Evaluating the Prospects: Cincinnati Reds

Evaluating the Prospects: RangersRockiesDiamondbacksTwinsAstrosRed SoxCubsWhite SoxReds & Phillies

Scouting Explained: Introduction, Hitting Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6

If you asked me before I started making calls on the Reds what I expected from their system, I would’ve said average to a bit below.  I was surprised to find they have at least average depth and a surprising amount of high end talent; they have an above-average eight 50+ FV players and three more that could’ve been in that group.  While there isn’t a slam-dunk, top-20 overall prospect in the bunch, this is an impressive group, buoyed by aggressive international signings and an instinct to look for talent in unusual places in the draft.

One of those tendencies is going after athletic relievers with three pitches and making them into starters.  This approach failed nominally with Aroldis Chapman, but he’s obviously worked out pretty well.  Iglesias, Lorenzen and Howard were all signed in the last 12 months with little to no starting experience and all have the chance to turn into mid-rotation starters.  A fringe benefit of having two athletic, legitimate hitting prospects that are top pitching prospects in an NL organization is that they should be above average hitters (among pitchers) if they become big league starters.

After trades to acquire Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Shin-Soo Choo depleted the system, Reds execs feel like the cupboard is full once again, with much of the top minor league talent in the upper levels.  Due to this and a big group of experienced 20-something big league contributors (Devin Mesoraco, Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey, Todd Frazier, Mike Leake, Chapman, Latos), the MLB growth assets list is shorter than most and includes an interesting case in Negron.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything.  See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including a five-part on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is at the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report.  The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the growth assets that the Reds have in the majors that aren’t eligible for the list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next are the Phillies and the next group of three orgs after that are the Padres, Rays and Marlins.

Big League Growth Assets
1. Billy Hamilton, CF, Age 24
2. Tony Cingrani, LHP, Age 25
3. Kris Negron, SS, Age 28

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

The Reds are on borrowed time. With nearly their entire rotation set for free agency after the season, the 2015 season is very likely to be this team’s last chance to win before the inevitable rebuild kicks in, but it’s not entirely clear that the Reds are good enough to justify pushing their chips in for one last run. The current roster needs improving, but with limited payroll flexibility and the need to keep some talent around for 2016 and beyond, upgrading their talent base this winter is not an easy task. The good news is that this probably ends okay no matter how the season goes. If the team is contending, then they get one last run with their current core, and if it doesn’t work, no team in baseball will have more attractive pieces to move at the deadline.

50+ FV Prospects

1. Robert Stephenson, RHP
Current Level/Age: AA/21.7, 6’2/190, R/R
Drafted: 27th overall (1st round) in 2011 out of a California HS by CIN for $2.0 million bonus
Fastball: 65/70, Curveball: 50/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 40/45+

Scouting Report: Stephenson slipped surprisingly to the end of the 1st round out of high school and has done what most scouts thought he would, turning a crazy loose arm into premium stuff in short order.  This year was a struggle for Stephenson as he hadn’t really failed before, but at age 21 as more of a thrower than pitcher in Double-A, even plus stuff and a heater that hits 100 mph couldn’t allow him to continue as is.

Stephenson is still very young and very talented: he sits 93-96 mph and regularly hits 98-100 mph with a plus curveball at a changeup that flashes at least average, with some scouts hanging high future grades on it.  If you assume a smart kid will learn from his tough 2014 season and the stuff will play, then you’re looking at a potential #2/3 starter that will be 22 next year sitting in the upper level, waiting for a chance.

Summation: One scout compared Stephenson’s developmental path and possible eventual outcome to Homer Bailey.  The command isn’t really the issue, so much as it is usage of his pitches, getting into good counts and challenging hitters in the right way, not always with a flat upper-90’s fastball up in the zone.

