Sunday Notes: Rangers Outfielder Scott Heineman Is Painting His Own Picture

Scott Heineman has become increasingly interested in the mechanics of his swing. That said, the 27-year-old Texas Rangers outfielder isn’t married to the technical aspects of his craft. Nor is his approach what one could call cookie-cutter. That was crystal clear when I asked him the ‘art or science?’ question.

“I’d say hitting is more of an art,” Heineman expressed last Sunday. “I’m going to do what’s most comfortable for me. For instance, I’m not going to go out there and imitate Paul Goldschmidt. That’s what works for him — that stance — but I’ve tried it in the cage and it doesn’t work for me. That said, he does things I really like. I guess I could say I’m an artist painting my own picture, and at the same time looking at all the other pieces in the gallery. I’m seeing how they use colors, and whatnot, and putting parts of that into my own art. That’s what I’m doing with hitting.”

Heineman’s portfolio is somewhat spotty. Pointedly bland in last year’s cup of coffee — a .679 OPS in 85 big-league PAs — he’s otherwise made a good impression down on the farm. Heineman’s right-handed stroke has produced a snappy .303/.378/.475 slash line over four minor-league seasons. Ever the realist, he recognizes that those numbers aren’t going to translate to the big-league level if he doesn’t study the masters. Moreover, Goldschmidt isn’t the only bopper whose palette he’s perused.

“I’m not Mike Trout, even though I’ve tried to be Mike Trout,” Heineman told me. “But it doesn’t work. Again, I’ve got be myself. Even so, guys like Trout, Ryan Braun, J.D. Martinez… I take bits and pieces from them.”

Heineman absorbed a valuable chunk of information last September when the Red Sox played in Texas. It came via a player who revamped his swing and has gone on to craft multiple monster seasons.

“Before the game, J.D. Martinez and I were both running out to center field,” said Heineman. “I said, ‘Hey J.D., do you have a second? I don’t want to take you away from your pregame routine, but I’d love to ask you a couple of questions about hitting.’ He was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve always got time to talk hitting.’ So we talked for a couple of minutes, and as we were breaking off he said, ‘Why don’t you tell your clubbie a time that’s good for you tomorrow, and we’ll meet in the tunnel and talk a little bit more.’”

The next day, the two got together in the bowels of Globe Life Park and talked shop for approximately 10 minutes. Some of Martinez’s words pushed Heineman in the direction of science and technology.

“That’s where the all video I like to watch came into play,” Heineman explained. “He half-jokingly told me that it’s not worth taking a swing if you don’t video it. For instance, your body can fool you. You need to be consistent with everything — how you go about loading and triggering into the ball — and that can change without you really noticing. A big thing for me is my elbow. While I might line up a pitch with a high elbow, I know that in the future that probably won’t be a good road for me.

“Another thing [Martinez] said that was cool is, ‘I’m rarely perfect in this game.’ This is a guy who is usually hitting .330 with 30 home runs. He said his perfect swing, his perfect timing, is a line drive home run to dead center.”

Which brings us back to art. Much like an Andy Warhol could never be a Claude Monet, Heineman will never be J.D. Martinez. The former Oregon Duck doesn’t possess that type of raw talent. At the same time, he can be a better version of himself.

“From my experience, no one knows hitting better than Luis Ortiz, our major-league hitting coach, or Howard Johnson, who I had in Triple-A,” said Heineman. “Both are educated on how they need to work with different guys. And that’s crazy, because we’re all different artists. A good art teacher knows how to show each individual how to be their own best artist. From there you can hopefully create a masterpiece.”

——

The Ogden Raptors are reportedly one of the roughly 40 minor-league teams slated for contraction. Count Kyle Farmer among those who doesn’t want to see that happen. The Cincinnati Reds jack-of-all-trades broke into pro ball with the rookie-level Raptors, and his memories of that experience are endearing. Despite the grind.

“I’ve read that they’re in danger, and I’m hoping they’re not,” Farmer told me earlier this week. “It was the perfect transition from [the University of] Georgia to the minor leagues. It was a great atmosphere, a great town, and I stayed with a great host family. It was your prototypical minor-league setting. It taught me a lot. It taught me how to love baseball.

“In college, you have it so easy. Then you go to the minor leagues — especially the Pioneer League with the all the long travel — and you have to adapt. If you don’t love baseball, the minor leagues aren’t for you. It’s a grind. It’s a mental grind. If you don’t learn to sleep on a bus, learn how to go without a meal, then you’re not going to make it. The big leagues aren’t going to happen.”

And then there is the Ogden atmosphere. The Raptors have led the Pioneer League in attendance for each of the last 15 seasons.

“The town supports them so well,” said Farmer “The Raptors are a great landmark for Ogden, so losing them would be awful. Part of me understands why [MLB] would do it, but at the same time, they’d be taking away baseball for so many people. This pandemic is showing how important baseball is to the world. People miss it, and if you take away a small-town team, forever… I’d be sad to see that happen.”

——

RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Turkey Gross went 0 for 2 against Lefty Grove.

Oscar Grimes went 5 for 29 against Orval Grove.

Moose Grimshaw went 7 for 20 against Fred Glade.

Skinny Graham went 2 for 4 against Milt Gaston.

Johnny Groth 2 for 6 against Connie Grob.

——

The news that the Baltimore Orioles have released 37 minor-league players has been met with indignation on social media. That’s understandable. The budget cuts, the furloughs, and the ill-advised move toward contraction have combined to leave a sour taste. Even so, some context is in order. Were it not for the pandemic, a good many of the 37 would have been let go more than a month ago.

The number of players each organization releases in spring training varies. Per player-development personnel I checked with (none of whom work for the Orioles) it can range from as few as 15 to as many as 35. One of the estimates I got was “roughly 20-30 each spring.”

