I share the view of many fans in wondering if the return from the Todd Frazier deal was justified, even though I do think Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler are valuable prospects. Even if all three (Brandon Dixon being the third) were busts, the Reds have amassed quite an assortment of high-upside and -floor prospects who could the club competitive in a short time frame. And that’s without including Nick Howard and Jonathon Crawford as promising assets, both of whom were highly thought of as recently as last offseason before their lost 2015 years.
The Reds have an uphill road to climb this season to contend, with the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates all looking like present contenders. Depending on how their young players respond at the major league level, we could see an influx of talented players turn them into a contender akin to the way the Cubs did last season. Most likely they still have a year or two to expect the results to resemble their collective potential, but this crop is an exciting group to monitor this year.
They may lack a sure thing top-of-the-rotation starter or cornerstone shortstop, but you can’t help but be interested in seeing where pitchers like Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed and Amir Garrett settle in. And between Blandino, Peraza and Blake Trahan, at least one of them should be able to supplant Zack Cozart at short, allowing Eugenio Suarez‘ likely move to third base.
This was a hard organization to cover, due to the endless amount of legitimate bench and bullpen pieces behind a sizable list of 50+ future value players. The system boast a ton of mid-level talent to go along with their solid top talent, and is a team I’ll be following closely this year to see how everyone’s stock improves.
As usual, there are a few rankings here that differ from popular opinion. I have Winker ranked number one, since I maintain confidence in his hitting ability while also expecting his power to come on strong. Ian Kahaloa and Gavin LaValley are too newer additions to the organization whose futures I am higher on than what I have heard elsewhere. I am not as bullish about Eric Jagielo‘s bat progressing, and am also lower on Antonio Santillan, Yorman Rodriguez and Aristides Aquino. Admittedly, Santillan and Kahaloa are so early in their development that you could make a case for either of them moving up or down ten spots, and I wouldn’t argue with you.
Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:
|Grade||Tool Is Called||Batting Average||HR||ISO||Baserunning Runs||Fielding Runs|
As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:
|Grade||Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0|
One other difference in the way I’ll be communicating scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels.
In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list. Next up will be the Cleveland Indians.
Video courtesy of Christopher Blessing
1. Jesse Winker, LF
Current Level/Age: AA/22.6, 6’3/215, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 49th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of Florida HS by CIN for $1 million bonus
Previous Rank: 3
Bestowed with a great swing and one of the most advanced approaches in the minor leagues, Winker is ready to bring his impact offense to the Reds as soon as opening day. He likely starts the 2016 season in Triple-A, though a strong showing could propel him into the Reds outfield by July. He won’t offer much on the base-running or defensive sides, but his bat will make him an immensely valuable asset regardless.
Winker’s power numbers have lagged a bit as he has climbed the system ladder, but he is exactly the type of hitter you can expect to grow into greater power than he’s shown in the minors. He has a great swing path capable of lifting pitches to all fields, though it can get a bit level at times. His lower half and hands are very well sequenced, ensuring he’s able to hit balls hard without using a lot of effort in any one part of his swing.
It’s a matter of gaining functional strength to turn his doubles and deep fly balls into homers, as he has all the other ingredients to be that kind of hitter. Winker also doesn’t get cheated, forcing pitchers to come to him or he gladly takes his walks. He adjusts well to changes in speed and movement with good balance and swing efficiency.
He spent most of his time in left field last season, and that looks to be his home for the near future, with an eventual move to first base a possibility. He has some speed, enough to keep him from clogging up the base paths and steal a few bases here and there. His fielding grades out a bit below average with a passable arm, making left field a position he could fit in without adding or losing a lot of value to his team.
Winker has already proven he can hit, and his ability to get on base bumps his grades up to account for his approach continuing to be successful in the big leagues. I see power development in his future, but even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling as a slugger, his hit tool will easily justify giving him a spot in the top half of the lineup.
Hit: 60/70/75 Power: 45/55/60 Run: 40/40/45 Field: 40/45/45 Throw: 45/45/50
Video courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues
2. Robert Stephenson, RHP
Current Level/Age: AAA/23.1, 6’2/200, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 27th overall (1st round) in 2011 out of California HS by CIN for $2 million bonus
Previous Rank: 1
Stephenson has slowly but surely improved every step up the Reds minor league system. His command has abandoned him for stretches during his last two seasons, but his stuff is frontline starter material, and he has shown improvements in consistency as the competition he faces gets more advanced. Though he may still be a couple years away from really turning the corner, Stephenson has much of what you look for in a young power thrower learning how to pitch.
His fastball has run up into the high-90s in the past, but recently he’s settled into the low- to mid-90s range where he has better movement and control. He throws a devastating curveball that has legitimate plus-plus potential, flashing swing-and-miss break even on breakers he throws in the zone for strikes. The changeup has more potential now than in the past, featuring split movement that is also a whiff-inducing pitch at its best, though it has the least consistency at present.
His command development is how his future will be determined. He can go stretches in games, and across multiple games, where he keeps the ball down and doesn’t give opposing batters anything hittable to go after. Other times he has trouble finding the zone at all, though he does get credit for avoiding hitters’ happy zones when he misses. Reds officials believe his command issues aren’t really a problem with command, but a pitch selection issue. He is still learning when to throw pitches in what situations, and an inordinate number of those times came up in 3-ball counts.
Stephenson has really improved his arm action and limited the effort exerted on his arm specifically since being drafted. He has excellent momentum toward the plate with great balance side-to-side. The biggest mechanical factor affecting his consistency is his hips never really getting to rotate all the way through. He doesn’t get the loose lower-half initiation with good separation from his upper body, giving his motion the look of fighting his front side. His decreasing reliance on max effort fastballs has seemed to help smooth over this minor inefficiency.
The upside here is huge, and Stephenson has the athleticism to reasonably project command gains as he develops in the following years. I think he may take a year or two to show it, but I’m confident in him finding a way to make his elite stuff work. If he only mildly improves, he still projects as a number three or four starter or high-leverage reliever with his power arsenal.
