Cincinnati Reds Top 30 Prospects

Three boys sit on the floor in the middle of a bedroom, the sound of silence is only interrupted by the crinkle made by packs of baseball cards being frantically unwrapped. The three young men are completely absorbed in the action, never looking up to see what the other has, simply focusing on their personal cache, sorting each player in ranking order from best to worst. The tallest of the three pre-teens pipes up in a strong Massachusetts accent. “I’ll trade you both Upper Deck David Justices and a Kevin Maas Rookie Card for the Barry Lahkin, Eric Davis, and Jose Rijo. Whaddaya think kid?!?” A swap happens, as the predator feasts he spots his prey, and moves on to his next conquest. “ You want to move some of those Rob Dibbles? I’d gladly take them off your hands for these Ozzie Cansecos and this Todd Van Poppel Future Star.” And just like that the gambler has won again.

These were some of my go to power moves back in my younger days as a card collector. A fan of Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, and the Nasty Boys, I stocked up on the early 90s Reds studs. This isn’t a joke to impress my Natti readers, I was a legit fan. Don’t believe me? Little Ralph had the freshest Jose Rijo “Big Head” shirt you’ve ever seen. There was just something about the Reds, their uniforms, and rich history that drew me in. I by no means have been a life long Reds fan, but I’ve always had at least a rooting interest in the club.

Since the early 90s contender years, mediocrity has become the norm in the Queen City. With the Reds qualifying for the playoffs just four times in the 28 years since their last pennant and title, it’s been a barren period in a once proud franchise’s history. The club has had string of talented offensive players over the years, including the current iteration that boasts one of the stronger hitting infield groups in the major leagues. Pitching on the other hand has been much harder to come by, outside a handful of bright spots over the years. Despite this, Cincinnati has continued to target premium college bats at the top of the draft and in the later rounds a mix of toolsy prep hitters and mashers from the collegiate ranks. The system has done a good job of acquiring talent through the draft in recent years making up for a collection of high priced busts on the international market. As good as this system is from a talent standpoint, it does not fit the needs of the major league club. Look for the Reds to acquire pitching at some point this season if they decide to move on from Scooter Gennett and possibly Eugenio Suarez. I’d like to say the Reds are a team on the rise, but they’ll need to invest in pitching depth before earning that distinction.

1. Nick Senzel, 3B/OF

Age: 23

Highest Level: AAA

.310/.378/.509, 6 HR, .199 ISO, 149 wRC+, 20.2% K%, 9.8% Bb%, 8 SB

There’s things in the world that make you think “that just ain’t right” and then there’s everything Nick Senzel has gone through. It’s not to say his last year has been tragic, but it’s close. Two bouts of vertigo, followed by an injury to his right index finger, followed by minor elbow surgery this off-season. I’m not sure what the Reds plan was as far as a promotion date, but it’s safe to assume we might not have seen him until September even if he was fully healthy. The 2018 season was supposed to be a season of experiments for Senzel as he worked out at several positions all over the diamond. A third baseman by trade, spurts at shortstop, second base, and the outfield have all taken place over the last 12-15 months. His ultimate defensive position is somewhat up in the air. Not for a lack of skills either, it’s like more of the opposite. His high baseball IQ, above-average arm, and steady glove that allow him to transition to multiple spots in the dirt, and now in the grass, with a rumored spot in center field waiting at Great American.

Three words, seventy hit tool. That’s not a joke either, outside Vladimir Guerrero Jr. we might be talking about the best hit tool in the minors the past 24 months. He’s short to the ball, with plus bat speed, shows no issue using the whole field. His power is above average at the moment with a hint toward possibly more ceiling to come in the power department. He balances patience and aggressiveness well in his approach, working counts but rarely passing on a pitch he feels he can hit. Senzel’s running is above average for a third baseman and about average for an outfielder, he is however an excellent base stealer, adding to the overall offensive profile. A future 6-WAR player through and through. If Senzel can shake the bad luck that’s followed him, he’s all but guaranteed a lot of time at the MLB level in 2019. ETA: 2019

2. Jonathan India, 3B 

Age: 21

Highest Level: A-

.240/.380/.433, 6 HR, .193 ISO, 129 wRC+, 23.9% K%, 15.2% Bb%, 6 SB

Selected fifth overall in the 2018 draft following a prolific collegiate career at Florida where he hit .310/.411/.530 with 31 home runs and 41 stolen bases in 193 games. India is a complete player with the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways. His feel for the strike zone, advanced approach, elite bat speed, and smart base running make him a multi-faceted offensive threat. While his good first step, natural instincts, and above-average throwing arm promise him a future in the dirt.

