Top 30 Prospects: Cincinnati Reds

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DETKC, MIN)

Reds Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Nick Senzel 21 A 3B 2018 55
2 Amir Garrett 24 AAA LHP 2017 55
3 Jesse Winker 23 AAA OF 2017 50
4 Aristides Aquino 22 A+ OF 2019 50
5 Shedric Long 21 A+ 2B 2019 50
6 Taylor Trammell 19 R OF 2021 45
7 Robert Stephenson 23 MLB RHP 2017 45
8 Chris Okey 22 A C 2019 45
9 T.J. Friedl 21 R CF 2019 45
10 Tyler Stephenson 20 A C 2020 45
11 Alfredo Rodriguez 22 R SS 2018 45
12 Rookie Davis 23 AAA RHP 2018 45
13 Phil Ervin 24 AA OF 2017 45
14 Sal Romano 23 AA RHP 2018 45
15 Tyler Mahle 22 AA RHP 2018 45
16 Keury Mella 23 A+ RHP 2018 40
17 Ariel Hernandez 24 R RHP 2017 40
18 Sebastian Elizalde 25 AAA OF 2018 40
19 Vlad Gutierrez 21 R RHP 2019 40
20 Tony Santillan 19 A RHP 2020 40
21 Jimmy Herget 23 A+ RHP 2018 40
22 Blake Trahan 23 A+ SS 2019 40
23 Nick Travieso 22 AA RHP 2018 40
24 Ian Kahaloa 19 R RHP 2021 40
25 Juan Perez 25 R UTIL 2017 40
26 Josh VanMeter 21 AA UTIL 2018 40
27 Alex Blandino 24 AA 2B 2018 40
28 Tanner Rainey 24 A RHP 2018 40
29 Nick Hanson 18 R RHP 2022 40
30 Ryan Hendrix 22 A RHP 2019 40

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Tennessee
Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 205 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 55/60 40/55 55/50 40/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Dramatically increased ISO (.170 as a sophomore, .243 as junior) at University of Tennessee in 2016 and stole 25 bases at an 86% clip.

Scouting Report
A young-for-the-class SEC hitter with a long track record of success, Senzel was the most polished bat available in the 2016 draft. I saw him early in the year during a four-team round robin in Arizona and thought he’d go somewhere in the top 10-15 picks. While facing pitching far beneath the quality of arms he’d see later in the year during SEC play, Senzel finished the weekend 8-for-13 with four doubles, six walks, five of those on the final day of play. Despite my own enthusiasm, when a scout told me they thought he had an outside shot at going 1-1, I scoffed. Senzel was drafted No. 2 overall by Cincy in June. There are probably a few reasons for this, beyond a potential misevaluation of Senzel’s talent. Prospects ahead of Senzel on my board at that time (such as Jason Groome, Delvin Perez, Alec Hansen) all saw their stocks dip for one reason or another during the spring, while Senzel continued to rake. Moreover, he was one of the safest prospects in a draft class without huge, risk-worthy talent up top.

Senzel has above-average bat speed and bat control. His swing can get long at times and, despite simple hitting feet, his front foot sometimes gets down late which causes the rest of his swing to be tardy, as well. He was getting that foot down earlier during instructional league. He has above-average raw power, which should grow to plus as Senzel reaches physical maturity (he was only 20 on draft day and is well built), though it doesn’t play to that level in games because Senzel doesn’t incorporate his lower half into his swing especially well. If Senzel reaches a point when it would be useful to alter some aspects of his swing to generate more game power I think he’s athletic enough to make the adjustments.

Reports on Senzel’s defense as a sophomore were mixed. Scouts liked his athleticism and straight-line speed (he’s a 55 runner right now and swiped 25 bags at Tennessee this year), but his feel for third and his first step weren’t great and his arm was just passable. He was solid, if unspectacular, when I saw him this year. He charges balls in on the grass with comfort and authority, makes accurate throws to first from awkward platforms and his hands are adequate, though not exceptionally soft. I could see his range becoming an issue as the weight of age diminishes what is already a mediocre first step. I think he’s a future average defender at third, but development at that position can be volatile, and I think there’s a chance he’s better than that.

I have Senzel projected as an above-average everyday player. If the defense or power progress beyond my projections (I think there’s a chance for both), then he has a chance for stardom. Recent top college draftees have sprinted to the majors and, without many talented obstacles in the big leagues or high minors impeding his progression, there’s a chance Senzel reaches the big leagues next year. I think he exceeds rookie eligibility in 2018.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.7 WAR

nick-senzel-likelihood-of-outcomes

Note from Eric: This is where Cody Reed slots into the system for me. He technically retained his rookie eligibility by 2.1 IP and via a DL stint. Here is what I wrote about Reed at his time of call-up which I believe holds true despite his struggles this season.

Drafted: 22nd Round, 2011 from Henderson Int’l (NV)
Age 25 Height 6’5 Weight 210 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 45/50 40/45 45/55 45/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Steamer projects a 4.76 FIP in 2017.

Scouting Report
It’s rare to read positive musings in this space about a soon-to-be 25-year-old whose secondary stuff draws mixed reviews, but Amir Garrett’s unique combination of size, athleticism and developmental background allow for continued projection as he enters his mid-20s. Garrett juggled pro baseball with college hoops for two years (Steve Lavin gave him modest minutes off the bench at St. John’s during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons) before committing to baseball full time in 2014. He showed no ill effects after an ample increase in workload that year and hasn’t spent any time on the disabled list in either of his two full pro seasons.