Organizations differ in approach. Some prefer to release players at the end of the minor-league season rather than bring them to camp the following spring. Other teams will invite a larger number of players to camp, necessitating more cuts. And the releases don’t always come all at once; they often happen in waves throughout the month of March. Of course, this year’s spring training didn’t progress as usual; it ended abruptly. Exactly how that altered the fortunes of 37 Baltimore Orioles hopefuls is hard to say.

——

A quiz:

Which 1970s-1980s infielder followed in his father’s footsteps by playing for Alabama in the Orange Bowl? Both were quarterbacks.

The answer can be found below.

——

NEWS ITEMS

Japan’s national high school championship, which was to begin on August 10, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Founded in 1915 and held annually at Koshien Stadium, the two-week tournament was last on hiatus during World War II.

The Hiroshima Carp opened up part of their stadium to a limited number of fans on Thursday, allowing them to watch the club’s first practice since spring training was shut down. NPB is hoping to start its season as early as mid-June.

Ken Retzer, who caught for the Washington Senators from 1961-1964, died last week at age 86. Retzer was behind the plate on September 12, 1962 when Tom Cheney fanned 21 batters in a 16-inning complete-game win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Jonathan Becker and Daniel R. Epstein are the new co-directors of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. The duo replaces Howard Cole, who founded the IBWAA in 2009.

The SABR Games Project reached a milestone this past week with the publication of its 2,000th article. The project was launched in 2014.

——

The answer to the quiz is Butch Hobson. The power-hitting third baseman ran the wishbone for Alabama in the 1972 Orange Bowl. His father, Clell Hobson, threw a touchdown pass in the 1953 Orange Bowl.

——

Jacob Cruz didn’t hit a lot of home runs. The outfielder-turned-hitting-coach went deep just 19 times in parts of nine seasons. But he does share a rare distinction: Cruz is one of just a handful of players whose first and last big-league hits left the yard. The final one, which came in a Cincinnati Reds uniform in 2005, doesn’t have much of a story. The initial one, which came in 1996 with the San Francisco Giants, evokes memories that will last a a lifetime.

A knuckleballer was on the hill.

“It was off [Tom] Candiotti, and it’s crazy,” recalled Cruz, who is currently the assistant hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers. “I remember that in the pregame meeting, they talked about how every once in awhile he was going to flip you a curveball when he fell behind. Sure enough, he did.

“My second at bat, Candiotti went 1-0 on me. I remember stepping out and thinking, ‘All right, there’s a chance he’s going to flip a breaking ball here.’ That’s what happened. The ball popped up out his of hand, and my eyes lit up. I hit it out to right-center field.”

His trip around the bases was a mixture of exaltation and anxiety.

“Rounding first base and heading toward second, I couldn’t feel my feet on the ground,” Cruz explained. “I also recall thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, did I even touch first base? Do I go back? Will anybody even notice?’ But you don’t forget that. You never forget that first hit.”

It came in Cruz’s second game. A day earlier, flummoxed by Hideo Nomo’s splitter, he’d gone 0 for 4 with three punch outs. Butterflies were in abundance.

“It’s such a blur,” admitted Cruz. “You’re so nervous. You’re this kid, and we’re playing the Dodgers in front of 30,000 fans at Candlestick. Before the game, my heart was coming through my chest. I’m thinking, ‘Slow down, Cruz.’ And it just never did. Eighth inning, and my heart is still racing. I called my dad afterwards and told him, ‘Pops, it’s tough up here.’ He said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I said, “My heart never slowed down; I don’t think I can take this every day.’ Of course, it eventually does slow down.”

———

LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

NPB teams aren’t cutting pay or furloughing employees during the COVID-19 shutdown. Jim Allen explained why at jballallen.com.

ESPN’s Marly Rivera talked to Toronto Blue Jays southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu 류현진 about his experiences in the KBO, and why he thinks you should watch.

At Baseball America, JJ Cooper looked at how minor-league teams on the chopping block are scrambling to find MLB partners.

Beyond The Boxscore’s Kenny Kelly took a look at Yadier Molina and the great catcher WAR.

Will the pandemic set back the Kansas City Royals’ rebuild? Max Rieper explored that question at Royals Review.

At Words Above Replacement, Bill Thompson wrote about how Chiang Chih-Hsien is still packing a wallop in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

———

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Bill Buckner had 2,715 hits, including 498 doubles and 49 triples.
Rusty Staub had 2,716 hits, including 499 doubles and 47 triples.

In 1963, Pittsburgh’s Bob Bailey had three 3Bs, 12 HRs, and 10 steals.
In 1964, Pittsburgh’s Bob Bailey had three 3Bs, 11 HRs, and 10 steals.
In 1965, Pittsburgh’s Bob Bailey had three 3Bs, 11 HRs, and 10 steals.

The 1965 Chicago White Sox, a 95-win team, had eight players with between 10 and 18 home runs. No one had more than 18. They had five pitchers with between 10 and 15 wins. No one had more than 15.

Hank Greenberg singled in his only career at bat against Ted Williams.

Players born on this date include Dave Machemer, whose only big-league home run came in the first inning of his first game. On June 21, 1978, Machemer led off for the California Angels and promptly went deep against Minnesota’s Geoff Zahn. As Machemer would later tell me, “It was all downhill after that.” He finished his career with 11 hits in 48 at bats.

On May 23, 2002, Shawn Green went 6 for 6 with four home runs to help lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 16-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Babe Ruth hit his final three home runs on May 25, 1935 as a member of the Boston Braves. It was the fourth three-homer game of his career. Ruth played his last game on May 30, 1935.

Bill Sharman, a Boston Celtics legend and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was a third baseman/outfielder in the Brooklyn Dodgers system from 1950-1955. Sharman received a big-league call-up in 1951 but never appeared in a game.

Roger Clemens’s given name is William Roger Clemens.

High Pockets Kelly was once traded for Pea Ridge Day. High Pockets is in the Hall of Fame. Pea Ridge is not.