I’m hedging his overall grades a bit until he demonstrates the ability to own his pitch location, but I do think he has the ceiling of a top-of-the-rotation starter. Look for improving command numbers as an indicator of how quickly he can fulfill his promise.
Fastball: 55/60/70 Curveball: 55/60/70 Changeup: 45/50/60 Command: 40/50/55
3. Cody Reed, LHP
Current Level/Age: AA/23.0, 6’5/225, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 46th overall (2nd round) in 2013 out of Northwest Mississippi CC by KC for $1.1985 million bonus, traded to CIN July 2015
Previous Rank: NA
Another import from the Reds’ year of trades, Reed is a former Kansas City farmhand picked up in the Johnny Cueto deal. Owning arguably the highest upside of the three pitchers in that deal (Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb representing the other two), he made great strides honing his delivery in 2015 which really helped his command and likely solidified his future in the rotation.
Reed has come a long way since signing in 2013, the same year he first started showing his plus-plus velocity. On the mound, he was very stiff throughout his motion and muscled to throw the ball hard. The 2015 season brought a big improvement in consistency and command, due in large part to repeating his delivery and not overusing his arm. His motion can still look disjointed at times, in terms of both rhythm and looseness, but he seems to have found a feel for his movements that makes him more able to pound the zone.
He has reached the mid to high-90s with his fastball, though he gets better movement and command in the 91-94 range. Reed pairs his heater with an improved slider and developing changeup. His slider has taken a step forward in the past year, showing good depth and better location than it previously had. His changeup gets good marks for its movement and improved viability as a third pitch, but he slows his arm and body down a good amount. Throwing it with consistent arm speed will be required for it to be an above-average offering.
Previously, Reed looked like a better fit for the bullpen, but his current trajectory puts him solidly in the middle of a big league rotation, with the ceiling of a number two or three starter. His command will need to continue advancing to get there, but his fastball and slider are strong enough to cause problems for hitters on both sides of the plate. If his changeup effectiveness jumps again, he’s a possible number one starter. I want to see him prove his gains are real in 2016 before grading him that high, but either way Reed was an excellent acquisition as an upper-level rotation prospect.
Fastball: 60/65/70 Slider: 45/55/60 Changeup: 40/45/55 Command: 50/55/60
Video courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues
4. Amir Garrett, LHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/23.9, 6’5/210, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 685th overall (22nd round) in 2011 out of Nevada HS by CIN for $1 million bonus
Previous Rank: 11
Garrett was a two-sport athlete up until 2014, splitting his time between pitching professionally and playing college basketball. Only fully committing to pitching for two seasons now, he has shown impressive feel and put up great numbers for a young arm. He threw 140.1 innings in High-A Daytona with 133 strikeouts, 55 walks and only four home runs, and is advanced enough he may move through the next two levels quickly.
Garrett has a smooth athletic delivery with a very clean arm. He’s had some consistency issues in the past, attributed to his 6-foot-5 frame, but his actions and background as a promising basketball player make it likely he is only going to get better as he matures. His upper body has a tendency to rebound at the end of his finish, making it look like there’s some effort, but he uses his legs and core well enough that I don’t think his arm takes on much stress.
Bringing a three-pitch mix to his starts, Garrett throws his fastball and slider with intimidating conviction and speed. His fastball clocks in consistently in the low- to mid-90s, touching 97, but his quick movements and long reach make it seem even faster. He sharpened his slider in 2015 to the point where it projects as at least an above-average pitch, though there are flashes of higher potential. Garrett also offers a changeup that isn’t quite there yet, but his improved command and feel overall lend optimism to its continued development.
His success so far is really remarkable for how much development time he borrowed to play basketball, and shows plenty of room to grow into spot in the top half of a rotation, even without a third above-average pitch at present. Garrett will have to continue honing his craft as a pitcher, avoiding the urge to try blowing hitters away with every pitch as he sees better hitters. A promising future in the bullpen is still possible if his changeup and/or command are done developing.
It would be reasonable to stay conservative on Garrett’s projection until after seeing him face Double-A hitters this year, but I have enough confidence in his tools to peg him as a likely mid-rotation guy, with number two starter upside. Not only is he a tremendous overall athlete, his baseball athleticism is fantastic on the mound. Coupled with positive signs of makeup and competitiveness, and Garrett has a bright future ahead of him.
Fastball: 50/60/70 Slider: 45/55/60 Changeup: 40/45/55 Command: 40/50/55+
Video courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues
5. Alex Blandino, SS
Current Level/Age: AA/23.4, 6’0/190, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 29th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Stanford by CIN for $1.778 million bonus
Previous Rank: 6
Blandino was one of the few Stanford hitters who seemed to eschew the hitting philosophy of the school, and projects to be one of the top hitters coming out of this system. Despite a slow start in Double-A Carolina and the Arizona Fall League, he has the tools to be an excellent contact and gaps hitter with an outside chance at developing home run power in the future.
At the plate, Blandino has quick hands and a great bat path, a swing built for squaring balls up and lining base hits around the field. He routinely digs tough pitches out of the lower reaches of the zone for base hits even when he’s fooled, and his discerning eye allows him to get on base when pitchers don’t want to give in.
He is able to get good lift on the ball to all fields, especially in batting practice. The utility of his raw power in games relies on him staying over his legs and getting reliable use out of his hips rather than leaving them behind with his quick hands. His overall hitting ability may relegate that unnecessary, but he is a great candidate for late-developing power if he can make a slight adjustment or mature into some man-strength.
While Blandino may not have elite range for a shortstop, he has soft, sure hands and a great first step that are good enough to play any infield position capably. With above-average arm strength, I like him staying at shortstop unless he loses a step or a team need is greater at second or third. His skills will be utilized best at second.
His at-bats in Arizona showed a solid approach and great hands, though it looked like he was experimenting with his stride and lower-half tweaks. I don’t see his late-season stats as predictive in any way, since Blandino has too much hitting ability not to hit advanced pitching. Expect a solid performance in Double-A this year with a chance of him knocking on the door of the Reds lineup by the end of the season.
