Cincinnati Reds: Ranking the Organization's Top 10 Prospects
Over the past month, I've written eight articles about prospects in the Reds organization. Some well known, some, not so much.
This, coupled with the shake-up the farm system received this offseason, led me to create a power ranking of the top prospects in the Reds system.
Many of you would say that the system was depleted during the Latos trade, but I respectfully disagree, and hopefully these ten prospects can convince you otherwise.
All the statistics and physical attributes were taken from Baseball-Reference.
No. 10: Todd Frazier
Age: 26, Height: 6'3", Weight: 220 lbs.
Position: 3B/1B/2B/LF, Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Todd Frazier kicks off the list at number 10. If this list were written three to four years ago, Frazier would certainly be in the top 10. However, it's 2012 and the now 26-year-old Frazier is unlikely to make the major league roster.
Pre-2010, Frazier was ranked as the number 43 prospect on Baseball America's Top Prospect list. Since then, Frazier has shown no signs of being a top-50 prospect.
Frazier showed decent power in 2010 and 2011 (17 and 20 HR respectively), however, his average tumbled between '09 and '10 (.292 down to .258). His average continued to drop in 2011 when he hit just .253 (across AAA and MLB levels).
Frazier actually showed signs of life this spring, but with the lack of a definite roster spot, he won't end up making the 25-man roster and will spend most of the season in Louisville. Frazier will be 27 when the 2013 season begins, and by then, time will have passed him by.
To me, Frazier shows the power of an everyday player, but the all-around ability of a guy who will be nothing more than a utility player that won't ever live up to his first-round pick status.
No. 9: Donald Lutz
Age: 23, Height: 6'4", Weight: 230 lbs.
Position: 1B, Bats: Left, Throws: Right
First baseman Donald Lutz took the Reds Single-A team by storm last season and surprised a lot of people, including myself.
In 123 games at Dayton, Lutz compiled 140 hits, including 20 home runs and 23 doubles, en-route to a .301/.358/.492 composite line. Lutz also knocked in 75 RBI and scored 85 runs.
I'm not necessarily saying that Lutz is the next Joey Votto but for a 22-year-old to put up that type of season is pretty impressive.
Lutz is 6'3", 235 pounds, so physically he appears to be someone who could keep up that 20-home run pace and even add to it as he moves up through the minor league system.
Donald Lutz will begin the 2012 season with the Advanced A-level Bakersfield Blaze, where he'll receive valuable instruction from Reds great, Ken Griffey Sr. If Lutz continues his high level of offensive output, he should have no problem reaching AA Pensacola this year and possibly even AAA Louisville.
No. 8: Brodie Greene
Age: 24, Height: 6'1", Weight: 195 lbs.
Position: 2B/SS/3B/OF, Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Brodie Greene is one of my favorite prospects in the Reds organization. His game, along with his willingness to play multiple positions, reminds me of an Emilio Bonifacio type player with more pop.
Bonifacio plays a multitude of positions, so does Brodie Greene. Bonifacio has 40-stolen base speed, so does Brodie Greene.
Last season, in 126 games between A+ and AA, Greene went .287/.343/.433 with 14 HR, 81 RBI, 82 runs scored and 38 stolen bases. Keep in mind, that was only Greene's second professional season.
The big thing that catches my eye with Greene is his clutch hitting ability. In the 2010 Big 12 Championship, Greene hit the game-winning two-run home run that gave his Texas A&M Aggies a conference title. Clutch hitting is something that can't be taught and it's a valuable asset in a young player like Greene.
It's likely that Greene will remain at second base as he climbs through the minors and I believe, should Brandon Phillips not re-sign with the team, that Brodie Greene will be the starting second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds in 2013.
Even if Phillips does resign, there's a possibility that Greene could end up as a very useful utility player at the Major League level.
Greene will start the year right where he finished, in AA, but I believe he will make the AAA roster by season's end.
No. 7: Didi Gregorius
Age: 22, Height: 6'1", Weight: 175
Position: SS, Bats: Left, Throws: Right
Didi Gregorius is one of the more intriguing prospects in the Reds system. The now 22-year-old shortstop was signed by the Reds out of the Netherlands at 18 years old, and has impressed many of the talking heads in the organization.
In his last three seasons, Gregorius hasn't hit under .272. He's compiled a career minor league average of .273 all while moving very quickly through the minor league system.
Last year, Gregorius composite line was .289/.324/.429 with seven HR, 44 RBI, 48 runs and 11 stolen bases in just 84 games between A+ and AA.
In comparison to highly-touted prospect Billy Hamilton, Gregorius is a little more advanced defensively and slightly more consistent at the plate.
Dusty Baker showed how wildly impressed he was with Gregorius this spring in an interview with beat writer John Fay. Since I can't possibly say it any better than Fay and Baker, here's the link to that interview.
No. 6: Neftali Soto
Age: 23, Height: 6'3", Weight: 180 lbs.
Position: 1B, Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Neftali Soto is my favorite prospect in the Reds organization.
Soto began to make an impression on me back in 2008. He played for two teams that year, in the Rookie league and for the A-level Dayton team. Between the two levels Soto played 67 games and went .340/.362/.558 with 11 HR, 47 RBI and 38 runs.
Those are incredible numbers for an 19-year-old who played in under half of a full A-level season.
Soto had a little bit of a down year in 2009 but rebounded strongly in 2010 and particularly, 2011.
In Soto's 2011 season he played 106 games. In those 106 games Soto went .278/.333/.576 with 31 HR, 81 RBI and 71 runs scored.
Soto finished last season in AAA Louisville and will begin the 2012 season there. Should he perform well I could see a late-season call-up when the rosters expand out to 40 players in September, as well as him cracking the Top 100 Prospects list.