Effectively Wild Episode 1545: Boogie Mornings

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about a mystifying comment on the back of track star and Oakland A’s designated runner Herb Washington’s 1975 Topps card, the phenomenon of wildly inaccurate appraisals of player value, and the utility of pinch-running specialists. Then (21:48) they talk to ESPN broadcaster Jon “Boog” Sciambi about calling KBO games from home, learning a new league, the perils and pitfalls of remote baseball broadcasting, how calling games in a different time zone has affected his sleep schedule, making international baseball accessible to American fans, how the pandemic may impact the future of broadcasting, and more.

Audio intro: Phish, "Fast Enough for You"
Audio interstitial: Richard Thompson, "Johnny’s Far Away"
Audio outro: James Taylor, "As Easy As Rolling Off a Log"

Link to Washington’s 1975 Topps card
Link to Andrew’s book about baseball in Taiwan
Link to Cardboard Gods entry on Washington’s card
Link to video of Washington pickoff
Link to 12/1/74 article on Washington
Link to 12/27/74 article on Washington
Link to Sam on Hamilton’s value
Link to Travis on Hamilton’s value
Link to Sam on Washington, Hamilton, and Bolt
Link to Ben on Lords of the Realm
Link to KBO on ESPN schedule
Link to photo of Boog’s backdrop
Link to Boog on building a better broadcast
Link to Bryan Curtis on remote broadcasts
Link to info on Project Main St.
Link to donate to Project Main St.
Link to order The MVP Machine

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FanGraphs Audio: Craig Edwards Recalls He Is a Lawyer

Episode 887

I welcome FanGraphs writer Craig Edwards to the program. Craig and I discuss the growing tension between team owners and players, MLB’s claim that a season of fanless games will result in $4 billion in losses, the move to shorten the amateur draft, and the discourse surrounding it all. Plus, Craig briefly puts his lawyer hat back on to assess the so-called smoking gun email, and we recall the 2011 World Series.

Relevant Craig pieces:

To become a FanGraphs member, click here.

To donate to FanGraphs, click here.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @megrowler on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximate 43 min play time.)


FanGraphs Live! Friday: MLB The Show, White Sox at Twins, 2 PM ET

In this week’s MLB The Show 20 stream, featuring Ben Clemens and Dan Szymborski, the White Sox head to Minnesota to square off against the Twins in a battle for first place in the AL Central.

Read the rest of this entry »


COVID-19 Roundup: Players, Executives, Experts Weigh in on Health Protocols

This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.

MLB’s Extensive List of Health and Safety Protocols Is Being Dissected

Last Saturday, a 67-page document laying out all of the health and safety measures considered necessary for a 2020 major league season was reported by The Athletic. In the week since, voices from inside baseball as well as the public health and epidemiology fields have weighed in on what the proposal means, where it goes too far, and where it falls short.

Beginning with medical experts — since they really are the most important voice here — the perspective seems to be that MLB’s proposal is extensive and thoughtful, but the actual execution of it will be challenging. That was the sentiment communicated by Andy McCullough and Marc Carig in a story for The Athletic that ran Thursday. Part of the challenge could be ensuring that measures are taken as seriously as they should be for as long as possible. If MLB’s protocols are effective, it will mean the virus isn’t spreading throughout clubhouses. That will make the threat seem less dangerous, which could lead to people letting their guard down and no longer following the rules as closely.

Troublingly, the steps toward that false sense of security has already begun. In a report by ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, players openly wondered why so many restrictions would be necessary in an environment where everyone has tested negative for the virus. As doctors have warned, however, false negatives exist, and allowing everyone to proceed with life as normal would be very risky regardless of test results. Read the rest of this entry »


Ah-Seop Son Sure Does Walk a Lot

After the initial sugar rush of watching live KBO baseball faded, I’ve settled into a comfortable routine. While I work and relax throughout the day, I’ll watch some KBO action from the night before, either the English language feature game or a Twitch rebroadcast in Korean. In that way, I soak in the atmosphere of baseball almost by osmosis, sometimes focusing closely on a play but sometimes just listening to the sound of it.

At some point, however, I started to get a sense of déjà vu. Hey, that Ah-Seop Son guy is on base again. Hey, did he walk? That was a nice at-bat there, but haven’t I seen this before? It turns out that yeah, that was the case. Through 61 plate appearances in 2020, Son has drawn 14 walks. That’s a cool 23% walk rate. I wasn’t just imagining things — 14 games, 14 walks. He truly is just walking all the time.

Some quick backup before we cover what’s going on this season: Son has been a mainstay in the Giants lineup for the last decade. Since 2010, his worst wRC+ was a 112 showing in 2019, with a 151 wRC+ effort in 2014 his best overall year. For the most part, he’s been a metronomic presence at the top of the lineup, as his career stats attest — he’s a career .323/.395/.471 hitter, which works out to a 134 wRC+. That’s something like career Will Clark — relative to a weaker competition level, of course.

That career .401 OBP says a lot about his on-base prowess, and indeed, Son’s career walk rate is a robust 11.3%. He’s never been much of a slugger, but the combination of gap power, 20-homer pop at his (and the league offensive environment’s) peak, and an all-fields, line-drive approach have made opposing pitchers careful around the plate, and he’s been willing to take his walks. Read the rest of this entry »


Eric Longenhagen Chat 5/22/20

12:03
Eric A Longenhagen: Howdy, letting the coffee drip a few moments more and I’ll be right with you…

12:05
Eric A Longenhagen: Okay

12:05
Eric A Longenhagen: thanks for stopping by, let’s do the thing

12:05
Mike: Is draft intel starting to flow or is it still pretty sparse given all the question marks leading up to the draft?

12:07
Eric A Longenhagen: It’s starting and you’ll get a mock when we’re back from Memorial Day, though it’s a lot of potential strategy stuff now and less about players tied to teams. It’s clear teams just don’t have some guys on their board competitively because they didn’t see them this spring, which I don’t like.

12:07
Pete: If Carlos Colmenarez and Cristian Hernandez we’re available for the draft where would they likely go? Would this demographic be considered as risky as HS Pitching?