FV/Role/Risk: 60, #3 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA, 2016: MLB


2. Michael Lorenzen, RHP
Current Level/Age: AA/22.9, 6’3/195, R/R
Drafted: 38th overall (sandwich round) in 2013 out of Cal State Fullerton by CIN for $1.5 million bonus
Fastball: 60/65, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 40/50

Scouting Report: Lorenzen was seen as a 2nd round prospect in the 2013 draft to most teams, but a good number had him turned in as a hitter.  Lorenzen has above average tools across the board, a classic right field profile and easy actions; he had contact issues until he started raking in his draft year.  Most teams, including the Reds, saw him hit the upper-90’s regularly with a plus slider at Fullerton’s closer and thought there was a quick-moving reliever or maybe a starter if you put in lots of work.

After stretching him out post-draft in the AFL, where he was predictably hammered by advanced hitters, Lorenzen shocked scouts by starting his first full-season in Double-A and showing way more feel to pitch than Stephenson.  Lorenzen sits 92-94 with plus life and hits 96 mph as a starter, flashing a plus slider and average changeup, along with occasionally flashing an average curveball.  Scouts didn’t expect to see Lorenzen show such feel to mix pitches and use his sinker to pitch to contact and get out advanced hitters early in the count.

Summation: The Reds know they have a potential closer but were pleasantly surprised to learn they might have a #3 starter as well.  Scouts are enthusiastic about Lorenzen, suggesting there may be even more in the tank due to his lack of experience and the makeup/intelligence that helps him pick things up quickly.

FV/Role/Risk: 60, #3 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA, 2016: MLB


3. Jesse Winker, LF
Current Level/Age: AA/21.3, 6’3/210, L/L
Drafted: 49th overall (sandwich round) in 2012 out of a Florida HS by CIN for $1.0 million bonus
Hit: 30/60, Raw Power: 55/55, Game Power: 30/55, Run: 45/40, Field: 45/45+, Throw: 50/50+

Scouting Report: Winker was a very well-known prospect out of high school, playing on arguably the best travel team in the country and playing on a loaded Orlando-area high school team that included first rounders Walker Weickel and Nick Gordon.  Winker has progressed well in pro ball, with some scouts suggesting he may have gotten a tick faster since signing, but the carrying tool here is the bat and it has really shined so far.

Winker could play right field but the Reds prefer him in left field and while the raw power isn’t huge, he should be able to produce 20 bombs at maturity.  His feel to hit is very advanced as is his feel for the strike zone.  Except for a .259 BABIP-fueled 92 plate appearances in a late-season Double-A tryout, Winker has never really failed before; it’s also hard to say that hitting near league average at age 20 in Double-A even with bad BABIP luck is failing. Some scout suggest first base will be his eventual home, but also mention names like Paul O’Neill, John Olerud and Tino Martinez as potential comps.

Summation: The tool grades may not blow you away, but the on-base percentage should be great and the risk isn’t very high; you could argue Winker should be #1 on this list.  Winker raked his face off in the Arizona Fall League and looks primed to assault the upper levels of the minors next year, with a 2016 MLB debut the expected path.

Upside: .280/.375/.470, 18-22 homers
FV/Risk: 55, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB


4. Raisel Iglesias, RHP
Current Level/Age: None/24.9, 6’2/175, R/R
Signed: International Free Agent, signed for 7 years, $27 million out of Cuba by CIN on 7/1/14
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 50/55, Curveball: 45/50, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 45/45+

Scouting Report: Iglesias was exclusively a reliever in Cuba and would get into the mid-90’s at times with an above average slider, with most teams thinking that was a preview of his eventual big league fit.  As mentioned in the intro, the Reds see these types of talents as an opportunity to develop those talents in a rotation and with the successful Chapman contract behind, took another gamble of a talented Cuban reliever.

Iglesias was in the mix for the middle of this list during the preliminary stages, then he has a buzzy appearance in instructs followed by more short outing in the Arizona Fall League.  He sat 91-95 and hit 97 mph in these outings, with his stuff varying a bit in each outing.  Iglesias is about to turn 25 and there’s some east/west, inconsistency and effort to his delivery, but scouts see the elements of average command in the tank.  Iglesias has a four pitch mix and his slider will flash plus every now and then, so there’s mid-rotation upside.

