The Cincinnati Reds have an intriguing mix of prospects making up their top-10 rankings. Of the 10, three have the potential to be front-end/middle-of-the-rotation starters, while one, Billy Hamilton, is the game's most prolific base stealer, and he just made his major league debut.
The team's top prospects had an all-around solid month, led mostly by the likes of Billy Hamilton, Henry Rodriguez, Jesse Winker and Robert Stephenson. Others, like Daniel Corcino, continued to struggle to get through the month.
The minor league regular season is over after the first couple days in September, so it seems fitting to grade some of the team's top prospects on their months of August.
So, let's begin with the first prospect on the list, middle infielder Henry Rodriguez.
All stats come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through play on Aug. 31, 2013.
Henry Rodriguez replaces Sean Buckley on the list, as Buckley hasn't played since early April.
Henry Rodriguez is technically the No. 11 prospect in the Reds organization. However, since Chris Buckley is still on the mend, we'll highlight Rodriguez in this article instead.
Rodriguez is a solid middle-infield prospect, and while he no longer exhibits the power or stolen-base potential, he flashed earlier in his minor league career and is still a viable option as a future starter at second base or as a utility middle infielder.
Though his stats are down across the board on the year, you'd never know from looking at his performance in August.
Over 27 games, Rodriguez slashed a gaudy .396/.454/.438 with four doubles, three RBI, 11 runs scored and four stolen bases. Though the power numbers aren't there, he did post an incredible slash line and was a threat on the base paths.
Rodriguez continued to prove why he'll stick at the big league level, by displaying impressive bat-on-ball skills and an advanced approach at the plate. Over those 27 games—108 plate appearances—Rodriguez struck out just 11 times, while walking 10 times.
Rodriguez was already on the 40-man roster and destined for a September call-up. However, he earned that call-up in a big way with his performance this past month.
He'll serve as a defensive replacement and sometimes as a spot starter for the rest of the 2013 season, but with a solid performance in September, he may force his way onto the 25-man roster for 2014.
Sal Romano began his career with the Reds last season as an 18-year-old with the club's rookie league affiliate in the Pioneer League. This season, Romano received an aggressive promotion straight to Low-A Dayton where the plan for young starters, and pitchers in general, is to truly learn how to pitch.
Romano has taken this transition in stride, working to a 7-11 record, with a 4.86 ERA, a 1.59 WHIP and ratios including 6.7 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 1.56 K/BB and 10.0 H/9. On the surface, the numbers aren't impressive, however, his ERA and H/9 numbers have both improved, while his workload has nearly doubled—120.1 innings pitched in 2013, up from 64.1 in 2012.
The young right-hander has improved over the course of the season however, and his August stats are better than those in previous months. Romano finished the month with a 1-3 record, a 4.40 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP, to go along with ratios of 4.1 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.0 K/BB and 10.6 H/9.
Romano was the victim of a massive .343 BABIP in August, but it's semi-understandable given his low strikeout rate—16.6 percent on the year.
When Romano's on his game, he's been very good. For example, in August, he recorded three quality starts in six opportunities. In said starts, the righty allowed seven or less hits and one or less runs while walking 4.32 batters per nine innings pitched.
Unfortunately, in his other three starts, he was absolutely dreadful, allowing 13 earned runs over 14 innings pitched.
Overall, the month can be seen as a slight improvement over the norm, but he deserves credit for even pitching to this point in the season, given his relative inexperience on the mound and his light workload in prior seasons at the minor league and high school levels.
Ryan Wright has had a surprising year in terms of production. After hitting .282 with five home runs and 16 RBI in just 23 games at High-A Bakersfield last season, Wright finds himself hitting .265 with eight home runs and 52 RBI in 100 games played.
In addition to his .265 batting average, Wright brings with him a .311 on-base percentage and a .384 slugging percentage.
Though it's unlikely he could have sustained the same level of production he did last season in his limited time with Bakersfield, a little more power, a higher on-base percentage and significantly more RBI were expected of him this year.
In any event, it's been a decent year for the 23-year-old who will likely begin 2013 as a member of the Double-A squad in Pensacola.
August, on the other hand, was far from decent. Over 12 games played, the young second baseman slashed .208/.235/.271 with three doubles, eight RBI and five runs scored.
Bakersfield's season ended September 2, so Wright has no chance for redemption in 2013. He does, however, have a great chance to start at Double-A next year.
Daniel Corcino came into the 2013 season as the 94th-ranked prospect on Baseball America's Top 100 list. It's safe to say that after this season, he'll no longer be held in such high regard.
Over 28 appearances—23 starts—the 23-year-old is the owner of a startling stat line. That stat line includes career worsts in ERA, WHIP, HR/9, BB/9, K/9 and K/BB.
August wasn't a whole lot better though for Corcino, who allowed a 5.25 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP with per-nine ratios 8.6 K/9, 7.1 BB/9, 1.21 K/BB and 8.2 H/9. The young righty saw regression in his WHIP, BB/9 and K/BB rates, while his strikeout rate, ERA and H/9 rates all improved.
Corcino took losses in three of his seven starts, and while wins aren't the be-all, end-all to analysis of pitchers, it's worth noting since his season record stands at 7-14.
Corcino will take the offseason to rest and work on his mechanics and/or possibly play winter ball. Hopefully that will be enough to straighten him out, because at just 23, there's still a lot of baseball left to be played in his professional career.