Read the rest of this entry »


KBO’s Wyverns Fail to Take Flight

If the NC Dinos are the Korea Baseball Organization’s hottest team — and at 12-2, with a three-game lead over the second-place LG Twins, that’s the case — then the SK Wyverns are its coldest. Through Friday, they’ve gone 2-12, a skid that includes a 10-game losing streak, one game shy of the longest in franchise history.

Based in Incheon, South Korea’s third-largest city after Seoul and Busan, the Wyverns — those are two-legged dragons, in case you’ve forgotten — have been particularly successful in the past couple of years, finishing second in the regular season standings twice in a row. After going 78-65-1 in 2018 under former major league manager Trey Hillman, they beat the Nexen (now Kiwoom) Heroes three games to two in the best-of-five Playoff Series, then beat the Doosan Bears four games to two in the best-of-seven Korean Series for their first championship since 2010 and fourth since joining the league in 2000. Last year, they went 88-55-1 but finished tied with the Bears, that after holding a 7 1/2-game advantage over them as late as August 24. Since the Bears held a 9-7 advantage in head-to-head competition, they won first place and automatically advanced to the Korean Series, while the Wyverns suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Heroes in the Semi-Playoff Series.

Per Dan Szymborski’s rough KBO projections, the Wyverns were forecast to be the league’s third-best team behind the Heroes and Bears, with a 17.0% chance of finishing first and an 83.3% chance of making the playoffs. Instead, after splitting their first two games against the Hanhwa Eagles, they lost 10 straight: the series rubber match against the Eagles, then two to the Lotte Giants and three to the LG Twins (both on the road), three to the Dinos at home, and the series opener agains the Heroes in Seoul. They finally got off the schneid by beating the Heroes on Wednesday, 5-3, then lost to them again on Thursday, a game in which they blew a 5-0 lead and suffered this final indignity, a walk-off infield single that deflected off shortstop Sung-hyun Kim 김성현. Read the rest of this entry »


A Conversation with 1990s Slugger Reggie Jefferson

Reggie Jefferson played alongside some elite hitters in a career that spanned the 1991-1999 seasons. His teammates included the likes of Albert Belle, Nomar Garciaparra, Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, and Mo Vaughn. Jefferson was no slouch himself. A left-handed hitter who most often platooned at DH, Jefferson slashed .300/.349/.474 with a 110 wRC+.

Jefferson broke into the big-leagues with the Cincinnati Reds as a switch-hitter. A cup of coffee later, he joined the Cleveland Indians and continued swinging from both sides. He then scrapped the practice after being dealt to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Omar Vizquel. His best, and most-turbulent, seasons came in his five-year stint with the Red Sox. In 1996, Jefferson batted .347 with a 140 wRC+. In 1999, a fractious relationship with Boston manager Jimy Williams led to an aggrieved exit, which was followed by a year abroad with NPB’s Seibu Lions.

Upon returning from Japan, Jefferson went on to earn a business degree from the University of South Florida. He’s now a player agent for Reynolds Sports.

———

David Laurila: Where did you first learn to hit?

Reggie Jefferson: “My father played in semi-pro leagues. I’m from Tallahassee, Florida, and baseball was really big in the black community when I was a young kid. I remember him playing when I was four or five, and then he went straight into managing the team. Every Saturday I would go watch those guys play; he would have me all over these small towns, watching baseball. That’s really how I learned. Like most hitters, it just came to me naturally. There aren’t too many guys that you can teach to hit.”

Laurila: Did you grow up batting right-handed or left-handed?

Jefferson: “Left-handed, but it’s a funny story. No one in my family had ever been left-handed, and the first glove my dad bought me was actually for a right-handed thrower. I remember being in the yard, playing catch right-handed. I was kind of ambidextrous, so my dad never picked up on it. In time, I realized that I did things better with my left hand, so I played left-handed and became a left-handed hitter. Read the rest of this entry »


Top 36 Prospects: Cincinnati Reds

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Cincinnati Reds. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.

Reds Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Tyler Stephenson 23.8 AA C 2020 50
2 Hunter Greene 20.8 A RHP 2022 50
3 Jose Garcia 22.1 A+ SS 2021 50
4 Nick Lodolo 22.3 A LHP 2022 50
5 Jonathan India 23.4 AA 3B 2021 45+
6 Lyon Richardson 20.3 A RHP 2023 45+
7 Michael Siani 20.9 A CF 2023 45
8 Tyler Callihan 19.9 R 3B 2024 40+
9 Tony Santillan 23.1 AA RHP 2020 40+
10 Rece Hinds 19.7 R RF 2024 40+
11 Stuart Fairchild 24.2 AA CF 2020 40+
12 Tejay Antone 26.5 AAA RHP 2020 40
13 Joel Kuhnel 25.3 MLB RHP 2020 40
14 Allan Cerda 20.5 R RF 2022 40
15 Ivan Johnson 21.6 R 2B 2023 40
16 Graham Ashcraft 22.3 R RHP 2022 40
17 TJ Friedl 24.8 AA CF 2020 40
18 Jared Solomon 22.9 A+ RHP 2021 40
19 Noah Davis 23.1 R RHP 2022 40
20 Packy Naughton 24.1 AA LHP 2021 40
21 Vladimir Gutierrez 24.7 AAA RHP 2020 40
22 Jameson Hannah 22.8 A+ LF 2021 40
23 Miguel Medrano 22.4 R RHP 2021 35+
24 Ryan Hendrix 25.4 AA RHP 2020 35+
25 Jose Salvador 20.7 R LHP 2022 35+
26 Eric Yang 22.2 R C 2023 35+
27 Jacob Heatherly 22.0 A LHP 2022 35+
28 Francis Peguero 22.8 R RHP 2022 35+
29 Mariel Bautista 22.6 A CF 2021 35+
30 Michel Triana 20.5 R 1B 2024 35+
31 Jose De Leon 27.8 MLB RHP 2020 35+
32 Aneurys Zabala 23.4 A+ RHP 2021 35+
33 Debby Santana 19.7 R 3B 2023 35+
34 Danny Lantigua 21.2 R RF 2023 35+
35 Luis Mey 18.9 R RHP 2023 35+
36 Yan Contreras 19.3 R SS 2024 35+
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50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Kennesaw Mountain HS (GA) (CIN)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 65/65 40/45 30/30 40/45 70/70

