Cincinnati Reds' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 13, 2015

Cincinnati Reds' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Cincinnati Reds' top prospects can be broken down into two groups: outfielders and pitchers.

    As you might have guessed, the Reds don’t have a particularly balanced system due to a lack of infield prospects. However, that shouldn’t detract from the fact that they have several players with bright futures in the major leagues.

    Outfielder Jesse Winker is the best hitter in the system, boasting a sweet left-handed swing with an excellent approach and above-average raw power, while Yorman Rodriguez got his feet wet with the Reds last September. Meanwhile, shortstop Alex Blandino, the only non-outfield position player on this list, made a strong impression in his professional debut, finishing the season at a full-season level. 

    The team’s top draft pick from last year, right-hander Nick Howard (No. 19 overall), will be a project as he transitions from college closer to full-time starter, although that’s also what everyone was saying at this time last year about right-hander Michael Lorenzen.

    Lorenzen was a pleasant surprise this year, as the former two-way player at Cal State Fullerton spent his first full professional season in Double-A Pensacola’s starting rotation, pitching alongside top prospect Robert Stephenson. Meanwhile, some of the Reds’ younger arms also took steps forward last season, as Nick Travieso and left-hander Amir Garrett excelled as starters in the Midwest League.

    Here are the Cincinnati Reds’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type and athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics and bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age versus level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present versus future tool grades
    • Hit tool
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach, strike-zone management and pitch recognition
    • Makeup and character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present versus projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity and up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type, athleticism and strength
    • Mechanics: delivery, arm speed and release point
    • Age versus highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present versus future grades
    • Hitability: strikeouts and ability to keep the ball on the ground or in the park
    • Control and command: pitch accuracy and reliability and potential development requirements
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
    • Approach: ability to attack and challenge opposing hitters
    • Projection: starter or bullpen

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Phil Ervin, OF

    Amir Garrett, LHP

    Aristides Aquino, OF

10. Nick Travieso, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/31/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 215 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60555050

    Scouting Report

    Travieso bounced back from a forgettable 2013 campaign to capture Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in the Reds organization, as the 20-year-old pitched to a 3.03 ERA over 142.2 innings in the Midwest League in 2014.

    The 6’2” right-hander was a mid-90s guy as a high school senior, but has sat in the low 90s as a professional, though he can still let it rip when he chooses. Travieso’s slider is raw but flashes average potential, as he tends to get under or around the pitch and doesn’t always come from the release point. His changeup is a below-average offering, and will be crucial toward his ongoing development as a starter.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter) – high risk

9. Jonathon Crawford, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/01/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 by Tigers (Florida)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2 (Tigers)

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    65555545

    Scouting Report

    Crawford spent his first full professional season in the Midwest League, where he pitched to a 2.85 ERA and logged 123 innings. However, the right-hander’s time with the Tigers would end there, as he was dealt to the Reds in December in exchange for Alfredo Simon.

    At 6’2”, 205 pounds, Crawford typically sits in the 92 to 95 mph range with his fastball, and will reach back for more, but his stressful delivery and arm action still impede his ability to locate.

    The 23-year-old’s mid-80s slider remains his best secondary offering and will flash plus. It could become a more dynamic swing-and-miss offering with further refinement, though. Crawford’s once-fringy changeup has really improved in the last year and could end up being an above-average pitch, which might help him stave off a move to the bullpen in the coming years.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 4 starter/late-inning reliever) – high risk

8. Alex Blandino, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 11/06/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Stanford)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5550405555

    Scouting Report

    The Reds usually don’t offer their most recent draft picks aggressive promotions during their professional debuts, but they decided to move Blandino up to Low-A Dayton in late July. The 23-year-old rewarded the organization by batting .261/.329/.440 in 34 games at the full-season level.

    Blandino has average bat speed, but his approach and bat control give him the potential to hit for average at the highest level. His ability to read pitchers and recognize pitches stands out, as he’s a patient and selective hitter who rarely chases pitches out of the zone.