Garrett is a big, strong, well-proportioned, athletic lefty with a low-90s fastball that he’ll run up to 96. He had some outings this year where things went completely awry and he’d walk a half-dozen hitters over the course of his start, but he generally repeats his delivery and has a clean (albeit unexplosive) arm action. Long-limbed lefties with multi-sport backgrounds are late-bloomer command candidates, and I think Garrett’s fastball/fastball command combination will end up being the most impressive aspect of his skillset at maturity.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.8 WAR

amir-garrett-likelihood-of-outcomes

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2012 from Olympia HS (FL)
Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/70 40/40 30/40 40/30 40/45 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded just .082 ISO at Triple-A.

Scouting Report
It’s hard to know whether Winker’s power output from 2014 was a mirage caused by the arid, hitter-friendly climates of the Cal League and Arizona Fall League or if he’s seen a downtick in power since then because of the multiple wrist injuries he’s suffered over the last three seasons (one late in 2014 and another this year). If you assume the latter, then there’s a chance that Winker eventually gets healthy and starts hitting for the type of power typically associated with corner-only outfield prospects. I’m not willing to do that.

That’s not to say Winker can’t still be a valuable big leaguer without whacking out 20-plus homers every year. He’s an exceptional natural hitter with great feel for the strike zone, good bat control, hand-eye, natural timing and a smooth, often leisurely all-fields swing. I’m also fond of the way Winker talks about hitting. I have a future 70 on the hit tool.

Winker doesn’t really drive his wrists through contact and this, combined with just average bat speed, are why I think there’s not much power in there. His bat path varies based on what’s appropriate for making contact with a given pitch (I’ve seen Winker literally throw his bat at balls off the plate away that he’s already committed to swinging at just to make contact), which leads to more ground balls and line drives than the kind of launch angles that lead to dingers. I expect only 12-15 homers from Winker on an annual basis, but he should supplement that with gobs of doubles.

Does that profile in an outfield corner? Winker isn’t a great athlete, he’s a below-average runner, a fringe defender and his arm, while passable in right, is not going to have runners dashing from first to third looking over their shoulders in anticipation of hosedom. He’s essentially a bat-only prospect, albeit a very special one.

That doesn’t sound all that enticing until you see that Nick Markakis was able to keep his head above replacement-level waters this year. I think that’s Winker’s absolute floor. I’m less concerned about the relatively demur collection of tools and more worried about Winker’s injury resume, lack of athleticism and the way his body is going to age. He’s close to the big leagues but not without some risk for those reasons. I dinged his future value a half grade because of that, but think on tools he’s an above-average regular who has an outside chance to compete for some batting titles.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 7.2 WAR

jesse-winker-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Dominican Republlic
Age 23 Height 6’4 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 60/70 40/60 45/40 40/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Produced 61 extra-base hits in 2016.

Scouting Report
Back with a vengeance this year after understandably failing to hit through a fractured forearm in 2015, Aquino dominated the pitcher-friendly Florida State League this year. He already has plus raw power and his frame still has room to add mass, and he could whack out 25-plus homers at peak in the big leagues. Aquino has a tendency to drift onto his front foot before contact, leaving him vulnerable against breaking stuff, but he still has the strength and bat speed to muscle balls out even if he doesn’t square them up and he annihilates mistakes. There are concerns about Aquino’s aggressive approach and that his bat path results in too many ground balls, but he’s got solid feel for the barrel and track pitches pretty well. Scouts are mixed regarding his hit-tool projection, but I think there’s going to be so much power here that he could profile as an everyday right fielder (plus arm) even if he’s only ever a 40 hitter.

Aquino is an average runner underway, but it takes him a while to reach top speed because of his size. He’s a below-average defender right now, could be average at maturity.

You could argue that Aquino has the most upside in the system as a potential middle-of-the-order slugger. He is not without risk due to his approach. He turns 23 in April and has yet to play above A-ball. If he hits upper-level pitching in 2017, he could be No. 1 on this list next year.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.1 WAR

aristides-aquino-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 12th Round, 2013 from Jacksonville HS (AL)
Age 21 Height 5’10 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 55/55 40/50 60/60 40/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Had 11.3% walk rate and .176 ISO at Low-A in 2016. Also stole 21 bases in 25 attempts across two levels.

Scouting Report
A converted catcher, Long is a plus runner who has only played the infield for two seasons. He’s raw defensively (especially his footwork) but improving. He’s twitchy, athletic, has great range, and should be average at second base with reps and an average arm.

Long takes big, uppercut hacks and has a propensity to drift onto his front foot early, both of which leave him vulnerable to strikeouts. His footwork is noisy and I’ve seen him ditch his leg kick with two strikes to try to be compact, but he didn’t look comfortable with it and I think it robs Long of some power, which is the most appealing aspect of his profile.

He also has plus bat speed and a swing path that should allow him to get to his power regularly even he does swing and miss quite a bit. He has above-average raw, pull-heavy power, though Long can also muscle balls out the other way. He makes a lot of really hard contact and sprints for extra bases.

Many of the second-base prospects discussed in this series have been hit-before-power offensive prospects. Long is the first one I’ve come across with the opposite. I think Long has a puncher’s chance to be an above-average regular. He hit well in the Florida State League for the last month and a half of the season at age 20, is athletic, has good makeup, is likely to play a premium position and has power.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.5 WAR

shedric-long-likelihood-of-outcomes

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Mt. Paran (GA)
Age 19 Height 6’2 Weight 194 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 40/55 20/50 70/70 40/55 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .303/.374/.421 in Pioneer League after signing.