Hit: 50/60/65 Power: 40/45/50+ Run: 45/45/50 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 55/55/55
6. Jose Peraza, 2B
Current Level/Age: MLB/21.9, 6’0/180, R/R
Acquired: Signed in July 2010 out of Venezuela by ATL for $350,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 4 (ATL)
Formerly a Dodgers and Braves prospect, Peraza made his way to Cincinnati this offseason via the three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox. As the most advanced prospect in the trade, Peraza should get ample time to prove himself at the big league level this year. He won’t be a power guy, but he shows excellent contact ability and is a very sound defender at second base. He’s also shown aptitude as an outfielder in limited opportunities, and is still capable of playing shortstop in a pinch.
Easily the best tool Peraza has is speed. Despite dealing with a hamstring injury for part of 2015, Peraza tallied 36 stolen bases between Triple-A and his time with the Dodgers. He gets fantastic jumps and reads and has elite-level speed, enough to challenge for the stolen base leaderboard if he can continue picking apart big league pitchers.
Though his arm may only be of average strength, he makes up for it with a quick release and sure footwork. His hands can get a little hard at the ends of his range at times, but his range and ability to make the majority of the plays leaves him likely to be an above-average fielder, a better fit for second base than short.
Peraza loves to swing early and often, and he makes enough hard contact to have made it work in the minors so far. Major league pitchers may give him a tougher time with better movement and command, so he may have to rein his approach in a bit too continue seeing good pitches to hit. His swing is dominated by his hands and can get too pushy occasionally, but he does a great job staying through the ball and barreling it up, enough to project as a plus hitter. There’s more upside if he can adjust to seeing more borderline pitches against better competition.
With low walks, strikeouts and homers expected, it’s easy to see risk in his hitting game matching his defensive and base-running contributions. Peraza should have a better outlook compared to most speedy guys who pound the ball into the ground and pray for base hits. His batted ball profile will lean toward grounders, but he should see many more low line drives than the typical player of his ilk. His lack of on-base skills keep him from being a lock for above-average offense.
Hit: 45/55/60 Power: 30/35/35 Run: 65/70/75 Field: 55/55/55 Throw: 50/55/55
Video courtesy of Eric Longenhagen
7. Nick Travieso, RHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/22.2, 6’2/225, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 14th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of Florida HS by CIN for $2 million bonus
Previous Rank: 8
Travieso improved his stock in 2015 with a solid year in High-A followed by 22 strong innings in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League. He missed time after getting hit on the wrist, but showed in the fall there won’t be any lasting concerns. All of his pitches have the potential to be above-average in the majors, and he shows enough consistency with his command to make him project as a mid-rotation hurler.
In the fall, he threw his fastball anywhere from 91 to 95, locating it well to both sides. He mixed in a cut fastball and a changeup that look promising to neutralize the lefty advantage, and his slider showed flashes of being a strikeout pitch when he kept it down in the zone. Contrary to most reports I have seen, I actually thought his change had the best potential, with great arm speed, some sink and good late run.
His delivery is pretty solid and I like his smooth arm action from start to finish. He has a very strong lower half that sequences well, though his balance on his landing leg wavers at times. He can get a little too rotational as he gets off center, leaving some of his pitches up in the zone. As long as he can continue to keep his big body in shape, I don’t see any reason to doubt his command and delivery progressing nicely.
Travieso doesn’t blow you away with any of his pitches, but the combination of good stuff, command projection and a low-stress delivery make him a safe, yet exciting pitching prospect. Team officials see him and Amir Garrett as two of the best competitors in the system, singling Travieso out in particular as someone who will pitch above his tools.
I would like to see more of his slider in 2016 to gauge his future strikeout potential. He throws enough strikes with a good mix of offerings to keep hitters off-balance regardless of how many whiffs he can get.
Fastball: 55/55/60 Cut-Fastball: 50/55/55 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 45/55/55 Command: 40/50/55
8. Tyler Stephenson, C
Current Level/Age: R/19.6, 6’4/225, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 11th overall (1st round) in 2015 out of Georgia HS by CIN for $3.1416 million bonus
Previous Rank: NA
The Reds saw the upside in Stephenson as a catcher with a strong arm and above-average offensive potential when they grabbed him in the first round of the 2015 draft. His half season in the Pioneer league was a solid start to his pro career, not showing a ton of power but with some doubles and a great walk rate. He already has a mature body at a filled out 6-foot-4, so his future success hinges on skill improvements and figuring out his body rather than strength gains.
At the plate, Stephenson has the makings of a good swing with a fly ball plane and natural strength. His approach and movements are still a bit raw, most notably his barrel taking a wide arc to get into the zone at times, making his hit tool project on the low side of average for now. His swings look big and capable of producing power in the future, though could also end up hindering his consistency against better pitching. He will have to settle in and let his tools work to unlock his full potential.
He won’t turn 20 until the end of the season, and he has enough good qualities to his work in the box to have a higher ceiling, but I would like to see how he makes adjustments over the next year before expecting his average and on-base numbers to be a big asset.
Defensively, his arm is his best weapon, grading out as a future plus with great arm strength and quick enough feet to let it work. In my limited looks at his work behind the plate, he has decent hands receiving, though he doesn’t have the smooth, soft look that above-average receivers have in the big leagues. A Reds source gave Stephenson strong marks for his receiving and blocking, so I bumped his defensive grade up a bit until I can see more of him.
He is a surprisingly good runner for his size, but he has enough tools that he won’t have to rely on that part of the game. At the very least, he should stay quick enough after catching for a few years to prevent becoming a big negative on the bases.
Overall, the Reds have a great catching prospect on their hands with a lot of potential, though his eventual contributions in the majors is very much reliant on how his development progresses. For this year, I’ll be looking to see if he can look more comfortable in the box and receiving, as either improvement will make his future grades jump up quickly.
