Ranking Cincinnati Reds' Best Minor League Bargaining Chips

Tyler GroteCorrespondent IIJuly 14, 2014

Jul 13, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; USA outfielder Jesse Winker (left) and pitcher Robert Stephenson (right) stand on the field before the All Star Futures Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds won't have a ton of options to unload by the trade deadline, but it doesn't mean they don't have any. According to BaseballAmerica.com, two Reds prospects were recently named to the Top 50 Midseason Prospects list. That would be right-handed starter Robert Stephenson, currently the Reds No.1 prospect, and outfielder Jesse Winker.

Stephenson would undeniably be the best bargaining chip the Reds are sitting on beneath the major league level. He's ranked No. 20 on the aforementioned BaseballAmerica.com list. 

He's having a decent year, too. In 17 starts, Stephenson is 4-6 with a 3.97 ERA in Double-A for Pensacola Blue Wahoos. In 93 innings pitched, he has struck out 93 batters while walking just 48. 

While he is unanimously the Reds' best minor league bargaining chip, it is highly unlikely the Reds move Stephenson for anything. It's not just because of his potential; rather, the Reds will likely need their best minor league prospect to replace one of three Reds starting pitchers with contracts nearing their end.

Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake will all demand more money and years within two years. Robert Stephenson will likely allow the Reds to part with at least one.

Jesse Winker would be the next best minor league bargaining chip of the Reds. Winker is No.29 on the Baseballamerica.com list. 

He's been struggling since making the jump to Double-A Pensacola from High-A Bakersfield. In High-A, Winker performed very well. In 53 games, he hit .317 with an OBP of .426. He also hit 13 home runs.

But it's been different since Winker was promoted. While the sample size is small, in just 20 games in Double-A, Winker is hitting .213. He's still managed a decent OBP of .326 thanks to 13 walks. 

Still, it's unlikely that Winker's stock has dropped at all in a mere 20 games. Winker is the second-best minor league bargaining chip in the Reds' organization. His options are aplenty because the Reds could raise him to be the next starting left fielder, or deal him to help secure one that's ready to fill in at the major league level now.

Michael Lorenzen would probably be the next best minor league bargaining chip the Reds are sitting on. The young right-hander is having a solid season in Double-A Pensacola. In 16 starts, Lorenzen is 4-4 with a 2.45 ERA. In 88 innings pitched, he's struck out 63 batters and walked 28.

Per the Reds' website, Cincinnatireds.com, the Reds' minor league director Jeff Graupe says that Jesse Winker and Michael Lorenzen have progressed the most rapidly of any other prospect. Graupe states, "I think Michael, with the transition to the starting rotation, taking on a whole new challenge and really embracing it, he's done an incredible job."

The article goes on to say this about both prospects:

Lorenzen and Winker, who could be in the Majors as soon as next season if he continues to perform well, have both catapulted themselves to the forefront of the prospects to watch in the Reds' farm system. It's a system filled with several recent Draft picks that could become impact performers at the next level in the years to come.

Nick Travieso may be the next best minor league bargaining chip of the Reds and he's still playing in Low-A Dayton. Travieso was a first-round draft pick (14th overall) in 2012 and is having a good season so far. 

In 16 starts, Travieso is 7-4 with a 3.72 ERA. In 84.2 innings pitched, he's struck out 72 batters while walking just 17. According to MiLB.com, the changeup has been instrumental in Travieso's recent success. 

Per the article, "I think I made a big stride today, just with that changeup and having a feel for it," Travieso said. "That's one big pitch I've been working on all year," the young right-hander said after his last start.

Phillip Ervin would be one of the few remaining enticing minor league bargaining chips that the Reds have. Last year's first-round draft pick (No.27 overall) has struggled for much of the first half of this season.

Ervin's batting .223 with an OBP of just .295.In 327 at-bats, Ervin has four home runs and 41 RBI. He also has an impressive 20 stolen bases. 

With the emergence of Jesse Winker, it's possible that Ervin becomes more expendable. While he's struggling this season, his overall minor league numbers are better. He's hitting .261/.341/.431 in now his second season in the Reds' organization. 

Due to what will be extended absences by key contributors like Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, the likelihood that the Reds make a deal seems relatively high. It's not likely they have much at the MLB-level to bring to the table, so these top prospects are what Reds' general manager Walt Jocketty will take to the table in July.


(All stats are courtesy of BaseballAmerica.com unless otherwise noted)