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Amir Garrett
Amir Garrett
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Cincinnati Reds Top 20 Prospects for 2017

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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.


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. 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) Nick Senzel, 3B, Grade B+/A-: Age 21, first round pick in 2016 from University of Tennessee; hit .305/.398/.514 with seven homers, 24 doubles, 18 steals, 38 walks, 54 strikeouts in 243 at-bats between Pioneer and Midwest Leagues; solid tools combined with refined approach make him one of the safer prospects around but with very respectable upside to go with the safety; will hit for average with high OBP and at least moderate power; defense at third has been quite good so far despite non-elite athleticism, reflecting his baseball instincts; this shows up on the bases too, where he’s dangerous despite average pure speed; ETA 2018.

2) Amir Garrett, LHP, Grade B+: Age 24, 22nd round pick in 2011 though would have gone much higher in draft if not for basketball; posted 2.55 ERA with 132/59 K/BB in 145 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with just 99 hits allowed; fastball as high as 95-96, slider has developed nicely but change-up and overall command remain inconsistent, though he’s made enough progress to still project as a starter; birthday is deceptive in his case as he wasn’t a full-time pitcher until 2014; I like him a lot, though he may have some rough patches when he first reaches the majors. ETA 2017.

3) Jesse Winker, OF, Grade B+: Age 23, supplemental pick in 2012, hit .303/.397/.384 with 22 doubles, three homers, 59 walks, 59 strikeouts in 380 at-bats in Triple-A; hits .300 in his sleep and controls strike zone extremely well; power is to the alleys for doubles rather than over the fences for homers; question remains HR production; he’s physical enough to hit a lot more homers than he does but the swing is tailored for line drives; that may or may not change in the future and wrist/hand injuries haven’t helped; arm and range limit him to left field though he’s competent there; I want to give the power one more year to manifest and the grade reflects that optimism. ETA 2017.

4) Robert Stephenson, RHP, Grade B: Age 23, first round pick in 2011, posted 4.41 ERA with 120/71 K/BB in 137 innings in Triple-A with 115 hits; posted 6.08 ERA with 31/19 K/BB in 37 major league innings over eight starts; still rookie-eligible for ’17; fastball has sagged a tick since high school but is still good-enough in the 90-96 range; continues to struggle with consistency and command of curveball, change-up; shows three plus pitches on the right day and looks like a future number two starter; but on the wrong day his secondaries lag and he looks more like middle reliever; I have been optimistic in the past but that is getting harder to maintain. ETA 2017.

5) Shed Long, 2B, Grade B-/B: Age 21, 12th round pick in 2013 from high school in Alabama; hit .293/.371/.471 with 15 homers, 21 steals, 54 walks, 120 strikeouts in 478 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; left-handed hitter, originally a catcher, but fit better at second base given 5-8, 180 body and 70-grade speed; defense decent enough to play if he hits and it looks like he’ll hit, at least for power; strong enough to hit 15-20 homers at maturity if he makes enough contact; unclear how OBP will develop going forward but there’s impressive offensive ceiling here that should not be under-estimated. ETA 2019.

6) Cody Reed, LHP, Grade B-: Age 23, posted 3.08 ERA with 65/20 K/BB in 73 innings in Triple-A, but hit hard in majors with 7.36 ERA, 43/19 K/BB and 67 hits allowed in 48 innings over 10 starts, coming in just under 50 inning rookie limit; at his best features fastball up to 96 with a plus slider, but neither pitch nor his command were as good as anticipated in the majors and his change-up wasn’t enough to compensate when his harder pitches weren’t working; too soon to give up given his track record and lefties with live arms get lots of chances; ETA 2017.

7) Taylor Trammell, OF, Grade B-: Age 19, compensation round pick in 2016 35th overall from high school in Georgia; hit .303/.374/.421 with 24 steals, 23 walks, 57 strikeouts in 228 at-bats in Pioneer League; 70-grade speed and bat was more polished than anticipated pre-draft; could develop considerable power to go with the steals and decent feel for the strike zone will help all aspects of his hitting; arm may limit him to left field as he matures; makeup is a big plus; could develop any number of ways but I like the upside. ETA 2020.

8) Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, Cuban right-hander signed for $4,750,000; no track record yet so regard this as a placeholder grade and ranking for now; scouting reports can vary wildly on this one; when he’s right he hits 96-97 and shows a nasty breaking ball, but both command and velocity are inconsistent; remains to be seen if he’s a starter or reliever; watch for spring reports. ETA 2019??

9) Alfredo Rodriguez, SS, Grade B-: Age 22, Cuban infielder signed for $7,000,000; hit .234/.333/.299 with nine steals in 77 at-bats in Dominican Summer League, meaning little given circumstances; scouting reports point to impressive defensive ability and plenty of speed but reports on the rest of his game vary depending on source and time; some people think he’ll be a very good hitter for average with gap power, others disagree and question both workable game power and approach/refinement; as with Gutierrez, this is a placeholder rating for now. ETA 2019?

10) Aristides Aquino, OF, Grade B-:
Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2011; hit .273/.327/.519 with 23 homers, 12 triples, 11 steals, 34 walks, 104 strikeouts in 484 at-bats in High-A; 60-power, 60-speed, 60-arm, highly impressive if not explosive physical tools but impatient approach complicates offensive projection; could be a 20 homers, 20 steals guy but batting average and OBP likely to be volatile and will have to prove he can master high-level pitching. ETA 2019.