No. 5: Zack Cozart
Age: 26, Height: 6'0", Weight: 195 lbs.
Position: SS, Bats: Right, Throws: Right
It's no secret that Zack Cozart is going to be the starting shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds in 2012.
I would almost make the argument that Cozart could have been with the team as early as 2009, but there was no sense in rushing him when the Reds already had established veterans at shortstop on the roster.
Cozart's time has come though, and he's most certainly earned it. Last year in 77 games at AAA Louisville, Cozart hit .310/.357/.467 with 7 HR, 32 RBI, 57 runs and 9 stolen bases. That season earned him a spot on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list this season (No. 75).
Cozart has shown all the different tools to succeed as a shortstop at the Major League level. In 2011 he hit .310, in 2010 he hit 17 HR and drove in 67 runs while scoring 91. He also stole 30 bases that season.
He got his call-up last season, but an elbow injury derailed him after just 11 games.
If Cozart can put all his tools to use in one complete season, he'll have a shot at being an All-Star shortstop and will win over many Reds fans, en-route to solidifying his grip on the starting job for quite a while.
No. 4: Robert Stephenson
Age: 19, Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs.
Position: SP, Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Robert Stephenson might have the most pure talent of any player on this list. He has a fastball that he can run up into the high 90s (up to 97) and he's got a curveball that's already a plus pitch.
Stephenson has yet to throw a pitch as a professional, but like many in the Reds organization, I have high hopes for the 19-year-old.
Just so you can get a sample of what Stephenson is capable of, take a look at his numbers from his first 61 innings of work in his senior season: 6-2 record, 1.26 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 27 hits allowed, 17 walks and 119 strikeouts.
Stephenson averaged nearly two strikeouts per-inning as a starter. No matter what level you're pitching at, that's impressive.
Stephenson will likely begin the year in the Rookie League or at A-level Dayton.
No. 3: Daniel Corcino
Age: 21, Height: 5'11", Weight: 165 lbs.
Position: SP, Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Daniell Corcino holds down the number three spot on this list and for good reason.
The perfect point of comparison for Corcino is Johnny Cueto; in fact, I'd call him Johnny Cueto with better strikeout potential. Corcino is 5'11" (one inch taller than Cueto) and weighs 165 pounds (55 pounds lighter than Cueto).
Corcino's fastball is similar to Stephenson's—it sits in the low-to-mid 90s but can run up to about 97-98 when he really fires it. Corcino also has a decent breaking ball and a change-up that he's working on.
At just 21 years old, one can imagine that by the time he gets up to the show, he'll have improved on both his breaking ball and his change-up.
Last year, Corcino had a breakout season. In 26 starts at A-level Dayton, Corcino had a record of 11-7 with a 3.42 ERA, 1.163 WHIP and 156 strikeouts in 139.1 innings.
Corcino will start this season in AA Pensacola and should continue to build upon the success he experienced in 2011. If he does, he'll join other Reds prospects on the Top 100 Prospects list.
No. 2: Billy Hamilton
Age: 21, Height: 6'1", Weight: 160 lbs.
Position: SS, Bats: Switch, Throws: Right
No surprises with the last two prospects, as Billy Hamilton secures the number two spot on this list.
Billy Hamilton, Baseball America's number 48 prospect, went off in 2011. By now you all know that he stole 103 bases last year, but what you should really take away from his season is how efficiently he stole those bases, and how well he hit the ball.
In 2011 Hamilton stole 103 bases at an 83.7 percent clip. That's incredibly efficient base stealing and it shows that he's not only fast, but also intelligent on the base paths.
Hamilton's composite stat line was also impressive for a 20-year-old playing in A-ball. He hit .278/.340/.360 with three HR, 50 RBI and 99 runs scored.
You can tell from his stat line that he's not much of a power hitter, or much of an extra-base hitter for that matter. But before you criticize Hamilton for this, remember that he's just 21 years old and is still filling into his 6'1" frame.
Hamilton will begin the year in A-ball again but should progress through the system very quickly over the next two years to challenge the major league roster by 2014.
No. 1: Devin Mesoraco
Age: 23, Height: 6'1", Weight: 220 lbs.
Position: Catcher, Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Devin Mesoraco was the topic of my last article, and is without a doubt, the top prospect in the Reds organization. He rose quickly through the minor league system and now finds himself as the favorite to start the 2012 season at catcher.
Mesoraco's career was in doubt early on when he batted under .230 in two of his first three professional seasons. However, he was quick to turn it around and turned in impressive campaigns in both 2010 and 2011.
2010 was his most impressive season. In that year, Mesoraco went .302/.377/.620 with 26 HR, 75 RBI and 71 runs scored. That season was good enough to land him at number 64 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in 2011.
Mesoraco turned in another good season in 2011, where he went .289/.371/.484 with 15 HR, 71 RBI and 60 runs scored. After that season, Mesoraco found himself at number 16 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in 2012.
Mesoraco had a little bit of a disappointing Major League call-up last year, but it's no cause for alarm. He should settle in quite nicely this year and if he has a year like 2010, the Reds will certainly win their division—and he'll win rookie of the year.
Despite the departure of top organizational prospects (Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Ronald Torreyes and Dave Sappelt), the Reds farm system is still alive and well.
Two of these ten prospects will have an immediate impact on the 2012 season. Others will have to develop more in the minors before making the leap to Cincinnati, but one thing's for certain, the Reds organization is full of young, talented ball players.
I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on the future of these youngsters and how their careers could shape up, in addition to anybody who you think should and shouldn't be on this list.
For a more in-depth look at some of these prospects, take a look at my individual articles on them: