Cincinnati Reds

Original Published Date: Oct. 1 2013

The Cincinnati Reds farm system is top heavy with two elite prospects in right-hander Robert Stephenson and outfielder Billy Hamilton.  After that, the talent drops off considerably although 2012 second round pick Jesse Winker and 2013 top selection Phil Ervin have a chance to be solid major league contributors.

The enigma in the organization is toolsy Yorman Rodriguez.  A J2 international signee from 2008, it’s easy to forget that Rodriguez just turned 21-years-old and might finally be showing the production that caused the Reds to sign him to a $2.5 million signing bonus.

My favorite prospect in the Reds organization is Amir Garrett.  Garrett was signed to a million dollar signing bonus as a 22nd round selection in 2012.  He has a big arm, that if he puts it together, could be a very intriguing prospect down the road.

1. Robert Stephenson (RHP)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 A-AA 114.1 92 38 10 2.76 10.73 3.00 1.11

Selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, Robert Stephenson moved through three levels in 2013 with his arsenal starting to be mentioned as one of the best in the minor leagues.   His 2013 performance was impressive as he had a 10.71 K/9 rate and a 2.76 BB/9 in 114.1 innings.

The arsenal is excellent with a fastball that sits 94-96 MPH with excellent late action due to nice extension to the plate.  His power curve is another plus offering and is a true swing and miss pitch.  It sits in the low-80’s with excellent shape with nice rotation.  Batters are routinely caught off guard and are late on the pitch.  The change-up is still developing and eventually should grade out as an above average offering.

Stephenson’s pitching mechanics are inconsistent and are leading to some bouts of wildness and hittabiity.  While the balance and posture are ok, he actually looks away from the plate on his delivery and he jerks his head towards third base. It leads to extra effort in the delivery and as a result, he’s loosing his release point.  It became a real problem after being promoted to Double-A as he walked 13 batters in 16.2 innings.  Granted it’s a very small sample size, but he does have some work to do.

Fantasy Impact: Stephenson has the ceiling of a front of the rotation starter with the potential for high strikeouts.  He was ranked number 31 on my mid-season Top 50 and should stay around that position for my 2013 pre-season ranking.

2. Billy Hamilton (OF)

2014 Age: 23 Ceiling:Role 6
Ht:6-0 Weight: 160 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2013
2013 AAA 504 75 6 51 75 .256 .308 79.8 7.5 .310

By now, even the casual prospect hound has heard of Billy Hamilton.  In a word, Billy Hamilton’s game is about speed – game changing speed that Cincinnati fans had a chance to finally witness in September as Hamilton stole 13 bases while only having 19 at-bats.  In fact, if you didn’t stop and focus on the game when Billy Hamilton’s name was announced, then face it, you’re not a baseball fan.  Even with all the hype, Hamilton didn’t disappoint!

There never has been a full-time base runner in the major leagues and Billy Hamilton will not be the first.  At some point, probably in 2014, the Reds will have to see if he can hit enough to play at the highest level.  In 2012, the performance said he could but if you look under the numbers, his .323 batting average was fueled by a .406 BABIP in High-A.  In 2013, he wasn’t so lucky and his batting average sat at .256 with a .319 BABIP.  Candidly, that might be Billy Hamilton – a .250/.305/.330 player who can cause havoc on the basepaths and play an above average center field.

The question is…will that be enough to make him a regular or a fourth outfielder.  For me, I think he’s a regular and becomes a slightly lessor Juan Pierre type of player.  Yes, I know Pierre career batting average was .294, but I think Hamilton can have some years that his average is fueled by a crazy .360 BABIP and hit .280.  He also has a chance to add strength and has actually gotten stronger over the past year.  If he’s not a regular, then he becomes an Emilo Bonifacio type of Super Utility player and will still have value in the major leagues.

I ranked Hamilton behind Stephenson; both because I’m worried about Hamilton’s ability to hit at the highest level and the upside of Stephenson.  However, if Hamilton can find some physical strength, his upside is one of the most exciting players in the game.

Fantasy Impact:  The fantasy impact is off-the-charts for Hamilton.  He has the chance to steal 60-80 stolen bases a year and carry your stolen base category.  This will give fantasy owners enormous flexibility in molding their team as they can focus on other areas in their draft after selecting Hamilton.   Of course, he’ll only be a two-category player and you’ll need to get home runs, RBI, and probably batting average somewhere else.

3. Phil Ervin (OF)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling:Role 5
Ht:5-11 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2013 R-LowA 172 34 9 35 14 .331 .451 80.2 14.5 .372

The Reds decided to play it safe with their first pick in the 2013 draft and selected Phil Ervin, the 5-10 center-fielder from Samford University.  He brings contactability and a mature approach to the equation and could move quickly through the system.

Phil Ervin swing is a short compact stroke that has little leverage and is centered around making contact.  Ervin enhances the process by providing excellent bat speed with a mature approach giving him a chance to have an above average hit-tool with power.

While a limited sample size, his 2013 results were excellent with a slash line of .331/.425/.564.  He also contributed nine home runs in his 172 at-bats with 14 stolen bases and a 34K/25BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.  It’s clearly an excellent start and something that Reds fans can get excited about.  However, I don’t believe Ervin has 30/30 upside, more of a 20/20 ceiling with a .270 batting average playing a very good outfield.

Fantasy Impact:  Ervin is one of the guys that will go way under the radar as he’ll be considered a good prospect but not a great prospect.  I like him a little more than most as I think his mature approach will work well and move him through the system quickly.  Again, he’s not a star but a role 55 player for me with a chance to be even a better fantasy player given his power/speed profile.

4. Jesse Winker (OF)

2014 Age: 20 Ceiling:Role 5
Ht:6-2 Weight: 210 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2013
2013 Low-A 417 73 16 75 6 .281 .379 82.0 15.1 .308

Drafted as the number 49th overall selection in the 2012 draft out of high-school, Jesse Winker hit in 2012 and then continued to hit in 2013 as he played the entire year in Low-A as the tenth youngest positional player in the league. The performance was indeed impressive with a slash line of .281/.379/.463 with 16 home runs and six stolen bases. While the strikeout and walk rate are not surprising, it is the 16 home runs that were unexpected.

Winker has great hitting mechanics with strong quick hands that allow him to stay back on the ball and enough bat speed to drive pitches to all fields. He’s short to the ball and has a very mature approach for a teenager. The bat speed is more impressive than I was led to believe and is probably why he was able to launch 16 home runs. While I’m not sure he’ll ever have plus home run power, there probably is future 20 home run power in the bat.

Defensively, Winker is average and should not be a liability in the field. While he stole six bases, he’s a below average runner and as he matures, could even struggle as an outfielder. First base could be in his future down the road.

Fantasy Impact: Winker should be a good but not elite fantasy contributor. Since there is some question on how much power he’ll ultimately have and the lack of stolen base opportunities, Winker will have to contribute to a fantasy team in batting average and on-base percentage. Depending on where he bats in a lineup, he could provide counting help in runs and RBIs.

5. Yorman Rodriguez (OF)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling: Role 6
Ht:6-3 Weight: 197 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
2013 A+-AA 513 71 13 66 10 .259 .324 70.2 9.2 .344

I finally got a chance to scout Yorman Rodriguez this summer and was left with mix feelings. First, visually, he looks the part. He’s 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and has the swagger you want in a ballplayer. The swing works for me as it’s fairly compact with good bat speed. His ability to discern off-speed pitches is a problem as he chased a lot of pitches out of the zone and seems to have a swing-first mentality. Consequently, I think his batting average will always be a concern.