At the plate India’s bat speed, strong hands, and smooth hips stick out. He coils well and almost corkscrews in his follow through using his lower half and core to generate torque. It’s one of the better swings in the minors in my humble opinion and one I could spend hours watching. It’s actually kind of impressive just how balanced and fluid his motion is, even staying on line on pop-ups. His frame doesn’t scream middle of the order bat, but it’s easy to see there’s a lot more power there than you’d expect at first glance. Slight uppercut bat path, and it feels like he’s able to consistently make contact at the precise moment his bat path begins to rise, allowing him to drive balls to his pull side with regularity. A lot of India’s profile at the plate reminds me of Mookie Betts, if only from an aesthetic standpoint. Similar coil, similar trigger motion in their hands, and a heavy reliance on using elite bat speed to rip pitches to the pull side. That’s not to say India is some future MVP, but he has the rare pretty right-handed swing.

Overall there is a case to be made that India was the best player drafted in the 2018 class. If only due to his balance of skills, which on its face is not much different from what the Reds have in Senzel. It was an easy choice taking India over Trammell, as I have just as much faith in the former Florida star delivering a similar impact offensively while providing a significant amount more value in the field. Every year there’s a highly drafted college player with the ability to ascend to the bigs swiftly. ETA: 2020

3. Taylor Trammell, OF

Age: 21

Highest Level: A+

.277/.375/.406, 8 HR, .128 ISO, 129 wRC+, 22.8% K%, 12.6% Bb%, 25 SB

One of the most exciting offensive prospects in the game, Trammell’s baseline of athleticism is unmatched in the system, and is amongst the elite in all of baseball. He combines plus plus running ability, a good understanding of the strike zone, and projectable power. There’s still improvements to be made at the plate, starting with getting to more of his raw power. But he should be able to achieve this by adding some loft to his relatively linear swing. The other nit I can pick with Trammell’s game is his tendency to lose focus, meaning he doesn’t always play the game with a sense of urgency. That’s not the case in the batter’s box, his pitch recognition is downright unnatural. This advanced approach from a player as young as Trammell (he played the entire season at 20), combined with his natural contact ability and elite speed, give him a very high floor offensively.

The knocks on Trammell, and ultimately the reason he ranks third and not second are rooted in his below grade fielding ability. Particularly when you consider that premium athletes with plus-plus speed tend to have the defensive nature of the game come very easily. That is not the case with Trammell however, his routes to the ball are consistently poor, often making up for his bad angles with his plus foot speed. His throwing arm is a hard 40, not ideal for center, and likely a non-starter for right.

Despite the issues in the field, Trammell remains one of my favorite prospects in the game, and the type of talent fans throughout the game will appreciate for years to come. Sweet dreams are made of elite athletes with on base ability and developing power. ETA: 2021

4. Hunter Greene, RHP

Age: 19

Highest Level: A-

68.1 IP, 4.48 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 11.72 K/9, 3.03 Bb/9, .249 BAA

I’m not sure many first round picks have truly had the hype that Hunter Greene had surrounding him leading up to the 2017 draft. During his time at Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks, California Greene dominated on the mound and as a power-hitting shortstop, there were even rumors he could potentially play two-way professionally. Despite actually playing both ways out of the draft in rookie ball, the Reds were clear that they planned to develop Greene as a starter and that his days at the 6 were over.

Few pitchers burst with athleticism the way Greene does, his mechanics and lower half are machine-like, with his lower half moving with Swiss movement-like precision from his windup through his delivery. He delivers the ball from an over-the-top arm angle, adding some downhill plane to an otherwise flat fastball. What Greene has in velocity on his fastball, (hitting 100+ MPH on a regular basis), he lacks in movement. This limits the pitch’s overall effectiveness, and provides a somewhat pessimistic outlook if he continues to lean heavily on the pitch without adding some deception. His secondaries are led by a plus slider that generates swings and misses, a developing changeup, and a fringe hook.

