2014 Top 10 Prospects: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds system is thin on impact talent, as well as overall depth. The organization boasts a potential No. 1/2 starter but things drop off dramatically from that point. There are a lot of fringe-average regulars, utility players, No. 4 starters and middle relievers in the making.


#1 Robert Stephenson | 70/AA (P)

20 22 22 114.1 92 10 10.71 2.76 2.99 2.96

The Year in Review: Stephenson had a breakout year during his first full pro season and played at three levels. He spent the majority of the year in A-ball but topped out in Double-A. The 20-year-old hurler (who recently turned 21) struck out 136 batters in 114.1 innings of work and walked just 35.

The Scouting Report: The young pitcher has succeeded early in his career thanks to his ability to mix premium fastball velocity (95-98 mph) with potentially-plus control. Add in a plus curveball and a solid changeup and you have the makings of a top-shelf starter. He’s one of the most underrated arms in the minors.

The Year Ahead: After making just four starts at the level in ’13, Stephenson should return to Double-A to open the 2014 season. He’s definitely on the fast track and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him reach Triple-A — and possibly even the Majors — in the second half of the season.

The Career Outlook: Stephenson needs to add some polish and consistency but he has the makings of a top-of-the-rotation starter if he realizes his full potential.


#2 Billy Hamilton | 60/MLB (OF)

22 22 9.1 % 18.2 % .368 .429 .474 .398 155 4.1 0.8 0.6

The Year in Review: Hamilton’s impressive streak of seasons with 100+ stolen bases came to an end in 2013 but he still nabbed 75 base in 90 tries. Unfortunately, his bat is nowhere near as advanced as his base running and he posted an OPS of just .651 in 123 games. His minor league performance was still strong enough to earn him a late-season promotion to the Majors where he hit .368 in 13 games and stole another 13 bases in 14 attempts.

The Scouting Report: The young athlete has received a lot of hype for his stolen base totals in the past and it’s somewhat justified due to his game-changing, plus-plus speed. However, his hit tool is not nearly as developed and he’ll likely continue to be overmatched at the Triple-A/MLB levels until he makes some further adjustments. He’s adapted well to the outfield and could become a plus defender in time.

The Year Ahead: The speedy shortstop-turned-outfielder is currently pencilled in as the Reds’ opening day center-fielder but a lot can change between now and April. Ideally, his bat could probably use another two to three months of seasoning in the minors.

The Career Outlook: Hamilton has a chance to be an impact player even if his only plus tool is his speed — but the offensive development will dictate if his contributions come from the starting lineup or from the bench.


#3 Phillip Ervin | 60/R (OF)

20 200 57 11 9 25 34 14 .331 .425 .564 .439

The Year in Review: The 27th overall selection in the 2013 amateur draft out of Samford University, Ervin got off to a quick start to his pro career. He hit .331 with an OPS just shy of 1.000. He also stole 14 bases in 15 attempts. The young outfielder spent the majority of the season in the Pioneer League but also played 12 games at the Low-A ball level.

The Scouting Report: The Alabama native has solid-average tools across the board but his only plus tool could end up being his bat. He utilizes a short stroke that’s quick to the ball and he uses the whole field, which results in a high batting average. He also has a good eye. Ervin has slightly-above average speed and can play centre field in a pinch but he’s better suited to right field where he can take advantage of his strong arm.

The Year Ahead: Ervin will look to prove his hot start was not a fluke. He’ll likely open the year with a refresher in Low-A ball but could quickly rise to High-A ball.

The Career Outlook: Ervin probably isn’t star but he could be a solid everyday right-fielder with the ability to eventually hit 15-20 homers in his prime.


#4 Yorman Rodriguez | 55/AA (OF)

20 659 156 37 17 54 180 13 .261 .324 .428 .338

The Year in Review: After four-and-a-half years in A-ball or lower, Rodriguez finally reached Double-A in the second half of 2013. He managed a combined 54 extra base hits but struck out 153 times with just 47 walks in 129 games. He also spent some time in the Arizona Fall League where he posted a .758 OPS in 22 games.

The Scouting Report: Rodriguez is the most toolsy player in the Reds system and has been pretty much since he signed in 2008 out of Venezuela. He has a strong arm and enough speed to project as an above-average defensive right-fielder. He also has plus power potential but it’s mitigated by his lack of contact. He doesn’t need to put everything into his swing to hit the ball out of the park so he could shorten his swing a bit to make more consistent contact and still possess 20+ home run potential.

