|Original Published Date: October 9, 2018|
When you pick high in the draft for several years in a row, you should have a good minor league system. The Reds are that team and do have an elite system. What they haven’t done well is acquire impact players in trades. They got very little for Aroldis Chapman or even Brandon Phillips, and have been unwilling to trade some of their other established players. Nonetheless, it’s a Top 10 system with several impact players ready to contribute to the big league club.
Nick Senzel might have been in the big leagues last season but couldn’t stay healthy. The skillset is exciting with power, speed and the ability to get on base. Taylor Trammell, one of my favorite prospects in the game continues to get better and will start the 2019 season in Double-A. Last year’s number one prospect and second overall pick, Hunter Greene has Ace potential but ended the season on the Disabled List with arm troubles and this year’s number one pick, Jonathan India has impact tools and should move quickly.
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1. Nick Senzel (3B)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 3B
When you look at the stat line that Nick Senzel put up in 2018, it’s pretty easy to get excited. He slashed .310/.378/.509 with a 20% strikeout rate and a 10% walk rate. The only blemish was the number of games in which he played – 44.
For the second year in a row, he missed significant time with a bout of vertigo. Vertigo is one of those disconcerting diagnosis where it’s both a symptom of something else and just an issue unto itself; in other words, some people just get vertigo. After he returned, he then hurt his finger and needed surgery to repair a tendon.
The skillset is exciting. He has a plus hit tool, good speed, and emerging power. Plus, he should be able to play multiple positions in the infield. Based on those 44 games, there’s not much he has left to prove in the minor leagues. He just needs to stay healthy. Assuming he can, he could be a Top 5 third baseman in the mold of Alex Bregman.
2. Taylor Trammell (OF)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 OF
Taylor Trammell played the entire season as a 20-year-old in the Florida State League and put up his third year of solid stats. He didn’t put up that gaudy stat line as he did with 41 stolen bases in 2017, but eight home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a .375 OBP is still pretty outstanding.
Trammell has the tools to become an explosive leadoff batter in the big leagues. He has plus speed, a very good approach at the plate and power that should start to emerge as he matures. The extra tool is his makeup. While some readers might skip over that comment, don’t. In my opinion, makeup is the most overlooked element in a prospect’s profile, mostly because you can’t measure it. But in talking with people around the game, nearly everyone says that his makeup is off-the-charts – a hard worker, positive attitude, and a good person.
The Reds should start him in Double-A next season with a chance to see the big leagues in 2020.
3. Hunter Greene (RHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SP
I’m writing this capsule the week after both Michael Kopech and Shohei Ohtani were told they need Tommy John reconstructive surgery. It just seems that young pitchers that throw hard wind up blowing out their elbow. There are numerous examples and with all due respect to the Inverted W theory, overuse theory, and whatever theory, perhaps the human body just can’t throw that hard without tearing something.
Regrettably, Hunter Greene has also been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. This is many times a precursor to TJ surgery. Let’s hope not, but Greene can sit in the upper-90s with his fastball and while the delivery is a thing of beauty, so was Taijuan Walker, Dylan Bundy, and Ohtani.
As a Dynasty League owner, I’m frustrated. Do I draft hard-throwing elite pitching prospects? You can argue, no. They are just going to get hurt. You can also argue that Chris Sale and Max Scherzer are the outliers. But with Greene, there’s just so much to like. The explosive fastball, the incredible athleticism, the ability to repeat his delivery, the present secondary pitches that will only get better. But, is he hurt? Will he miss the next two seasons recovering from surgery? Will he be one of the guys that don’t fully recover? I don’t know the answer but what I do know is that Greene is an elite talent that has a chance to be a number one. You just can’t say that about many pitchers.
4. Jonathan India (3B)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 3B
After a breakout season in his junior year at Florida, Jonathan India shot up draft boards and the Cincinnati Reds snagged him with the fifth overall pick. How good was his season? In 68 games, he posted a 1.214 OPS with 21 home runs and 15 stolen bases. In his freshman and sophomore year, he showed a very good ability to get on base, posting a .360 OBP, but he also only hit a total of 10 home runs. It begs the question, how real is the power?
