|Original Published Date: October 8, 2019|
The Reds went away from the teardown and rebuild process used by many teams to build a contender and decided instead to acquire veterans on short contracts to try and compete “now.” While they were better in 2019, they still finished under .500, missing the playoffs once again. Unfortunately, the strategy cost them some very good young players and severely weakened their prospect pipeline.
Leading their list now is Hunter Greene. Blessed with great athleticism and a million-dollar-arm, Greene spent the year recovering from Tommy John surgery but should begin competing again next season. Their best positional player is Jonathan India, the number five overall pick in 2018. He’s already in Double-A and should be able to help the Reds in 20202. Unfortunately, he did not produce eye-popping stats last season and that is the reason for some concern on his overall ceiling.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Hunter Greene
- Biggest Mover: Mike Siani
- Emerging Prospect: Braylin Minier
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1. Hunter Greene (RHP)
- Tool Summary: DNP ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Fantasy Ace
- Tools Summary: Premium velocity with a plus slider, athleticism, and make-up.
The Reds drafted Hunter Greene with their first pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (pick #2). They loved, as did the industry the athleticism, size, and premium velocity that he brought to the table. They handled him with kid gloves and he responded well. He routinely hit triple-digits, even pumping 103 during the 2018 Futures Game. He didn’t always throw strikes, but the arm action was good and with his athleticism, the team though control would not be an issue long-term.
As with many hard throwers, he felt a twinge in his elbow and tried rest and rehabbing but in April, he succumbed to Tommy John Surgery and missed all of 2019 and will probably not see the mound until next June. That pushes out his timeframe and obviously adds tremendous risk for his ultimate ceiling. Sometimes players come back throwing harder, sometimes they struggle with control, and sometimes they are never the same. We won’t know Greene’s fate until he gets back on the mound.
While we have his ceiling still as a Fantasy Ace, just know that is a guess at this point as the surgery has given a much wider range of outcomes. The only worry I saw with his arsenal prior to his surgery was his fastball tends to be straight. But, I thought that with Gerrit Cole and he solved that problem early in his career.
2. Jonathan India (3B)
- Tool Summary: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: Plus power with some speed but needs to cut down on strikeouts.
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 in the 2018 MLB Draft. How good was his junior college season? In 68 games, he posted a 1.214 OPS with 21 home runs and 15 stolen bases. After he signed, the question that needed to be answered…is the bat for real, and more importantly, is the power for real.
In 2019, India had a mixed season. He showed solid contact (21.5% K/9) and the ability to work a walk (11.3% BB/9). However, he didn’t show a lot of power posting only a .375 SLG and hitting 11 home runs. He also continued to show average speed by stealing 11 bats.
In reviewing the swing, there is plenty of leverage, but he also doesn’t sell out for the power. There are holes in the swing, so there will be some swing and miss, but I think there is 20 home run power, perhaps more. Throw-in average speed and a proven ability to steal bases and there is a lot to get excited about. The ceiling is a full-time regular with 20 plus home run potential, low double-digit stolen bases and a .260/.330 batting average.
3. Nick Lodolo (LHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Big fastball and slider but delivery is lower three-quarters.
The Reds were slotted at number seven in this past June’s draft and with the consensus Top six players taken off the board, they got to choose who they thought was the best player in a list of about 10 comparable players. They selected Nick Lodolo from Texas Christian University.
He had an impressive junior season where he pitched to a 2.18 ERA striking out 11 per nine while walking less than two per nine. Prior to that, it was just ok but that happens a lot. Many players have a blow-up year in college and many time that is in their draft year.
Lodolo is 6-foot-6 with a plus fastball that he can touch the mid-90s that he couples with a plus slider. The combination worked in college and he had no problem in eight starts across the Pioneer League and Midwest League. In those starts, he pitched 18.1 innings striking out 30 without issuing a walk.
While the stuff is solid and it’s from the left side, there is are concerns with his delivery. He has a lower three-quarter delivery that isn’t too pronounced but still does open the question about him being a bullpen arm long-term. However, the Reds will develop him as a starter and given his pedigree, he could move quickly with a chance to see the Major Leagues in 2021.
The ceiling is a mid-rotation starter in fantasy with plenty of strikeouts. With his delivery, home runs could be a problem with his home ballpark and the major league baseball not helping.
4. Tyler Stephenson (C)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 Catcher
- Tools Summary: Improved contact rate but still waiting on the power to develop.
Drafted in the first round in 2015, Tyler Stephenson has been making steady progress through the minor leagues. He’s never put up that standout year, but in 2019 we did see a marked improvement in his hit tool. His contact rate improved in a meaningful way (17.2 K/9) and he’s walking 11% of the time. However, we continue to wait on his power as he only posted a .413 SLG with six home runs.
