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Cincinnati Reds

Original Published Date: October 11, 2017

The Reds are going through the difficult phase of their rebuilding process, but it’s working.  Their minor league system is strong and they are already starting to see some of their recently graduated players contributing in the major leagues.

Nick Senzel and Hunter Greene, last year’s number two overall prospect lead the system.  Both Senzel and Greene are Top 25 prospect with Greene having ace potential.  Taylor Trammel is one of our favorite prospects in the game and has established himself as a Top 100 player as has Tyler Mahle.  Mahle even saw time in the major leagues and flashed the kind of potential that could make him a solid mid-rotation starter.

It’s going to take another year or two, but the Reds are going in the right direction with a chance to the see the playoffs by 2020.

Nick Senzel (3B)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 3B

Nick Senzel was the best college hitter in the 2016 MLB draft and the Cincinnati Reds decided to pay him $6.2 million dollars to be their third baseman of the future.  While I thought there was a chance that he could see the big leagues sometime during the 2017 season, the Reds decided not to put him on the “Cubs fast track program”.  Instead, he spent the season splitting time between High and Double-A and assuming health, he could compete for a job in Cincinnati next season.

Senzel did what he did best in 2017…hit.  In fact, he’s hit at every level and there’s every reason to believe that will continue as he progresses through his career.  In 455 at-bats across High and Double-A, he hit .321 with a .391 OBP.  While he shows nice raw power in batting practice, including several long bombs during last summer’s Futures Game batting practice, it has yet to show up in-games.

Scouting Report:  Senzel is first and foremost a hitter.  He has a mature approach with an excellent understanding of the strike zone with the ability to barrel the ball.  The swing is more line drive oriented but he has enough bat speed to project to have future double-digit home run power.  Could he add more loft and develop more power?  Sure, but it will likely come with a few more strikeouts.  That might be a fair trade-off as his approach is so good that he should be able to sustain a high OBP, even with a few more strikeouts.

Despite having only average speed, he is a threat on the base paths.  While many times good base running skills don’t translate at the big league level, I think it will with Senzel.  Particularly early in his career, he could steal 15 to 20 plus stolen bases annually.

Fantasy Impact:  In the fantasy game where power is plentiful and batting average and speed is in short supply, Senzel could provide excellent value.  The upside is 20/20 with a .300 batting average hitting in the number two or three-spot in a lineup.  While he’s never hit for that type of power, with a clearly juiced ball, his 15 home run power could easily turn into 20.  Again, I’ve seen the power in batting practice as major league players have found, changing your launch angle can do amazing things.

Hunter Greene (RHP)

Highest Level: Rookie Ball, ETA: 2021, Fantasy Ceiling: Ace

Hunter Greene has the makeup, stuff, and current polish to be one of the best major league pitchers in the game.  While I understand why the Twins passed over him in the draft and instead selected Royce Lewis number one overall, Greene was the prize in 2017 MLB Draft.

That prize does come with risk.  First, history has not been kind to high school pitchers who can hit triple-digits.  In a nutshell, they have a tendency to have arm injuries and once they make the big leagues, not show the level of velocity they did in high school.  I don’t think that will be the case with Greene given his extreme athleticism.  Many people, myself included, believed he could have been drafted as a shortstop in the first round; and what a great fallback position. If he blows out his arm, he could move to the dirt and still have a career.

Scouting Report: Greene looks like he just walked out of central casting for pitchers.  Tall and lean at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, he is first and foremost an athlete.  He has that gate and moxy that great athletes have.  Taijuan Walker has it and so does Greene.  The athleticism allows him to throw with great velocity and little effort.  It’s a clean delivery with a nice extension on the landing.

The stuff is clearly worthy of his draft position.  His fastball sits in the upper-nineties and routinely hits triple-digits.  His best secondary pitch will likely be his slider and assuming he continues to sit 96 to 97 with his fastball, it presents a devastating combination.  As with most teenagers, the change-up is well behind his other pitches.

Finally, a report on Hunter Greene must include a mention of the quality of the individual.  Makeup is an overused word, most of the time referring to a player’s preparation and desire to be great.  While Green has that, the character by all accounts goes much deeper.  He’s just a quality kid with whispers of “Jeteresque” mentioned by scouts who had a chance to get to know him.  While many players are quality people, few combine it together with the extreme athleticism of Greene and the combination is what could make him truly special.