Summation: Iglesias will either go to Triple-A and join a deep staff or break with the big league club in the bullpen.  It sounds right now like the big league bullpen is his likely starting point but, like with Chapman, the rotation will be tried once the innings get built up.  Reds officials still think Chapman could’ve started if given the time to develop in the rotation and they feel the same way about Iglesias.

FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter or Setup/Closer, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB


5. Nick Howard, RHP
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/21.6, 6’3/215, R/R
Drafted: 19th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Virginia by CIN for $1.99 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 40/45+

Scouting Report: Howard was a two-way guy at Virginia that relieved in his draft year, but his stuff ticked up late the in summer before his draft year, as he impressed the few scouts left on the Cape with above average stuff as a starter.  The Reds saw an athletic guy with limited innings on his arm sitting 94-98 mph with a plus slider in short stints and thought they could make him a starter.  Much like Lorenzen, Howard was thrown into the deep end after signing, heading to the AFL to get innings so he can last close to a full season next year.

As a starter, Howard’s stuff isn’t quite as crisp, sitting mostly 91-95 and hitting 96 mph, though in short AFL outing he did show his relief stuff at times.  His slider plays as more of a 55 at this lower velocity and there’s an inconsistent changeup that flashes average.  The question will be if Howard can make adjustments with his delivery and command to make all of this work over longer stints and a few times through the lineup, but there’s some mid-rotation upside here.  Like Lorenzen, Howard is also working in a curveball at times for a different look.

Summation: Howard should head to High-A next season and by the second half we should have some evidence if he’s taking to starting as quickly as Lorenzen did.

FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter or Closer, High (4 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB, 2018: MLB


6. Alex Blandino, 2B
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/22.0, 6’0/190, R/R
Drafted: 29th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Stanford by CIN for $1.778 million bonus
Hit: 20/50+, Raw Power: 55/55, Game Power: 20/50+, Run: 50/50, Field: 45/50, Throw: 55/55

Scouting Report: Blandino was a scout’s favorite in the 2014 draft that ended up being one of those guys that was the 2nd option for multiple teams in a row and ended up sliding a few picks from his expected slot around 20th overall.  He threw off the shackles of the constraining Stanford Swing in his draft year, swinging with authority that he only showed in his standout summers with a wood bat on the Cape.  His raw power is above average to plus, but his line drive approach means it’ll play down a notch.

Blandino is an intelligent player as you’d expect from Stanford, surprisingly is bilingual and he’s at least average across the board with the track record to give scouts confidence.  The Reds will start him at shortstops after three years at third for Stanford, but most scouts think second base is his best eventual fit.  Some scouts think he might be a 60 bat, so there’s obviously more ceiling here than just a boring college guy.

Summation: Blandino could move quickly and put himself on the fast track to the big leagues with a strong first full season, likely starting in High-A.

Upside: .280/.345/.460, 18-22 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB, 2018: MLB


7. Phil Ervin, CF
Current Level/Age: Low-A/22.3, 5’10/205, R/R
Drafted: 27th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Samford by CIN for $1.812 million bonus
Hit: 20/50, Raw Power: 55/55, Game Power: 20/50, Run: 60/60, Field: 50/55, Throw: 60/60

Scouting Report: Ervin was a tough evaluation in his draft year, battling a nagging leg injury while also relieving for Samford, where he worked in the low-90’s.  In addition, Ervin is the kind of guy that doesn’t really show you all his raw power in batting practice, so the tools may not wow you at first glance.  He demonstrated his above average to plus raw power in a great summer on the Cape, he’s battled through injuries and has the arm for right but the speed for center field.

This all sounds great, but Ervin had a pretty terrible full-season debut this year; his peripherals and counting numbers weren’t bad but he just didn’t make enough hard contact.  Coming off of offseason wrist injury, Ervin got into some bad habit at the plate early in 2014, getting too pull-conscious and was forced to deal with the first failure of his career.  Reds officials say he continued to work hard but didn’t handle the adversity well, taking most of the season to learn some lessons and make adjustments.  They still like his makeup and expect a bounce back season, but pro scouts seeing him in 2014 for the first time are wondering when they’ll see some production.

Summation: Ervin will head back to A-Ball in 2015, hope to build on some late-season adjustments and deliver on his substantial promise.

Upside: .270/.335/.440, 15-18 homers
FV/Risk: 50, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA, 2018: MLB


8. Nick Travieso, RHP
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/20.8, 6’2/215, R/R
Drafted: 14th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of a Florida HS by CIN for $2.0 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 40/50, Command: 40/45+

Scouting Report: Travieso was a well-known, Miami-area prep arm in 2012 that came out of the chute hitting 95 mph, then he attracted lots of buzz late in the spring when he hit 98 mph in a couple outings.  He’s been up and down a bit since signing, but in 2014 in Low-A, Travieso worked 90-95 mph and hit as high at 97 mph, holding his velocity deep into games.  He threw a slider and curveball in high school, which served to undermine both pitches and he’s dropped the curveball now, helping his slider to flash the above average to plus potential it showed at times in the past.

Travieso has a husky build he’ll need to monitor and his changeup and command are both fringy with flashes of average.  He’s a bulldog that really competes (there’s stories of him beaning entire teams in high school when they pissed him off), he’s dropped 15-20 pounds since signing and he’s improved his starter traits, showing better pitch efficiency in 2014.

Summation: Travieso has the mid-rotation look, but still has some work to do to earn that projection; he’ll head to his home state in 2014 and pitch for new affiliate Daytona.

FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA, 2018: MLB


45 FV Prospects

9. Yorman Rodriguez, RF Video: Rodriguez is a long 6’3/195 athlete with absurd tools (65 raw power, 60 speed, 60 arm) that got a cup of coffee at age 22 in the big leagues late last year.  There’s obviously lots to like here, and Rodriguez’s maturity/entitlement issues (he got $2.5 million at age 16) have slowly become less of a problem, but scouts still bring it up.  He also has slowly improved a bad approach each year to now be passable, but Rodriguez still has trouble corralling his limbs to control the strike zone, make contact and tap into his power all at once, despite feel to hit the ball with power to all fields.  His best comparison is another 45 FV prospect at the same stage of development, Astros RF prospect Domingo Santana, so that doesn’t tell us much about what to expect.

10. Aristides Aquino, RF Video: He’s similar to Rodriguez for his youth, tools and upside but Aquino still hasn’t played in a full-season league yet.  I can’t rank Aquino ahead of Rodriguez for this reason, but Reds’ officials and rival scouts were both raving, almost convincing me to do just that.  Aquino will turn 21 in April but bigger kids can take a little longer to grow into their frames and, at 6’4/190, Aquino has done just that, flashing five average or better tools.  His power projection and arm strength are both 60s, for a classic right field fit and one Reds executive said he’s the most advanced Latin hitter the organization has had in a long time.  Aquino’s frame presents some contact issues and he’s aggressive at the plate with consistency issues at times, but he hit .292 with 16 homers and 21 stolen bases against mostly college pitchers in the Pioneer League; he isn’t all projection.

11. Amir Garrett, LHP Video: The 6’6 lefty signed for $1 million out of high school in 2011 after not pitching in his senior year, then only playing baseball at times while the Reds let him play hoops for St. John’s.  Garrett has since given up basketball and in his first full season playing baseball, he flashed the enormous upside the Reds gambled on in 2011. Garrett sat 91-94 and hit 96 mph with a 55 slider and a fringy changeup that’s coming along; that’s #4 starter projection in his first full season on the mound.  In a baseball sense, Garrett is still a teenager (he’s actually 22), with multiple scouts calling him a ridiculous athlete and we don’t even know what his upside is when he focuses on baseball full-time for a few years.

NOTE: There’s a good case to be made to put Rodriguez, Aquino and Garrett in the 50 FV group; spots 7-11 are all pretty close, with each player having the upside to take off in 2015.