Stephenson still profiles as a full-time catcher in the big leagues and potentially a very good one. He controls the strike zone very well and has good bat speed. With his size and bat speed, the power should develop. Assuming it all comes together, he could hit .260 to .270 with a .340 to .350 OBP and 15 to 20 home runs. One concern is that he is 6-foot-4 which is large for a catcher. There is always a chance that as he matures, he could be moved off the position.
5. Tony Santillan (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or a Closer
- Tools Summary: Big fastball and slider but his control took a big step backward.
After a nice step-up year in 2018, Tony Santillan took a step back in 2019 as he struggled with his control while repeating Double-A. The plan was for him to split time between Double and Triple-A with a chance to see the Major Leagues at some point during the year. But, in 102.1 innings, he walked 54 or a 4.75 BB/9 ratio. It was by far the worse prolonged showing of his career.
Control problems have always been a concern with Santillan dating back to his high school days. He always had the big fastball and developed a plus slider over the past few years, but the delivery has effort and the mechanics can disappear. Plus, it looks like he put on a little weight in his lower half.
I’ve owned Santillan in the past in Dynasty Leagues but don’t own any shares now. The arm is special and in deeper Dynasty Leagues, I’m not giving up yet. However, there’s a chance he’ll never hit his ceiling as a starter and could be forced to move to the bullpen. The good news is that with his premium stuff, he could be in line for saves down the road.
6. Tyler Callihan (2B)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
- Tools Summary: Offensively oriented player with good raw power and an ability to hit.
The Reds drafted tyler Callihan in the third round of last June’s draft. Born and raised in Florida, Callihan had a lot of exposure to evaluators while in high school and impressed them with his ability to make contact and hit with power.
The Reds assigned him to Greeneville in the Appy League where he played well. In 51 games, he slashed .255/.291/.430 with four home runs and nine stolen bases. Most importantly, he posted a 17.6% strikeout rate and if it weren’t for a poor BABIP, his batting average would have been much higher. For the last week of the year, they moved him to the Pioneer League where he continued to play well.
The Reds currently have him at second, which is not what you like to hear in young players. But, his offensive game should work at the highest level and he’s a player to keep an eye on over the next couple of years in Dynasty Leagues.
7. Mike Siani (OF)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
- Tools Summary: Plus speed with good contact. Average at-best power.
Mike Siani was number 13 on our Top 15 list last year and we noted…” we use to publish an ‘emerging prospect by system’ and if we were still doing that, Mike Siani would fit the category perfectly.” Well, 2019 showed that our analysis was not far off.
The skills are clearly alluring. In 54 games, while he’s only hit .224, he’s posted a respectable .330 OBP with four home runs and 19 stolen bases. He doesn’t have a ton of power and while he has strong wrist with plenty of bat speed, the swing is more geared to contact. I think that will work just fine as I think he will hit, despite his low batting average and of course the plus speed will be his best asset.
8. Jose Garcia (SS)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS or Utility Player
- Tools Summary: Average tools, below-average hit tool is putting his ceiling as an extra infielder.
The Reds went way over budget when they signed Cuban Jose Israel Garcia for $5 million dollars during in 2017. The implications of spending that level of money are that it limited the Reds during the subsequent two years on how much money they could spend on the International front. Said another way, he better be good.
It’s now been two full-seasons and while he’s shown some flashes, particularly in the field, he has yet to show the offensive acumen that the Reds had hoped. Over two seasons, he’s slashed .260/.313/.384 with 14 home runs and 28 stolen bases. He was better in 2019, posting a .772 OPS but it came with a 20% strikeout rate and a very poor 5.4% walk rate.
If you’re looking for optimism, he was red-hot to end the year, hitting .378 in August with a .571 SLG. While I did not see him play, I was told by someone who did that he looked much better than at anytime prior to that. It could be a small sample size, but perhaps he finally is knocking off the rust. Time will tell.
9. Jameson Hannah (OF)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF
- Tools Summary: Plus speed but swing lacks loft. Needs to cut down strikeouts.
While the Reds traded Taylor Trammell, their center fielder of the future, at the deadline to the Padres, they did receive Jameson Hannah in return when they shipped Tanner Roark to the Athletics. As one of my readers exclaimed: ”Isn’t Jameson Hannah simply a poor-mans version of Trammell? As a big supporter of Trammell, my first reaction was “no way”, but if I squint, I can see his point – barely.
Hannah was selected by the A’s in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Dallas Baptist as an athletic outfielder with plus speed who could hit. He’s been just fine in the field showing an ability to track balls well and run down most anything. Offensively, it’s just been ok. He hit .283 with a .341 OBP in 92 games Stockton prior to the trade with six stolen bases but was also caught seven times. He also struck out 21% of the time showing limited power. After the trade, he got off to a strong start but wound up limping to the finish line with a poor .623 OPS in 18 games in the Florida State League.