Fantasy Impact: The upside is a number one starter with a total package that will make him worthy as the highest upside prospect in the game.  But, he’s only thrown 4.1 innings, so while the upside is huge, let’s give him a chance to ease into his the game lofting even higher expectations on him.

Taylor Trammell (OF)

Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 OF

One of my favorite players drafted in the 2016 MLB Draft was Taylor Trammell; an athletic and toolsy outfielder that seemed to have an idea of the strike zone in high school.  While he showed promise in his 61 games last season in the Pioneer League, I was anxious to see how he would fair as a young 19-year-old playing the entire year in full-season Low-A ball.

The verdict…quite well.  In 129 games, he slashed .281/.368/.450 while hitting 13 home runs and stealing 41 bases.  While he did strikeout too much, posting a 23% strikeout rate he also showed a good understanding of the strike zone, walking 11% of the time.

Scouting Report: Trammell is the definition of raw and toolsy.  He was a two-sport athlete in high school, highly recruited for his exploits on the football field as well as his potential on the diamond.  Fortunately for baseball, he chose the superior sport.   He’s an exceptional athlete who has double-plus speed and plus bat speed.  As with many athletes with this profile, the question is can he hit?  After a season and a half, I think the stat line is encouraging.  He can get aggressive at the plate and try to “pull” everything, but he’s best when he’s barreling the ball and hitting to all fields.

Assuming he reduces his strikeout rate, Trammell could be an impact leadoff better.  His speed should allow him to steal 30 plus bases while hitting 15 or more home runs.  Since he does have an understanding of the strike zone, even though he might bat .260, his OBP could sit in the .340 to .350 range, which should be more than adequate as a leadoff batter.

Fantasy Impact:  I drafted Trammell and four of my five Dynasty Leagues as one of my high risk, high reward players.  While he’s three years away, his double-plus speed gives him huge potential value in fantasy and therefore should be own in all Dynasty League format.  In fact, I have such a man crush on Trammell that he will likely make my Top 100 list heading into the 2018 season.

Tyler Mahle (RHP)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP

For a guy with two no-hitters on his resume, Tyler Mahle continues to fly-under-the-radar in prospect circles.  Granted, he doesn’t have the upper nineties heater or the knee-buckling curve, but instead, he combines good stuff with extreme pitchability to just get guys out.

He dominated Double-A in the first half of 2017 striking out 87 in 85 innings while walking only 15.  While he gave up too many home runs in 2016 (12 in 71.1 innings) he only gave up five in 2017.  The performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A in late June where he continued to pitch well, so well that he made his major league debut on August 27th against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Mahle made the minor leagues look easy, I still view him as a number three starter, perhaps a little more.

Scouting Report:  Drafted out of Westminster California High School in the seventh round of the 2013 MLB draft, Mahle stood 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds with a modest fastball and a feel to spin a curve.  The Reds saw projection in the kid and three years later, he stands 6-foot-4, 210 pounds with a fastball that he can run up to 95 MPH (averages 93.5) and a curveball that’s taken a big step up.

He pounds the strike zone with plus control and is not afraid to pitch to contact.  He does pitch up in the zone, but it only works when he’s able to throw in the mid-90s. I would like to see him incorporate more two-seamers in his arsenal as he will likely need that as he faces the small confines of the Great American Ballpark.  The ceiling is a solid number three starter with a chance for more if he’s able to incorporate a sinker into his repertoire.

Fantasy Impact:  I love taking a risk on guys like Mahle in Dynasty Leagues as others will pass on him because he doesn’t have the typical profile of a fantasy front-line pitcher.  However, Mahle has a chance to be a very solid fantasy contributor with eight strikeouts per nine and a low WHIP given his ability to pound the strike zone.  He could be homer prone given his desire to pitch up in the zone, so the early results, once he is promoted to the big leagues, could be mixed.  Don’t let that deter you…invest.

