Cincinnati Reds' Top 10 Prospects for 2014

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 13, 2014

Cincinnati Reds' Top 10 Prospects for 2014

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    Billy Hamilton will open the 2014 season as Cincinnati's center fielder.
    Billy Hamilton will open the 2014 season as Cincinnati's center fielder.Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

    The Cincinnati Reds’ system ranks in the bottom half among all 30 MLB teams, but it’s rich with players that should contribute in the major leagues over the next several years.

    Billy Hamilton obviously is the first name to come up in any conversation regarding the future of the Reds. However, focusing solely on Hamilton overshadows the fact that the system is rich with outfield talent.

    22-year-old Yorman Rodriguez’s prospect stock is on the rise after a long-overdue breakout season in Double-A, as is the stock of 2012 first-rounder Jesse Winker following his impressive full-season debut in Low-A. Last but not least is Phil Ervin, the 27th overall pick in the 2013 draft, who posted a .989 OPS with nine home runs in 200 plate appearances this past summer during his professional debut.

    On the mound, right-hander Robert Stephenson made a surge up the organizational ladder last season behind a near-elite fastball and devastating breaking ball, and he enters the 2014 season ranked as the team’s top prospect.

    After Stephenson, the Reds house several intriguing arms in Michael Lorenzen, Carlos Contreras, Nick Travieso and Ben Lively. However, all four right-handers have fringy command and may be better suited for a career in the bullpen. Meanwhile, left-hander David Holmberg, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks during the offseason, provides the organization with rotational depth at the Triple-A and major league levels.

    Here’s a look at the Cincinnati Reds’ top 10 prospects for 2014.

10. Ben Lively, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 03/05/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2013 (Central Florida)

    ETA: 2016

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Lively, a 6’4”, 190-pound right-hander, has a strong, durable frame built for eating innings; lots of deception in his delivery but it comes at the cost of effort; doesn’t give opposing hitters a good look at the ball; lacks a true plus offering but compensates with a mature four-pitch mix; fastball registers in the 90-95 mph range with late sink and run; has a feel for changing speeds with average changeup and curveball; slider has some swing-and-miss potential with tight spin and diving action off the plate.

    Projection: No. 4 or 5 starter

    Risk: High

9. Nick Travieso, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/31/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 215 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Fla.)

    ETA: 2016

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’2” right-hander came from an elite high school program where he was used sparingly on the mound; doesn’t require much physical projection given his thick build; have never been a fan of his mechanics, more specifically, his arm action and release point; incredibly raw prospect who may several years to get going.

    Travieso was a mid-90s guy as a high school senior but has sat in the low 90s as a professional; more of a thrower than pitcher at the moment; needs to incorporate more lower-body explosiveness and leg; slider is raw but flashes average potential; tends to get under or around pitch; release point may prevent him from ever throwing the pitch with consistency; changeup is below offering; development of secondary arsenal will seemingly dictate whether he sticks as a starter.

    Projection: No. 3 or 4 starter; middle reliever

    Risk: High

     

    Video courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues.com

8. David Holmberg, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 07/19/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 225 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/L

    Drafted: Second round, 2009 by White Sox (Port Charlotte HS, Fla.)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)

     

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’3”, 225-pound left-hander’s arsenal doesn’t feature the power his size suggests; strong command profile and potential for four or five average-or-better offerings at maturity; feel for a deep arsenal; plus pitchability.

    Holmberg’s fastball works in the 88-91 mph range; moderate sinking action; pitch tends to play up thanks to his aggressive command to both sides of the plate; also throws an average cutter that registers a few ticks slower; helps him work inside against right-handed hitters; changeup is best secondary offering, thrown in the low-80s with late fading action and fastball arm speed; showcases a legitimate feel for both a curveball and slider, though neither pitch is as advanced as his fastball-changeup combo.

    Projection: No. 4 or 5 starter

    Risk: Low

7. Carlos Contreras, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/08/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 205 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: Dominican Republic (2008)

    ETA: Late 2014

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Undersized right-hander at 5’11”, 205 pounds; mature build that doesn’t require projection; long, loose arm; length on the backside impedes control/command; showcases impressive arm speed; plus fastball sits at 92-94 mph with late arm-side run; pitch has good life and jumps on opposing hitters; changeup is an easy plus offering and thrown with deceptive arm speed; slider was vastly improved in 2013 and enabled his entire arsenal to play up; could make a run at the major leagues next season with improvement to fringe-average command; late-inning potential as a reliever.

    Projection: No. 3 or 4 starter; late-inning reliever

    Risk: Medium

6. Michael Lorenzen, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/04/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First-round supplemental, 2013 (Cal St. Fullerton)

    ETA: 2016 (starter); late 2014 (reliever)

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Outstanding athlete with a wiry 6’3”, 180-pound build; raw on the mound given two-way background at Cal St. Fullerton; little mileage on arm after serving as team’s closer; right-hander has huge arm strength with a fastball that sat 95-99 mph in college with late life; likely to play down a few ticks in a starting role; lacks command and relies on velocity; curveball is a potential plus-plus offering in the low-80s with devastating, swing-and-miss break; changeup is present but fringy in all regards; crucial to his development as a starter; needs to build up innings and prove to be durable; late-inning role is still a sexy fallback option.

