Cincinnati Reds: Re-Ranking the Team's Top 11 Prospects
The minor league regular season has been done for a while now and it's time to re-rank the organization's top prospects following an eventful season for Reds farm hands.
Players in this list are considered a prospect if they have accumulated fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (per MLB rookie qualifications). Therefore, both current major league and minor league players are eligible for this list.
I added an additional player to this list because several players have propelled themselves up this list and I feel it unfair to knock one of them out. So here are the top 11 prospects from this year.
11: Amir Garrett
Level: Rookie League
Bat: L Throws: L
Amir Garrett is my wild-card pick for this list.
Garrett is a big 20-year-old left-handed pitcher. At 6'5", 210 pounds, Garret is taller than Aroldis Chapman, and his fastball has some similar life.
The Reds drafted Garrett out of St. Johns in 2011 and offered him a lot more money than his 22nd-round selection would suggest in order to lure away from the basketball team.
The Reds' top prospect list calls Garret "a project" but also notes one scout who compared Garret's upside to Aroldis Chapman's.
According to this same list, Garret has a fastball that "already touched the mid 90s" with a changeup and a curve that are assumed to need further development.
Garrett did make his professional debut in 2012.
He pitched in nine games (starting seven) and pitched to a 4.05 ERA, 1.55 WHIP with 18 strikeouts to 13 walks in 20 innings pitched.
Nothing stands out about his performance, but it's his upside and projectability that land him on this list.
You can never have enough left-handed pitching, and Garrett could certainly make an impact for the Reds in the future
10. Theo Bowe
Level: A+ Bakersfield
Bat: L Throws: R
Theo Bowe's a 22-year-old outfielder in with the Reds' A+ Bakersfield team. He appears nowhere in the Reds' top 20 prospects list, but his 2012 season deserves some serious attention.
Bowe showed some promise in his first two professional seasons but had a disappointing season in 2011, hitting just .244/.328/.320 with one home run and 20 steals in 85 games.
In 2012, Bowe struggled early with Low A Dayton but made some major waves with A+ Bakersfield. In his 96 games with the team, Bowe hit .314/.391/.383 with three home runs, 13 doubles and 58 steals.
Between the two levels, Bowe played 120 games batting .290/.371/.357 with three home runs, 14 doubles and 70 steals. Bowe showed serious speed but was completely overshadowed by Billy Hamilton and his quest for the single-season record.
Bowe had his best season as a professional and showed great plate discipline striking out just 91 times in 459 at-bats while walking 57 times.
He'll never offer much in the way of power, but he could certainly make an impact at the plate, and on the base paths if he is able to continue improving his ability to get on base.
9. Sean Buckley
Bat: R Throw: R
Buckley had a strong showing in his 59-game season in 2011. That year, he hit .289/.372/.551 with 14 HR, 41 RBI, 38 runs scored in just 229 at-bats.
In 2012, the batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all dipped while his power numbers stayed dead even.
In 116 games, Buckley had 426 at-bats slashing .244/.307/.413 with 14 HR, 68 RBI, 46 runs and 28 doubles.
It's odd that Buckley would have nearly double the at-bats he had in 2011 and produce just 14 home runs, but he's got a massive frame that projects to big time power.
Buckley stands at 6'4", 220 poundsm and the Reds love his arm at third base.
If he can keep his strikeouts down and produce consistently somewhere near his 2011 slash line, Buckley is likely to give Todd Frazier a serious run for the everyday job at third base.
8. Henry Rodriguez
Bat: S Throw: R
Despite a disappointing 2012 season that saw a decrease in average, home runs and stolen bases, Rodriguez remains one of the more intriguing prospects in the Reds' system.
Prior to the 2012 season Rodriguez had failed to hit over .300 just one time in his professional career, and that was as a 17-year-old. However, this season, Rodriguez hit just .282.
Much of this can probably be attributed to an injury that got him sidelined him for a bit before the Reds sent him to the Arizona League, then promoted him to AAA Louisville before calling him up in September.
Rodriguez only played 82 games in the minors this season compiling five home runs, eight stolen bases,17 doubles, 36 RBI and 42 runs with a .282/.310/.370 slash line.