Hit: 35/45/55 Power: 30/50/60 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 45/55/60 Throw: 55/60/65
9. Keury Mella, RHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/22.7, 6’2/200, R/R
Acquired: Signed in September 2011 out of Dominican Republic by SF for $275,000 bonus, traded to CIN July 2015
Previous Rank: 5 (SFG)
Mella was a part of trade that sent Mike Leake to the Giants, after excelling in their system with a hard, sinking fastball and great marks in the three FIP components: strikeouts, walks and homers. He throws from a high three-quarters slot with a cross step closes his front side off to the hitter. His walk totals in particular may be misleading, as Mella is a guy whose command comes and goes on any given pitch. When he’s locked in, it’s easy to dream on his ceiling in the middle of the Reds future rotation.
His arsenal features a mid-90s fastball that has been tough to square up wherever he throws it, though especially so when he sinks it down in the zone. He has a breaking ball that grades as at least an average pitch even when he leaves it up, though big league hitters will be much less forgiving than the competition he has conquered so far. A changeup rounds out his tool box that also flashes at least average with good arm action and some fade, though it has the least consistency of his three pitches.
Mella has a unique delivery with how closed off he gets, though that feature doesn’t subtract from his ability to get hitters out. The source of his command lapses seems to be inconsistent rhythm. His momentum hesitates as he starts forward from his leg kick, and then unleashes the rest of his motion at a number of different speeds. Despite solid sequencing of his body, many of his pitches look like rush jobs which result in ineffective pitches that miss his marks. Even during those lapses, his arm action is loose and clean.
His mechanics may hinder his future as a starter, but I’m not willing to bet against him being able to turn over a lineup a few times. His high arm slot and off-center stride may have contributed to the persistent shoulder tightness he has dealt with over the last couple years. Because of that, it’s tempting to call Mella a future reliever and be done with it, but I’m buying his chances to settle in as a number four starter, at least in the early going.
For their part, the Reds see the stuff and command of a starter in Mella, though also admit he’s not too different from Romano and Davis lower in this list. I like Mella’s abilities a bit more than those two, though it’s important to recognize the risk.
Continued focus on getting his timing hammered down will be the key for him over the next year or two, especially with his promising fastball and good foundations for two viable offspeed pitches. He needs to find a delivery speed that gives him consistency and stay with it. If he can’t cash in his tools for a rotation spot, a late-inning bullpen role would also be well-suited for his talents.
Fastball: 55/60/65 Slider: 45/50/60 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/45/55
Video courtesy of Jheremy Brown
10. Blake Trahan, SS
Current Level/Age: High-A/22.6, 5’9/180, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 84th overall (3rd round) in 2015 out of U of Louisiana-Lafayette by CIN for $708,900 bonus
Previous Rank: NA
Trahan debuted with an excellent showing in rookie ball after being taken in the third round of last year’s draft. Slight of build, he doesn’t project to have much power, but he can play some defense and has a loose, whippy swing without sacrificing his contact. If he can settle into his strengths as a contact-first hitter at an up-the-middle position, he may move pretty quickly through the system.
His defensive work is impressive for a young shortstop coming out of the Sun Belt Conference. He moves his feet in preparation for the ball very well and has the soft hands to make plays on tough hops. His raw arm strength may only be above-average, but it plays up due to footwork and comfort throwing from any angle. His lack of physicality makes some Reds officials believe he’s a future second baseman, though also acknowledge he has the instincts to stay at short. He’s similar to both Peraza and Blandino in that way, but I think Trahan ends up with better skills at the 6-spot.
In the box, Trahan has a handsy swing with direct lower-half movements but minimal strength behind it. His bat stays in the zone a long time with a line drive swing plane and the athleticism to adjust to speeds and breaks. He could end up hitting a ton of doubles as he matures over the next few years, but he has the speed and contact skills to carry him even if the power stays well below average. In college and his first taste of pro ball, he has consistently walked more than he has struck out, though there were questions about his approach before the draft. His on-base rate will be important to monitor as pitchers challenge him more in the upper minors, particularly with his absence of power.
There is risk here without an obvious development of power in the future and some approach concerns, but I like Trahan’s chances of reaching the big leagues as a full-time regular. His offense as a whole probably plays around average to slightly below, though his defense and speed give him a path to playing time.
Hit: 45/55/60 Power: 30/35/40 Run: 55/60/65 Field: 55/55/60 Throw: 55/60/60
11. John Lamb, LHP, VIDEO
Lamb was one of the three pitchers that arrived via the Johnny Cueto trade, and the one to get the most face time with the big league squad. He still has trouble with his control at times and may never have better than average command, but his stuff plays at the big league level. Lamb struck out well over a batter per inning in his 49.2 major league innings, though he did struggle mightily at times with his control and giving up the long ball.
Gone are the days of throwing 95, with Lamb’s fastball settling in the low-90s range now with good rise. His command of it is solid-average at his best, though it is only an average pitch at present with little movement. His cutter has become his best secondary pitch, only added to his arsenal in the last couple years as he’s battled back from Tommy John. It features slight glove side movement with deceptive downward break. His changeup has legitimate swing-and-miss potential, though he mostly relies on his fastball and cutter to get hitters out.
Lamb’s success is a great comeback story, and I can’t help but buy into his potential, but I have to see his command and secondary pitches find more stability. His reduction in walks this year was the best developmental checkpoint of his career, but his command will need to continue to uptick to realize his new ceiling as a mid-rotation hurler. Watch the consistency of his fastball command and how well he integrates his change and cutter for indicators of his future success.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Cutter: 55/55/60 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 50/55/60 Command: 45/45/50
Schebler joined the Reds in the Todd Frazier deal, adding to the depth of prospects in the system nearly ready for the major leagues. He brings a diverse set of tools on the offensive side, showing plus raw power and enough speed to be a threat on the bases. He has done well to curb his strikeouts in the high minors, but it bears watching how well his contact will play against major league pitching. Defensively he should provide around average value in left field.