Deep breath—now for the elbow strain. Greene was shut down in late July with an elbow injury that many feared was a pre-cursor for Tommy John surgery. It still might be, as he has yet to resume a throwing program, but vowed to be ready for spring in a recent interview with MLB.com. It’s certainly not an ideal situation for any pitcher, much less one who throws as hard as Greene does. There’s not much to point to either, at least outside his high octane velocity and just the general unnaturalness of pitching. If I were to pick nits, I’d say there’s some effort at the point of release, but not much. Health aside Greene is one of the ten best pure pitching talents in the minors. ETA: 2022

5. Tony Santillan, RHP

Age: 21

Highest Level: AA

149 IP, 3.08 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 8.09 K/9, 2.3 Bb/9, .250 BAA

A massive frame makes Santillan an opposing presence on the mound. Standing a stout 6-foot-4, the right-hander is every bit of his 240 listed pounds. That’s not to say Santillan is sloppy as much as thick in his lower half and barrel-chested. He uses his big frame well to generate velocity of his fastball and drive toward the plate as he explodes with his back foot. The fastball sits 92-94, touching 95 with downhill plan and run. His command of the pitch to both sides of the plate has improved with each passing season. His three-pitch mix features a pair of secondaries, an above-average to plus slider, and an average to fringe changeup with projection. There’s a chance for two plus pitches and an average third offering to neutralize lefties. 

The total package is a big bodied innings eater, with the ability to miss bats (11.5% swinging strike percentage), and generate lots of ground balls with his slider. The mechanics are relatively clean, leading me to believe he should continue to throw strikes against more advanced hitting. There’s not a lot of deception in Santillan’s drop-and-drive delivery. Which is likely the culprit behind his pedestrian strikeout numbers, despite good stuff and the power pitcher build. In every sense of the phrase Santillan defines the mid-rotation arm for me. ETA: 2020  

6. Shed Long, 2B

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

.261/.353/.412, 12 HR, .150 ISO, 120 wRC+, 23.6% K%, 10.9% Bb%, 19 SB 

There’s 80-grade names and then there’s Shed Long. The Reds second baseman has one of the more interesting prospect backgrounds, a former catcher, Long moved to the middle infield in 2015 and never looked back. Now a full-time second baseman, he brings a varied skill set that features on-base ability, power, some speed, and an above-average fielding profile. With a full season at Double-A in 2018, and a stint in the Arizona Fall League, Long looks primed for a shot in Cincinnati at some point in 2019. Though it’s likely toward the end of the season. I believe Long is one of the more underrated prospects in baseball, and it’s due to a variety of factors, paramount among them… I LOVE the swing.

Long starts from a slightly open setup, feet set about shoulder width apart, lots of movement with the bat head pre-swing, as he drops his hands and quickly gets his bat on plane and in the zone. He uses an exaggerated leg kick in his transfer, as he engages his lower half, and gives way to the most important component of Long’s swing: his hips. Long’s hip rotation is great, as he easily transfers his weight and drives pitches with authority. His overall setup lends itself to even more projection in the hit tool and power, and a 55 hit with 50 power isn’t out of the question. His instincts on the bases should allow him to continue stealing bases at the major league level even if his running is only average. Long should fit in nicely with the young core of talent coming to Great American Ballpark in the coming years. ETA: 2020

7. Jeter Downs, SS

Age: 20

Highest Level: A-

.257/.351/.402, 13 HR, .145 ISO, 118 wRC+, 19.7% K%, 9.9% Bb%, 37 SB

A quick-twitch athlete, without a carrying tool, Downs produced one of the more eye-popping stat lines in the system, stealing 37 bases, while hitting 13 homers, and walking at a 10% clip. Strong numbers for a prep player in his first full season of pro ball. He’s short to the ball with loft in his swing, leading to a high amount of fly balls to the pull side. Not the worst skill for a smaller middle infielder to flash early in his career, as he likely adds more strength as his body matures, leading to more balls clearing the fence. He’s not the fastest player only logging run times in the mid 4-second range, but has a good first step and instincts.

There’s some question as to whether or not Downs average arm will move him off the position, I’m definitely in that camp. There were lots of throws he struggled with, and I’m not sure he’ll ever add the type of zip needed to make those tosses consistently. I believe his future home is second base where his good footwork and quickness could make him a plus defender at the position. A sum of his parts player that’s showed production louder than his tools. Are we missing the ceiling? ETA: 2021

8. Jose Siri, OF

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

.239/.294/.449, 13 HR, .210 ISO, 107 wRC+, 30.1% K%, 6.8% Bb%, 23 SB

A fourth outfielder profile with starter tools, and an all-star ceiling. Siri is a beautiful, frustrating, and enigmatic player. At any given time he can take over a game with his power, speed, or elite centerfield defense making a real difference on and off the stat sheet. He is however deeply flawed, with a lack of approach, and a ton of swing and miss. In fact, during his productive stint in the Southern League over the second half of the season he paced the circuit with an ugly 21.8% swinging strike rate. It’s this lack of approach that holds Siri back form reaching his lofty ceiling displayed by his raw skills. Some prospect rankers have put 55 grades or better on all of his tools, including his hit, which I have a hard time believing. If Siri can cut his strikeouts closer to 25% and get his walk rate into the 8% neighborhood, he might have a chance to click as a dynamic five-tool player.