Rodriguez has blazed through the minor league ranks since coming to the Reds' organization as a 17-year-old in 2007. Now, at 22, he finds himself on the Reds' 40 man roster batting .231/.333/.308 with two RBI in 13 at-bats.
Rodriguez's value comes in his ability to hit for average and some power from both sides of the plate. Switch-hitting middle infielders are hard to come by, and that certainly adds value to Rodriguez as his career continues to progress.
He may never be more than a utility player, but Rodriguez has shown the ability to steal bases, hit for power and average from both sides of the plate, and that's valuable to any Major League team.
7. Neftali Soto
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Bat: R Throws: R
Neftali Soto had his breakout season in 2011. That year, he slashed .278/.333/.576 and clubbed 30 HR along with 80 RBI and 71 runs.
His 2011 season put him on the map as a top first base prospect and gave the Reds even more confidence to ship Yonder Alonso to San Diego.
However, in 2012, Soto regressed a little.
With a full season at AAA, Soto batted .245/.313/.400 with 14 HR, 59 RBI and 55 runs scored. Soto did chip in a solid 30 doubles, but the power numbers, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all dipped by 20 points or more.
Soto has good power and has a great frame to continue hitting home runs. At 6'2" 200 pounds, Soto has a prototypical build for a first baseman, but his athletic ability gives him a little leeway into other positions (i.e. left field/third base).
The harsh reality for Soto, though, is that he's blocked until 2024.
I'd be incredibly surprised if Soto sticks around long enough for him to realize any of his potential with the major league club.
6. Daniel Corcino
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Bat: R Throws: R
Daniel Corcino pitched in his first full season in 2011 and was very impressive. 2012 was even better for Corcino.
Corcino started 26 games this season and worked to an 8-8 record with a 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 143.1 innings pitched.
Two drawbacks to Corcino's 2012 campaign were his increased walk rate and decreased strikeout totals. Corcino struck out 156 batters in 2011 compared to 126 in 2012, and walked 65 batters this season, compared to only 34 in 2011.
Much of this could be attributed to facing a different caliber of batters. In 2011, Corcino pitched the entire season at Low-A Dayton. This season, Corcino made a major jump, bypassing High-A Bakersfield to pitch at AA Pensacola.
All things considered, though, Corcino was still good: He decreased his ERA and decreased his BAA between two seasons where he made 26 starts in each and pitched nearly an identical number of innings.
Though the move to bring Tony Cingrani up to the majors makes sense for the Reds, I'm somewhat surprised it wasn't Corcino who was brought to Cincinnati instead.
In any event, Corcino should get another look in spring training next season and will likely receive a September call-up.
Nick Travieso in the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game
Bat: R Throws: R
Travieso was the Reds' first-round draft pick in 2012. The team felt so strongly about the 18-year-old that he was taken with the 14th overall pick.
Travieso is a big right-handed pitcher at 6'2", 215 pounds. He has the build to sustain his power fastball. According to Baseball America, Travieso sits around 93-95 and can run his fastball up to 98-99.
His slider is already a plus pitch according to the Reds' top 20 prospect list, but his pitching mechanics will need a little work in order for that slider to become a dominant pitch.
Travieso's arm-slot and the way he falls off so heavily to the first base side profile a pitcher who has issues with off-speed pitch consistency. The Reds' prospect list says that he can keep his slider down in the zone, but he struggles keeping his changeup down in the zone.
After being drafted, Travieso went directly to the Reds' system and made eight starts in the Arizona League where he pitched 21 innings, allowing 20 hits and five walks with 14 strikeouts, a 4.71 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
Fans shouldn't put too much stock in his first eight starts as an 18-year-old. The fact that he even made starts this season should be a positive.
Travieso may end up being a bullpen pitcher if he doesn't develop his changeup more, but the Reds are committed to him being a starter.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Bats: L Throws: R
DiDi Gregorius is a slick-fielding shortstop who made the jump to the majors in September after a mediocre season by his standards.
Gregorius turned in a .265/.324/.393 slash line with seven home runs, 54 RBI, 70 runs and just three steals across AA and AAA. DiDi failed to hit above .272 for just the second time in his professional career; the first was as an 18-year-old in his first season.