After his first few appearances, Michael Lorenzen seemed destined for a late-season promotion to Cincinnati as a mid-late innings reliever. In his first 11 appearances, Lorenzen held batters to a .211/.268/.211 slash line with a 0.94 WHIP without a single earned run allowed.
In the 11 games since then though, Lorenzen owns a 5.56 ERA with a 2.03 WHIP and per-nine ratios of 8.7 K/9, 8.7 BB/9, 9.5 H/9 and 1.6 HR/9. It's astounding how quickly Lorenzen's game went south, but it's clear that hitters at the Double-A level are catching up to him.
The month of August brought about 12 Lorenzen appearances and a rather underwhelming all-around performance. He finished the month with a 5.11 ERA and a 1.87 WHIP while averaging 8.0 K/9, 8.0 BB/9, 1.0 K/BB, 8.8 H/9 and 1.5 HR/9.
Opposing batters teed off on Lorenzen, who allowed a .279/.456/.558 slash line over the month.
Lorenzen wasn't added to the 40-man roster prior to the September 1 roster expansion, so his season is over. But the sheer fact that he was able to advance from the rookie league all the way to Double-A is impressive.
Jesse Winker is a sweet-swinging corner outfielder who has one of the brightest futures of any prospect in the Reds organization. The 20-year-old owns a career .301/.402/.476 slash line in the minors with 162-game averages of 19 home runs, 31 doubles, 103 RBI and 107 runs scored.
Winker's plus hit tool is easily his best attribute, but he's a serviceable fielder who, with a little more minor league seasoning, could be a solid addition to the Reds' everyday outfield and lineup.
With that said, Winker was outstanding in the short amount of time that he played in August. Over 16 games played, he slashed .310/.410/.466 with two home runs, three doubles, nine RBI and 15 runs scored.
Winker's approach and bat-on-ball skills are the best in the organization, and that's evidenced by his 10:10 K/BB ratio.
Winker's ability at the plate is superior compared to most 20-year-olds, and it's helped him advance through the system at a brisk pace relative to his age. Should he stay on course—and not get traded—we should see Winker sometime in 2015.
Phillip Ervin's been everything the Reds could have hoped for in his first few months with the organization. The Reds drafted Ervin back in June, and he's already at Low-A Dayton.
Though he's played in very few professional games—46 to be exact—Ervin has displayed a good mix of hit, power and speed tools.
In 46 games, Ervin owns a .331/.425/.564 slash line with nine home runs, 35 RBI, 34 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. Ervin's 34-25 ratio of strikeouts to walks is equally impressive and could foreshadow the makings of a solid big league hitter.
Ervin spent some time on the shelf in August—he only played until August 10—but his 10 games were impressive nonetheless.
Over those 10 August games, Ervin slashed .361/.465/.500 with one home run, two doubles, five RBI and seven runs scored. Ervin also continued to display an advanced approach at the plate, striking out just eight times compared to seven walks.
Nick Travieso has taken a step forward here in 2013. Although there have been no major revelations in his game, it's worth noting that he's improved upon his age-18 season in 2012, with a slightly better one in 2013.
Travieso's ERA, K/9 and HR/9 figures have all improved, while his workload has increased. Next season should see a significant increase in innings pitched, which will make 2014 a significant season in his progression.
August was a rather average month for Travieso who, in six starts, managed a 4.25 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP and ratios including 6.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 2.33 K/BB and 7.9 H/9.
Travieso did go 2-1 over the month, and his ERA over the month was below his season average. The season is over now, but Travieso will benefit from an offseason to get in better shape, relax and gear up for spring training and the 2014 season.
Robert Stephenson closely rivals Billy Hamilton for the top spot in the Reds' prospect rankings. The 20-year-old has seemingly limitless potential to go along with a big-time arm.
Stephenson has made 37 starts as a professional—slightly more than a single-season total—and has yielded some impressive results. Over those starts, Stephenson boasts a 3.06 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP and ratios including 10.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.59 K/BB and 7.3 H/9.
What's most impressive about Stephenson's trek through the minors is the brisk pace at which he's moved up the ranks. The young righty's 37 starts have come across a multitude of levels including the rookie league, Low-A, High-A and most recently, Double-A.
Stephenson made four starts in August, one in High-A and three in Double-A. In those four starts, Stephenson worked through 23.2 innings, allowing a 3.42 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP and per-nine ratios including 10.3 K/9, 5.3 BB/9 and 6.8 H/9.
If not for an abnormally high BB/9 rate, Stephenson would have had an extraordinary month. In any event though, the California native was solid in August.
Despite a bit of a down season in 2013, Billy Hamilton is still one of the most well-known prospects in all of professional baseball. Hamilton's speed has shot him right to the forefront of the league's top prospects discussion.
Over his last 390 games, the speedy outfielder logged an incredible 333 stolen bases. That incredible speed is exactly what landed him in Cincinnati when the rosters expanded out to 40 players on September 1.
August went a long way toward helping Hamilton realize his goal of reaching the big leagues. In 27 games played, the 22-year-old shortstop-turned-outfielder slashed .272/.303/.333 with three doubles, two triples, four RBI, 14 runs scored and 11 stolen bases.
It wasn't the best month of his career. However, Hamilton was able to get on base at a rate similar to his season average, and his speed helps manufacture runs on a game-to-game basis.
Hamilton is now in Cincinnati, swiping bases at the big league level—he stole his first base on Sept. 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals. With a strong showing the rest of the month, Hamilton could cement his claim to the starting center fielder's gig in 2014.