Stephenson puts on quite a show during batting practice but has a more contact-oriented approach in games. Per a source, he has one of the better in-zone contact rates in the minors, which is quite the opposite of how most of the amateur side of the industry thought he would develop as a pro. He’s still a fringy receiver with a big arm, but that may become less of a problem soon. Barring a tweak that brings more of his raw power to the party, Stephenson looks like a solid everyday catcher and he’d be one of the few prep catching draftees to actually pan out.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Notre Dame HS (CA) (CIN)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 197 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/80 50/55 40/45 45/55 40/60 95-98 / 103

Greene is a generational on-mound athlete whose 2018 season ended with an elbow sprain that eventually led to Tommy John. A strong two-month run of starts in the early summer culminated in a seven-inning shutout (2 H, 0 BB, 10 K, and all in just 69 pitches) on July 2 at Lake County, and a Futures Game appearance. Eleven days later, Greene’s season was over. He had a PRP injection and rehabbed the sprained UCL in Arizona with broad plans to start throwing during the winter, but he ended up having surgery and did not pitch in 2019. His pre-injury report was heavy on velo and secondary projection, and it was (and is) especially important for him to find a better breaking ball, which he seemed to be doing before the injury.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (CIN)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/60 35/50 60/60 60/60 70/70

Between his lack of reps during the ’16-’17 Series Nacional in Cuba and the arduous process of defecting, followed by slowly working out for teams, then waiting for the 2018 season to start, Garcia played very little baseball for the several months leading up to last season and it showed when he finally put on a uniform. Then he had a breakout 2019 in the Florida State League (.280/.343/.436) and was watched closely by the whole industry throughout an Arizona Fall League assignment. If Garcia’s tools were installed in a 21-year-old college shortstop, he’d be very famous. Power, speed, arm strength, and flashy defense are all here, and Garcia has a chance to be a star if his approach isn’t his undoing.

4. Nick Lodolo, LHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from TCU (CIN)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 50/55 45/55 91-94 / 96

Drafted and unsigned by the Pirates as a 2016 first rounder, Lodolo took a bit of a circuitous route to the top of the 2019 class. He had iffy freshman and sophomore years but flashed a tantalizing blend of stuff and feel at times, keeping him in the first round mix despite inconsistent performance. Everything clicked for him during an early-season college tournament in Houston, where Lodolo worked in the mid-90s with a plus breaking ball and changeup.

He’s more apt to throw his curveball for strikes than bury it in the dirt for swings and misses, but he showed better grasp of the latter late in the year. While Lodolo will sometimes go entire outings without throwing that many changeups, there have been stretches where it’s his best pitch. His frame is ideal, his delivery elegant and repeatable. The stuff isn’t dominant, but some teams are still projecting on it because of how big and lean Lodolo’s frame is, which makes them think it might be eventually.

45+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Florida (CIN)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 50/50 40/45 50/45 50/55 55/55

India was hit by two pitches last April — one struck his wrist, the other got him in the back — and the Reds claim that though he didn’t miss any time during the season, his wrist bothered him all year and could have been to blame for his lackluster 2019 power output. He looked aloof and sluggish in the Fall League, where he started 2-for-35 and was eventually shut down due to continued wrist issues. He has generally shown a well-rounded skillset that includes good feel for contact and defense.

How teams value India varies depending on how they contextualize the wrist injury. It could be viewed as a short-term issue that obscured his physical talent in 2019, but some teams are scared by it being described as “nagging” and having ended his season, while others just think India’s junior year at Florida (the only time he’s ever hit for real power), is the anomaly, and don’t have him projected as an everyday player either way. I think that, primarily via the contact skills, India profiles as a second-division regular (45 FV) at third, but if the wrist is truly why the power hasn’t played, or should he eventually prove capable of playing second base (which is what the Fall League assignment was for), he has a great chance to be a 50.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Jensen Beach HS (FL) (CIN)
Age 20.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 45/50 50/50 45/55 45/55 89-93 / 95

Perhaps no high school pitching prospect from the 2018 draft has moved toward the “low variance” end of the spectrum quite as quickly as Richardson, which is especially surprising considering he was a two-way prospect for quite a while. Once he started touching 96 and 97 early in his senior season, he moved into the second round picture as a pitcher. His stuff dipped a bit before the draft and, later in the summer, the Reds shut him down due to elbow soreness. He pitched at 89-93 all last year and made a Midwest League-leading 26 starts without incident.

Richardson found ways to get outs with diluted stuff last year and then arrived to 2020 camp throwing really hard, back into the mid-90s. He’s athletic, new to pitching, competitive, often emotional and demonstrative on the mound and responded to adversity in his first season, a potential 2021 Top 100 arm.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from William Penn Charter HS (PA) (CIN)
Age 20.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 40/45 30/35 60/60 55/65 60/60

Siani is fast and his defensive instincts are excellent, so he has a chance to be one of the better defensive center fielders in baseball at peak. On offense, Siani creates a lot of infield action (oppo liner pokes and slaps, high infield chops, some bunts) but probably won’t grow into relevant power. I have him projected as a low-end regular in center field based on the quality of his defense, but I think he’ll end up hitting toward the bottom of a lineup.