Scouting Report
Raw and explosive, Trammell hit well during his aggressive post-draft stint in the Pioneer League. He has the malleable physical characteristics typically associated with multi-sport prep studs — Trammell was a dominant running back in high school — in his legs, power projection and the potential to play a premium defensive position.

A plus-plus runner who stole 24 bases (77% success rate) in just over 60 games, Trammell clearly has the wheels to play a quality center field, but his routes there are raw and his below -verage arm will push him to left field should he fail to progress as a defender in center. He actually spent more time in left field in his 60 pro games than he did in center field, partly due to the presence of T.J. Friedl and Jose Siri, who both also have the physical tools to play center. Trammell’s speed would also be an asset in left but a move would mean more pressure on the bat, which is similarly raw.

While possessing some idea of the strike zone, his feel for hitting is undercooked and his quality of contact is inconsistent. He’ll likely have to make some adjustments at some point and, when that time comes, it will be interesting to see if Cincinnati has him prioritize contact (which might make him an intriguing leadoff option) or if they bet on the power projection and try to mold him into the power/premium-defense type of player that’s becoming more popular. There’s obviously risk and uncertainty associated with a developmental project like this but it’s hard to find players with this kind of upside as late in the draft as the Reds were able to find Trammell.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.0 WAR

taylor-trammell-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 1st Round, 2011 from Alhambra HS (CA)
Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 40/45 50/60 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted just 34.5% ground-ball rate and 18.8% HR/FB rate in 37 big-league innings.

Scouting Report
It was a rough year for Stephenson, who went the final four months of the season without a scoreless outing. His changeup has passed his curveball as his most effective secondary weapon, with the latter at times lacking any modicum of depth and sometimes grading out as a 30 on the scouting scale. Stephenson threw more of a splitter in high school and that grip was scrapped for a straight change early in pro ball, but his change improved when the Reds allowed Stephenson to go back to something more closely resembling his high-school grip. He still produces efforted velocity at the expense of command, with a fastball in the 90-97 mph range that mostly sits 93-94 with a slightly above-average spin rate.

The curveball tilts in anywhere between 77-83 mph, acts like a slider and is best kept down and out of the zone as it doesn’t have the movement to compete within it. Stephenson’s changeup bottoms out like a mid-80s splitter beneath the bats of both left- and right-handed hitters and Stephenson maintains his fastball’s arm speed when he throws it. He’ll sometimes cut his change (intentionally or otherwise), which can at times confuse PITCHf/x into thinking he’s throwing his breaking ball. The pitch is heavy enough to induce weak, ground-ball contact in the zone, something none of Stephenson’s other offerings can do. I think the changeup will be plus at maturity.

Stephenson used to sit 95-plus with big movement and touch 99 while showing flashes of a plus curveball. He wasn’t that guy in 2016. The command was already a potential barrier to a rotation spot and now repertoire depth might be as well. There is, of course, always a chance Stephenson recaptures the stuff that once made him a potential No. 2 starter, though the command will need to come for that, as well. I’m projecting Stephenson as a late-inning reliever, where I think his velocity would benefit from shorter bursts of action. He could also be an inefficient No. 4 or 5.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.6 WAR

robert-stephenson-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Clemson
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/50 30/45 40/40 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .339/.465/.611 at Clemson this past year.

Scouting Report
In what was a great year for college catching, Okey had perhaps the most well-rounded collection of tools with a terrific chance to catch, hit and hit for some power, even if none of his tools are plus.

Okey played for Team USA four different times, once on the 16U team, 18U team and twice on the Collegiate National team. He has terrific makeup and leadership qualities and was receptive to instruction from Reds coach Corky Miller during instructional league. He has some swing-and-miss issues brought about by general stiffness and some noise in his hands that can cause his barrel to get into the hitting zone late. Nonetheless, the combination of a good approach, pitch recognition and simplistic hitter’s footwork should help mitigate what’s going on with the hands and allow Okey to get to his average power. Most of his meaningful contact comes to his pull side, but Okey is capable of hitting to all fields.

Defensively, Okey is an average receiver with an average arm and fringe to average movement and blocking skills. He’s in excellent physical shape, plays hard, has good awareness on the bases. I think Okey profiles as an average regular.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.6 WAR

chris-okey-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: Undrafted Free Agent, 2016 from Nevada
Age 21 Height 5’10 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 45/50 30/40 70/70 50/60 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .401/.494/.563 at Nevada.

Scouting Report
Some teams clearly didn’t know Friedl was draft eligible (the reasons for this are still unclear), while others claim to have known but either objected to his asking price or didn’t think much of him. After scouts got a look at him this summer with Team USA and discovered he was (a) really good and (b) eligible to be signed with whatever they had left in their draft pool, a small bidding war ensued. The Reds signed Friedl to a deal that included a $735,000 bonus, the most ever for a domestic undrafted free agent.

Friedl is a plus-plus runner, posting times to first right around 4.0 seconds flat during instructional league. He has the speed and athleticism for center field, though he played left field for Team USA and looked terrific there, as well. He has above-average bat speed, loose, strong wrists that whip the bat through the zone and good hand-eye coordination. Friedl is also an exceptional bunter and regularly bunts for hits. He has below-average game power, as his swing is more geared for contact than loft (though he will turn on balls up and in).

The average center fielder hit .259/.324/.407 in 2016. I think that’s in play for Friedl and he has the speed to be plus in center field. He has a fourth-outfielder floor and a chance to be an everyday player.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Kennesaw Mtn HS (GA)
Age 20 Height 6’4 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 55/60 30/50 30/30 30/45 70/70

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Lost all but 39 non-rehab games due to injuries.