At the plate Siri starts from a slightly open stance, with a slight bend in his back leg, and his hands in. He controls the inner part of the plate well, but struggles with a lot of breaking stuff off the plate. He has good bat speed driven by his quick strong hands, this combination is the root of his plus raw power. He can lay down a bunt and use his wheels to get down the line quick, leading to a higher hit tool floor than most players with his approach issues. He puts the ball in the air more than 45% of the time and continues to get to more power in games. Still needs another season of reps in the minors but a late season call-up wouldn’t surprise me. Let’s just hope he learns to take a walk in the meantime. ETA: 2020

9. Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP 

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

147 IP, 4.35 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 8.88 K/9, 2.33 Bb/9, .244 BAA

Signed by the Reds at the tail end of the 2016 season for $4.75 million out of Cuba. It has taken Gutierrez a few seasons to get acclimated to American baseball, but things seemed to have clicked over his last 90 or so innings. Whether it was the addition of his spider neck tattoos one will never know, but it adds at least two grades in regards to intimidation factor. Body art aside, Gutierrez is a wildly unique player, with a big full windup bringing his hands over his head before delivery. While from the stretch Gutierrez scraps all of that instead throwing from a short stride with a ton of effort. He seems to lose all command from the stretch as well, and to what benefit? He’s one of the worst in terms of holding runners in the system. So why not just throw from the full delivery?

Gutierrez took a big jump in terms of innings this year leaping from 103 to 147, he also held his own, showing lots of encouraging signs in his profile. For the season on the whole, Gutierrez recorded the second highest swinging strike rate in the Southern League at 12.9%, just .1% behind leader Taylor Widener, and he kept his walks at a manageable 6%. His season numbers mask just how good the right-hander was over his last 13 starts, generating more swinging strikes in that span, and increasing his ground ball rate nearly 10%. It actually looks like he began to pitch better from the stretch, and perhaps increased command with runners on led to the improved results. Whatever it was, Gutierrez showed the type of swing and miss stuff that will play at the MLB level, whether in the rotation or out of the pen. In fact over his last nine starts, Gutierrez recorded 10 or more swinging strikes seven times, including five games of 15 swinging strikes or more.

His combination of a 12-6 curveball and a future average changeup allow him to change speeds enough to rely on his plus fastball with movement and run, one he’ll spot all over the zone. Evaluators are split on his curveball, but I saw it flash above average more often than not. Regardless of how he gets there he has the one-two punch to miss bats in a pen role, and a good enough third pitch to get a shot to stick in the rotation. ETA: 2019

10. Tyler Stephenson, C

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

.250/.338/.392, 11 HR, .142 ISO, 111 wRC+, 21.8% K%, 10% Bb%, 1 SB

The 11th-overall pick in the 2015 draft, Stephenson has been hurt and mostly underwhelmed when healthy. The tools that made him a high pick as a high school player out of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia still flash. He has possibly a double plus arm, plus raw power, good on base skills and feel for the strike zone. So there’s still a lot to like, but it’s a question as to whether or not those can overcome his shortcomings. First among them his sub-par receiving and framing, though it’s improved over the years, and certainly a skill that comes with reps. I’m not ready to question Stephenson’s future at the position, but there’s certainly a camp in that corner. Even the biggest defenders of his defensive acumen would secede that the bat-first catcher label is accurate.