The Year Ahead: Rodriguez will likely return to Double-A to open the 2014 season but should see Triple-A in the second half as long as he continues to make adjustments.

The Career Outlook: Rodriguez remains a boom-or-bust prospect with significant potential but the contact issues need to be addressed.


#5 Jesse Winker | 55/A (OF)

19 486 117 18 16 63 75 6 .281 .379 .463 .386

The Year in Review: Winker’s 16 home runs in 2013 were a bit of a surprise given his scouting reports coming into the year, which predicted fringe-average power. Even with the additional over-the-fence pop he controlled the strike zone well and walked 63 times with just 75 strike outs.

The Scouting Report: Like Ervin above him, but with a slightly lower ceiling, Winker is a player who projects to develop into a solid regular but not a star. He has a potentially-plus tool with his bat and above-average power but but he’s lacking with his defense, arm and speed. Winker’s defensive future is limited to left field.

The Year Ahead: Winker will move up to High-A ball in 2014 and if he continues to show solid present skill he might see Double-A by the end of the year.

The Career Outlook: Just 20, Winker is a player with a high floor but a modest ceiling. He projects to develop into a solid-average corner outfielder but probably not a superstar.


#6 Mike Lorenzen | 55/AA (P)

21 28 7 38.1 49 6 5.63 5.87 6.81 6.17

The Year in Review: Lorenzen earned some frequent flyer miles in 2013. Drafted 38th overall, he played at four different minor league levels and topped out in Double-A. Unfortunately, his control deserted him in both High-A and Double-A with 11 walks in 11.2 innings of work. He was later assigned to the Arizona Fall League and struggled with an 11.42 ERA and 12 walks (with just five Ks) in 17.1 innings.

The Scouting Report: A very athletic pitcher, Lorenzen was actually a two-way player in college (He also played the outfield). As a result, he’s still learning the nuances of pitching so it’s all the more impressive that he was able to move so quickly through the system during his debut. He has a plus fastball that could hit the upper 90s out of the bullpen but may end up working more in the mid 90s as a starter. Both his breaking ball and changeup need a fair bit of polish.

The Year Ahead: The right-hander may have been pushed a little too aggressively last year and both his command and control suffered. He may benefit from having his timetable slowed down a bit in 2014 and may head back to High-A ball to continue his conversion back to starter.

The Career Outlook: Lorenzen’s future is a little cloudy at this point due to the uncertainty over his future role: starter or reliever. His command and control will likely both have a large say over which role he eventually settles into.


#7 Carlos Contreras | 55/AA (P)

22 26 26 132.1 106 11 8.30 4.22 3.47 4.02

The Year in Review: Contreras spent four years in short-season ball but he finally reached Double-A in 2013. He spent the majority of the year in High-A ball and made 18 starts but he finished up the year with eight appearances at the more senior level. After working as a reliever in 2012, Contreras more than doubled his innings output from 60.2 to 132.1.

The Scouting Report: Contreras’ future hinges on his ability to improve both his command and control. He has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and backs that up with a plus changeup. His breaking ball should be average or better. He’s not an overly large pitcher so he’ll have to work to maintain a good plane on his pitches.

The Year Ahead: The right-handed hurler will return to Double-A in 2014 but could move up to Triple-A in the second half — and might even see some time at the big league level if injuries take a bite out of the Reds’ pitching staff depth.

The Career Outlook: Contreras has the potential to develop into a No. 3/4 starter or a set-up man at the big league level depending on the development of his changeup and his command/control.



#8 Nick Travieso | 55/A (P)

19 17 17 81.2 83 7 6.72 2.98 4.63 3.96

The Year in Review: The Reds’ first round pick from 2012, Travieso didn’t make his ’13 debut until June after opening the year in extended spring training. The right-hander still managed to make 17 starts and showed solid control but struck out just 61 batters in 81.2 at-bats. Travieso was an extreme fly-ball pitcher in 2013 and could benefit from inducing more ground-ball outs.

The Scouting Report: The right-hander doesn’t throw as hard as he used to as high school prospect but he still works in the 88-94 mph range. His secondary stuff — slider and changeup — projects as just average so he’ll need to develop above-average control and command to succeed in the upper levels of the system. He has a frame that suggests he could develop into a workhorse, assuming he makes his conditioning a priority.

The Year Ahead: Travieso should receive his first true taste of full season ball. Spring training will likely help determine if he returns to Low-A ball for a little more seasoning or gets challenged with a move up to High-A.

The Career Outlook: Like Winker, Travieso is a former prep pick with a high floor and low ceiling who could eventually develop into either a No. 4 starter or a reliever.