Scouting Report
I’m not ready to give up on Stephenson, who had a lost 2016 due to a concussion and a wrist injury that required surgery at year’s end. While those are both legitimate excuses for Stephenson’s struggles, they also add another shovel full of risk to the already heaping mound associated with his profile.

Stephenson popped up a bit late during the 2015 draft process because he didn’t play much on the prep showcase circuit as a rising senior. Scouts didn’t see him hitting against nor catching the elite pitchers in his class very often (which led to some uncertainty about his ability to do those things) and, despite some issues with breaking balls early the following spring, Stephenson quelled those concerns as the draft approached and was at one point a dark-horse candidate for its No. 1 overall selection.

At his best, Stephenson looked like a potentially solid-average defensive catcher with plus-plus pure arm strength and future plus raw power into which he might sufficiently tap to hit near the middle of a big-league lineup. The Reds drafted him 13th overall and had him skip the AZL despite his rawness (though it is worth noting that Stephenson was old for his class and turned 19 just a few weeks after the draft) and sent him straight to the Pioneer League. He began his first full pro season in the Midwest League and never got off the ground due to injury.

When scouts did see Stephenson in 2016, the reports weren’t great. The power and arm strength are still clearly present, but some of the quick twitch that granted optimism about Stephenson’s defensive profile (you need to be pretty quick to catch in general, but especially if you’re as large as Stephenson) was gone.

A lost year of development for a raw-for-his-age prospect is bad news and Stephenson added two significant injuries to a resume already packed with risk. But his ceiling remains sky-high, perhaps as high as any player in this system, and I think that’s worthy of patience.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 40/40 20/35 60/60 50/60 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
The Reds were linked to Rodriguez for a long time, dating back to before the start of the 2016-2017 July 2nd period, during which they signed him with a $7 million bonus. But Rodriguez’s patience (which had its own price) allowed the Reds to have a better overall J2 class.

He’s an excellent athlete and plus runner which, together, make for a very entertaining and acrobatic brand of defense. Despite possessing just an average arm, Rodriguez makes well-timed, accurate throws from all sorts of awkward platforms because he’s so athletic and could be a plus defensive shortstop at maturity.

Offensively, Rodriguez has above-average bat speed and some bat control, but his swing doesn’t remain in the hitting zone for very long. He swung and missed quite a bit during instructional league, but it had been quite a while since Rodriguez had gotten regular game reps. Rodriguez had altered his footwork and was using a bigger leg kick by the end of instructional league, which I think was better for his timing and might unlock more power than he showed in Cuba. I’ve ticked up my game-power projections for Rodriguez compared to my July report as a result.

Rodriguez profiles as a glove-first, low-end regular or utility man. I think he’ll be the first player from his July 2nd class to debut in the majors.

12. Rookie Davis, RHP
Drafted: 14th Round, 2011 from Dixon HS (NC)
Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 235 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/55 55/60 40/45 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 15% strikeout rate at Double-A this year after posting 25% mark at High-A (with Yankees system) in 2015.

Scouting Report
Davis is a physical beast and a sneaky athlete (he was committed to play both ways at ECU before signing an over slot deal in 2011 with New York) who repeats his delivery well and fills up the strike zone with a well-angled, low-90s fastball. He was acquired by Cincinnati after a breakout year in 2015 in the deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. New York seems to be able to conjure pitching prospects out of thin air these days and Davis was touching roughly 95 at peak in 2015. This year, he was more consistently 90-92 with plane and some movement and his strikeout rate dipped. Scouts who saw him each of the last two years don’t see quite the same arm speed they did in 2015.

But Davis’ fastball still plays as average and his best pitch is an above-average curveball that he buries beneath the bats of both left- and right-handed hitters. His changeup is below average but the fastball/curveball/command combination should be enough for Davis to pitch at the back of a rotation and eat a ton of innings thanks to his physicality and efficient strike-throwing ability.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

rookie-davis-likelihood-of-outcomes

13. Phil Ervin, OF
Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Samford
Age 24 Height 5’11 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/55 30/45 55/50 40/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Produced 13% walk rate, .160 ISO in 2016.

Scouting Report
At Samford, Ervin was toolsy, physical beast with big raw power and straight-line speed but very little feel to hit and a small-school pedigree. His lack of bat control and the general stiffness in his swing make it hard for him to make quality contact, and he hits lots of pop ups and weak fly balls. His breaking-ball recognition and patience help him hunt pitches he can drive, but Ervin doesn’t square much up. He has above-average raw power but hasn’t slugged above .400 for a pro season since 2013, when he was a college draftee playing mostly in the Pioneer League.

The body is maxed out and Ervin is 24 so probably no power projection left here. He’s an above-average runner and saw some time in center field this year but doesn’t have the speed to play there regularly.

If Ervin can find a way to tap into that power more consistently, then he’ll be a big leaguer. I think it’s likely to be as the smaller half of a corner-outfield platoon.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.5 WAR

phil-ervin-likelihood-of-outcomes

14. Sal Romano, RHP
Drafted: 23rd Round, 2011 from Southington HS (CT)
Age 23 Height 6’5 Weight 260 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
70/70 55/55 40/45 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded strikeout and walk rates of 22% and 5%, respectively, in 2016.

Scouting Report
A massive righty with a heavy, downhill mid-90s fastball in the 93-96 range (that will touch 98), Romano also has a sharp, slightly above-average slider that’s he learned to locate consistently to his glove side. Romano’s command improved in 2016 and he throws more than enough strikes to continue to start, though some look at his long arm action, the visible effort in his upper back during delivery, and wonder if eventually he’ll need to move to the bullpen where he’d probably be touching 100. His changeup is behind, too, but he’s improved his slider and command somewhat late during development (huge, northeastern body so not really surprising) and has an idea how to use his slider against lefties.

