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Cincinnati Reds Top 20 prospects for 2018

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The Reds farm system is quite good and deserves more attention than it receives

MiLB: APR 30 Florida State League - Tortugas at Yankees
Nick Senzel
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cincinnati Reds Top 20 Prospects for 2018

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.

THIS LIST WAS UPDATED MARCH 13, 2018

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS

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 A-/A: Age 22, first round pick from University of Tennessee in 2016, excellent first full season with .321/.391/.514 line in High-A/Double-A, 49 walks, 97 strikeouts, 40 doubles, 14 homers, 14 steals in 455 at-bats; also played very well defensively with quality arm strength, range, reliability, and field awareness, controls strike zone well and shows power to all fields, handles both fastballs and breaking balls competently; only real question is home run projection, is he a 15-homer guy or a 25-homer guy at maturity? Either way he’s one of the top prospects in baseball. ETA late 2018 (UPDATE: slight grade boost to match placement on Top 175 list)

2) Hunter Greene, RHP, Grade A-: Age 18, first round pick in 2017, second overall, from high school in Sherman Oaks, California; threw 4.1 innings in Pioneer League with 12.46 ERA, 6/1 K/BB, 8 hits allowed; small sample with spotty results but it did confirm velocity reports from high school with a 95-102 MPH fastball, and that velocity comes easy; shows potential with both slider and changeup; both need more work but could be plus with more repetitions; good secondary pitches will be critical because Greene’s easy delivery, while reducing stress on his body, doesn’t provide much deception; athleticism, makeup, work ethic, intelligence, and mound presence are all big positives; all told, he has all the tangibles and intangibles to be a top flight ace pitcher but needs to refine the secondaries and show how he handles a workload. ETA: conservatively, 2021, but could come sooner than that.

3) Taylor Trammell, OF, Grade B+: Age 20, compensation round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia; hit .281/.368/.450 with 24 doubles, 10 triples, 13 homers, 71 walks, 123 strikeouts in 491 at-bats, also stole 41 bases; tools match the numbers, with 70-speed, 55-power, arm is weakest tool at 45-50 but good enough for left field or center, speed works at either outfield spot and he’s a very real steal danger on the bases; whiff rate a bit high but he made good progress locking down the strike zone and boosting OBP skills; could be ideal leadoff hitter with more power than most. ETA 2020.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals
Tyler Mahle
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

4) Tyler Mahle, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23, seventh round pick in 2013 from high school in California, posted 2.06 ERA with 138/30 K/BB in 144 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, just 109 hits; posted 2.70 ERA in four major league starts, 14/11 K/BB in 20 innings; polished arm with four pitches: fastball generally 90-94, occasionally 95-96, has reportedly been clocked as high as 99; mixes in curve, slider, change-up; has a wide velocity band to work with, throws strikes, understands his craft; nothing left to prove in minors and should be a solid number three starter. ETA 2018.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers
Jesse Winker
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

5) Jesse Winker, OF, Grade B+: Age 24, first round pick from Florida high school in 2012, long track record as a professional hitter including .314/.395/.408 in 299 at-bats in Triple-A in 2017; promoted to majors and hit .298/.375/.529 with seven homers, 15 walks, 24 strikeouts in 121 at-bats, retaining rookie eligibility for 2017; no one is surprised by the .298 average and the .375 OBP, that’s exactly what everyone expects, but the surge of isolated power/homers in the majors is the key here: is that real development, Winker finally tapping into his raw power, or is it a small sample fluke? He’s young enough that it could be real but we need another 500 at-bats to be sure; limited defensively to left field but nothing left to prove in the minors; I tend to optimism with him. ETA 2018.

6) Shed Long, 2B, Grade B-: Age 22, 12th round pick in 2013 from high school in Alabama, hit very well in High-A (.312/.380/.543) in 247 at-bats but struggled after moving up to Double-A (.227/.319/.362) in 141 at-bats; hampered by sore wrist late in the year that might have cut into production; above-average bat speed with nice power from the left side and reasonable feel for the strike zone; former catcher has greatly improved second base defense and can stay there; we need to see how he looks in Double-A with a healthy wrist but a promising talent. ETA 2019.