The good news for Reds fans: Since earning a call-up to Cincinnati in September, Gregorius has collected six hits and two RBI in 20 at-bats.
Additionally, Gregorius has become a decent fielder given his young age. He's improved his fielding percentage in each of his five seasons (.964 in 2012), and he's considered to have a plus arm in the field.
He may never push Zack Cozart out of the shortstop position, but he certainly would be a nice, young replacement for Wilson Valdez at the end of this season.
Bat: R Throws: R
The Reds took Stephenson with the 27th pick in the 2011 Amateur Draft, and it seems to be paying early dividends.
According to the Reds' website, Stephenson can dial his fastball up to the 97-mph range but will need to develop his changeup and curveball more to progress as a prospect.
In 2012, Stephenson pitched in his first professional season with the Pioneer League's Billings Mustangs, later receiving a promotion to low A Dayton.
The 19-year-old righty shined in his seven starts with Billings, going 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA and a .98 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in just 30.2 innings pitched.
Stephenson earned himself a promotion to Dayton where he pitched very well in his first five starts, going 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched. Unfortunately, Stephenson struggled in his first last three starts going 0-3 with a 7.14 ERA before settling in nicely for his last five starts
All, in all Stephenson finished the 2012 season with a 3.18 ERA a 1.18 WHIP and 72 strikeouts to 23 walks in 65 innings pitched.
Stephenson exhibited good control for a pitcher entering his year-19 season. He should begin the year in Low A if not A+ Bakersfield given his strong 2012 campaign.
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Bat: L Throws: L
Tony Cingrani was nowhere on my radar prior to the 2012 season, and I'll admit I totally missed this one. Cingrani had an impressive, albeit short, first season with the Reds' Pioneer League team in 2011.
In 2012 he was lights out. Cingrani posted a 1.73 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP with 172 strikeouts to just 52 walks in 146 innings pitched.
At the major league level, Cingrani has looked equally promising pairing a low-to-mid 90s fastball with a well-developed changeup. He's pitched just 4.1 innings, allowing one run on a solo homer, two hits and eight strikeouts.
The most important thing to take from Cingrani's time in the majors this season is how he adapts to pitching against much smarter hitters.
Cingrani handled his first promotion of 2012 well, pitching 89.1 innings at Pensacola with a 2.01 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 101 strikeouts to 39 walks.
Cingrani also improved his GO/AO rate between A+ and AA from 0.94 to 1.03 (and again to 2.00 at the Major League level), showing that he will be capable of pitching in hitter friendly Great American Ball Park.
Cingrani will certainly be given the opportunity to win a rotation spot in 2013. The Reds could use a lefty in the starting rotation, and it would keep them from fooling around with Chapman as a starter.
The sky is the limit for the 23-year-old Cingrani.
Michael Chang/Getty Images
Bat: S Throws: R
Speedster Billy Hamilton, 22, ran his way into the hearts and minds of Reds fans and baseball fans in general these past two seasons.
The 2011 and 2012 seasons saw Hamilton hit a combined .294 with 258 steals and 68 extra base hits.
Dare I say, more impressive than his 258 steals over the two seasons was his improved slash line between 2011 and 2012.
Hamilton raised his single-season slash line from a respectable .278/.340/.360 in 2011, to a gaudy .311/.410/.420 in 2012. Hamilton may quite possibly be the fastest player in all of professional baseball, but he's doing the one thing that can get any speedster a spot on any club, and that's getting on base.
Hamilton also decreased his strikeout rate from 22 percent in 2011, to 19 percent in 2012 while increasing his walk rate from nine-percent, to 14 percent in 2012.
The Reds have a player with prolific base-stealing ability, but unfortunately, Drew Stubbs has yet to show that he can get on base at any sort of reliable clip.
Hamilton may not end up at shortstop by the time he reaches Cincinnati, but that's all right. The club has Rookie of the Year candidate Zack Cozart, and September call-up DiDi Gregorius manning down the position for the foreseeable future. This, and Hamilton's struggles at shortstop lead me to believe he'll work in center field when he does reach the big leagues.
Hamilton will surely get his chance by 2014 if not September of 2013.