Batting practice was pretty impressive from Rodriguez; demonstrating plus raw power. Most of the power was pull-side but I did see him hit several long drives during game-play that gave me hope for opposite power potentially. The speed is average and will only decrease as he matures and fills out.

There is clearly untapped potential in Rodriguez as he just turned 21-years-old in August. The power should continue to grow and putting a grade of 60-65 on his future power potential is a reasonable projection. In speaking with scouts, they were encouraged by the progress he has made on his pitch recognition and some, not all, believe he will hit enough to tap into the power. I wasn’t so sure.

Fantasy Impact: Rodriguez has the potential to be a fantasy contributor but there is a chance he’ll never make it. He has talent and youth on his side and a wise fantasy owner will be monitoring his progress very closely in 2014.

6. Nick Travieso (RHP)

2014 Age: 20 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 Low-A 81.2 83 42 7 2.98 6.72 4.63 1.35

Taken as the 14th overall selection in the 2012 draft, Nick Travieso had a nice development year; pitching 81.2 innings in full season Low-A as one of the younger pitcher in the level.  He fastball is not overpowering and sits 90-92 MPH.  He complements that with a very good slider that comes in at 82-84 MPH with nice tilt.  The Reds held him back for the first part of the year in part to work on his change-up that candidly still needs work.  He was not able to keep arm-side batters off his fastball and subsequently had a .282 batting against for lefties.

Tavieso’s pitching mechanics are pretty good with nice balance while throwing from a high three quarters delivery.  His delivery looks fairly smooth which should bode well for his ability to throw strikes.  However, I did find his delivery from a wind-up to be rather slow and deliberate, which might result in giving batters a slightly longer look at the ball.

Travieso will likely start 2014 in the California League as a 20-year-old and could very well struggle in the hitter-friendly confines of the league .  He has the arsenal and mechanics to profile as a number four starter or a nice bullpen arm.  Because his stuff is not overpowering, he’ll have to rely on getting weak contact and without an above-average change-up, this could prove difficult.

Fantasy Impact: If you are drafting in a Dynasty League, I would treat Travieso as a top 200 prospect and draft him accordingly.

7. Carlos Contreras (RHP)
Signed in 2006 as a J2 player, Carlos Contreras is a fastball/change-up pitcher that can run his four-seamer to the upper nineties in short burst.  At 5-foot-11 and with effort in his delivery, he profiles as a bullpen arm that given his plus change-up, could be very effective against glove-side batters.  The Reds are currently using him as a starter but I think you’ll see that change next year as he starts again in Double-A and taste Triple-A as well.   Once that change is made, you could even see Contreras make his major league debut in 2014.

8. Daniel Corcino (RHP)
Daniel Corcino took a step back this year and is looking more and more like a bullpen arm.  The performance at Triple-A was disappointing as his strikeout rate dropped to 6.28 per nine while his walk rate spiked to 5.09 with 17 home runs in 129.0 innings.  While I was surprised about the spike in his walk rate, the lack of plane on his pitches is causing batters to get a good look and hit the ball hard.  While he’s still throwing hard and his slider can get batters to swing and miss, the profile is better served in the bullpen which should allow his fastball to play up a grade.  He will still be homer prone but it’s his best course for making it to the show.

9. Tanner Rahier (3B)
Tanner Rahier was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft out of high school and struggled in his first season in Low-A.  Rahier is an aggressive hitter who walked 12 times while striking out 81 times in 410 at-bats.  He does have good bat speed but the swing can get long as he muscles up and tries to pull everything.  Drafted as a shortstop, he played primarily third base in 2013 and should stick there or move to a corner outfield in the future.

10. Amir Garrett (LHP)
Amir Garrett had a breakout season in 2013 with a 5.15 ERA and a 4.99 K/9 and 4.06 BB/9.  Eh…yeah…next…  Yes, the stats are not good but Garrett is an intriguing prospect with nothing but upside.  Drafted in 2012 in the 22nd round, the Reds gave him a million dollar signing bonus to lure the basketball bound 6-foot-5 wingman away from college.   While he’s sushi-raw, his fastball is electric with flashes of a breaking pitch.  The mechanics are more mature than the amount of time he’s been pitching and will only get better through instruction.  He’s not draftable in a fantasy league, but he’s definitely somebody you should be following.