40+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Providence HS (GA) (CIN)
Age 19.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 55/60 30/50 40/35 40/50 55/55

He’ll likely wind up at first base eventually, but in the interim the industry is still searching for where on the defensive spectrum it might be able to shoehorn Callihan in an effort to make him as valuable a prospect as possible. He’s mostly played third base, but there were some pre-draft calls for him to catch, and the Reds gave him post-draft reps at second. The bat is the carrying tool, of course. Callihan was one of the most polished (and oldest) high school hitters in the 2019 class, and performed against his elite peers on the showcase circuit. To get to all of the raw power, he probably needs to improve his feel for lifting the ball, either naturally via reps or with an explicit swing change. That’s especially true should he need to move to first sooner than later. It’s a scary defensive profile and Callihan’s age takes away from some of my confidence in the bat, but I still think it’s a high-probability hit tool with an outside shot of standing at second base.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Seguin HS (TX) (CIN)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 45/50 40/45 91-94 / 96

Santillan’s strike-throwing regressed to his career norms in 2019 and his velocity is now squarely in the low-90s. He was also put on the IL twice with shoulder and triceps injuries. It’s possible a bullpen move will cause Santillan’s high school and early pro velo to resurface and he could pitch in leveraged relief, but if he continues to start, he’s looking more like a backend guy than a potential mid-rotation piece.

10. Rece Hinds, RF
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from IMG Academy HS (FL) (CIN)
Age 19.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 65/70 25/60 45/40 40/50 60/60

Hinds is a massive third baseman who had the most raw power in the 2019 draft’s high school class, but there are significant concerns about his hit tool. Players this size typically move to the outfield, and considering how slow Hinds’ development might be paced due to the contact issues, he might be out there before he reaches the bigs. He has star-level talent, but is a very risky type of prospect.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Wake Forest (CIN)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 50/50 35/45 55/55 50/55 60/60

Fairchild’s swing has a little more going on now than it did while he was in college, but it’s still pretty simplistic relative to a lot of other hitters’. Once extremely stationary, he now has a baby leg kick and is actually loading his hands. His groundball rate has dropped from 50% during his first pro season, to 40% during the first half of 2018, to the 30%-37% range in the three half-seasons since then, and somehow his strikeout rate dropped all the way to 12% during his six-week stint at Double-A Chattanooga. I don’t think that’s a sustainable rate but I do think it makes sense that Fairchild would become more comfortable with the swing over time. He doesn’t have overt everyday physical ability but he is a plus athlete who has been able to make mechanical adjustments, so he might yet get better.

40 FV Prospects

12. Tejay Antone, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from Weatherford College (TX) (CIN)
Age 26.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/60 50/50 40/45 45/45 50/50 89-93 / 96

Antone’s stuff has been steadily improving since he returned from Tommy John, and he was up to 96 as a starter last year. He goes at hitters with the kitchen sink. His flight of fastballs sits in the 89-93 range, he’ll cut it and sink it. He also has a slider in the 82-84mph range that has really odd angle running away from right-handed hitters, who struggle to pick up Antone. He’ll also drop in an occasional curveball, the changeup lives in the 82-85 range and is viable. He gets ground balls with the fastballs and misses bats with the slider. I think he fits in a multi-inning relief role, maybe the back of a rotation.

13. Joel Kuhnel, RHP
Drafted: 11th Round, 2016 from Texas-Arlington (CIN)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 260 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/55 45/45 40/40 94-97 / 99

Kuhnel wasn’t a top draft prospect coming out of Texas-Arlington; he had a maxed-out, bulky frame, inconsistent command, and just average stuff for a right-handed reliever. In 2018, he took a big step forward. His fastball jumped 3-4 ticks and hit 101, and his slider improved into an above-average pitch, though he really struggled to get it to his glove side last year. He’s a major league-ready power relief prospect.

14. Allan Cerda, RF
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CIN)
Age 20.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/60 35/55 50/50 40/50 60/60

The Reds skipped Cerda over the AZL and made the Appy League his first domestic assignment. There he struck out a bunch (34% in 165 PA) but also hit for power and walked. Compared to the other young power hitters in this system, Cerda’s approach is by far the most coherent, and he also has the group’s best feel for airborne contact. He’s a three true outcomes right field prospect.

15. Ivan Johnson, 2B
Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Chipola JC (FL) (CIN)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 50/55 30/45 60/60 40/45 45/45

Johnson didn’t play much, or all that well, as a freshman at Georgia and transferred to Chipola for his sophomore season, where he hit .400/.520/.620. Explosive and physical, Johnson has plus bat and foot speed, but limited feel to hit. He’s raw, but that’s to be expected for a switch-hitter this age who barely got at-bats during his age 19 season.

Drafted: 6th Round, 2019 from UAB (CIN)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 218 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 55/60 40/50 40/50 94-96 / 97

Once an out-of-control prep prospect up to 98 mph, Ashcraft went to Mississippi State, had a pair of hip surgeries, then transferred to UAB. He had a pedestrian 2019 season with the Blazers but lo, Ashcraft has TrackMan-friendly spin rates on his fastball and breaker. His fastball has natural cut at times, but Driveline Baseball has had success getting pitchers like this to pronate better on release and create carry rather than cut, which seems fair to project will happen with Ashcraft now that Driveline’s founder is the team’s pitching coordinator. He could have a breakout 2020 (if he gets the opportunity) and profiles in a power relief role.

17. TJ Friedl, CF
(CIN)
Age 24.8 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 40/40 30/35 70/70 50/55 45/45

The circumstances surrounding his signing bear repeating: Friedl slipped through the cracks as a 2016 draft-eligible player, then blew up as a member of Team USA that summer, and signed with the Reds for $700,000 worth of leftover bonus pool money. From a tools and performance standpoint, Friedl is a low-variance bench outfield prospect.

18. Jared Solomon, RHP
Drafted: 11th Round, 2017 from Lackawanna College (PA) (CIN)
Age 22.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 192 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/50 40/45 50/55 40/45 91-95 / 97

Even amid a substantial innings increase in 2019, Solomon held mid-90s velo for the entire season. He’s a 50 athlete with a 70 body and can just kind of muscle fastballs and cutters near the zone. Those two pitches might be enough in relief if Solomon’s velo jumps in single-inning outings, but his curveball is serviceable, so there’s a third pitch, and Solomon is a Northeast JUCO arm just a year and a half into his pro career, so some of the pitchability traits might come late. He’s got 40-man quality stuff with some late-bloomer possibility.

