential number two starter if command holds.

5) Amir Garrett, LHP, Grade B+/B:
Age 23, 6-5 athletic lefty posted 2.44 ERA with 133/55 K/BB in 140 innings, 117 hits in High-A. Steady development here, 92-94 heater tops at 96 with improving breaking ball and change-up. Still needs tighter command as he transitions to Double-A but upside is very impressive, potential number three starter and maybe more.

6) Tyler Stephenson, C, Grade B:
Age 19, hit .268/.352/.361 in 194 at-bats in Pioneer League, 2015 first rounder out of high school in Georgia, held own in debut, more raw power than he’s shown so far, controls zone reasonably, defensive tools to be an above-average catcher but like most his age he needs some polish. Catchers have strange development curves sometimes but all the attributes of a top-flight catcher are present. Needs time.

7) Keury Mella, RHP, Grade B:
Age 22, acquired in Mike Leake trade with San Francisco Giants, posted 3.23 ERA with 106/41 K/BB in 103 innings in High-A, 77 hits, low-mid-90s fastball with plus breaker, change needs more polish, some observers have concerns about his mechanics leading to arm trouble. Potential number three starter or power relief arm.

8) Alex Blandino, INF, Grade B/B-:
Age 23, hit .294/.370/.438 with 31 walks, 56 strikeouts in 299 at-bats in High-A then .235/.350/.374 with 18 walks, 21 strikeouts in 115 at-bats in Double-A. First rounder out of Stanford in 2014, solid-average tools with good strike zone judgment and sparks of power, defense is under-rated and I personally think he has a chance to stay at shortstop due to his reliability although most project 2B long-term. Good solid player with few weaknesses.

9) Rookie Davis, RHP, Grade B-/C+:
Age 22, acquired in Aroldis Chapman trade with Yankees, posted 3.86 ERA with 129/26 K/BB in 131 innings between High-A and Double-A, low-90s with tops at 95-96, curveball coming along nicely, change has made progress but needs to make more, throws strikes but sometimes more hittable than he should be given the stuff, another mid-rotation possibility.

10) Eric Jagielo, 3B, Grade B-/C+
: Age 23, another piece of Chapman trade, hit .284/.347/.495 with nine homers, 18 walks, 58 strikeouts in 222 at-bats in Double-A, was in midst of breakout season when he went down with a knee injury. Power is quite real, 20+ homer potential, batting average may not hold up at highest levels, defense at third base is, to put it gently, substandard, with mediocre range and a very high error rate. Likely belongs at first base.

11) Nick Travieso, RHP, Grade B-/C+:
Age 22, posted 2.70 ERA with 76/30 K/BB in 93 innings in High-A, 82 hits, missed time with broken forearm but came back healthy, velocity has picked back up to high school readings, 92-95, features slider, curve, change, all need more consistency but all could be big league average in time, workhorse body, future number three or four starter.

12) Tyler Mahle, RHP, Grade B-/C+:
Age 21, sleeper prospect woke up fully with 2.43 EA, 135/25 K/BB in 152 innings in Low-A, 145 hits, 90-94 fastball, average curve, average change-up, all pitches play up because of excellent command and control and mound maturity. Yet another potential workhorse starter.

13) John Lamb, LHP, Grade C+:
Age 25, picked up in Cueto trade with Royals, former top prospect took years to recover from Tommy John surgery, posted 2.67 ERA with 117/36 K/BB in 111 innings in Triple-A, 5.80 ERA with 58/19 K/BB in 49.2 innings in majors, just barely qualifies as a rookie for 2016. Fastball around 90 or a little higher, uses curve, cutter, change-up, stuff has lost a step since the injury but still works well when his command is on. Fourth starter.

14) Scott Schebler, OF, Grade C+:
Age 25, acquired from Dodgers in Todd Frazier deal, hit .241/.322/.410 with 13 homers, 15 steals, 40 walks, 93 strikeouts in 432 at-bats in Triple-A, hit .250 with three homers in 36 major league at-bats. Older prospect but has some tools, speed/power blend, also has contact issues, not likely to hit for much of an average but can do several things well enough to be a good role player.

15) Wyatt Strahan, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 22, third round pick in 2014 from Southern Cal, posted 2.79 ERA with 132/53 K/BB in 164 innings in Low-A, experienced college pitcher performed well in Midwest League, good sinker, good curveball, change needs some work but another possible workhorse candidate down the line.

16) Blake Trahan, SS, Grade C+:
Age 22, third round pick out of Louisana-Lafayette this year, hit .312/.400/.403 with 25 walks, 19 strikeouts, 10 steals in 186 at-bats in Pioneer League. Contact hitter with impressive strike zone judgment, not likely to hit many homers, steady and reliable defender, above-average running speed, tablesetter type. Could advance quickly.

17) Phillip Ervin, OF, Grade C+:
Age 23, first round pick in 2013 hasn’t advanced as quickly as expected, hit .241/.346/.379 with 14 homers, 34 steals, 66 walks, 98 strikeouts in 456 at-bats between High-A and Double-A, uses speed well and will draw some walks but power hasn’t blossomed as hoped. Still possible he turns things around.

18) Sal Romano, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 22, posted 3.46 ERA with 79/33 K/BB in 104 innings in High-A, got killed in Double-A (10.96 ERA in 23 innings, 35 hits, 9/12 K/BB) due to shaky command and very erratic curve and change-up. Ranks higher on many lists due to fastball that runs 94-99 but results don’t match the stuff. My guess is that he would thrive if moved to pen.

19) Antonio Santillan, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 18, second round pick from high school in Texas last year, posted 5.03 ERA with 19/11 K/BB in 20 innings in rookie ball, very raw but excellent stuff, can hit 97-98 and has a power curve. Command, mechanics need development but certainly a high ceiling arm.

20) Tanner Rainey, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 23, college senior drafted from West Alabama in 2015, compensation round, unusual background as first baseman/closer in college but being developed as starter, 4.27 ERA with 57/28 K/BB in 59 innings in Pioneer League, more potential than numbers imply due to athleticism, live arm, 93-96 fastball, plus slider. Lots of sleeper markers with this one.

OTHER GRADE C+: Stephen Johnson, RHP; Ian Kahaloa, RHP; Jon Moscot, RHP; Seth Varner, LHP

OTHERS OF NOTE: Aristides Aquino, OF; Jake Cave, OF; Alejandro Chacin, RHP; Jimmy Herget, RHP; Shedric Long, 2B; Jose Lopez, RHP; Chris O’Grady, LHP; Jake Paulson, RHP; Yorman Rodriguez, OF; Taylor Sparks, 3B; Kyle Waldrop, OF; Zach Weiss, RHP

I like this system a lot, maybe too much, but I don’t think the Reds get their full due when elite systems are discussed. I will be around in the comments section to answer questions.