    The right-handed hitter’s high hand positioning allows him to drive through the ball with authority, while the loft and finish to his swing make average power easy to project. 

    Blandino played all over the infield in college, but the Reds are developing him as a shortstop—at least for now—and he’s looked comfortable at the position so far. There’s a good chance he’ll be forced to third base down the line, though there remain questions about whether he’d provide enough power to be a corner infielder at the highest level.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular) – medium risk

7. Yorman Rodriguez, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 08/15/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 197 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2008 (Venezuela)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 5

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4565606550

    Scouting Report

    Rodriguez returned to the Southern League in 2014 to bat .262/.331/.389 in 119 games, and received his first taste of the major leagues as a September call-up.

    The 6’3”, 197-pound outfielder has the tools and athleticism to be an impact right fielder, as he’s an above-average runner with similar range and has an absolute cannon for an arm.

    At the dish, Rodriguez possesses raw plus power to all fields, but is still figuring out how to utilize it during games. The 22-year-old’s plate discipline is lacking, as he struggles to pick up spin out of the pitcher’s hand. He can absolutely destroy fastballs, though.

    With that in mind, Rodriguez’s hit tool may never be better than average, which could limit his power utility and make him more of a fourth outfielder than a starter.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular) – medium risk

6. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 04/18/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Sixth round, 2011 by Blue Jays (Florida)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 8 (Marlins)

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60554555

    Scouting Report

    The Marlins acquired Anthony DeSclafani in a blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays following the 2012 season. The 24-year-old right-hander debuted in the major leagues this past season, but struggled to the tune of a 6.27 ERA over a short sample of 33 innings.

    However, his strikeout and walk rates were consistent with those he posted between Double-A and Triple-A, and his 3.77 FIP suggested that his ugly ERA was mostly a result of bad luck.

    DeSclafani closed out his breakthrough season with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.67 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 27 innings. The Reds acquired DeSclafani from Miami in early December as part of the Mat Latos trade.

    DeSclafani’s arsenal of three average-or-better pitches is highlighted by a 93 to 94 mph running fastball that he uses to pound the bottom of the zone, generating both whiffs and weak contact. The 6’1” right-hander’s go-to secondary offering is a hard, low to mid-80s slider with good tilt, and he has a good feel for sequencing it relative to his heater.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 4 starter) – low risk

5. Nick Howard, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 04/06/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Virginia)

    Last Year’s Ranking: N/A

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6055604550

    Scouting Report

    The Reds drafted Howard as a starting pitcher, despite his background and experience as Virginia’s closer, and the right-hander offered a taste of his potential in the role with a promising performance between Low-A Dayton and Arizona Fall League.

    A 6’3”, 215-pound right-hander, Howard’s fastball sits around 92 to 95 mph as a starter with some life, and he already shows a feel for pitching to both sides of the plate.

    His slider isn’t as sharp in the starting role when compared to his bullpen days, likely due to his lessened velocity in the role, though it’s still a 55 to 60 offering with pretty consistent late bite. Howard’s changeup is serviceable as a starter right now, registering around 83 to 86 mph, but it will require considerable refinement to serve as a weapon.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter) – high risk

4. Raisel Iglesias, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 04/01/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 175 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2014 (Cuba)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6050555050

    Scouting Report

    Iglesias inked a seven-year, $27 million contract with the Reds last July, but the Cuban right-hander didn’t make his professional debut until the Arizona Fall League.

    Working out of the bullpen, Iglesias, 24, sat in the low 90s with his fastball, occasionally hitting 95-plus, and he showed a good feel for inducing whiffs with his slider. He also throws a curveball and changeup, which gives him at least some potential as a starter, should the Reds take that route.