    Projection: Late-inning reliever; closer

    Risk: Medium

     

    Video courtesy of BullpenBanter.com

5. Yorman Rodriguez, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 08/15/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 197 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2008 (Venezuela)

    ETA: Late 2014

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Rodriguez, a 6’3”, 197-pound outfielder, has all the tools and athleticism to be an impact player; some makeup concerns; possesses above-average speed and similar range in outfield; can get lazy with routes and jumps; plus arm strength ideal for right field; throws have excellent carry.

    Plus raw power to all fields; started tapping into it during games in 2013; can drive it out to the opposite field when hands get extended; plate discipline is lacking, as he struggles to pick up spin out of the pitcher’s hand; hit tool may never be better than average; can straight-up murder a fastball; strikeout rate isn’t terrible, but he needs to work deeper counts with more consistency and coax more walks; doesn’t utilize speed on the basepaths and needs to understand when to pick his spots to steal.

    Projection: Fourth/platoon outfielder

    Risk: Medium

4. Jesse Winker, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 08/17/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First-round supplemental, 2012 (Olympia HS, Fla.)

    ETA: Late 2015

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    A left-handed hitter, Winker’s bat is his carrying tool; understands his limitations and demonstrates a feel for the strike zone well beyond his years; smooth, consistent swing; direct line-drive bat path that features plenty of extension after contact; there’s already some leverage to his swing, but he’d likely benefit in the power department with a bit more; tracks the ball deep into the zone and is comfortable driving the ball from line to line.

    Winker isn’t particularly fast and doesn’t project to be a threat on the basepaths; possesses slightly above-average range in the outfield once he hits full stride; not enough speed for center field and not enough arm strength for right field; projects as a big-league left fielder; his reads and first step improved last season with experience; solid ballplayer across the board.

    Projection: Second-division left fielder

    Risk: Medium

     

    Video courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues.com

3. Phil Ervin, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 07/15/1992 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Samford)

    ETA: 2015

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Ervin has a quick, compact swing; plus bat speed; aggressive hitter; strong top hand; stays inside the ball; slight bat wrap; feel for the strike zone; sees ball deep in the zone; some swing-and-miss but solid approach; may hit for higher average than expected; above-average-to-plus runner; decent base stealer with quick feet; stocky frame and thick lower half could cost him a step in the future.

    Physically strong at 5’11”, 205 pounds; back legs balls as well as anyone from 2013 draft class; helps him drive pitches on the inner half or top of the zone; rotational swing; utilizes strong lower half; more power to pull side; plenty of opposite-field gap pop; may develop more power through evolution of approach.

    Will likely be developed as a center fielder; excellent athlete; covers plenty of ground; has the bat to move to a corner spot if necessary; reads/routes need improvement; plus arm suitable for all three outfield positions; quick release; throws have good carry.

    Projection: Second-division outfielder

    Risk: Medium

     

    Video courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues.com

2. Billy Hamilton, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 09/09/1990 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 160 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2009 (Taylorsville HS, Miss.)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Legitimate questions as to whether he’ll ever develop the hit tool needed to hold an everyday job in the major leagues; switch-hitter has quick wrists from both sides of the plate; generates above-average bat speed and stays short to the ball; struggles to keep his weight back; lunges at too many hittable offerings; controls the zone relatively well; makes far too much weak contact for someone who projects as a dynamic leadoff hitter. 

    Hamilton’s wiry, 6’0”, 160-pound frame lacks physical projection; difficult to envision adding significant strength; actually does a decent job creating backspin carry by driving through the baseball, especially from the left side of the plate, where he showcases a more leveraged swing.

    Fastest player I’ve ever seen on a baseball field; best home-to-first time I’ve ever recorded or heard of; everyone in the park knows Hamilton is running and he still swipes bags with ease; potential top-of-the-order monster; secondary skills are raw and will have to develop at the highest level.

    Hamilton was developed as a shortstop until fall 2012; elite speed gives him tons of range and closing speed in the outfield; arm stroke that was awkward at shortstop plays well in center field given his length on the back side; speed allows him to compensate for bad reads; he’ll get to even more balls as his jumps and instincts improve.

    Projection: Second-division center fielder

    Risk: Low

1. Robert Stephenson, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/24/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Alhambra HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Mid-2015

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Stephenson is a durable 6’2” right-hander with a projectable frame and elite arm strength; loose body and arm action; fastball is a plus pitch with effortless 94-98 mph velocity; routinely bumps triple digits; easy release creates deception; jumps out of the hand; commands pitch well to both sides of the plate; attacks opposing hitters; will overthrow at times.

    Curveball is a potential plus-plus offering at maturity with knee-buckling break and huge swing-and-miss potential; Has an advanced feel for fading changeup and sells it with fastball-like arm speed; demonstrates an improving feel for changeup; he throws it on the firm side in the high 80s; arm action and feel for pitching suggests it can be above-average at maturity. 

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

     

    Video courtesy of Ron Shah