Schebler really puts a charge into the ball when he squares pitches up. His hands often push out in front of his body early in the swing, but he still manages to keep a level swing despite the start. His raw strength allows him to mis-hit balls and still drive them, but he could be susceptible to the better left-handed pitching he will face in the big leagues. He will need to continue honing his approach to produce the fly balls he needs for his power to play, avoiding the pull-side ground balls that are common occurrences in his at-bats when he’s mildly fooled.
He has made his skill set work enough to conceivably be a starting left fielder, but the lack of athleticism in his swing makes me grade him a tick shy of that level. He will see less hittable pitches to drive and will need to make some adjustments to reach his ceiling. I’m confident in his abilities carving out a role for him, but I will be interested to see how he reacts to the exposure to better pitchers and advance scouting.
Hit: 45/45/50 Power: 55/55/60+ Run: 50/50/55 Field: 45/45+/50 Throw: 35/40/40
Mahle steamrolled the A-level Midwest League, and arguably was more dominant as the season wore on. He didn’t allow a single home run in his last 72 innings pitched, spanning his last 13 outings from June 29 onward. Drafted more on the promise of pitchability than stuff, his arsenal has been better than advertised, flashing above-average to plus grades across the board.
With a fastball sitting 89-92 now, he throws just hard enough with good movement to set up his other pitches even at higher levels. None of his secondary pitches show better than average break or deception, but when his command is on, he has the look of a future mid-rotation starter. I think he still profiles as a back-end option right now, though developing a plus pitch or reaching his plus command ceiling easily bumps him higher on the future grade.
I am very interested in seeing Mahle this season, and I’ll be looking specifically at how his command continues to develop as well as whether one of his offspeed pitches takes another step forward. This ranking is a bit conservative, simply because he doesn’t yet have the stuff to consistently get big league hitters out. He has a good chance of shooting up this list next offseason if he continues progressing.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 45/45/55 Slider: 40/45/50 Changeup: 40/45/55 Command: 45/50/60
Ervin has an awesome set of tools, with the raw arm strength, power and running speed any organization would covet. Yet, his actions at the plate look rigid, his first step isn’t the greatest and he most likely fits best defensively in left field at the big league level, though Reds officials maintain he can fill in at center. He has stayed on track to continue climbing the ladder with above-average offensive production at each level, but his tools need to start shining through in game situations for him to realize his potential for the Reds.
I like his chances of developing power to at least an above-average level, as he has the swing and strength to lift balls to all parts of any ballpark. He’s shown a pretty good eye at the plate, but unless his game power takes off, major league pitchers will be able to pick him apart by living on the edges of the zone.
His stiff body at the plate limits his hit tool and causes many of his hardest hit balls to be yanked down the left field line. He has made up for it so far with an excellent on-base rate and avoiding strikeouts reasonably well, but his contact quality has yet to progress. He should continue getting on base via free passes because of his power threat, though it needs to be backed up by better hitting to be reliable.
Despite already reaching Double-A in 2015, Ervin has both a lot of work to do, and yet a reasonable chance of raising his stock quickly with some smoothing out of his swing. His power and speed will give him an opportunity regardless, but what he does with it will depend on his offensive tools developing consistency against advanced pitching.
Hit: 40/45/50+ Power: 50/55/60 Run: 55/50/55 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 50/50/55
Kahaloa has an excellent mid-90s fastball and a solid arm action that should help his young offspeed pitches develop quickly. He has plenty of time to harness his stuff, with the plan being to let him progress slowly like they have with Santillan. He threw the ball very well in the Arizona League last year, showing that he can stick in the rotation for the early going.
He has a smooth delivery that bodes very nicely for his future command and offspeed grades. To track his progress, take a look this year at how hard he can sell the changeup without slowing his arm down, and also how his command looks from start to start. For how hard he throws, his pitchability and control are ahead of most pitchers his age. Acknowledging that he is still fairly raw, Kahaloa has to be a favorite for most likely to shoot up this list as his future gains clarity over this year and next.
Fastball: 50/60/65 Slider: 40/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/50/55
Looking at his physique, you would expect LaValley to be a power-first masher, especially given his background as an offensive lineman. After his first full season, it’s his hit tool that stands out relative to his peers, while the power has yet to show up fully. He shows off great hands at third base, but he has slow foot speed and is likely a first baseman in the future.
At that end of the defensive spectrum, his power will need to develop to profile as a big leaguer. The Reds believe in his feel for hitting and futre power production, and I am inclined to agree. He has some lift to his swing and obvious strength, but currently settles for squaring the ball up and shooting gaps most at-bats. As he gets more comfortable, he’s going to figure out how to tap into his raw strength and hit for at least above-average power. His swing, physicality and overall feel may allow him to approach the plus power range when all is said and done.
Hit: 40/55/60 Power: 35/55/60 Run: 35/30/35 Field: 40/45/45 Throw: 50/50/50
The Chapman trade netted the Reds Jagielo from the Yankees, a bat-first third base prospect with plus raw power. He was in the middle of a solid season at Double-A Trenton in 2015 before a knee injury cost him the second half, showing great power and his highest average yet in full season ball. Though the knee also kept him out of participating in the Arizona Fall League, he is reportedly ready to go for spring training.
His calling card is his power, with the raw strength to back up decent power numbers in the minors. I question how much power he will show in the big leagues due to a swing plane that gets too downward and trouble manipulating the barrel at times, resulting in a lot of pop-ups and rollover ground balls. Regardless, he has the strength to be a little inefficient and still get his extra-base hits, but it looks like he may end up having only above-average game power without some adjustments.
Jagielo swings and misses a fair amount, but he also has enough patience to take his walks to raise his on-base percentage, which bumps his hit tool up to near average. The risk in his game comes mostly from his defensive home, with his troubles at third base hinting at a future first base profile. His arm plays fine there, but his hands and footwork are rough and the results haven’t been great, also making his first base defense likely below average. There is a lot of work to do for him to stay at the position, especially if his bat doesn’t reach the most optimistic ceiling.