I think there’s a chance Romano makes it as a No. 4 or 5 starter. If not, the fallback option could be the ninth inning.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.9 WAR

sal-romano-likelihood-of-outcomes

15. Tyler Mahle, RHP
Drafted: 7th Round, 2013 from Westminster HS (CA)
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
40/45 50/50 50/55 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded strikeout and walk rates of 21% and 7%, respectively, in 2016.

Scouting Report
Mahle is a well-built strike-thrower with potential plus command and an above-average changeup, but his lack of fastball velocity (lots of 87-92 without a much movement this year, though he’ll show you 94) and the way the pitch plays down against lefties, who see it early out of his hand, cloud his profile. He has an average, slurvy breaking ball that he can bury beneath the strike zone, but it doesn’t play well in it on pure stuff. Some right-handed hitters have trouble picking the ball up out of Mahle’s hand because of the way he cuts himself off during his delivery and throws across his body.

There’s enough here to mitigate some of Mahle’s issues (the deception vs righties, the changeup against lefties) but Double-A hitters took a liking to his fastball last year and the flashes of pinpoint command he’s shown will need to become a regular thing as he continues to develop. He turned 22 in September and still has some room on his frame, which might mean a tick more velo. I think Mahle profiles as a No. 5 starter, but the ceiling is probably a half grade better than that if he can somehow squeeze more out of the fastball.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.7 WAR

tyler-mahle-likelihood-of-outcomes

40 FV Prospects

16. Keury Mella, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Dominican Republic
Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 55/60 45/50 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Allowed just single run — and recorded 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio — over 7.0 innings in lone appearance at Triple-A.

Scouting Report
Mella has a physical starter’s body and delivery (despite the way he throws across his body) and the chance to develop a mid-rotation starter’s repertoire, but he’s a fringe athlete, 23 years old, had a tough time missing bats in A-ball this year and his control is well below average.

I’ve seen Mella touch 98, but he’s mostly 90-95 during his starts with some late wiggle. His curveball flashes plus and has the depth and bite to miss bats in the strike zone, as well as beneath it. His changeup is fringey but Mella has a good, loose arm action, and I think it could be an average change at peak. His delivery isn’t especially violent, he just doesn’t repeat it well, and Mella isn’t the kind of athlete who merits much more command projection. I think it’s worth continuing to give Mella looks as a starter simply because he has a better chance of figuring it out than many of the other likely relievers in this system (strap in, there are 10). If he does, he’s a solid No. 4 or 5 starter or maybe even an effective multi-inning reliever. Mella’s velo has ticked up in shorter outings in the past and moving him to the bullpen could allow him to sit 94 or better with a plus curveball and average change. I think that would be pretty interesting for a few innings at a time and allow more margin for error on the command.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.0 WAR

keury-mella-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2008 from Dominican Republic
Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command
60/60 70/70 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 74 strikeouts, 39 walks in 62 innings.

Scouting Report
Hernandez was a lost cause who couldn’t get out of the Giants’ complex in Scottsdale the first half decade of his career and was released. The Diamondbacks (who scout the Indy Leagues hard) saw him in the Frontier League and signed him but didn’t protect him in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft that winter and lost him to the Reds.

Hernandez sat 95-98 for me during instructional league but has touched 100 in the past. The fastball plays down against lefties, who can pick it up early out of his hand due to a low arm angle. His “curveball” (it’s a slider) is comfortably plus and flashes better than that with late-biting two-plane movement. I’ve seen it tilt in between 85-87 mph and it is quite vicious.

Hernandez has 30 control and won’t pitch for very long in the big leagues without significantly improving his ability to throw strikes. Even during a dominant final few weeks of the season, Hernandez walked 10 over 15 innings. He’s 24 and hasn’t pitched above A-ball, but if Hernandez learns to harness his stuff he’s going to pitch at the back of a big-league bullpen. He was added to the Reds’ 40 man ahead of the Rule 5 deadline and should debut in the big leagues next year if for no other reason than for the Reds to see what they have here.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR

ariel-hernandez-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Mexico
Age 25 Height 6’0 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 45/45 30/40 50/50 40/45 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .297/.324/.387 at Double-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
Elizalde continues to hit as he climbs to the upper levels of the minors, this time through a full year at Double-A. He’s lost what was once fringe speed for center field and now fits best in right, where his arm still profiles despite having required Tommy John in 2013. Elizalde has great bat control, hand-eye, makes all-fields contact and hits with a quiet grace and comfort. He lacks corner-worthy power, though, and really only generates home-run pop on balls down and in, which he golfs out. I think the bat is strong enough to make him a big leaguer in some capacity, perhaps as the bigger half of a platoon with Phil Ervin, but there isn’t enough power for everyday duty.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.1 WAR

sebastian-elizalde-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba
Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 172 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 50/60 40/45 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Gutierrez was in the U.S. and cleared by OFAC and MLB for quite a while before he ultimately inked a deal with the Reds for $4.75 million. He was throwing for scouts in workouts and at spring-training complexes while stateside, allowing them to check on on his sometimes inconsistent stuff. Gutierrez was constantly tinkering with his delivery during this time, a sign that he’s athletic enough to make adjustments when he’s asked but also an indication that he had a difficult time finding something with which he felt comfortable. He struggles with timing aspects of his mechanics, can sometimes become too horizontally rotational and land way off line to the plate, and not all scouts loved his arm action.

