The Cincinnati Reds have a blossoming core of young players throughout their minor league system. The tricky part about having a young core of players, though, is that many of them are still not ready for the big leagues.
In the past, the Reds have had players such as Yonder Alonso and Jay Bruce come up through their system. Now, the Reds have rising stars like Jesse Winker and Phil Ervin, but they both may need a bit more seasoning before reaching the majors.
The key question is whether or not the same players who had great success in the minors in 2013 will be able to continue their success going forward.
While some players might make it to the show in 2014, most will spend next season (hopefully) advancing through the Reds’ minor league system while trying to gain more attention.
Let’s go ahead and look at the top five Reds prospects who will shine in 2014.
*All statistics are courtesy of Milb.com, unless otherwise noted.
Possibly one of the most unsung prospects in the Reds organization is left fielder Jesse Winker. He may only be 20 years old, but Winker certainly deserves more attention from the organization.
In Winker’s second professional season, he collected a .281/.379/.463 slash line with 16 home runs and 76 RBI. He’s a power left-handed hitter with a decent eye at the plate. In fact, Winker had 63 walks on the season, which was the best mark on his Low-A club in Dayton.
Winker has the ability to move through the Reds organization if he keeps up his solid hitting, but he won’t make an impact on the major league club in 2014.
However, Winker has the ability to rank within the top-three Reds prospects next season, and he will have many eyes on him heading into 2015.
Look for this young lefty to start at High-A or Double-A ball in 2014.
While the Reds had several minor league players that excelled in 2013, Daniel Corcino was not one of them. In fact, he posted his worst ERA (5.86) since being signed by the Reds.
So why did he make this list after such a bad year at Triple-A?
Well, Corcino didn’t make it to Triple-A without dominating Low-A and Double-A hitters. In 2011, Corcino had a 3.42 ERA in Low-A Dayton and then improved to a 3.01 ERA in Double-A the next season, per Baseball-Reference.com.
His strikeouts did drop off when he reached Triple-A, though. In 2010, Corcino had a 10.1 K/9 rate with 156 strikeouts. However, his strikeout total dropped to 126 in 2012 and then to 90 in 2013.
It’s obvious that Triple-A hitting gave him a reality check. However, Corcino has the ability to improve. His two lowest monthly ERA totals came at the end of the season.
In April and May of 2013, hitters posted a .333 and .351 average against Corcino, respectively. However, he brought down those averages to .204 and .247 in July and August.
Corcino is the dark horse to improve in 2014. With his first full year in Triple-A behind him, Corcino has the chance to prove his talent and become a dominant pitcher once again.
It didn’t take long for the Reds’ 2013 first-round pick to gain some attention in the organization, as Phil Ervin put up monstrous numbers right out of the gate this season in the Pioneer League.
Ervin had a .326/.416/.597 slash line with eight home runs in 129 at-bats. Once he moved to Low-A Dayton, the hit parade didn’t stop. Ervin raised his average to .349 in 43 at-bats before landing on the disabled list just a few weeks before the season concluded.
Ervin has done nothing but impress in his very short playing time so far. However, he does have some experience under his belt coming from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
Even though he’s still only 21 years old, Ervin has the chance to move quickly through the minors. He will likely be considered for a major-league outfield option in 2015 as long as his hitting continues.
I wouldn’t doubt an successful 2014 season for Ervin. He has only improved when facing better pitching, and that might have Ervin starting next year in High-A Bakersfield.
The No. 16-ranked pitching prospect in the game before the season, according to MLB.com, Robert Stephenson is simply a strikeout machine. This season was eye-opening for the organization as they watched him plow through Low-A to Double-A baseball.
Stephenson had 96 strikeouts in just 77 innings pitched while in Low-A Dayton. He also had an absurd 11.2. K/9 rate and composed a 2.57 ERA in 14 starts.
Although a mid-season injury sidelined the young hurler, Stephenson advanced to High-A ball where he walked just two batters in four starts.
His transition to Double-A was not as successful, though. There, Stephenson walked 13 batters and gave up nine earned runs in four starts.
While his transition wasn’t exactly as fluid as hoped, Stephenson still has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. His velocity and control of the strike zone is what makes him so special.
If he continues his progression, Stephenson will likely finish the 2014 season in Triple-A Louisville. The Reds might even have to give him some consideration at the big-league level if the rotation is running thin late next season.
However, the Reds will likely let Stephenson mature and give him plenty of time to face better hitting.
This season, Reds fans received a nice dose of their No. 1 prospect Billy Hamilton. While some clamor that he should have been up sooner or started more games this year, 2014 might actually be his year to truly shine.
The Reds have a monumental obstacle to overcome in their effort to re-sign outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. As reported by Zach Links of MLBTradeRumors.com, Choo may be looking for $100-plus million in his next contract as a Scott Boras client. As a result, he will likely be playing elsewhere next season.
This gives Billy Hamilton the chance to play every day in 2014. Although he might not put up the egregious OBP that Choo did in 2013, Hamilton still has the ability to help this club.
The ability to steal 13 bases in as many games played at the major-league level this season is nothing short of amazing. If Choo doesn’t re-sign, Hamilton will have the opportunity to play on a full-time basis.
His .368 AVG in 19 at-bats is commendable, but Hamilton will need to prove that he can regularly get on base. Hamilton is easily the most highly-regarded Reds prospect, and it doesn't seem like the attraction will wear off in 2014.
If he is able to continue playing as well as he finished the 2013 season, Hamilton will be in the running for Rookie of the Year in 2014.