Jose Siri (OF)

Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with extreme risk

Jose Siri was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 as an outfielder and had a nice breakout season in Low-A.  Granted, he ended the season as a 22-year-old but the performance was indeed impressive.  In 126 games, he slashed .295/.343/.532 which included a 39-game hitting streak; all while continuing to work full-time at Apple Computer.  He still struggled to control the strike zone, posting a 23.6 strikeout rate while only walking 6% of the time.  However, the 24 home runs combined with 46 stolen bases should get everyone excited about what the future could hold.

Scouting Report: Siri brings speed and power to the diamond with excellent bat speed and plus running speed.  The problem continues to be his aggressive approach which is leading to a high strikeout rate while seldom walking.  While the optimist will look at a much-improved strikeout and walk rate from 2016, the pessimist will point that he turned 22 in July.  While he could simply be a late bloomer, history is definitely not in his favor.  2018 will be an important development year as he’ll likely start the season in High-A with hopefully a taste in Double-A.  If he can post a sub 25% strikeout rate and at least a 6% walk rate, it might be enough to let his power and speed play.

Fantasy Impact:  Because of the upside, Siri should be added in most deep dynasty leagues.  However, he’s an old prospect who is still in Low-A so owners need to temper their expectations.

Tony Santillan (RHP)

Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Closer

I’ve been high on Tony Santillan since the Reds used a second-round pick to sign him after the 2015 MLB Draft.  He’s a hard-throwing right-hander who can hit triple-digits but has always struggled to throw strikes.  In fact, in 2016 he posted an ugly 7.12 walk rate in seven starts in the Midwest League but upon repeating the level he fared much better.  In 24 starts, he struck out 128 while walking 56.

Scouting Report:  Santillan is a big strong kid at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds.  Physically, he reminds me of Alex Reyes of the St. Louis Cardinals.  He has a simple, athletic delivery that while he struggles to maintain his release point, should improve as he pitches more.  The ball comes out very easy with a fastball that sits 93 to 96 MPH (T98) and a hard curve that when he throws strikes, can be a real weapon.  He lacks a true third pitch at the moment.

While the Reds currently have him starting, the arsenal might point to a dominate back-of-the-bullpen arm as I’m guessing when asked to air-it-out, triple-digits could follow.

Fantasy Impact:  Santillan continues to rank high on my Reds list and now that he’s entering High-A, should be considered for deeper Dynasty Leagues.  The Reds will continue to start him and if his control continues to improve, could emerge as a starter once promoted to the big leagues.  If not, the fall back might even be better as a dominant closer.

Shed Long (2B)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder

I have yet to see Shed Long play and the reviews that I have received haven’t helped me in ranking him.  I’ve heard from one source that his “bat is legit” and I’ve also heard that his size and swing and miss tendency will limit his upside to a part-time player in the big leagues – “at best”.

Long did tear up High-A in the first half, posting a slash line of .312/.380/.543 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.  The performance did come with a robust .368 BABIP.  Things got harder after his promotion to Double-A, but it was primarily a BABIP issue as he posted an underwhelming .271 percentage.  In both leagues, he posted a 20% strikeout rate but a 10% walk rate.  All of that should add up to a .260 to .270 batting average as he moves through the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Scouting Report: Despite the mixed reviews, Long’s statistical track record would indicate that he should be able to hit enough for a chance at a major league career.  While he does have good bat speed with a chance to hit for average power, he’s not a fast runner so the upside on the stolen bases should be high single-digits at best.

Long’s biggest liability is in the field.  As a converted catcher, he is still trying to learn the infield and from all accounts, it’s been a struggle.  He does have a good arm, but the footwork still needs work.

Fantasy Impact:  I’m just not sold on Long and it’s therefore reflected in my ranking.  If you’re high on him, you see a .290 batting average with a chance for 15 to 20 home runs.  As a second baseman, that gives him a middle infielder upside in fantasy.  That’s probably a starter in deeper leagues but the lack of stolen bases and true plus power hurt his upside.

Vladimir Gutierrez (RHP)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP

The Reds signed Cuban Vladimir Gutierrez in 2016 for a $4.75 million dollar signing bonus and placed the 21-year-old in High-A to begin the 2017 season.  He had an uneven season showing swing and miss stuff that allowed him to strikeout over eight per nine and even better control; walking a paltry 19 in 103 innings.  He was hittable, giving up over a hit per inning, including 10 home runs.  Overall, he managed to win seven games while posting a 4.46 ERA.