But Gutierrez does two things that you really can’t teach: throw hard and spin a breaking ball. He’ll touch 97 but sat mostly 90-94 in workouts and has an above-average, sweeping curveball. The changeup and command are not only both behind but especially hard to project because he hasn’t had many in-game reps to hone either of them, and that arm action isn’t changeup-friendly. He didn’t pitch during games in instructional league and only threw bullpens, as Cincy prioritized a strength program (something with which most Cuban pitchers have little experience prior to signing) to build up even strength in his shoulders and hopefully avoid some of the health issues with which Raisel Iglesias has dealt.

The fastball/curveball combination are enough to make Gutierrez a solid bullpen piece, but the ceiling is higher than that (perhaps significantly so) if either or both of the changeup and command develop. There are a lot of unknown variables here though, especially for a 21-year-old.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Seguin HS (TX)
Age 20 Height 6’3 Weight 240 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
70/70 55/60 40/45 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 84 strikeouts in 69 innings.

Scouting Report
Santillan’s control looked like it had taken a step forward during extended spring training after he and his upper-90s fastball were dangerously wild late last summer in the AZL. But his strike-throwing regressed late in the year after a promotion to the Midwest League and he walked 24 hitters in 30 innings to close out the season.

There’s a good chance Santillan ends up in the bullpen, where his fastball, which tops out around 99, and potentially plus mid-80s slider are the kind stereotypically found in high-leverage innings. He has a big, sturdy body and his arm works well, but I fear the yawning chasm between where his control is and where it will need to be for Santillan to remain a starter is too large to bridge.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.0 WAR

antonio-santillan-likelihood-of-outcomes

21. Jimmy Herget, RHP
Drafted: 6th Round, 2015 from South Florida
Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/55 55/60 45/50 45/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Held lefties to .613 OPS despite low arm slot.

Scouting Report
Herget might be the most entertaining arm in the entire system. The side-arming, rec-spec-wearing Herget pitches at 92-96 with his deceptive, moving fastball which he regularly throws for strikes. He complements it with an above-average slider and infrequent changeup. He deals with lefties by back-dooring the slider, throwing the changeup more frequently and significantly altering the timing of his delivery. I think his stuff has a chance to play in late innings against hitters from both sides. The deception will probably have less of an impact on hitters as he moves up, but there’s an outside chance he pitches in the eighth inning or later.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR

jimmy-herget-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from LA-Lafayette
Age 23 Height 5’9 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 40/40 30/30 55/55 50/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Stole 25 bases (with 76% success rate) in 2016.

Scouting Report
Trahan lit up the Sun Belt all three years he was at Louisiana-Lafayette, walking more than he K’d in each of his three seasons and stealing 45 bases during his career without being caught a single time. The Reds have smoothed out some of the noise in his hands during his setup, which has helped him continue to put the ball in play so far as a pro, but he lacks power and only profiles as a singles/doubles hitter that hits near the bottom of a big-league lineup.

Some think there’s enough in the bat to allow Trahan to profile as a low-end everyday shortstop. He’s fine at short defensively with passable range, actions and a plus arm, and he’s one of those high-effort players who gets the most out of his tools. I find the power output too suspect for him to yield everyday value and consider him more of a utility prospect.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR

blake-trahan-likelihood-of-outcomes

23. Nick Travieso, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2012 from Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)
Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/60 55/55 45/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Conceded 53 walks in 117 innings.

Scouting Report
A below-average athlete who struggles to repeat his delivery, Travieso projects as a reliever for me despite having developed an admirable changeup over the last two seasons.

Once a power fastball/slider righty who was touching 97-plus with his fastball, Travieso now sits more in the 92-94 range and will occasionally show scouts 95 or 96 with downhill plane. He has below-average command. His mid-80s slider is above average and he sells his changeup, which has modest fade, by mimicking his fastball’s arm speed.

Travieso’s delivery has some effort to it, but it isn’t ultraviolent or inherently wild; he just doesn’t repeat well because he’s not a great athlete. He has No. 4 starter stuff but I think the strike-throwing issues move him to relief, where the fastball velo might tick up.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

nick-travieso-likelihood-of-outcomes

24. Ian Kahaloa, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2015 from Cmpbell HS (HI)
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 50/55 40/50 30/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Was 18-year-old in Rookie ball.

Scouting Report
Up to 96 with downhill plane, Kahaloa has issues repeating his arm slot and works up in the strike zone a little too often. He has an average curveball that flashes above and the arm acceleration and athleticism to develop an average changeup down the road. He’s a potential No. 4 starter but is eons from the big leagues and has some current command issues (though he’s athletic enough to iron those out). Kahaloa only turned 19 in October but has some on-field maturity issues, at times getting visibly frustrated with his teammates for defensive mistakes. Kahaloa also tweeted about his forearm being “fucked” after he was removed from a start in September due to injury. These are minor elements of risk compared to the fact that he’s very young, raw and a bit undersized.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.1 WAR

ian-kahaloa-likelihood-of-outcomes

25. Juan Perez, UTIL
Drafted: 26th Round, 2011 from College of the Canyons
Age 25 Height 6’1 Weight 183 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 30/30 20/30 55/55 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .276/.310/.444 at Triple-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
Perez profiles as a pull-only, light-hitting utility man who is passable at short (doesn’t have the arm to play there every day) and in center field (not going to supplant Hamilton, though) but who lacks the power to play every day at second base, which is his most natural defensive fit. He also played left field in 2016 and has experience at third base. His defensive versatility and solid bat-to-ball skills should allow for some big-league value.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR

juan-perez-likelihood-of-outcomes

26. Josh VanMeter, UTIL
Drafted: 5th Round, 2013 from Norwell HS (IN)
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 165 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/60 35/40 30/40 40/40 40/45 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Walked in 12% of plate appearances at High-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
VanMeter has a selective approach and great bat-to-ball skills. I think he’ll be a plus hitter at maturity. He has 40 raw power. VanMeter spent much of 2016 at third base — and he’s played there a lot during Fall League — but he doesn’t have enough arm strength for the left side of the infield and projects as more of a second-base/left-field bench bat because there isn’t enough power here to play every day at those positions.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.5 WAR

josh-vanmeter-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Stanford
Age 24 Height 6’0 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 45/45 30/40 40/40 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Was hitting .295/.372/.428 in 72 games prior to fracturing finger in 2015. Hit .228/.327/.370 after returning in 2015 and .232/.335/.337 this past season.

Scouting Report
Blandino’s sweet right-handed swing, bat control and timing look like they belong to a future plus hitter, but he struggled with Double-A pitching this year (as he did in a cup of coffee there in 2015) and looked overmatched by good velocity in the 2015 Fall League. He still has an excellent feel for the strike zone, as he did in college, and can hit the ball to all fields, but the bat speed drew mixed reviews from scouts with whom I spoke.

Slightly built and without much, if any, physical projection, Blandino was never likely to hit for the sort of game power that profiles at second or third base, and he doesn’t have the athleticism or range for short. His most likely path to playing time was simply to hit so much that his below-average game power didn’t matter. But Blandino hasn’t hit since returning from a finger fracture in July of last year and, suddenly, what was once the foundation of his prospect status is questionable.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

alex-blandino-likelihood-of-outcomes

28. Tanner Rainey, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from West Alabama
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 235 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/70 55/60 40/40 35/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Struck out 20 batters in 12.1 innings after moving to bullpen.

Scouting Report
Rainey was a pure reliever at West Alabama. (It allowed him to play both ways, and he hit 19 homers as a senior and slugged .842. Seriously.) Nevertheless, the Reds ran him out as a starter this year to see if his athleticism would allow for quick development of his changeup and command. It did not, and Rainey struggled until moving into the bullpen for the last few weeks of the season. He dominated there, with his fastball reaching 98 and his curveball flashing plus. That two-pitch combination could play toward the back of a bullpen and Rainey could move quickly. He just turned 24 and hasn’t pitched above Low-A, but he could rocket to the big leagues next year if just allowed to air it out in the bullpen.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.2 WAR

taylor-rainey-likelihood-of-outcomes

29. Nick Hanson, RHP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Prior Lake HS (MN)
Age 18 Height 6’6 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/70 40/45 40/50 30/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Has thrown just 16 pro innings.

Scouting Report
A huge, projectable right-handed prep arm who was 93-96 during instructional league, Hanson’s also has a pretty short arm action for a pitcher his size and had trouble getting on top of his curveball as an amateur. It was more slurvy and two-planed during instructs and it’s possible changes are being made. His best secondary right now is a deceptive changeup in the upper 80s that gets swings and misses in the dirt like a splitter. Both are below average right now.

Hanson is a long-term project and might never develop the repertoire depth and command to start, but he has late-bloomer traits at his size and geographical background. He’s a low-level lottery ticket with rotation upside.

30. Ryan Hendrix, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Texas A&M
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 50/60 40/40 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 31 strikeouts in 26.2 innings.

Scouting Report
A pure relief prospect with closing experience whose stock was trending down after a dominant sophomore year, Hendrix was 92-95 for me during instructional league and flashing a plus curveball in the 92-95 mph range, though it was often fringey. The breaking ball is much more effective down and out of the zone than within it. I don’t think the stuff is explosive enough to close, but it should play in middle relief, at least — with a chance for a bit more than that — if the 96-98 mph fastball Hendrix flashed at times in college returns.

*****

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)
Michael Beltre, OF, 0.8 KATOH+ WAR – Beltre has shown a great deal of progression since his stateside debut in 2015. He’s bigger, stronger, hitting for more power and more consistently making hard contact. He’s an above-average runner and probably not fast enough for center. I think he’s going to hit and have more gap-to-gap power rather than hit home runs, which may not profile in a corner.

Jose Siri, OF, 0.1 KATOH+ – Siri has big tools and a traditional right-field profile despite a small frame. He has above-average raw power and arm strength and is a plus runner but has huge swing-and-miss issues. Reports on the makeup are not glowing. He has an everyday player ceiling but represents extreme risk.

Zach Vincej, UTIL, 0.6 KATOH+ – Vincej is a fundamentally sound defensive shortstop without the speed (he’s a 40 runner) to play there regularly. He had a good six weeks of Fall League but Double-A pitchers got to see him for the second year in a row and began to recognize his lack of power and attack the strike zone accordingly.

Max Wotell, LHP – Acquired along with Dilson Herrera from New York in the Jay Bruce deal, Wotell is a slightly built young lefty whose fastball will touch 94 and sit in the low 90s during extended outings. He has excellent curveball feel and the pitch could be plus at peak. His size, potential platoon issues (it’s a low slot, long arm action) and the effort in the delivery make him a likely reliever, to say nothing of his current control issues. He hasn’t pitched above Rookie ball.

Carlton Daal, SS – Daal barely played in 2016 due to three separate stints on the DL with injuries that included a concussion and a shoulder strain. He has spent significant time on the shelf with injury during each of the last three seasons. That’s robbed Daal of the in-game at-bats he needs to develop an acceptable offensive profile. His swing is long and his quality of contact is poor, with most of his ability to get on base reliant upon his solid bat control and plus speed. He’s an explosive defender and has a higher defensive ceiling than Trahan and (some would argue) Rodriguez, but his issues with the bat are a significant barrier.