The defensive questions bring his overall grade down, since I’m not sure his power will develop to a level that he can be valuable at first base. It’s hard to bet against him figuring out how to make it work with his strength, especially being a great makeup guy, but for now he has a questionable future as a regular at third or first.
Hit: 45/45/50 Power: 50/55/60 Run: 30/30/30 Field: 35/40/40 Throw: 50/50/50
To say last year’s number five Reds prospect really struggled with command is an understatement. He ended his season in July with an undisclosed injury after yielding 50 walks in 38 innings, completely unable to find the zone for long stretches of the year. Somewhat impressively, he also struck out 31 hitters and only gave up 34 hits, so the glass is… not half full, but at least has something in it.
Reds sources report he’s throwing well now, and are hoping he can hit the reset button on 2015 and get back on track as a high-upside reliever or mid- to back-end starter. His fastball-slider combo will give him every opportunity to prove he can mow through hitters in a good way this year, though coming back from a stretch that bad would put him in very rare company. His most likely role was as a reliever before, and now that’s nearly a guarantee unless he really does do a complete 180.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 35/40/40 Command: 30/40/45
Part of the spoils of the Aroldis Chapman trade, Davis had something of a breakout year in the Yankees system in 2015. He has always had a live arm, but started to show promise pounding the zone and developing his secondary pitches. His strikeouts and walks trended in the right direction as a result, though he has a ways to go before he can repeat his performance against advanced competition.
His fastball is his best pitch, comfortably reaching the mid-90s with decent movement and fringe-average command. It’s an explosive pitch made tougher to pick up by his off-beat delivery timing and arm effort. His curveball and changeup both suffer from being thrown too hard and without great command, though his best stretches of 2015 coincided with him keeping them in the zone.
He looked better later in the season, leading a number of team sources to say things are starting to click for him. I originally placed him below Romano, but it sounds like the team sees Davis as the better bet to stay in the rotation. I’m not sold on either yet, but hopefully he can carry over some of his late season improvements into 2016.
Davis is a big, strong pitcher with an intriguing fastball, but his best chance of making an impact in the big leagues is still as a hard-throwing reliever. He’s more strength than feel, so expecting his command to improve drastically is likely unrealistic. If one of his secondary pitches gets more consistent movement, he is durable enough to stick in the back end of a rotation, but the bullpen is a more believable outcome.
Fastball: 50/55/65 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 35/40/45 Command: 40/45/45
Waldrop has benefited from a sharpened approach that will allow him to tap into his physical tools. Though he profiles as a left fielder at best, it looks like he will be able to hit for a high enough average to be a platoon bat, or a starting option if he can cut down on the swings and misses.
He has a good enough swing that can easily lift balls out of the park, but it changes substantially on pitches at the edges of the zone. He doesn’t have a ton of adaptability with his stiff movements in the box, but pitchers will still have to mix up their offerings and hit spots to get him out consistently.
One Reds official thinks this year will be the better season they wish he had in 2015. I think the only limiting factor will be a strikeout rate that will climb as he faces major league pitchers on a regular basis. If he can continue improving his plan at the plate, or somehow make more contact without sacrificing his power, he will look the part of a big league regular.
Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 45/50+/55 Run: 45/45/50 Field: 45/45/45 Throw: 45/45/45
Romano is an imposing figure on the mound at 6-foot-5, hurling a mid- to high-90s fastball into the zone with somehwat surprising consistency. He has a stiff-armed delivery with some hefty effort, limiting his command. He tends to baby his offspeed stuff instead of throwing them with the same intent, leading me to see him as a future reliever. There he can unleash his breaking ball as more of a power pitch, while letting his high velocity fastball make hitters uncomfortable.
I can’t discredit his rotation potential completely, as he’s been good enough to date to be added to the Reds’ 40-man roster this offseason. His addition also accelerates his timeline to the big leagues, which will yield quicker success out of the bullpen. Regardless of his role, he needs one of his offspeed pitches to develop into a swing and miss pitch. Between his curve and changeup, he shows better feel for the former overall.
His upside is a high-leverage reliever, though his below-average feel for his stuff leaves his likely role more in the seventh and eighth inning. Possessing better present control than command, look for his progress sharpening his offspeed pitches and delivery as indicators of his future value.
Fastball: 55/55/60 Curveball: 45/45/50 Changeup: 40/45/45 Command: 40/45/45
Rodriguez has all the physical tools to be a star, but has trouble turning them into usable production. He flashes above-average to plus running speed, but his ability to steal bases has a taken a back seat to his hitting development the last few years. There is immense raw power in his bat, though it too is limited by tightness in his swing and poor barrel control. His plus arm strength plays well in the outfield, with just enough range and skill to stick in right field, with center field being a stretch but still a passable option on a part-time basis.
His offensive approach has continued to improve over the last two seasons, but he will continue to strike out at a rate higher than average against major league pitching. He shows some flashes of an average hit tool when he relaxes his swing and lets his hands work, though he often leaves his hips out of the swing and settles for line drives with that look. When he tries to jump on the ball, his body tightens and his sequencing breaks down, leading to power that is very pull-heavy, and his long drives to left are separated by many rollover groundballs and pitches pulled foul.
Deserving a lot of credit for his steady improvement as he reaches the big leagues, Rodriguez may still end up approximating a starting outfielder if things break right. His most likely outcome is a bench role until he can better harness his tools, though a platoon option who can do some damage against lefties or less effective same-sided hurlers is a valuable asset.
Hit: 40/40/45 Power: 40/45/55 Run: 50/50/55 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 60/60/60
23. Zach Weiss, RHP, VIDEO
Weiss is a former UCLA reliever who has flown under the radar after a mediocre start to his pro career in 2013. Since then, however, he’s carved his way through the minors, finishing in Double-A last year with a combined 63.2 innings and 90 strikeouts compared to only 15 walks and five homers allowed. He added nine innings in the Arizona Fall League where he gave up six runs, but still struck out 11 batters. He has set himself up to get an opportunity in the Reds’ big league pen as soon as this season, where he can bring his surprisingly good command of four pitches to the big stage.