2014 Emerging Prospect:

Aristides Aquino (OF)

At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Aristides Aquino has tons of bat speed and a projectable body.  While he only hit seven home runs across the AZL and Pioneer League, he projects to have plus power to go along with above average speed.  Already making decent contact and only 19-years-old, he is definitely somebody to watch as he hits full-season baseball in 2014.

10 comments on “Cincinnati Reds

  1. Where does David Holmberg place on this list?

  2. I forgot to mention the most important thing, he’s 6’2″ 210 lbs and the power is developing nicely and should see another nice boost again next year in the Cali league. If you couldn’t tell, I’m about to draft him in an auction dynasty league…

    Also forgot to mention that I love your site!

  3. The more I read (and watch) about Winker, the more I am impressed. Sweet left handed swing, knows how to take a walk, can hit lefties, etc……assuming he sticks in LF he’s going to be a treat to watch in that home ballpark. I know he’s only performed in the low minors so far, but the kids can hit. I like him more than Ervin.

  4. Hi Rich, I recently read your scouting report on Billy Hamilton because I noticed that you placed him at 36, I believe, in your top 100. I have been debating a few other owners in one of my leagues in terms of his fantasy value. We all seem to agree that as a roto player, the amount of steals that he can accumulate dramatically increases his value. If owners are drafting him in the 6th or 7th round, he has a shot at returning some value. My question is in a head to head league, does it decrease his value from a roto format, not effect it or does it increase his value? My thought process is that it decreases his value because in a weekly scoring with daily lineup changes, chances are he is going to hurt your HR, RBI, potentially BA, and total bases. I don’t think I will ever own Billy Hamilton, but I was wondering if you agree that in a head to head scoring format, he is going to hurt you in the other categories too much for him to be drafted as high as he is going in most drafts. Maybe I have completely missed the boat, but best case scenario I see him as a 2 category guy (SB and Runs). What are your thoughts on his value in roto vs head to head scoring formats? Thanks for the input.

    • Hey Brien, A couple of thoughts.

      1. It depends on how you want to play a H2H league. I did one league last year where I completely punted power and decided to win SB, mostly RUNS, and all the pitching cats. I took 4 pitchers with my first four picks and then grabbed all the speed guys at the top of the lineups and the for more corner spots, got high BA guys. The strategy mostly worked as I came in second and just missed winning as I had a down week on pitching and lost 6-4. In this scenario, BH is very valuable, however, if you want to play the opposite way, he’s not valuable at all. In H2H, it’s hard to focus on all the cats and you have to punt something. My opinion.
      2. Regardless of the format, BH is very valuable and if you believe you are not going with a plan that focuses on speed, then trade him – but get A LOT for him. I ranked him in the mid 30’s given his overall contribution but somebody out there will pay you a lot for him.

      • Ha. Ya I guess that’s my issue. I agree that you always have to punt categories. Unfortunately, I always find myself punting stolen bases. I either love to grab power/speed combinations if I can at the top rounds of my draft but who doesn’t? Steals just always seem to be the category I’m willing to throw. Thanks for the quick response.

  5. Hi Rich,
    In a Dynasty league I was offered Jason Kipnis for Ian Kinsler Clay Bucholz and Billy Hamilton. I passed because I don’t see Kipnis as that much of an upgrade over Kinsler to risk a player of Billy Hamilton’s potential. Should I have accepted or did I make the right move our league is a league that uses OBP and K’s for hitters. I look forward to hearing from you.

  6. ‘There never has been a full-time base runner’ – Herb Washington had 29 steals in ’74 and 0 AB’s.

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