Scouting Report: Gutierrez has two plus pitches in his fastball and curve.  His fastball sits in the low to mid 90’s with late wiggle while the curveball is a firm offering that can miss bats.  He can throw both pitches consistently for strikes and that is the primary driver for his high strikeout rate and low walk rate.  He is struggling to master his change-up and could get exposed as he moves into Double-A next season.

The biggest concern with Gutierrez is his size.  He stands 6-feet and 190 pounds and making matters worse, pitches up in the zone.  While he has a good fastball, he doesn’t have the velocity to consistently throw it pass batters.  Plus, he gets very little plane on his pitches as he pitches from a slightly reduced three-quarters delivery.  Unless he changes his delivery, I think the upside is that of a #4 pitcher.

Fantasy Impact:  While Gutierrez has a good arm, I do worry about his size and his penchant to pitch up in the zone.  Candidly, it’s a recipe for a five-plus ERA as he moves to Double-A next season.  However, pitchers can improve as they go through the development process and he does have a terrific curveball that a minimum, should serve him well as a bullpen arm.

Jeter Downs (SS)

Highest Level: Short Season, ETA: 2021, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP

Ok…this one’s easy.  Jeter Downs…Jeter…number two.  I have no idea if the Reds 2017 supplemental draft pick was named after the Captain, but come on now…this one seems too easy.

Downs signed shortly after signing and was assigned to the Pioneer League where he played very well.  While his batting average was only .266, he did walk nearly as much as he struck out and showed a little speed and pop.

Scouting Report:  There’s a lot of 50’s on Downs scouting report.  He’s an average runner with average speed with the ability to control the strike zone.  From an offensive production, that should equate to a 10 to 12 home runs, similar stolen bases, and a .260 batting.  That’s far from a star, but might be enough to get him several years of full-time at-bats, or at worse a long career as a utility player, particularly as he looks like he can stay at short long-term.

Fantasy Impact:  The upside is not huge for Downs and therefore, he should only be drafted in leagues that roster 400 or more minor leaguers.  However, he is young and has already demonstrated the ability to the control the strike zone, so there is clearly upside.  He’s bbdefinitely someone to monitor.

Aristides Aquino (OF)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF

I’ve been a buyer for Aristides Aquino and then I’ve been a seller.  I just can’t make my mind up about the player he can be, or said better, the stat line disappoints me and then I drop him from my Dynasty League.

Last season was another example.  He showed the power and speed that I’ve always gotten excited about, but he also hit .216 in 131 games in Double-A.  The problem is his aggressive approach.  When he got to Double-A, he was exposed with more swing and miss in his game.  In those 131 games, he posted a 7.7% walk rate and a 29% strikeout rate.  That, when combined with a .274 BABIP, will get you a low batting average and a middling on-base percentage.

Scouting Report:  At 6-foot-4 and a listed 190 pounds (he looks heavier), Aquino looks the part of a prototypical, big league right-fielder.   He has plus raw power that is starting to translate into in-game production.  He does expand the strike zone due to his extremely aggressive approach.  If he can tone down the approach, he has a chance to be a 25 to 30 home run big-league right-fielder.  If he can’t he’ll be riding the bus between Triple-A and the big leagues for a number of teams who think they can fix his approach and tap into his plus raw tools.

Fantasy Impact:  Aquino should be owned in all Dynasty Leagues that roster 300 or fewer prospects.  He has plus power potential and the ability to steal 5 to 10 bases annually.  As stated, if he can tone down his approach, he has a chance to be major league regular.  If not, well, you’ll do like I’ve done – add him, drop him, add him…

2018 Emerging Prospect

Jimmy Herget (RHP)

Readers are always asking about future closers.  Well, Jimmy Herget could be your man.  In 52 games last season across Double and Triple-A, he saved 25 games while striking out an impressive 72 batters while only walking 21.  He’s a fastball/slider pitcher with tons of funk in his delivery.  There’s a lot of pitchers who have had successful big league careers with that profile, and many of them have been closers.


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