His fastball sits 93-95 with his main secondary pitch being a tight slider he throws mostly to his glove side down just out of the zone. He mixes in a fringy curve and a below-average changeup, though his effectiveness comes mostly from the deceptive speed on his fastball and good location. He may not have closer upside, but he shouldn’t have any problem finding a permanent home in a major league bullpen.
Fastball: 55/55/55 Curveball: 40/45/45 Slider: 50/50/55 Changeup: 40/40/40 Command: 50/50+/55
Strahan shoved in his first full professional season, throwing 164.1 innings with quality results in the rotation. He uses a really good sinker-curveball pairing and a jerky delivery to keep hitters off balance, complemented by a changeup that doesn’t share the same upside. He did a great job limiting free passes, though his command is likely to remain below average due to his delivery limiting the projection of his feel for his arsenal.
He’ll keep starting until he proves he can’t, but it’s easy to picture him having more success concentrating on his two best pitches in short stints out the pen. A seventh inning type role is my bet, though I can’t completely discount his chances as a back-end starter if for no other reason than his demonstrated amassing of innings in A-ball. The lack of a true strikeout pitch also tilts the scales in favor of a future in relief.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 45/50/55 Changeup: 35/40/40 Command: 40/45/45
25. Antonio Santillan, RHP, VIDEO
Nabbed in last year’s second round, Santillan is purely an upside play right now. He can throw his fastball through a brick wall, but that wall needs to be bigger than the strike zone to see him do it more than once. He’s got a huge, strong body with a clean-looking arm, though his feel for his delivery and stuff lags very far behind.
Reports from the Reds’ camp see Santillan as a surprisingly excellent athlete, and though it will be a slow process, think it will be worth the wait as he figures his body out. They will have to count on their player development staff and his maturation going swimmingly for him to reach his ceiling.
It’s fun to think about what he could be if everything comes together, but if we’re being realistic, he has a high likelihood of not reaching the big leagues. His curve can show flashes of plus raw ability, though it has a long way to go to be a reliable offering. With his below-average feel also goes his changeup, a seldom used pitch so far that isn’t at the top of his development checklist.
Fastball: 40/50/65 Curveball: 35/40/55 Changeup: 30/35/45 Command: 30/35/45
Aquino had an excellent 2014 season before struggling a bit in full-season ball last year. The hope was to continue seeing him make strides with his approach, but he got hit on the wrist and missed two months of at-bats. Still lanky and not completely comfortable in his body, Aquino has the potential to turn his plus raw power, strong arm and average speed into a special package. He is still a few years away from seeing if he can put everything together.
There is a lot of room for improvement in his approach, as he is prone to chasing pitcher’s pitches and has some contact issues. On top of that, his swing is as raw as his athleticism, with a ground ball bat path and trouble manipulating the barrel to pitches inside and outside if he’s not looking for them. Most of his long drives are the product of his raw strength rather than a repeatable fly ball swing.
The tools are there, but Aquino’s ceiling is all projection and no substance yet. I see the physical attributes that give evaluators optimism, but I don’t see the finer baseball athlete moves to translate them into production. The Reds are hopeful, with one contact calling Aquino one of the better hitters in the system. It’s certainly possible, but not probable at this stage.
Hit: 25/40/45 Power: 35/45/55 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 55/60/65
Sparks is a tremendous overall athlete, showcasing big raw power and above-average speed and defense at times. The problem is he is super aggressive at the plate and doesn’t make enough contact to get on base at a high enough clip for his power to play. Striking out over 30% of the time in High-A is a tough recipe for big league success.
This is one player I would really like to rank higher if I went only on tools. I like his swing, too, even though he can get a little long as his barrel gets away from him early in his swing. It mostly just causes him to be pull-heavy with his power, rather than making mis-hits more common. His lack of projection is strictly based on his approach and his whiffs. If he can tone down his approach and turn some of those chases into walks, he quickly becomes a very interesting player. So far that hasn’t been in the cards for him.
Hit: 30/35/40 Power: 50/55+/60 Run: 55/50/55 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 55/55/55
Cave was a Rule 5 draft pick this offseason from the Yankees, and he now provides the Reds with an option in the outfield that does a little of everything. His solid-average speed combines with good instincts to steal some bases and and play passable defense in center, though he’s a better fit for a corner outfield spot. He shows some feel for making contact; it’s the quality of contact that does not profile well for a starting role for the Reds.
Cave doesn’t have a ton of power, with mistake pitches up in the zone being where he can do the most damage. He will occasionally drop the head on a ball down and in, but there isn’t a lot of carry off his bat anywhere but down the line on his pull side. His hips spin instead of driving from a good base, and his hands get away from his body early in the swing, with a mostly downward swing plane that levels out on high pitches.
He can take some walks and has about average contact skills, though neither of which profile highly enough to make up for his inefficient bat path. I’m projecting him to have no better than an average hit tool, which might be enough to give him a fringe starter profile.
Realistically, Cave is a candidate for a 4th outfielder role at best, particularly with his struggles against left-handed pitching. Deployed in a manner that limits his exposure, he could hit for a decent average and play good defense in a part-time role.
Hit: 45/45+/50 Power: 30/35/35 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 45/50/50
Stephens stepped up his game at High-A in 2015, walking under two batters per nine innings and limiting hard contact. He has really good pitchability and throws strikes, though none of his pitches really stand out as potential weapons against big league hitters. Reds sources are unsure about him staying in the rotation, but he can locate his fastball to both sides of the plate with two average-ish breaking balls and a below-average changeup. He has decent command of his full arsenal, though the lack of pure stuff and a history of elbow issues make relieving a high likelihood.
Fastball: 45/50/55 Slider: 40/45/50 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 45/50/50
Moscot is a big league-ready hurler with around average stuff across the board that plays up due to pitchability and command. He throws mostly fastballs and sliders to righties, while lefties see more of his curve and changeup mixed in. He isn’t afraid to throw his offspeed pitches in any count, and is reliable for forcing hitters to swing at pitches in the lower portion of the zone. The numbers don’t really back anything more than a spot starter profile, but he could guile and deceive his way into a regular rotation spot for stretches of time.