19. Noah Davis, RHP
Drafted: 11th Round, 2018 from UC Santa Barbara (CIN)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 50/55 50/55 35/40 40/50 91-93 / 94

Davis had a big pre-draft summer on Cape Cod but blew out just a few starts into his junior year at Santa Barbara. The Reds drafted him and finished his TJ rehab in 2019, then sent him to Billings. Most of his pre-surgery velocity returned and Davis was sitting 91-94 in his first few appearances before touching some 95s later in the summer. More importantly, he returned with two quality breaking balls (he was slider/changeup as an amateur) that have fairly significant projection since one of them is new, and Davis missed a huge chunk of time rehabbing from the TJ.

Drafted: 9th Round, 2017 from Virginia Tech (CIN)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 45/45 55/60 55/60 87-92 / 94

Pitchers whose best attributes are their command and a changeup often outperform industry expectations, and even though Naughton’s fastball only averaged 89 mph last year, I think he’ll do the same. He’s funky and deceptive, hides the ball well, creates tough angle in on righties’ hands, and then drops that changeup on them. Naughton’s curveball isn’t great, but he can throw it for strikes. I like him in a multi-inning relief role a la Ryan Yarbrough.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (CIN)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 55/60 60/60 50/55 45/50 90-93 / 97

Gutierrez is a plus athlete with a four-pitch mix, and after sitting 90-93 last year, he was suddenly sitting 94-96 in one- and two-inning outings this spring prior to the shutdown. He has a drop and drive delivery that creates a really flat approach angle on his fastball, especially at the top of the strike zone, but Gutierrez’s heater currently has other attributes (its spin rate and axis are indicative of sink/tailing action) that don’t suit this style of pitching, and he’s been homer prone throughout his career. There are several potential solutions. He might be able to just bully the extra velocity past hitters in a relief role, or he may eventually lean into the sink/tail aspects of the fastball and work off a two-seamer (Julio Teheran is actually a pretty clean athlete/delivery comp for Gutierrez), or the new dev regime might tweak something — perhaps his hand position or stride direction — to try to shape how the fastball moves.

My high speed video from the spring shows a four-seam grip with pretty lousy seam uniformity and an axis like the one the 2019 data indicates, and Gutierrez was still doing towel drills this spring, so I assume the new dev group hasn’t really touched him yet. Based on his athleticism, arm strength, and the quality of his secondary stuff, I still think Gutierrez has a chance to be an relevant big league arm, but it is kind of scary that he still needs some kind of rebuild at nearly age 25 and his most likely outcome is in relief.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Dallas Baptist (OAK)
Age 22.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 45/45 30/35 60/60 45/60 40/40

Acquired last summer for Tanner Roark, Hannah is a contact/speed outfield prospect who will have to make more contact than I have projected in order to play an everyday role. He hit .340 in college and has hit .280 in pro ball, his extra-base hit production consisting almost entirely of doubles. I have him as an average center field defender but think he could be plus in left, a diet Brett Gardner profile lacking the elite plate discipline. It’s a bench outfield look.

35+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (TEX)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 45/50 55/60 45/60 89-92 / 93

Medrano was acquired from Texas in exchange for international slot money during the Rangers’ pursuit of Shohei Ohtani. He spent the following two years simmering in advanced rookie ball (first the Appy, then the Pioneer League) as a pretty advanced righty with a good changeup. There’s a chance Medrano ends up with a plus changeup and command, which would make it pretty likely that he pitches in a rotation. If only one of those comes to fruition, then he’s more of a fringe 40-man guy since he probably needs the change to be an out pitch and the command to make the fastball playable.

24. Ryan Hendrix, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Texas A&M (CIN)
Age 25.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
55/55 60/60 40/45 93-96 / 98

Hendrix has been the same prospect for a while now: relief only, 93-96, plus breaking ball. The fastball has not played like the velo would indicate it should (only a 5% swinging strike rate on the heater in 2019) and he’s also had some elbow trouble. He’s now on the 40-man and will probably be an up/down taxi squad reliever this year.

25. Jose Salvador, LHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CIN)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/55 50/55 30/35 30/40 89-91 / 93

Salvador has the potential to wield power lefty bullpen stuff — a riding fastball and hammer curveball — if he can throw harder. He’s only 20 and skinny as a rail, so it’s reasonable to project that he will.

26. Eric Yang, C
Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from UC Santa Barbara (CIN)
Age 22.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 35/40 30/30 30/30 40/50 45/45

Yang had more walks than strikeouts at UC Santa Barbara and saw a big uptick in power production in his draft year, though he does lack impact raw. He projects as a contact-oriented back up.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Cullman HS (AL) (CIN)
Age 22.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 45/50 50/55 30/40 90-94 / 95

Heatherly has had trouble throwing strikes in affiliated ball and he missed almost all of 2019 with a shoulder injury. Catch him on the right day on the back fields and he’s filling the zone with a sinker in the 92-94 range and flashing two above-average secondaries. It’s No. 4/5 starter stuff, but Heatherly has had lots of hiccups and speed bumps since his excellent pre-draft summer.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CIN)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 45/60 91-95 / 96

I think the loose and lanky Peguero has late-budding velocity projection (both his fastball and slider velocity climbed throughout last year). He projects as a slider-slinging reliever with plus command.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (CIN)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 194 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 55/60 20/45 60/55 45/50 50/50

Bautista had a rough 2019. He hit .233/.303/.332 in the Midwest League (an 87 wRC+, by far the lowest of his career) and missed nearly a month due to a shoulder injury. He also seemed to regress athletically, and the odd swing he seemed to be succeeding with in the low minors looked more out of place in full-season ball. He was passed over in the Rule 5. I’m still on Bautista to some degree because of his raw power, straightline speed, and previously-evident bat-to-ball skills, but this won’t work unless Bautista becomes much more selective, or undergoes some kind of swing change, or both.