#9 Tucker Barnhart | 55/AA (C)

22 454 100 22 3 54 64 1 .258 .349 .343 .326

The Year in Review: The young catcher spent the entire 2013 season at Double-A and showed above-average defense and enough offense to keep playing every day. He also received an assignment to the Arizona Fall League after the regular season concluded.

The Scouting Report: Barnhart is a plus defender behind the plate. He calls a good game, receives well and has a strong arm. He’s also not shy about getting down and dirty to block balls. At the plate, the switch-hitting catcher has made some improvements and projects as a fringe-average hitter who’s much better from the left side of the dish. He doesn’t have much power but he makes good contact and has a solid eye at the plate.

The Year Ahead: Barnhart will move up to Triple-A in 2014 and should be the first catcher recalled in the event of an injury to Devin Mersoraco or Brayan Pena.

The Career Outlook: Barnhart could eventually develop into a superb-glove, so-so-hit catcher capable of playing everyday or serving as the left-handed hitting half of a platoon.


#10 David Holmberg | 50/MLB (P)

21 3.2 0.00 7.36 25.0 % 7.36 5.50 8.48 -0.1 0.0

The Year in Review: Holmberg, 22, pitched more than 154 innings for the third straight season, which is an almost unheard of accomplishment for a pitching prospect in this day and age of coddling young hurlers. The lefty made 26 starts at the Double-A level before receiving one big league appearance where he got bounced around. He was traded from Arizona to Cincinnati in the offseason during a three-team deal that saw catcher Ryan Hanigan head to Tampa Bay.

The Scouting Report: Holmberg isn’t flashy but that’s not to say he isn’t talented. The southpaw is the type of pitching prospect that tends to fly under the radar. He doesn’t have a big-time fastball or wipeout breaking ball but he’s durable, and has above-average command/control of his four-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball with fringe-average velocity, two average breaking balls in a curveball and slider, as well as a plus changeup.

The Year Ahead: Holmberg’s move from Arizona to Cincinnati clears up a little bit of the logjam in front of him and he has a much clearer route to a Major League call-up. He still has two option years remaining so he has plenty of time to establish himself as a big-league-caliber pitcher.

The Career Outlook: Holmberg has a modest ceiling and will likely settle in as an innings-eating No. 4 starter. His history of high innings totals in the minors suggest that he could eventually be counted on for 200-230 innings a season as a poor man’s Mark Buehrle.

The Next Five:

11. Ben Lively, RHP: Lively, a fourth round draft pick, produced eye-popping numbers in 2013 and he could move somewhat quickly through the system but his ceiling is limited to that of a No. 3/4 starter. He has a four-pitch mix that includes a low-90s fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. His delivery has some deception to it but it’s also not the prettiest and could make it difficult for him to consistently command the ball.

12. Daniel Corcino, RHP: The 2013 season will be one to forget for Corcino. He was torched in Triple-A when both his command and control deserted him. The Dominican worked up in the zone too often and needs to pound the lower half of the zone more consistently. He spent time in the Puerto Rico Winter League as a reliever and thrived. A permanent move to the bullpen could be in the cards.

13. Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B: Mejias-Brean has hit everywhere that he’s played and produced solid on-base averages but his power is below average for a third baseman. He also spent time at first base in 2013 and dabbled with catching in the off-season but, ultimately, it was decided that was not the role for him. The corner infielder will likely develop into a solid part-time, offensive-minded contributor or a Joe Randa-type regular.

14. Chad Rogers, RHP: Rogers isn’t flashy but he projects to develop into an innings-eating back-end starter capable of chewing up innings. A 28th round draft pick from 2010, he split the ’13 season between Double-A and Triple-A and compiled 140 innings. Undersized at 5-11, he needs to keep on top of the ball better to have success in the Majors.

15. Jeremy Kivel, RHP: A hard-throwing Texan, Kivel made 13 starts in his pro debut but his future may very well lie in the bullpen. He has some violence to his delivery while delivering his above-aveage heater, which works in the 94-97 mph range. He backs it up with a potentially-plus slider but lacks a reliable third offering.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Vlad the Impaler
10 years ago

This system is sparse, but the presence of Stephenson pushes it to the middle of the pack overall for me.

Stephenson will allow the budget-minded Reds to give Homer Bailey a QO after the season, reap a 1st round pick, and plug Stephenson in to the rotation in 2015.

Grack Zeinke
10 years ago

yeah, perhaps even a Bailey trade mid-season if the Reds fall out of things.