12. Kyle Waldrop, LF Video: Waldrop had a bounce-back age-22 season, following up a disappointing Cal League season in 2013 by mashing his way to Double-A around midseason, finishing the year hitting over .300 with 55 extra base hits.  Some scouts think Waldrop’s swing is a little stiff/grooved and he’s more of a 4-A guy, but he did change his approach to hit the ball to all fields this season, unlocking his 60 raw power in games more often.  At 6’2/215, he’s a below average runner with a fringy arm that fits in left field or at first base.  He’s overshadowed by teammate Jesse Winker but there’s a chance Waldrop could develop into an everyday player.

13. Ben Lively, RHP Video: Lively was a 4th round pick out of UCF in 2013 and has beat expectations so far, with 79 stellar innings in the hitter-friendly Cal League this year before 72 more solid innings in Double-A.  Lively’s performance may overstate his raw ability a bit; he’s a back-end starter that sits 90-93 and hits 95 mph with four average-ish pitches, led by a slider that’s a 55 at times.  There’s deception and about average command; Lively’s delivery isn’t great but he manages to make it work for him and he throws strikes.

14. Sal Romano, RHP Video: Romano is a late-bloomer signed out of a Connecticut high school whose stuff ticked up this year in his age-21 season.  At 6’4/260, Romano needs to keep an eye on his weight but he’s got the durable, innings-eater elements to his frame that scouts like to see.  Romano sat 91-95 and hit 97 mph this year with lots of ground balls helped by his downhill plane and he also has an above average curveball. He draws some understandable Jonathan Broxton comparisons as he’s got those two power pitches and is bigger than Travieso with less feel for his (at times average) changeup and command.  Romano is still figuring out his delivery and growing into his body with relief a real possibility.

15. Tucker Barnhart, C Video: I won’t lie to you: it’s hard to get real excited about Barnhart, especially when he’s ranked in the same group as pitchers throwing in the high-90’s and hitters with multiple plus tools.  Barnhart may never even be a .250 hitter with 8 homers, but he’s gonna do something like that, he’ll be great in the clubhouse, he’ll be plus at every non-hitting and non-running thing a catcher does and he’s basically that guy right now.  I can’t rule out that he’ll figure out how to hit enough to be one of the top 30 backstops in the world at some point, so I feel like I had to put him in this group.  He’s proof that successful baseball players can come in all kinds of packages and that prospect lists aren’t only about upside.


40 FV Prospects

16. Junior Arias, CF Video: Arias is a toolshed that one Reds exec said would win the skills decathalon over every other player in the system.  He missed almost all of 2014 with a broken leg and is playing in the Dominican Winter League right now. Arias is 6’1/200 and a 65-70 runner that fits in center field after a brief try in the infield, with an above average arm, above average raw power and some looseness to his swing, though he can get out of control at times and chase pitches out of the zone.

17. Taylor Sparks, 3B Video: Sparks got a hair under $1 million as the Reds 2nd round pick in June and the third baseman’s raw tools could’ve got him picked 30 picks higher if he had more feel to hit.  Sparks is a 6’4/200 athlete that’s an above average runner with easy plus raw power, the natural hands and above average arm to stick at third base.  The problem is that he’s very aggressive at the plate and has some mechanical adjustments to be made, both of which hold back his raw power from playing in games.  His 2015 full-season debut in Low-A should give us an idea if he can match the Todd Frazier comps some in the Reds organization are putting on him.

18. Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B Video: Mejias-Brean isn’t a big tools guy, evidenced by going in the 8th round out of Arizona in 2012.  He’s surprisingly solid at third base with an above average arm, he has fringy raw power that’s just enough to play on the corner, and at 6’2/215 he isn’t and impressive athlete but has enough feel to make the most of his tools.  He’s a below average runner with fringe to average other tools that profiles as a corner utility guy that plays all four positions.