At the plate Stephenson flashes two skills that are universally agreed upon, he gets on base and hits for power. Just how much he actually hits is up for debate. His setup is slightly open with his hands about shoulder height for his setup with his bat on his shoulder. He ditched a pronounced leg kick he had deployed since his prep days in favor of a slight toe tap. It led to his barrel staying in the zone for a lot longer, which manifested itself in a 10% increase in fly balls and a 2% bump in line drives. So there’s certainly signs of developing hard contact, even if his ISO only improved moderately year over year. With the potential power gains, came an increase in swing and miss, but it’s tough to be overly alarmed, and at 22% it wasn’t out of control. He’s prone to getting a little stiff with his upper body and I have seen him get twisted up by some average breaking balls. Overall I think it’s a profile that fits a platoon MLB catcher with the chance at an everyday role down the line. ETA: 2021

11. Mariel Bautista, OF

Age: 21

Highest Level: Rookie

.330/.386/.541, 8 HR, .211 ISO, 132 wRC+, 12.4% K%, 6.9% Bb%, 16 SB

The biggest sleeper for dynasty baseball leagues in this system, Bautista’s combination of athleticism and baseball skills make him a potential diamond in the rough. With the ability to play an above average center field, hit for contact, hit for power, and run. Bautista is a true five-tool prospect. The Reds have chosen to take it slow, as he’s likely to see his first full season assignment in 2019. So far so good, as the right-handed hitting outfielder has hit .320 or better in the Dominican Summer League, AZL, and now the Pioneer League in three seasons consecutively. So the production is there and continues to improve. An increase in power was the largest area of growth for Bautista as he added nearly 140 points onto his isolated slugging. Additionally his walk rate doubled year over year, while managing to drop his already low strikeout rate to 12.4%.

At the plate Bautista setups with a slightly open stance, his hands in, starting his swing with a double toe tap to engage his lower half. He stays upright and displays a very level swing that keeps the barrel in the zone for seemingly forever. He generates excellent bat speed, which is where most of his power derives from. He has a contact hitter’s bat path, though some added loft might allow Bautista to tap into more of his plus raw in games. It’s a very simple and clean swing from a premium athletic profile. Additionally he’s an excellent baserunner making the most of his plus plus speed. In fact over the course of the last two years he’s had an 89% success rate on the bases. It’s a lovely combination of tools with exciting upside to dream on, and a valuable defensive profile to push his arrival. ETA: 2021

12. Mike Siani, OF 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie

.288/.351/.386, 2 HR, .098 ISO, 98 wRC+, 17.1% K%, 7.8% Bb%, 6 SB

The oldest of the “Outfielding” Siani’s, Mike brings a variety skill set, and a polished defensive profile. Drafted out of the Pennsylvania prep ranks in the fourth round, speed and defense are his calling card, but Siani swings the bat hard, flashing plus bat speed, an attribute that leaves many to project an above average hit tool with average power at peak. There’s an outside shot that if Siani hits his ceiling you’re talking about a player with four plus tools in his glove, arm, speed, and hit. The later is the one with the greatest variance, because despite a strong performance in his first taste of pro-ball we’re still talking about a prep player who is yet to face full season starters.

At the plate Siani starts from an open stance with a slight crouch, his bat path is short and compact with an uppercut path. His plate coverage is solid, and he showed the ability to not only turn on pitches inside, but also shoot balls on the outer part of the plate to the opposite field. His smooth gazelle like movement in center, paired with his efficient routes made him one of the better outfield defenders in this year’s draft class. Likely a future centerfielder with offensive value. ETA: 2022

13. Josiah Gray, RHP 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Rookie

52.1 IP, 2.58 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 10.15 K/9, 2.92 Bb/9, .154

This story is just too crazy not to be true, division 2 shortstop/reliever heads to the Cape Cod League for the summer, pitches his keister off, and leaves a potential first day pitching prospect. Sounds absurd, but that’s actually what happened with Gray. Over the last year few players have grown by the leaps and bounds Gray has. At the moment he’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher led by his plus fastball, a nasty offering in the 92-96 range with above average spin. Gray gets lots of swings and misses on the pitch, averaging at least a few whiffs per inning. His slider flashes plus, but is still too inconsistent to project as a future plus offering. At times it can lose its shape, but at its best, it’s a second swing-and-miss offering. He features a changeup, but it’s very fringe at the moment, as he’s yet to master the deceptive arm speed needed.