The ceiling for Hannah continues to be a full-time regular, likely at the corner who with his speed and should be able to steal a lot of bases. Based on his swing mechanics, I doubt there will be much power. However, the more likely scenario is that he’s a fourth outfielder and a part-time player. Is that Trammell? I hope not, as Trammell is a better defender with superior all-around tools. However, if he doesn’t hit, well he too could become a fourth outfielder.
10. Rece Hinds (3B)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Light-tower power but with big questions about his ability to hit.
The Reds drafted Rece Hinds in the second round of last June’s draft. A back injury limited him to only three games in the Appy League in mid-June. He did not return.
Hinds carrying tool is double-plus raw power which is a product of great bat speed and strength. He has great size at 6-foot-4, but it also produces a large strike zone and plenty of swing and miss. Plus, there are questions about his ability to recognize spin and adjust. He did turn 19 in September and while that’s far from old from a prospect standpoint, it does make him an older draftee. The Reds will spend time on his approach and pitch recognition skills. If he can’t improve, he does have a cannon for an arm and could one day be moved to the bump. For now, he will be developed as a position player (currently at third base but could move to the outfield).
11. Jose Siri (OF)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Utility Player
- Tools Summary: Average tools, below-average hit tool is putting his ceiling as an extra infielder.
Jose Siri continues to flash alluring power and speed tools but with little semblance of a hit-tool that will allow him to get to those tools. Unfortunately, baseball is littered with this profile and sitting on the top of my personal list is Lewis Brinson. If you’ve read my work for a while, you know that I was all over Brinson. Power, speed, but the hit-tool was questionable. Sure, he showed flashes…they all do, but in the end, Brinson can’t make enough contact and is swinging at everything. Unless you can make contact and get on base, your just not going to be a major league player. I’m worried that Siri is starting to resemble Brinson, et.al.
In 115 games across Double and Triple-A, Siri hit .237 but with a 31% strikeout rate. If it weren’t for a .349 BABIP, the numbers would have looked even worse. Sure, he hit 11 home runs and stole 26 bags, but a 30% strikeout rate will not work. Making matters more complicated, Siri turned 24 in July, so now is the time for him to be putting things together. He hasn’t yet and shades of Lewis Brinson are starting to dance through my head.
12. Stuart Fairchild (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF
- Tools Summary: Average tools but his glove and ability to get on base should get him to big leagues.
Stuart Fairchild lacks a carrying tool but his ability to hit and play the outfielder should make him a major leaguer. At worse, he’s a fourth outfielder in the big leagues but if he can add some power, he could become a full-time regular.
In 109 games across High and Double-A, Fairchild posted a .264 batting average with a .352 on-base percentage. He understands the strike zone and will take his walks (9% BB/9) but needs to cut down on his strikeouts. He was more selective in college and demonstrated that better in Double-A. He’s also a solid runner and should be able to steal double-digit bases.
13. Ivan Johnson (2B)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
- Tools Summary: A little bit of power and speed and signs that he can hit.
The Reds drafted Ivan Johnson in the fourth round of last June’s draft out of junior college. The switch-hitting infielder was assigned to the Appy League to begin his professional career and showed solid across the board skills. In 45 games he slashed .250/.320/.413 with six home runs and 11 stolen bases. Said another way, he has a little bit of power, a little bit of speed and looks like he can also hit a little. Notice the word “big” is missing.
Johnson’s path to professional baseball has NOT been linear. He went undrafted in 2017 out of high school and instead went to the University of Georgia where he hit .238 with a .283 SLG in his freshman year. He transferred to junior college for a year, blossomed, and finally got his money. It’s always disconcerting to hear these stories, but Johnson appears to have a lot of average to slightly above-average offensive skills. He’ll likely slide over to second but does have a shot at making it to the Major Leagues.
14. T.J. Friedl (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Extra Bat
- Tools Summary: Average speed with an ability to control the strike zone.
After showing an improved approach and hit tool in 2018, T.J. Friedl continued to control the strike zone with a little bit of speed and pop in 2019. His biggest problem was he was unable to stay healthy, playing in only 64 games in Double-A. He also got unlucky with a .277 BABIP which drove his batting average down to a poor .230.
While Friedl can hit with a little speed and power, it might not be enough for him to be more than a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. If so, he’s not going to help fantasy owners much. That said, he makes our list because he can hit and that is the skill that keeps on giving.
15. Braylin Minier (SS)
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling: Too soon to say
- Tools Summary: Advanced glove for age with the chance to hit and hit with some power.
The Reds don’t compete for talent in the Latin market outside of Cuban but spent big in 2019. Braylin Minier, a 16-year-old shortstop was their top player and signed a $1.8 million dollar signing bonus. The Reds like his overall tools with a chance to stay up-the-middle with power and a chance to hit.
He’s only 16 and should see time in the DSL in 2020.