    Based on his strong showing in the fall, my best guess is that Iglesias begins the season in the Reds’ bullpen, only to be stretched out at a later time.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter; setup man/second-tier closer) – low risk

3. Michael Lorenzen, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/04/1992 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Cal State Fullerton)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6050605555

    Scouting Report

    Lorenzen's success as a starting pitcher this season was a pleasant surprise, as the right-hander had served as Cal State Fullerton's closer and center fielder prior to his selection by the Cincinnati Reds (No. 38 overall) in the 2013 draft.

    The 23-year-old blew past expectations in his first full season as a starter (and at the Double-A level nonetheless), as his improved command and feel for multiple pitches allowed him to turn over Southern League lineups and work relatively deep into starts.

    Lorenzen is an outstanding athlete with a wiry 6’3”, 180-pound frame and little mileage on his arm. The right-hander sits comfortably in the low to mid-90s with his fastball, throwing it with late sink when working down in the zone, and he’ll always reach back for a bit more as needed early in games.  

    He flashes plus with a swing-and-miss slider and made strides developing his changeup last season, and he’ll also mix in a loopy curveball to keep hitters honest. Lorenzen’s lack of durability and need for refinement means he’s likely spend all of 2015 in the minor leagues, but the right-hander’s combination of stuff and pitchability gives him the potential to be a No. 3 starter at maturity.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)  medium risk

2. Jesse Winker, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 08/17/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

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

    Last Year’s Ranking: 4

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6055455050

    Scouting Report

    Winker posted a 1.006 OPS in 53 games at High-A Bakersfield to open the season, but his production fell off after moving up to Double-A Pensacola (.677 OPS in 21 games), likely due to the partially torn tendon in his right wrist that ultimately ended his season in late July (but didn’t require surgery).

    The 21-year-old made up for the lost time in the Arizona Fall League, where he led all qualified hitters with a .338 average.

    Winker is one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues, as he features a smooth, compact stroke from the left side of the plate and is adept at using the entire field. The 6’2”, 210-pound left-handed batter has hit at least 15 home runs in each of his first two years in full-season ball, and his frame and line-to-line approach suggest more will come.

    More importantly, Winker possesses plate discipline and pitch recognition well beyond his years, which is reflected through his impressive strikeout (17.5 percent) and walk (14.3 percent) rates over 1,100 minor league plate appearances.

    On the other side of the ball, Winker’s defense has steadily improved over the last two seasons, but he’s still limited to only left field due to his lack of speed and arm strength.

    Winker will probably begin 2015 back at Double-A, as he’s likely looking at another full season in the minor leagues following Cincinnati’s acquisition of Marlon Byrd.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (first-division regular) medium risk

1. Robert Stephenson, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/24/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    70705550

    Scouting Report

    Stephenson was challenged over a full season in Double-A, as the 21-year-old right-hander’s inconsistent command led to an elevated walk rate (4.9 BB/9), and his tendency to pitch up in the zone with his fastball allowed hitters to take him deep 18 times (1.2 HR/9).

    However, Stephenson was still young for the level, so the fact that he held opposing hitters to a .224 batting average and fanned 140 batters in 136.2 innings was encouraging.

    The 6’2”, 190-pound right-hander boasts a plus-plus fastball in the 94 to 98 mph range and occasionally bumps triple digits. Stephenson’s secondary arsenal is headlined by a potential plus-plus curveball that’s an absolute hammer with sharp downer action.

    He also throws a changeup in the high 80s that’s still a bit on the firm side, but his feel for the pitch has noticeably improved in the last year, as he’s been forced to develop it against Double-A hitters.

    Stephenson’s athleticism and arm strength suggest front-of-the-rotation potential, but he’ll need to improve his command and refine his changeup to remain a long-term starter. It wouldn’t be surprising if he returned to Double-A to open the 2015 season; the Reds have no need to rush Stephenson’s development, and he’d probably be better off spending another full season in the minors.

    Ceiling (OFP): 7 (No. 2 starter) – medium risk

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