The Cincinnati Reds have an interesting mix of prospects residing in their system's top-10 rankings.
Certain players, like Phillip Ervin, Nick Travieso and other mid-level pitching prospects, could find their way out of Cincinnati at the July 31 trade deadline. Barring a move for one of the top players in baseball, others shouldn't even find their way into the the conversation.
The Reds have two players who Walt Jocketty should slap with an "untouchable" label, those being Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen. A third player who normally would receive this mark is Jesse Winker.
Winker is a flat-out-stud, but a mid-season injury has landed him on the disabled list—possibly for the rest of the year—making the argument a moot point since he can't be traded anyway.
The other two players, Stephenson and Lorenzen, shouldn't be going anywhere. Especially now that the Reds find themselves five games back of the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers and four back of the National League wild card spots.
So, Stephenson and Lorenzen are unavailable, right?
Let's examine why.
Let's lead in with the obvious: Robert Stephenson isn't going anywhere, at all.
Despite struggling with his command and control for most of the 2014 season, Stephenson is still one of the most highly-regarded right-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball.
Stephenson boasts a mid-90s fastball—a plus pitch when his command is sharp—as well as another plus offering in his 12-to-6 curveball. Stephenson's third pitch is an average changeup. Although it has above-average potential, it currently lags behind his other two offerings.
Stephenson's front-end potential isn't the only thing holding the club back from trading him, though. The aforementioned control problems have likely pushed back his arrival date to mid-2015.
The 21-year-old has allowed 5.0 BB/9 this season—this coming after his four-start debut at Double-A in 2013, where he averaged a whopping 7.0 BB/9 over 16.2 innings pitched. Stephenson is still the same pitcher; he just needs to work out some of the kinks before he's viewed to be in top form.
Because of this, Stephenson's trade value has taken a bit of a hit.
In all honesty, though, even if Stephenson's value wasn't an issue, the Reds wouldn't ship him off for anything short of a premier bat. Given the fact that the Reds are nearly out of contention and that an elite bat doesn't exist in this trade market, trading Stephenson at this juncture would be a criminal offense.
The Cincinnati Reds possess a number of mid-level pitching prospects who figure to work as mid-rotation options as they mature. The best, at least for now, is Michael Lorenzen.
The 22-year-old has been moving through the minor leagues at a blistering pace, covering four different levels between his two seasons of play. This year, Lorenzen has displayed another impressive trait in his ability to function as a full-time starter.
Over 18 Double-A starts, The Cal State Fullerton product has logged 96.2 innings of work with a 2.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and season averages of 6.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 2.30 K/BB and 8.3 H/9.
Lorenzen has been outstanding this year and there's no doubting that. However, if the Reds were to look to trade him, they ought to hold off until next year's trade deadline, or at least until this offseason.
The young right-hander's stock is rising exponentially this year and he should find himself somewhere in the league's top 100 prospect lists sure to flood the Internet during the offseason. With a potentially plus fastball and two other offerings with average potential—his changeup and slider—Lorenzen has a chance to become a very solid mid-rotation starter.
Beyond the fact that his value isn't as high as it could be with another solid half-season of work under his belt, Lorenzen is the club's second-best starting pitching prospect. With three out of six starters coming up on contract extensions following the 2014 season, it would be wise for the Reds to hold on to Lorenzen until they get a little closer to figuring out what the rotation might look like in 2016.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through play on July 29, 2014 unless otherwise noted.