Fastball: 45/50/50 Curveball: 40/45/45 Slider: 50/50/55 Changeup: 45/45/45 Command: 50/50+/55
Daal will definitely be an interesting player to follow over the next year or two. He has a strong base of skills, with plus base running and eventual average to a bit above grade defense, most likely at second base. He rarely strikes out and makes a ton of contact. Then there’s the thing other players know as power. Daal doesn’t do that sort of thing.
Across 860 professional plate appearances, Daal has 20 extra-base hits. 20! Only one was a home run. If averaged out over a full-time position player schedule, that’s like having an extra-base hit every two weeks. Fortunately, Daal hits enough line drives to have a chance at a starting role if everything breaks right, though not having any power makes it even easier for pitchers to come right after him, thus suppressing his walk rate to near nothing. I think he will hit enough to be a big leaguer, but it’s possible he hits one of the emptiest .275 average of the modern era. He has at least one fan in the organization that would put him in the top 15, but I just can’t see him gaining enough power, on-base rate or defense to justify that high a spot.
Hit: 45/50/55+ Power: 20/25/30 Run: 60/60/65 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 50/50/50
Despite his solid overall numbers in the Arizona Fall League, I found myself being relatively unimpressed by Dixon’s tool kit. He doesn’t quite fit at second base for me, with heavy feet for an up-the-middle position that he makes work with a decent arm and good baseball intelligence. He’s an above-average runner and demonstrated some feel to hit and some power in High-A last year, though the California League is notorious for making guys with some strength look like studs.
While his AFL and High-A performances hint at positive developments in his future, I still see Dixon as a bench player who may be able to do some damage in a platoon role. His pitch recognition also may be a limiting factor. In combination with stiff actions at the plate, the upside here is rather low, but Dixon could still be of value on a limited basis to the Reds.
Hit: 40/40/45 Power: 35/40/45 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 50/50/50
Crawford came over last offseason in the Alfredo Simon deal as a hard-throwing starter with a projectable slider and below-average changeup. His 2015 season was a lost cause, with a recurring shoulder issue forcing him out of all but 13.2 innings. Going into last season, Reds higher ups thought he’d be progressing along the same path as Travieso and Romano.
The upside is still there, but shoulder issues on a pitcher who doesn’t get a lot of use out of his lower half is a worrisome situation. If he can come back healthy, I can see him carving out a bullpen role with his fastball-slider combo.
Fastball: 45/55/60 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 35/40/40 Command: 40/40/45
34. Tanner Rainey, RHP
Rainey was drafted at the end of Day 1 in the 2015 draft, after playing first base and pitching for Division II West Alabama. He has already gotten better on the mound as he’s focused his efforts there, throwing two potential above-average to plus pitches at hitters in the form of a hard fastball and promising slider. He made 15 starts in 2015 and did well enough to continue in the rotation at Dayton this year, though his lack of a projectable third pitch and just so-so command put him in the future bullpen group.
A Reds contact likened his stuff to that of Wyatt Strahan, and it will be interesting to see how his results in the Midwest League mirror those Strahan showed last season. He may have more strikeout potential, though he has a longer way to go with his command.
Fastball: 45/55/65 Slider: 40/45/55 Changeup: 35/40/40 Command: 35/40/45
OF Cristian Olivo (VIDEO) has great bat speed and huge raw power, and will likely shift to a corner outfield spot as he matures. OF Miles Gordon (VIDEO) is a really fluid athlete with some physical strength and a good approach, and a quick but indirect bat path, understandable for a a player his age. SS Miguel Hernandez (VIDEO) has really good hands at short but is light on hitting ability, though he may just need some strength to start making waves. 1B/OF Reydel Medina (VIDEO) has big time power from the left side, that comes with big time strikeouts. He had a nice year in Rookie-level Billings with 13 homers and 14 stolen bases.
RHP Alexis Diaz (VIDEO) is a young pitcher with a loose, live arm and projectable build that throws 90 and spins a decent breaking ball once in a while. He has some mechanical issues that lead to poor command, and it’s unclear at this stage if the sequencing messes up his feel, or a lack of feel making his delivery inconsistent. RHP Tejay Antone (VIDEO) has a future as a ground-ball artist with a good sinking fastball. He is more strike-thrower than pitcher for now, just starting to figure out his game but may make it as a starter or reliever when all is said and done. RHP Jose Lopez came back from Tommy John surgery in his draft year and threw very well in Rookie ball in 2015. He was handled with kid gloves, but he does have a high-90s fastball and a good slider.
Jake Paulson, RHP
The Reds system doesn’t offer a particularly robust population of the fringe sorts who generally appear in this portion of the Evaluating the Prospects series. Jermaine Curtis and Tony Renda both possess some of the requisite traits for field players — strong contact skills, a promising defensive profile — but lack the minimal threshold of power typically necessary to contend with major-league pitchers. Catcher-turned-infielder Shedric Long produced a strong offensive line last season at Class-A as just a 19-year-old, but the track record isn’t sufficient to draw any real conclusions.
As a result, the author has chosen Paulson, a more speculative pick than one usually finds here. Selected in the 27th round of the 2014 draft out of Oakland University in Michigan, Paulson actually recorded a 15-point strikeout- and walk-rate differential at Class-A Dayton. But he did it as a 23-year-old (which is on the old side relative to the level) and on the strength mostly of a microscopic walk rate, as opposed to an impressive strikeout rate (the latter of which metrics is more predictive of future success).
What Paulson does do, though, is possess a solid-average fastball capable of inducing grounders and, at 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, solidly above-average size. That he’s the product of a northern school also possibly suggests that he has greater room for development than some of his southern peers. Below is promising footage — in this case, of Paulson striking out ninth-overall pick Ian Happ by means of a sinking fastball towards the end of this past summer.
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