7) Tony Santillan, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, drafted in second round in 2015 from high school in Texas; posted 3.38 ERA with 128/56 K/BB in 128 innings in Low-A, 104 hits; fastball 95-98 MPH with reported peaks at 100; reports on slider and change-up vary, both flashing plus but needing polish, sources differ on which pitch is more advanced; not terribly wild but command needs more work; high ceiling, could be a number three starter or a power bullpen arm, watch for any spike in K-rate or improvement in K/BB. ETA 2021.

8) Jose Siri, OF, Grade B-: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012, hit .293/.341/.530 with 24 homers, 11 triples, 46 steals, 33 walks, 130 strikeouts in 498 at-bats in Low-A; electrifying tools with 70-speed, 55 or 60-power, 60 throwing arm, had few problems with Midwest League pitching despite contact concerns and aggressive hitting philosophy; Midwest League sources loved his tools and there’s little to argue with in the numbers but also expressed concern about how he’ll handle higher-level pitching; an exciting player with a wide range of possible outcomes; if he keeps hitting like this when he reaches Double-A, stock will rise quickly. ETA 2020.

9) Jeter Downs, SS, Grade B-: Age 19, compensation round pick in 2017 from high school in Florida, hit .267/.370/.424 with 27 walks, 32 strikeouts, six homers, eight steals in 172 at-bats in Pioneer League; pleasant debut matched high school reports of quick bat with gap power that may increase, plus speed; controls zone pretty well too; also strong makeup; defense needs work and may wind up at second base eventually; I like him a lot. ETA 2022.

10) Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, Cuban, signed in 2016 for $4,750,000; posted 4.46 ERA in 103 innings in High-A with 94/19 K/BB, 108 hits; inconsistent but promising, 94-97 fastball with a plus slider and good change-up on his best days, but heater velocity sags at times and secondaries inconsistent; threw strikes most of the time in High-A but was more hittable than he should be given his stuff; remains to be seen if he starts or relieves at higher levels. ETA 2020.

11) Tyler Stephenson, C, Grade B-: Age 21, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Georgia; hit .278/.374/.414 with six homers, 44 walks, 58 strikeouts in 295 at-bats in Low-A; injury-prone so far, with concussion trouble and a wrist injury in ’16 followed by a broken thumb in ’17; good power in 6-4, 225 frame, hasn’t fully tapped his power yet but shows good feel for the strike zone; has the tools to be a good catcher but is still working on it, threw out 21% of runners but has improved enough as a receiver to warrant more patience. ETA 2021.

12) Jose Lopez, RHP, Grade B-: Age 24, sixth round pick in 2014 from Seton Hall; impressive 2017 season with 2.57 ERA in 147 innings between High-A and Double-A, 143/49 K/BB, just 114 hits allowed; not big at 6-1, 185 but steady 90-93 MPH fastball plays up due to deception and contrast with solid average curve, slider, change-up; could stand to lower his walk rate a bit more but there are lots of sleeper markers here, could really surprise us soon; ETA late 2018.

13) Jose Israel Garcia, SS, Grade B-: Age 19, Cuban, signed for $5,000,000 last summer; hasn’t played yet so YMMV on placement; scouting reports show a right-handed hitter with 60-65 speed, 60-grade arm, chance to stay at shortstop if he doesn’t fill out his 6-3 body too much, mixed reports on power potential but said to have a mature hitting approach; very intriguing but let’s get some data. ETA 2022?

14) Stuart Fairchild, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, second round pick in 2017 out of Wake Forest, hit .304/.393/.412 with three homers, 12 steals, 19 walks, 35 strikeouts in 204 at-bats in the Pioneer League; a decent debut but as an advanced college bat he should do well in the Pioneer; runs very well and a threat on the bases, good raw power, but scouts had questions about swing mechanics in college and we need to see him in full-season ball to know if those worries were justified; ETA 2021.

15) Jimmy Herget, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, sixth round pick in 2015 from University of South Florida; posted 2.90 ERA in 62 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 72/21 K/BB, 52 hits, 25 saves; velocity reports vary between 90 and 96, uses different arm slots to add confusion, mixing in a workable slider and a change-up that’s good enough for him to use more often; throws strikes, ready for middle relief trial. ETA 2018.