After his first foray into professional ball, he didn’t really answer that question. In 44 games, he posted a .433 SLG and hit six home runs. However, in looking at his swing, he shows nice leverage and at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he has the physicality for future above-average if not more power. Throw-in average speed and a proven ability to steal bases and there is a lot to get excited about. I’m a believer and will demonstrate that in my Top 100 list next spring.
5. Tony Santillan (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP
One of the big pop-up pitchers for 2018 was Tony Santillan. We’ve long been big fans of his premium stuff and athleticism, but his inability to throw strikes had been holding him back. That changed this year as he walked a batter less an inning from his minor league average. Not only did he do that in High-A to begin the season, but repeated it in Double-A where he arguably pitched even better.
It’s been a while since the Reds have developed a true top-of-the-rotation starter and while Santillan is still not in the category, his combination of stuff and athleticism gives him a legitimate shot. He’ll pitch the entire 2019 season as a 22-year-old and since he still has one year remaining before the Reds have to put him on the 40-man roster, the likelihood of a call-up is not high. Of course, if the Reds surprise early in the season, the calculus could change.
6. Jeter Downs (2B)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF
The Reds drafted the athletic Jeter Downs with the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft and assigned him to their Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League. He more than held his own, batting .257 with 13 home runs and 37 stolen bases. The stolen bases are actually a bit of a surprise as he’s not a burner but clearly has a knack for reading pitchers. Therefore, I would not be surprised if the 37 bags become an outlier going forward with him settling more into a 15 to 20 annual stolen base total.
The Reds will continue to push Downs aggressively through the system with a likely assignment to High-A to begin the 2019 season. He does need to continue to work on controlling the strike zone as his strikeout rate was 20%. As he faces better pitching, he could be more exposed with downward pressure on his batting average.
The fantasy ceiling though is very high. If it all comes together, there is 20/20 upside with a .260/.340 hit-tool.
7. Tyler Stephenson (C)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 catcher
Tyler Stephenson continues to make slow and steady progress through the minor leagues. He spent the entire season in High-A where his power finally started to show. In 109 games, he hit 11 home runs and did that in the Florida State League. To give you a sense for that feat, his total ranked 15th in the league. Granted, his teammate Ibandel Isabel hit 35, but demonstrating double-digit power in the Florida State League is notable.
Stephenson should spend most of the 2019 season in Double-A and could see a promotion to Cincinnati in 2020 with a 2021 promotion more likely. The ceiling continues to be a starting catcher in a traditional 15-team league with a chance to hit 15 to 20 home runs and not hurt you in batting average or on-base percentage.
8. Jose Siri (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
Jose Siri got a late start to the season due to a thumb injury and never really got going once he was promoted to Double-A. The culprit was a very poor 32% strikeout rate. He’s always been an aggressive hitter and while he walked a bit more last season, he still swung aggressively and got himself into bad counts. This helped contribute to his high strikeout rate.
Siri carrying tool continues to be his double-plus speed. If he can improve his approach and cut down his strikeouts, he could be an impact top-of-the-order bat, capable of popping 10 to 15 home runs annually. However, at this time I’m still not convinced he can tone down his approach and his fallback role of a fourth outfielder might be more likely.
9. Shed Long (2B)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
Shed Long was a popular draft choice in deeper Dynasty Leagues last spring as owners were intrigued by the .312/.380/.543 he put up in High-A in 2017. But a .368 BABIP disguised his 23% strikeout rate and once things normalized in 2018, a more reasonable .261/.353 stat line emerged.
Long has nice leverage in his swing and should be able to pop 20 home runs annually. He also is patience at the plate and makes enough contact to suggest a .260/.340 hit-tool performance. He’s an average runner with a chance to steal 5 to 8 bases annually. If you add it all up, he’s not a star but should be a serviceable middle infielder in a deep fantasy league.
