The Cincinnati Reds are down to just three Opening Day starters in the lineup, and at five under .500 and 11.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, it’s time for the Reds to look ahead.
Optimists could cite the 5.5 games the Reds are from the last wild-card spot, so long as they also name the seven teams that would have to be jumped just to get there.
If the Reds start their rebuild sooner rather than later, this already-impressive list of 15 prospects could be exponentially better, perhaps even the best farm in all of baseball. The list is comprised by me alone, using data and performance to arrange accordingly. Baseball America’s “2015 Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects” article was used as a foundation.
15. Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B
This eighth-round draft pick flies under the radar like a drone. But he’s demonstrating potential in the minor leagues. He’s slashing .263/.376/.346, an OBP that would get a firm handshake from Joey Votto.
But his career numbers in four minor league seasons are what got him on this list. .288/.376/.436 is good enough to let sit beneath a warm lamp for a few more seasons and look in on occasionally.
I still think Todd Frazier could be moved this season, and if he goes, the maturation of Mejias-Brean becomes a lot more important.
14. Kyle Waldrop
In now his sixth minor league season and second in Double-A Pensacola, this outfielding first baseman is proving to be a useful asset in the organization. He’s hit at every level he’s played and is now slashing .284/.320/.451 in Double-A.
He has six home runs and 31 RBI. This 12th-round draft pick from 2010 could end the year in Triple-A playing this well. The Reds’ cupboard doesn’t include many big-hitting prospects right now, so Waldrop’s development becomes more notable as he continues to climb.
13. Antonio Santillan
Santillan is a power pitcher with scouting reports showing him throwing his fastball from 93-95 mph with the ability to reach 98 mph. He also has a strong 12-to-6 curveball that comes to hitters in the mid-80s.
However, Santillan is far from a finished product and will need some work. He also lacks a changeup, but the organization will develop him as a starter.
With the young nucleus of Reds starting pitching talent, they could definitely afford to take a pitcher like this. The upside seems enormous with proper instruction.
12. Aristides Aquino, OF
The 21-year-old right-hander wasn’t hitting that well in Single-A Dayton, but he only played 16 games this season before breaking his wrist. He’s slashing .226/.288/.321 in 53 at-bats. This right fielder is years away from ever contributing, and with Jesse Winker and Jay Bruce in front of him, he’s not likely to be in the picture any time soon.
11. Phil Ervin, OF
The 2013 first-round draft pick has gone largely unnoticed, like time during an episode of Game of Thrones. He didn’t make Baseball America’s Reds prospect list, just two seasons after being drafted in the first round.
He’s having a decent year in High-A, slashing .258/.336/.429 with nine home runs and 35 RBI. He’s just 22 years old, so he’s got time to make his way through the ranks and back into prospect notoriety. It’d be nice to see him end the year in Double-A Pensacola.
10. Yorman Rodriguez, OF
The right-handed 22 year old “is a “five-tool player” according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. He’s slashing .273/.309/.431 with five home runs and 22 RBI in Triple-A Louisville.
You might recall seeing Rodriguez with the Reds last year as a September call-up. He hit .222 in only 27 at-bats, which is nothing worth analyzing. Manager Bryan Price told Fay:
I don’t know that Yorman is quite to the same place developmentally because he hasn’t played any Triple-A yet. But this is a great opportunity for him to give us an idea of what he offers at this point in time in his development. He does provide us with a guy that we’re all organizationally excited about being an impact player in the near future.
9. Nick Howard, RHP
Nick Howard had a stretch of starts in late April and early May that ended with him returning to the bullpen. He gave up 10 earned runs in 8.2 innings over three starts and never made it out of the fourth. Since then, he’s been back in the bullpen and doing alright.
He’s 3-2 with a 6.67 ERA and a brutal 2.09 WHIP. FanGraphs.com expects Howard to arrive in the majors by 2017, but the capacity remains unknown. It doesn’t appear to be a starting role anymore, but considering the Reds’ bullpen, that might work out.