Gray’s athleticism is on the high end of the scale, giving him the ability to repeat his mechanics. He’s a drop and drive type delivery, pitching from low three quarters arm slot. He extends well and gets excellent push with his lower half, doing a good job of using his entire body to generate velocity. Overall Gray is an intriguing arm, with a limited track record on the mound, substantial growth from Gray is a very real possibility in the coming years. However, it might take a little more time than your average pitching prospect. A mid-rotation upside with a high leverage bullpen floor. ETA: 2021

14. T.J. Freidl, OF

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

.284/.381/.384, 5 HR, .100 ISO, 124 wRC+, 17.5% K%, 11.6% Bb%, 30 SB

One of the stranger collegiate free agent stories in recent memory, Friedl played for team USA following his Sophomore season, when it was discovered that he was in fact draft eligible, teams with remaining money in their bonus pools clamored to get Friedl to sign. Ultimately Cincinnati won, and Friedl has been a steady but unspectacular performer in the system. He brings an all-around skill set perfect for a future fourth or fifth outfielder with the ability to play all three outfield spots, hit for contact, steal bases, and every so often flash average power. He’s a high-motor player with a good feel for the strike zone, and excellent reads on the base paths. He walked a little less in the Southern League than he did in high-A, but his 9.5% walk rate was at least average, while he continued to hit for contact and raise hell on the bases. There’s a second division regular ceiling if he can tap into some more of his average raw in games, but his utility profile provides at least a major league floor. ETA: 2020

15. Jose Garcia, SS

Age: 20

Highest Level: A-

.245/.290/.344, 6 HR, .100 ISO, 81 wRC+, 21.7% K%, 3.7% Bb%, 13 SB

I think we’re all familiar with the tale of the tooled up Cuban player that signs for big bucks, comes stateside and disappoints. In many ways this is the perception of Garcia’s American debut, but this viewpoint overlooks many factors that impacted Garcia’s season. We tend to forget the process Cuban players go through as the defect their native country and head stateside. Sometimes this can take years, as it did with Garica, this means there was a lack of competitive baseball for several months, and sometimes years. After signing with the Reds for a lofty $5 million just over a year ago, Garcia played his first competitive baseball since 2016 this season showing expected rust in his game. The tools however are still very present, displaying plus run times, a strong arm, and good footwork at short. At the plate Garcia took time to get acclimated to pro ball here in the states as he slashed a paltry .202/.248/.274 in the first half. Each month Garcia hit a little better, before things clicked in the second half where he hit .277/.322/.398 with five homers and nine steals over 65 games. If this sort of improvement continues, and Garcia begins to tap into his average raw power he could rocket into the top 10.

The type of player you can miss with stat line scouting, Garcia brings a toolsy profile in the middle infield, and a MLB regular ceiling. In many ways he’s similar to another toolsy Midwest League shortstop Gabriel Arias of the Padres, different types of players but two on a similar development track. Glove first guys with offensive tools that are yet to fully bake. ETA: 2022

16. Lyon Richardson, RHP

 Age: 18

Highest Level: Rookie

29 IP, 7.14 ERA, 5.54 FIP, 7.45 K/9, 4.97 Bb/9, .306 BAA

A raw prep arm that saw a decrease in velocity following the showcase circuit. The Reds believed in the arsenal, athleticism, and that his fastball giddy up would return. So far in pro-ball it hasn’t, he’s worked low-90s with an average slider that flashes above average, and a developing changeup. Though I wouldn’t get too alarmed by such a small sample from such a young player. Coming into the spring of 2018 the Florida commit was considered one of the top 10-20 right-handers in the prep class.

He has prototypical size, with the ability to add some good weight, but we’re years away from really knowing how good of a pick this was in the third round. ETA: 2023

17. Stuart Fairchild, OF

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

.264/.344/.407, 9 HR, .143 ISO, 116 wRC+, 24.7% K%, 9.3% Bb%, 23 SB

A strong final year at Wake Forest that produced a .360/.439/.635 slash with 17 homers and 21 steals catapulted Fairchild onto the day-one radar in the 2016 draft. He slid out of the first round, but eventually went to the Reds early in the second round, signing for $1.8 million. Despite the elite production and first team All-American status many took issue with Farichild’s stiff swing and grooved bat path. He doesn’t cover a ton of the plate, he makes most of his good contact on pitches inside that he pulls. There are certainly some warts on the swing and even approach at times. One thing that stood out to me was the tendency to get ahead of his shoulder with his hands, getting way out on his front foot. This leads to some ugly swings. Despite a decent plate approach, some power, and some speed, I don’t see much more than a fourth-outfield profile. ETA: 2020