19. David Holmberg, LHP Video: Holmberg was acquired last offseason from Arizona for C Ryan Hanigan and made his big league debut in 2014, just after the former 2nd round pick turned 23.  He’s a potential swing man or 5th starter as he sits 86-90 and hits 91 mph with an average slider, and below average curveball but a plus changeup and solid average command as separators.  He isn’t in great shape and some think that’s why he hasn’t improved much the last few years, but scouts thing he’ll carve out a nice big league career, with one scout on the high side calling him a poor man’s Mark Buehrle.

20. Jon Moscot, RHP Video: Like Barnhart, Moscot is both not easy to get excited about and close to being a big league contributor.  Moscot throws four average pitches and his arm action isn’t ideal but he makes it work for him.  He has at least average command and some of his pitches will flash 55 at times; you’re hoping for a 5th starter, but would settle for a long man/spot starter/middle reliever.

21. Ismael Guillon, LHP Video: One Reds source called Guillon a “pull your hair out kind of guy” who looks like a stud one night then looks like he should be demoted the next.  The 6’2/210 lefty has a separator 60-65 changeup but a below average curveball and a fastball that works 89-92 but has been up to 95 mph in the past.  Command and other inconsistency comes from his problematic delivery and due to a contract snafu, Guillon had to be put on the 40-man early in his career which also means he was burning options early; he could become an intriguing waiver pickup in the next few years if things don’t progress.

22. Wyatt Strahan, RHP Video: Strahan was a 3rd rounder in June out of USC and he has the broad indicators scouts look for: he sits 92-95 with sink, hitting 97 mph while his low-80’s curveball will flash above average to plus along with a below average changeup.  The problem is that Strahan’s delivery is arm-heavy and stiff and his command suffers even though it isn’t a max effort approach.  His velocity wavered late in the year due to a huge workload in college but Cincinnati will try him as a starter, which most think won’t last very long.2

23. Gavin LaValley, 1B Video: LaValley has a unique background for a top pick: he’s a former D1 offensive line recruit that dropped about 50 pounds and plays third base now.  He’ll end up at first base eventually (one scout suggested DH-only) and he wasn’t a consensus prospect (4th round pick) in the 2014 draft because he was old for his class (he turns 20 next month), he didn’t go to summer events, so he hadn’t been seen versus top pitching and some scouts don’t like his swing.  He has above average bat speed, plus raw power and raked his entire high school career, hitting 54 homers en route to three state titles; his first full pro season will inform his projection more than most players.

24. Jeremy Kivel, RHP Video: Kivel is maxed out at 6’1/200 and is probably a reliever due to some delivery issues, explainable because he only threw a handful of innings before signing for $500,000 out of high school in 2012. He sits 94-97 and hits 98 mph with a slider that flashes 55; Kivel starts for now, but will fit as a reliever sooner rather than later.  I couldn’t find video of him pitching, so I linked to an MMA video (he’s was an MMA standout in high school) of him giving a flying arm bar in 2010; I don’t know what that is, but it’s pretty impressive, bruh.

25. Tyler Mahle, RHP Video: The 6’2/175 Mahle is a name to watch next year in his full-season debut in his age-20 season.  He was a lower profile high school draftee in 2013 ($250,000 bonus in 7th round) but made some strides this year in the Pioneer League.  His velo is a couple ticks better than high school, now working 89-92 and hitting 93 mph; he has three average pitches with the command and aggressive approach to possibly make that fit in the back of a rotation.

26. Jackson Stephens, RHP Video: The 6’3/205 Stephens has some elbow soreness that derailed the start of his 2014 and he never really got going.  The former prep QB’s velo has steadily increased to where he now sits 92-94 and hits 96 mph with a four pitch mix; his breaking pitches are around average and his changeup lags behind with some expected command issues.  It looks like a relief-type fit but there’s enough here to try him as a starter for a few more years