16) Tanner Rainey, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, compensation round pick in 2015 from University of West Alabama; posted 3.19 ERA with 104/33 K/BB in 62 innings between High-A and Double-A, only 29 hits allowed, saved 13; legitimately clocked as high as 98-99 MPH and matches it with a nasty breaking ball; K/IP and H/IP are not lying about the quality of his stuff, but his control is mediocre on a good day; didn’t matter much in minor league competition but it might in the majors; Herget will have first crack at a bullpen role and has superior control but Rainey is not far behind and has more pure upside. ETA late 2018.

17) Keury Mella, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, acquired in trade with San Francisco Giants in 2015; posted 4.30 ERA with 109/43 K/BB in 134 innings in Triple-A, 135 hits; pitched four major league innings giving up five hits and three runs; frustrating pitcher, at time he looks outstanding with fastball up to 97 with a plus slider and solid-average change-up, but he’ll lose the touch with his command just often enough to have a bad blowup inning, still needs further refinement moving from thrower to pitcher. ETA 2018.

18) Alex Blandino, INF, Grade C+: Age 25, first round pick in 2014 out of Stanford; hit .265/.382/.453 between Double-A and Triple-A with 36 doubles, 12 homers, 64 walks, 86 strikeouts in 393 at-bats; good strike zone judgment; had problems with his hitting mechanics in ’15 and ’16 but made progress in ’17 and held his own at the highest minor league levels; adequate defender at second base and third, can play shortstop in a pinch but lacks range to play there regularly; versatile glove combined with OBP ability and some power makes him attractive bench asset. ETA 2018.

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds
Ariel Hernandez
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

19) Ariel Hernandez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, from the Dominican Republic, another arm for the bullpen corps with command issues but lively stuff, posted 2.18 ERA with 39/20 K/BB in 33 innings in Double-A, but 5.29 ERA in 17 Triple-A innings with ugly 19/19 K/BB; posted 5.18 ERA in 24 major league innings, 29/22 K/BB; can hit 100 MPH and shows an outstanding curveball, but poor control keep him from elite prospect status. ETA 2018.

20) Scott Moss, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, fourth round pick in 2016 from University of Florida; posted 3.45 ERA with 156/48 K/BB in 136 innings in Low-A, 114 hits; fastball reported anywhere between 88 and 95 MPH, report I had from the Midwest League had him sitting at 91, but heater playing up due to effective mixing with plus slider and decent change-up; also drew positive notice for mound presence, work ethic; he didn’t pitch much in college due to injuries so there could be untapped possibilities here; I wrote him up so you would notice him. ETA 2020.

******Most of the “Other Grade C+” guys could slot in the 15-20 range******

OTHER GRADE C+: Jesse Adams, LHP; Aristides Aquino, OF; Rookie Davis, RHP; Phil Ervin, OF; T.J. Friedl, OF; Miles Gordon, OF; Jacob Heatherly, LHP; Ryan Hendrix, RHP; Miguel Hernandez, SS; Gavin LaValley, 1B; Nick Longhi, 1B-OF; Packy Naughton, LHP; Jesus Reyes, RHP; Alfredo Rodriguez, SS; Mac Sceroler, RHP; Jackson Stephens, RHP; Andy Sugilio, OF; Randy Ventura, OF; Zack Weiss, RHP

OTHERS OF NOTE: Mariel Bautista, OF; Michael Beltre, OF; Connor Bennett, RHP; Tyler Buffett, RHP; Alexis Diaz, RHP; Brandon Dixon, 3B-1B-OF; John Ghyzel, RHP; Andrew Jordan, RHP; Stephen Keller, RHP; Mark Kolozsvary, C; Alejo Lopez, 3B-2B; Carlos Machorro, RHP; Tyler Mondile, RHP; Chris Okey, C; Wennington Romero, LHP; Victor Ruiz, C; Leandro Santana, 3B; Ricardo Smith, RHP; Jared Solomon, RHP; Wyatt Strahan, RHP; Blake Trahan, SS; Nick Travieso, RHP

The Reds have a very good farm system that deserves more attention than it receives.

I’ll be around to answer questions in the comments section, particularly about the “other Grade C+” guys.