8. Nick Travieso, RHP
The Reds’ 2012 first-round draft pick is doing well as a starter for the High-A Daytona Tortugas. He’s 3-5 with a 3.02 ERA in a little over 60 innings of work. His 55 strikeouts in 62.2 innings is good, and his 1.32 WHIP is more a reflection of the 65 hits in that span instead of 17 walks.
Travieso will hopefully make it to Double-A this year, though at age 21, there should be no rush.
7. Amir Garrett, LHP
The 6’5″ former St. John’s University basketball player is still having a good year with the High-A Daytona Tortugas. In 12 starts, he’s 2-5 with a healthy 3.20 ERA. In 59 innings pitched, he has 66 strikeouts and 24 walks.
6. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
Anthony DeSclafani has been so vital to the Reds this year, despite how bad the campaign is going. Without him and his 5-4 record and 3.53 ERA, things would be a lot worse.
“Disco,” as he’s referred to, is a vital part of the young nucleus of starting pitching that the Reds will depend upon when the rebuild finally gets started and Johnny Cueto leaves for greener pastures. But at over 71 innings pitched, you wonder how long the Reds will let the young right-hander throw this year before shutting him down. He’s never thrown more than 129 innings.
5. Tyler Stephenson, C
This year’s first-round draft pick was widely considered the best overall catcher in this year’s class. With Devin Mesoraco a few painful squats away from playing left field, it’s a wise choice. The young right-hander hit .425 in 65 at-bats with eight home runs and 25 RBI for his Atlanta high school.
His position on this list is high, but having nothing more than high school numbers to assess makes it difficult, so we’re going on hype. If he’s as good as scouts think he is, the Reds have added an enormous piece to the farm.
4. Michael Lorenzen, RHP
Almost as impressive as rookie teammate DeSclafani has been the kid who was pitching in Double-A just last year. Michael Lorenzen is still experiencing growing pains, but in large, he’s been stellar. He’s now 1-2 with a 4.01 ERA but is still showing great promise.
At Great American Ball Park, a hitter’s Valhalla, batters are hitting just .215 against Lorenzen. If not for the five home runs at Small Park, his home 4.10 ERA would be a lot more impressive.
3. Jesse Winker, OF
Winker is finally catching fire at Double-A Pensacola. He’s slashing .250/.356/.365 with three home runs and 16 RBI. While not jumping off this page, it’s a lot better than he was doing at the end of April and early May.
Winker’s development is pivotal to this organization. Ranked as MLB’s No. 22 prospect overall in the top-100 prospects list, he looks to be the heir to right field if and when the Reds move Jay Bruce.
It’s probably a stretch to see him in Triple-A by the end of this year. A wrist injury derailed his progress for a bit, but he looks to be back on track.
2. Raisel Iglesias, RHP
Raisel Iglesias is currently on the disabled list. He’s sitting on a 1-1 record and a 5.11 ERA, but that’s in just four starts. And he’s only allowed more than three runs once, in his last start against the Washington Nationals. He still had eight strikeouts that game in 5.2 innings of work.
Along with DeSclafani and Lorenzen, Iglesias is a vital part of the Reds’ plans post-rebuild.
1. Robert Stephenson, RHP
Don’t look now, but here comes the Reds’ No. 1 prospect with aggression. He’s now 3-5 with a 3.67 ERA and 71 strikeouts in just over 61 innings of work. That’s ace-like strikeout stuff, and he’s not ranked in MLB’s top 100 prospects for nothing.
At No. 20, the baseball world expects big things from this right-hander. He’s been struggling since getting to Double-A three years ago, but he’s hit a stride. Stephenson’s only allowed four runs in his last four starts. He’s struck out 36 batters in that time.
Can Stephenson be the hood ornament on the Reds’ future starting rotation? It’s looking more positive down on the Reds farm. And depending on what the Reds can secure in return for all the talent they have to move, don’t be surprised if they end the year with one of baseball’s best farm systems.
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