Cistulli’s Guy

Daniel Wright, RHP

The Cincinnati system actually features a number of young players whose minor-league performance and profile suggest the possibility of major-league value — even if the scouting reports are less encouraging. Rey Navarro, who enters his age-25 season, made the majority of his starts at shortstop this past year while also producing both a nearly even walk-to-strikeout ratio and a double-digit home-run total. Tweener-type outfielder Juan Silva, meanwhile, posted walk and strikeout rates of 15.6% and 16.0%, respectively, and a 34-for-43 stolen-base record. Most notable this past season, though, was Wright. The 23-year-old recorded a strikeout-walk differential of nearly 20 percentage points — among the top figures by that measure in the entire minor leagues — and did so to disproportionately little acclaim. Is he a top prospect? No. But his numbers to date would appear to merit a closer examination.


Others of Note

From the upper levels, we have five bats worth bringing up:  1B Donald Lutz (listed at 6’3/250 with plus left-handed power and some big league time, but will be 26 next year and is a 30-35 bat that a backup at best), LF Juan Duran (grew from 6’4 to 6’7 after signing for $2 million at age 16; developed 80 raw power and is showing some improvement, but might be 20 bat), RF Jeff Gelalich (former sandwich round pick profiles as 4th outfielder if the bat comes back around), SS Rey Navarro (Cistulli mentioned him above; he’s an older glove-first shortstop with solid average speed and limited punch at the plate)  and CF Ryan LaMarre (former 2nd rounder hasn’t played much lately due to injury, but is 6’1/205 and can play center field with at least 50 raw power; he’s an asset if he can stay on the field and make contact).

From the lower levels, we have six bats worth bringing up: 3B Tanner Rahier (2012 prep 2nd rounder is good defensively at third and has average tools, but hasn’t made enough contact due in part to some nagging injuries), SS Carlton Daal (21-year-old Curacao-born infielder likely is long-term second baseman and doesn’t have much pop but makes contact), SS Cory Thompson (noted two-way prep standout hit 94 mph with a good hook on the mound but is a hitter now; has broad base of fringe to average tools and fits at short or second), 1B K.J. Franklin (2013 prep 2nd rounder has plus raw power but shifted across infield to first base, so he needs to make more contact even more) 3B Montrell Marshall (legit 6’6/220 monster is cousin of Brandon Phillips and went in the 12th round this year after missing his senior spring in HS with a stress fracture in his back; projects for above average power and can stick in the dirt, was very impressive with bat in instructs) and 2B Shane Mardirosian (2014 7th rounder signed for $350,000 from SoCal high school and is 5’10/175 grinder type with plus speed, steady glove and feel to hit from the left side).

From the upper levels, we have five arms worth bringing up: RHP Ben Klimesh (Video, ugly delivery but sat 92-94 with a solid average slider and deception in the AFL; he gets results), RHP Chad Rogers (80 makeup guy should carve out MLB career in pen, sits 89-92 with solid average off-speed and moxie, but command wanders), RHP Curtis Partch (6’5/240 righty has big league time, sits 94-97 and touches 99 mph with a slider that flashes 55, but command/consistency has been a big issue; he turns 28 in February), RHP Carlos Contreras (sub-6’0 righty sits 92-96 mph with a 50 curveball, 45 changeup and delivery/command for the pen) and RHP Daniel Corcino (had been up to 97 mph and looked like a starter at one point, now is bullpen fit at 88-90, touching 92 with an above average slider and learning to pitch rather than throw, has big league time).

Finally, from the lower levels we have three arms worth bringing up: LHP Jacob Constante (Video, 6’3/220 Dominican lefty got $730,000 as overage Latin prospect; still working on feel/changeup and needs to watch his weight, but 89-92, touching 94 mph with slider that flashes 55 and starter traits is good place to start), RHP Mark Armstrong (6’2/215 righty is big kid, sits 88-93 mph with above average curveball and was cold weather high school draftee that could come on late) and RHP Dan Langfeld (coming back from surgery with stiff delivery, relief fit, has been up to 96 mph).

Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.

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9 years ago

I’ve heard murmuring that the Reds could start Winker in left field in 2015. Would that stunt his growth, or would he hold his own out there?