18. Joe Kuhnel, RHP

Age: 23

Highest Level: A+

53.1 IP, 3.04 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 9.45 K/9, 1.86 Bb/9, .256 BAA

An 11th round project out of Texas-Arlington in 2016, the right-handed reliever made significant strides in 2018, as he came into camp in noticeably better shape. With the improved fitness came a jump in stuff as his once mid-90s fastball was touching triple digits with regularity. His slider, Kuhnel’s go to secondary got sharper as he began to generate swing and misses without losing his above average command. He now balances the ability to throw strikes (4.9% walk rate), generate ground balls (51.7% ground-ball rate), and miss bats (13.8% swinging strike rate), a trio of skills that could make him a very good MLB reliever. After impressing in the Florida State League for the entirety of 2018, Kuhnel could move quickly through the upper levels of the minors, eventually getting some MLB innings before season’s end. ETA: 2020

19. Danny Lantigua, OF

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie

.223/.274/.467, 8 HR, .244 ISO, 102 wRC+, 34.9% K%, 6% Bb%, 5 SB

A raw switch-hitting thumper with lots of swing and miss and an equal amount of raw pop. He doesn’t hit for much contact from either side of the plate, but from a power standpoint his left-handed stroke is further along. When watching the two swings it’s easy to spot the differences, as well as his higher level of comfort from the left side. His left-handed swing starts from an open stance with an Eiffel Tower base, he engages his lower half with a moderate leg kick, before giving way to an upper-body-heavy swing that gets somewhat rotational.

From the right side the setup is somewhat similar, with a few differences. First he’s slightly more open, secondly his hands start higher and closer to his head, in addition to the higher hand placement, his hands are busier pre load. Post load the swing is very different from the left, his leg kick is scrapped for a toe tap, giving way to a pronounced hitch as he begins to swing. This leads to the swing getting even more upper body heavy.

So there are certainly some quirks that Lantigua needs to work through. After watching some of Lantigua it’s pretty clear that the raw power is there, and there’s more hit tool to come, but it will be tough for him to completely banish the swing and miss to his game. ETA: 2022

20. Bren Spillane, 1B/OF

Age: 22

Highest Level: Rookie

.236/.375/.439, 5 HR, .203 ISO, 110 wRC+, 41.3% K%, 16.3% Bb%, 2 SB

There seems to be two types of positional profiles in the Reds system. Toolsy athletes with up the middle profiles, or mashers. Spillane, a third rounder out of Illinois has big raw power, but some more plate approach than some of his fellow mashers in the system. There’s still a ton of swing and miss however, and a 41% strikeout rate in Rookie Ball isn’t exactly indicative of future sustained success.

At the plate Spillane has a leveraged uppercut stroke, using a leg kick to get into his lower half. He gets rotational, swinging with every bit of his big 6-foot-5 frame. He can feast on anything inside, but like a few players in this system can be carved up with spin away.

A decent athlete that might be able to play a little left, but more than likely he’ll settle in as a first baseman. The hit tool will determine the profile for Spillane. ETA: 2021

21. Jacob Heatherly, LHP

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie

38.2 IP, 5.82 ERA, 5.80 FIP, 11.41 K/9, 9.31 Bb/9, .241 BAA

Command issues have plagued Heatherly dating back to his draft year, and 2018 wasn’t much different. Despite the complete lack of command Heatherly sits mid-90s with his four-seam fastball and a tick below with his ground ball inducing two-seamer. His command of his two fastballs is inconsistent, but can show flashes of command. He’s shown the ability to spin an average curveball, though it’s more of a chase pitch at this point. His changeup shows real promise with good arm action and separation from his fastball. Mid-rotation upside if he improves feel for his impressive arsenal, relief floor. ETA: 2022

22. Tanner Rainey, RHP

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

52 IP, 2.60 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 11.25 K/9, 6.23 Bb/9, .144 BAA

Another true relief prospect with a power righty profile like so many arms in the system. He can ramp his fastball up to 100, averaging 98 on the fastball in his nine very ugly major league innings in 2018. He mixes in a power curveball often classified as a slider and it’s a hammer pitch when he lands it. Despite his cup of coffee Rainey still needs to drastically sharpen his control to get the most of his closer worthy stuff. Should see MLB innings in 2019 once again. ETA: 2019

23. Jimmy Herget, RHP

Age: 25

Highest Level: AAA

59.2 IP, 3.47 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 9.8 K/9, 3.17 Bb/9, .251 BAA

Herget is a sidearm righty with some juice on the fastball, ramping it up to 96. He has a frisbee slider synonymous with the sidearm style and does a good job of generating lots of weak contact with his breaking pitch. A middle-relief floor and he’s pretty much there, could improve his command a little. ETA: 2019