11) Chris Okey, C, Grade B-/C+:
Age 22, second round pick in 2016 out of Clemson; hit .243/.323/.432 with six homers, 14 walks, 49 strikeouts in 148 at-bats in Low-A; lacks cannon arm but threw out 34% of runners in debut and is otherwise a solid defensive catcher with excellent leadership skills; decent-but-not-excellent power, could stand to sharpen his plate discipline; projects as a .250ish hitter but with enough home runs and defense to hold a job for a long time. ETA 2019.

12) Luis Castillo, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 24, acquired from Marlins in January 2016 Dan Straily deal; posted 2.26 ERA with 103/25 K/BB in 132 innings between High-A and Double-A, just 107 hits; attractive due to 95-100 MPH fastball; slider and change-up are inconsistent, resulting in a low strikeout rate for a pitcher who throws this hard; unclear if he starts or relieves long-term, that will depend on what happens with the change-up; ETA 2018.

13) T.J. Friedl, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 21, signed as undrafted free agent from University of Nevada-Reno; hit .347/.423/.545 with three homers, 13 walks, 25 strikeouts in 121 at-bats in Pioneer League; unusual case: he was a draft-eligible sophomore but was passed over by everyone on draft day, had a great summer with Team USA and signed with the Reds for $735,000; 70-grade speed and a pure hitter with line drive bat, lacks home run power; glove plays well in center field; want to see how pop and plate discipline hold at higher levels but could be a real coup. ETA 2019.

14) Tyler Stephenson, C, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Georgia, hit .216/.278/.324 with 12 walks, 45 strikeouts in 139 at-bats in Low-A; season hampered by series of injuries including wrist problem and a concussion; at his best features strong throwing arm and plus power, standard catcher profile, but he is raw on both offense and defense and injuries have slowed down an already long-term timetable; draft status and tools buy him slack for now. ETA 2020.

15) Sal Romano, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, 23rd round pick in 2011 though would have gone 20 rounds higher if not for college commitment; 3.52 ERA with 144/34 K/BB in 156 innings in Double-A; throws hard with 92-98 MPH fastball but usually hits his locations well; mixes in a plus slider; change-up inconstant and may push him to bullpen without improvement though the fact that he throws strikes helps his chances; burly 6-5, 270 build leads to conditioning questions but he’s been very durable so far and may well be a workhorse. ETA 2018.

16) Tyler Mahle, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, seventh round pick in 2013, posted 2.50 ERA with 76/17 K/BB in 79 innings in High-A, then 4.92 ERA with 65/20 K/BB in 71 innings in Double-A; fastball anywhere from 87 to 94 depending on the day; throws strikes, keeps hitters off-balance with curve, slider, change-up; not overpowering but knows how to pitch; number four or five starter profile but has shown ability to adapt. ETA 2019.

17) Keury Mella, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, originally signed by Giants and acquired in Mike Leake trade; posted 3.76 ERA with 101/57 K/BB in 139 innings between High-A and one Triple-A spot start; when he’s right, works at 95-97 with a plus curveball and decent change; fastball can sag into low-90s, change-up flatten and curve get slurvy on a bad day; number three starter physical upside but also a good chance he winds up as an 11th man or Triple-A starter. ETA 2018.

18) Austin Brice, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 24, originally drafted in ninth round by Marlins in 2010, traded to Reds in Straily deal; posted 2.74 ERA with 89/30 K/BB in 102 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with just 82 hits; posted 7.07 ERA in 14 major league innings but with promising 14/5 K/BB; should fit well into bullpen with 90-95 MPH fastball, hard slider, assuming control holds up. ETA 2017.

19) Nick Travieso, RHP, Grade C+
: Age 23, 3.84 ERA with 91/53 K/BB in 117 innings in Double-A, 109 hits; has developed major league quality slider and change-up to go with low-90s fastball; I’d like to see more strikeouts and he may ultimately fit best in bullpen rather than as fifth starter; tends to get lost in the shuffle amidst live arms in this system but former first round pick just keeps plugging along. ETA late 2017.

20) Tony Santillan, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, second round pick in 2015 from high school in Texas; posted 5.19 ERA with 84/40 K/BB in 69 innings between Pioneer and Midwest Leagues; 93-98 MPH fastball mixed with excellent curveball leads to high strikeout rate; poor command traced to erratic mechanics holds him back right now but he’s quite young and the strikeouts aren’t lying about his stuff. ETA 2020.

OTHER GRADE C+: Barrett Astin, RHP; Calten Daal, SS; Phil Ervin, OF; Jimmy Herget, RHP; Ian Kahaloa, RHP; Jackson Stephens, RHP; Blake Trahan, SS; Zack Weiss, RHP; Max Wotell, LHP;

OTHERS: Tejay Antone, RHP; Michael Beltre, OF; Alex Blandino, INF; Alejandro Chacin, RHP; Rookie Davis, RHP; Brandon Dixon, 2B; Sebastian Elizalde, OF; Gabriel Guerrero, OF Ismael Guillon, LHP; Nick Hanson, RHP; Ryan Hendrix, RHP; Ariel Hernandez, RHP; Eric Jagielo; Gavin LaValley, 1B; Tyler Mondile, RHP; Dauri Moreta, RHP; Jon Moscot, RHP C
Scott Moss, LHP; Wandy Peralta, LHP; Tony Renda, 2B; Wennington Romero, LHP; Taylor Sparks, 3B; Stuart Turner, C; Josh VanMeter, 2B; Isaiah White, OF

There are a large number of borderline grades in the system and several of the Grade C guys have C+ cases. I'll be around to discuss in the comments. Feel free to ask questions.