Brandon Dixon, DH, 0.6 KATOH+ – Dixon’s power on contact is incredible and he laid waste to the Arizona Fall League for a second straight year. Despite above-average straight-line speed, he has no position. His feel for defense is poor and has been at every spot he’s played (everywhere but catcher and shortstop) in four pro seasons. Additionally, Dixon’s approach is overaggressive and his swing has some inherent swing and miss, two things that magnify Dixon’s inability to reach base. He’s interesting because of the power, but it’s hard to find a big-league role for a player like this.

Stuart Turner, C, 1.1 KATOH+ – Turner is an above-average defensive catcher with an average arm. His approach at the plate is compact and simple. He profiles as a backup catcher who hits an empty .260.

Jon Moscot, RHP, 0.9 KATOH+ – Moscot features an 88-92 mph fastball, below-average spin rate, average slider, fringe curveball and change. Up-and-down depth arm.

Tejay Antone, RHP, 3.2 KATOH+ – Throwing a low-90s fastball with movement, curveball that flashes above average, and changeup below that, Anton also varies his delivery’s timing to mess with hitters and throws plenty of strikes. The lack of repertoire depth makes him more of an up-and-down or potential relief arm.

Wennigton Romero, LHP, 2.2 KATOH+ – Romero sits 88-92 with good curveball feel, very little physical projection, long arm action but able to locate. Potential back-end starter for me.

Ismael Guillon, LHP, 2.1 KATOH+ – A changeup artist with a fastball that mostly sits 91-94, Guillon lacks a viable breaking ball.

Alejandro Chacin, RHP, 0.8 KATOH+ – Chacin throws a low- to mid-90s fastball and average slider that could work in middle relief as both play up, due to arm slot, against righties.

Andrew Jordan, RHP, 1.7 KATOH+ – Jordan features a fringe fastball that was whacked in the Pioneer League but has also exhibits good feel for an above-average slider. Relief potential.

Taylor Sparks, 3B, 0.2 KATOH+ – Sparks had an interesting raw power/speed/glove combination at UC-Irvine, but his swing-and-miss issues have followed him to pro ball. He’s often late on hittable pitches and pushes weak contact the other way. Sparks turns 24 when the season starts and had trouble keeping his batting average above the Mendoza line at Double-A last year. His raw power is still interesting, but at this point I find it very unlikely that he hits enough to get to it.

Tony Renda, 2B, 3.7 KATOH+ – Renda’s a bat-first low-end utility man who can’t play a premium position and has no game power. Ryan Theriot was a statistical comp.

Moises Nova, RHP, 0.5 KATOH+ – Nova’s an unathletic righty with a fringe breaking ball, but was touching 96 for me during extended and has some breaking-ball feel.

Gavin LaValley, 1B, 0.6 KATOH+ – He features a good feel to hit, lacks power for first base and the body won’t allow him to play anywhere else.

Nick Howard, RHP – Howard has a first-rounder’s pedigree and was once pitching with a heavy, low-90s fastball and potential plus breaking ball. The pitcher we saw in 2016 (31 walks in 20 innings) was not a prospect and we just have to be patient and see how things look in the spring.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.
Angelo Gumbs, OF, 0.2 KATOH+
A second-round pick by the Yankees out of a California high school in 2010, Gumbs was a legitimate prospect for a while, reaching the High-A Florida State League during just his age-20 season. A combination of injury and ineffectiveness, however, compelled New York to release him last winter. The Reds signed him and, at age 23, he played the entire season in the High-A Florida State League.

When a player is forced to repeat a minor-league level, that can represent a developmental warning flag. When he’s forced to fourpeat a level, that indicates that his prospects for future employment have probably become irredeemably obscure. But Gumbs was a much different hitter in 2016. Regard, by way of example, the following table.

Angelo Gumbs, 2011-16
Season Team Age PA K%
2011 Yankees (A-) 18 220 25.9%
2012 Yankees (A) 19 278 21.6%
2013 Yankees (A) 20 218 25.2%
2014 Yankees (A+) 21 354 27.4%
2015 Yankees (A+) 22 202 22.3%
2016 Reds (A+) 23 403 11.9%
Includes every level at which Gumbs recorded 200-plus plate appearances.

As part of the Cincinnati system, Gumbs produced the lowest strikeout rate of his career by roughly 10 points in a substantive sample of plate appearances. This sort of improvement is unusual — and, in light of Gumbs’ pedigree and relative youth, notable. He’s confined to a corner-outfield spot and would appear to lack some of the athleticism that rendered him a prospect originally. But his case at least merits attention.

*****

System Overview

This is an excellent system despite a lack of star power up top because it’s extremely deep with a healthy middle class of likely big-league contributors. This club had a good draft and added two of the bigger name international free agents available while stumbling into T.J. Friedl, who fits in snugly in a system with quite a bit of up-the-middle talent. In addition to the three catchers listed above, Jake Turnbull, Pabel Manzanero and Ryan Cassidy-Brown are all potential backups. This system is also full of more plus fastballs than I’ve overviewed here. Dauri Moreta was up to 95 with an average changeup for me during instructs for God’s sake. One of those guys might pop up next year. The Reds will have the chance to add to the top of this list with the draft’s No. 2 overall pick. I expect the top of the draft to be dense with college pitching but Jeren Kendall and Hunter Greene are probably coming off the board up top, as well.



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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.


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