30. Michel Triana, 1B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Cuba (CIN)
Age 20.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 60/65 35/55 30/20 40/45 55/55

He has experience at third base and might be tried there early on, but I have Triana projected to first base (and relatively soon) based on his immense size and general stiffness. He has gargantuan power, enough to profile at first if he hits, but he’s been seen either in a showcase environment or against much younger competition, so I have skepticism regarding the hit tool that won’t be remedied unless this kid moves through the low minors quickly.

31. Jose De Leon, RHP
Drafted: 24th Round, 2013 from Southern (LA)
Age 27.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 45/45 50/50 60/60 50/50 90-92 / 95

Prior to the shutdown, the Reds had planned to start De Leon in the Triple-A rotation. He was 90-93 as a starter last year (93-96 at his prospect peak) but up to 95 out of the bullpen late in the summer. He’s a spot starter in his final option year.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic (SEA)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 260 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 30/35 95-98 / 100

Zabala has been traded a couple of times (Seattle to Los Angeles for Chase De Jong, then to the Reds for Dylan Floro) and he still throws really hard, but hasn’t missed as many bats as one would think given that velocity.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CIN)
Age 19.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/35 60/70 20/55 40/40 35/45 70/70

Santana is a right/right corner power bat with a plus arm. He’s a 40 athlete who may need to move to right field, but regardless of where he ends up on the defensive spectrum, Santana needs to be more selective and lift the ball more consistently if he’s going to tap into all that raw power and play some kind of corner role.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CIN)
Age 21.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 60/65 30/55 50/45 45/50 60/60

Lantigua’s approach was unhinged last year — 3.4% walk rate, 47% strikeout rate — but he’s got freaky power for a switch-hitter. The only other switch-hitter under 21 to hit a ball 108 mph last year was Wander Franco.

35. Luis Mey, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CIN)
Age 18.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/60 40/45 35/45 30/45 91-95 / 97

Mey already throws pretty hard for his age and has a great frame, but he has very little feel for his secondaries right now.

Drafted: 12th Round, 2019 from Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (PR) (CIN)
Age 19.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 45/55 20/45 55/55 40/50 70/70

Contreras looks great in the uniform, has some pop, and he’s a shot to stay on the left side of the infield based on his arm strength and athleticism, but he is sushi raw as a hitter and was the most mistake-prone defender I saw in the AZL last year. It’s rare to find someone with the athletic capability to play short and a chance to have relevant power, but there’s a big developmental gap to try to close here.

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Sleeper Arms I Like
Reiver Sanmartin, LHP
Jhon De Jesus, RHP
James Marinan, RHP

Sanmartin has been traded a few times (Texas to New York to Cincinnati). He’s a little low-slot lefty whose tailing fastball and sweeping slider dovetail from one another in an effective way. He has a shot to end up with plus command and make a roster. De Jesus is a stallion with arm strength — 91-96, touch 98 — and 30 control/feel. Marinan has pedigree as a sinker/slider starter prospect. He was up to 95 in some starts and 88-92 in others.

College-Aged Outfielders with a Carrying Tool
Quin Cotton, LF
Fidel Castro, RF
TJ Hopkins, CF
Michael Beltre, LF
Lorenzo Cedrola, CF
Andy Sugilio, CF

Cotton was in the third round mix for some clubs coming into his junior spring at Grand Canyon. Scouts hoped a swing change might unlock dormant raw power, and as Cotton tried to make one, he came undone and had a bad year. Now he’s in an org that has lately had some success making swing changes. He has 55 pull power. Castro’s frame is still really projectable for a 21-year-old and he has natural low-ball lift. He’s got a shot to grow into power yet. Hopkins is a senior sign who hit .295/.371/.463 at South Carolina. Beltre is 25, so assume he’s getting his doctorate. He’s physical and fast and plays really hard, but his swing just doesn’t work. Cedrola and Sugilio are speedsters without viable strength.

Up-the-Middle Depth
Miguel Hernandez, SS
Hendrik Clementina, C
Jose Tello, C
James Free, C

Hernandez can still pick it and make an average amount of contact, but hasn’t filled out like I thought he might when he was 19. The other three are big-bodied catchers with power. Free signed for $125,000 as an undrafted free agent.

Young Dominicans
Braylin Minier, SS
Esmil Torres, SS
Junior Tamares, CF
Jose Acosta, 3B

This is an especially relevant group because for over a decade, Cincinnati’s most prominent international talent acquisitions have typically come from Cuba. It’s been the Reds’ M.O. to avoid the teenage demographic and instead sign older Cuban players when they hit the market later in the process. Most of the 2019 17-year-old class had verbal deals long before new International Scouting Director Trey Hendricks arrived, as he told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale last July. It makes sense then that they ended up with Triana, who hit the market at age 19, and Minier, who popped so late that any info on him is hard to come by since clubs had most of their money committed and had stopped scouting 2019’s. Baseball America has noted that Minier was trained by Patrick Guerrero, who used to work under Reds International Crosschecker Bob Engle in Los Angeles and Seattle.

Torres was in the DSL last year. He has a medium frame, good defensive footwork, and downward-cutting swing from both sides of the plate. Tamares is a plus runner with some feel to hit. He needs to get stronger. Acosta has a good frame and crude bat control.

System Overview

This system looks rough in large part due to a combination of graduations (Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino) and trades (Taylor Trammell, Josiah Gray) made with an eye toward competing for a playoff spot in a strong division.

The international program seems inclined to re-engage with a significant portion of the market it had previously avoided. The Reds also seem more inclined than other clubs to draft older high schoolers, and an unusually high number of their slugging corner bats have among the most reckless approaches in all of baseball. The current pillars of the org’s scouting and player development haven’t been in place for very long and 2020 is a key year for understanding the org’s new tendencies as they reveal them. It was hard not to write this list with the org’s new pitching development processes in mind, as Pitching Coordinator Kyle Boddy’s body of research and thinking is basically available online.