10. Vladimir Gutierrez (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
Vladimir Gutierrez got off to a rough start in Double-A but pitched much better in the second half. If you take about the awful six earned run outing he had in late August, he actually posted a sub-three ERA from June 1st onward.
While Gutierrez is only six feet tall, he throws very hard with a fastball that can scrape the upper nineties. He has excellent control with the ability to get plenty of swings and misses with his off-speed pitches. The problem is his size. At 6-feet tall, he just doesn’t get enough plane on his pitches and is homer prone. In 147 innings, he gave up 18 home runs. Long-term, it’s probably a profile of a bullpen arm with a chance to see save opportunities.
11. TJ Friedl (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF – Speed guy
TJ Friedl continued to raise his stock with a solid 2018 campaign. In 131 games across High and Double-A, he hit .284 with a .384 OBP and 30 stolen bases.
Freidl carrying tool is his 70-grade speed that he demonstrates both on the bases and in the outfield. He currently has well below-average power and that could push him to a fourth outfielder profile. However, the speed is what fantasy owners care about and with significant playing time, he could be an impact performer. That said, Dynasty League owners have been burned time and time again chasing speed in players like Freidl. Is this the next Charlie Tilson? He very well could be, but a smart fantasy owner will keep him on their radar in case he starts to develop some pop. If that happens, the calculus changes.
12. Lyon Richardson (RHP)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Too soon to say
I love athletic pitchers who throw hard and have an idea of how to throw an off-speed pitch. That pretty much defines Lyon Richardson. He was a two-player in high school but because he could hit the upper nineties with a fastball, the Reds drafted him as a pitcher. In his professional debut, he didn’t pitch all that well but did flash the premium stuff that convinced the Reds to give him nearly a two million dollar signing bonus.
Richardson is a project and needs to learn how to pitch. In publically available videos, his delivery is very primitive and needs significant refinement. He’s a perfect candidate for the Reds to hold back after Spring Training and have him repeat short-season ball next summer. He’s not draftable at the moment but is a pitcher that fantasy owners need to monitor.
13. Mike Siani (OF)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
We use to publish an “emerging prospect by system” and if we were still doing that, I think Mike Siani would fit the category perfectly. He’s a tooled up kid that the Reds spent $2 million dollars to sign him away from going to the University of Virginia. He’s a double plus runner, seems to have an idea at the plate and could be a gold-glove defender in center. The Reds will work on helping him drive the ball better so that he can profile with at least average power.
If you’re looking for a sleeper who is four years away, look no further than Mike Siani.
14. Ibandel Isabel (1B)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Extra Bat
The Florida State League is a pitchers league. The ballparks are large and the wind in Florida can really whip in the summertime. Therefore, to see a kid with 36 home runs is indeed impressive. To know that amount leads all the minor leaguers, well, it’s time to sit up and take notice.
Isabel’s carrying tool is clearly his 80-grade raw power. The issue, as seems to always be the case, will Isabel hit enough to get to that power? In High-A, he posted a .326 BABIP, so he was ok. However, the 36 home runs have come with a 36% strikeout rate and that will likely not play. To be successful, he needs to cut down on his long swing and while on the surface, that seems simple to do, it’s not. He’s a kid to monitor as next season will tell us a lot on whether this was a building season or just an outlier.
15. Jimmy Herget (RHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
Jimmy Herget can run his fastball up to the mid-90’s with tremendous sink. As a low-slot guy, he gives right-handed batters fit and could be a real weapon once the Reds decide to promote him to the big leagues. I won a league after drafting Brad Ziegler several years ago and while Herget doesn’t have the classic closer delivery or arsenal, he’s tough to hit, throws strikes and keeps the ball in the ballpark. Kind of like Brad Ziegler. So, if one day we are talking about picking Jimmy Herget up as a closer because Raisel Iglesias or Vladimir Gutierrez are injured, remember where you heard the name first.
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