24. Jonathan Willems, 2B

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie

.258/.296/.449, 8 HR, .191 ISO, 91 wRC+, 22.7% K%, 3.2% Bb%, 0 SB

A bat-first, second base profile with some feel to hit and little defensive value. Signed out of Curacao in 2015, Willems has a short compact swing making lots of hard contact to his pull side. Scouts and fans often talk about that “different sound” off the bat and Willems has that. As he hones his plate approach and pitch recognition he could develop into a plus hitter. ETA: 2022

25. Keury Mella, RHP

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

108 IP, 3.00 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 8.42 K/9, 3.08 Bb/9, .222 BAA

Despite good numbers, and some heat on the fastball Mella’s stuff is pretty flat. It played well in Triple-A this year, but looks very hittable against MLB competition. His fastball sits 94-95 with some sink, and his slider and changeup are both pretty pedestrian. Maybe his stuff plays up out of the pen, but he fits the role of shuttle starter. ETA: 2019

26. Michael Beltre, OF

Age: 23

Highest Level: A+

.278/.397/.402, 5 HR, .125 ISO, 134 wRC+, 19.8% K%, 16.1% Bb%, 22 SB

A toolsy switch-hitter, with an innate ability to get on base, Beltre has been a long term project for the Reds, one that is starting to show glimpses. He still hits too many grounders, masking some above average raw power. His ability to drive the ball will determine whether or not he develops into a second division regular corner outfielder. At 23 Beltre is old for a player at this stage in his development, but a breakout season in 2018 puts him on the radar for 2019. ETA: 2021

27. Hendrik Clementina, C

Age: 21

Highest Level: A

.268/.327/.497, 18 HR, .229 ISO, 129 wRC+, 26.3% K%, 8% Bb%, 1 SB

A hit-first catcher with very little chance of sticking behind the plate, Clementina might just hit enough to carve out a role at first. He has power to all fields, tapping into more power in 2018 jumping his fly-ball rate by 15% year over year. Looks like he dropped some weight since last year and tightened up his swing. Still hitting from an open stance he now sets his hands lower in his load before taking a powerful hack with an uppercut bat path. Likely a first base-designated hitter type, but it will put more pressure on the bat to produce. Long shot, but there’s enough feel to hit to make this list. ETA: 2021

28. Rylan Thomas, 1B

Age: 21

Highest Level: Rookie

.257/.400/.492, 10 HR, .235 ISO, 133 wRC+, 21.8% K%, 18.2% Bb%, 0 SB

A potential late-round steal out of UCF Thomas has plus raw power, some putting 70s on it, and a three true outcome skill set. His strikeouts were at a reasonable number in rookie ball, but I would expect that number to rise closer to 30% as he faces upper-level stuff. He shows an advanced understanding of the strike zone, working deep into counts taking tons of pitches, many that often go for called strikes. Thomas looks to elevate on everything with his compact uppercut swing, driving balls to his pull side with authority. A scrappy player with a high motor, he plays the game with an edge that’s evident from even a small sample. Built like an undersized linebacker, Thomas is short, stocky, and strong. It’s a low-percentage profile, but Thomas gives you reason not to bet against him. ETA: 2022

29. James Marinan, RHP

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie

53.2 IP, 3.35.ERA, 4.34 FIP, 8.39 K/9, 3.86 Bb/9, .283 BAA

A stand and fall delivery with clean arm action and inconsistent velocity. He has a funky extension in his leg kick that helps him extend pretty well. At his best he sits 94-97 on his fastball, mixing in an above average slider with some sweepy break, and a developing changeup. When his velo drops his fastball becomes hittable and his secondaries are less sharp. A starter profile due to the clean mechanics, three pitch mix and future average command. The high floor version of Jacob Heatherly. ETA: 2022

30. Miguel Hernandez, SS

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie

.280/.322/.374, 2 HR, .095 ISO, 85 wRC+, 14.9% K%, 6.1% Bb%, 2 SB

A glove-first shortstop prospect with a combination of speed, defense, and some bat-to-ball skills. Hernandez showed the ability to string together professional at bats and put the ball in play this year. He pounds most of his contact into the ground, but every so often he’ll barrel something and show the ability to drive the ball. Most of his quality contact is on the inner part of the plate, in my limited looks he was getting eaten on the inner part of the plate. Part of that is his grooved bat path and the other is his lack of bat speed.

Still far too early to write off Hernandez’s offensive game, but there’s a lot of work to be done, and not much power upon contact. His three plus skills in the field should buy him opportunities to grow with the stick. ETA: 2022