Cincinnati Reds

The Reds minor league system is not very deep, but they do have several elite prospects that should be able to help the big league club as soon as 2022.  Hunter Greene is one of the best athletes at any level in the minor leagues with a golden arm that he routinely throws in triple-digits.  He just lacks experience and the associate command of all his pitches.  If he can continue to develop, he has ace upside.  Jose Barrero has already seen time in the Major Leagues and brings a potential impact bat at shortstop.  He has good speed and plenty of bat speed to translate into future in-game power.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Hunter Greene
  • Biggest Mover: Jay Allen
  • Emerging Prospect: Ricardo Cabrera

1. Hunter Greene (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Fantasy Ace
  • Tools Summary: Athletic with premium stuff.  He doesn’t always repeat his delivery but that should be resolved through repetition

Based on the season that Greene had in 2021 and the aggressive nature of the Reds, I expected to see Greene in Cincinnati in 2021.  However, that did not happen and instead, Greene fine-tuned his arsenal on the farm splitting time between Double and Triple-A.  The arm is special with a fastball that sits in the upper nineties, routinely hitting triple-digits.  His secondary pitches include a cutter, a slider that is his best out pitch, and an improving change-up.  He doesn’t always throw strikes but given his athleticism, he just needs repetition.  If you put it all together, he’s one of the best pitching prospects in the game with a ceiling of a #1 pitcher.

2. Jose Barrero (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS
  • Tools Summary: Outstanding 2021 season where he showed plenty of pop and speed across Double and Triple-A

After an unexpected promotion from High-A to the big leagues in 2020, Jose Borrero spent most of 2021 splitting time between Double and Triple-A. In doing so, he put up his best season as a professional slashing 303/.380/.583 with 19 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 380 plate appearances. He did play another 21 games in the Majors and struggled, although not as much as in 2020. There’s some swing and miss in his game, but overall I continue to believe the upside is a Top 15 shortstop in the Major Leagues with 20 plus home runs, some stolen bases early in his career with a .260 to .270 batting average with solid OBP skills.  For me, the comp continues to be a Didi Gregorius type of player.

3. Matt McLain (SS)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 SS or Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: High Floor hitter with some speed.  His swing path and raw power, point to more of a future doubles-hitter

The Reds went safe with their first pick last June in selecting college shortstop Matt McLain.  He has a great approach at the plate with solid contact skills.  He’s very direct to the ball and while he struck out a little too much in his professional debut, I think he hits for a high average with .350+ OBP skills.  He’s an above-average runner and should be able to steal bases but based on his size and swing mechanics, he’ll likely have below-average power.  If he stays at shortstop, he’ll likely be a middle infielder on a fantasy team.  If he moves to 2B, then the ceiling is a Top 15 second baseman.

4. Nick Lodolo (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP
  • Tools Summary: The stat line suggests an ace but the delivery and arsenal point more to a number four starter

I’ve seen Lodolo pitch a couple of times and maybe I’ve caught him on bad days, but I’m struggling with putting a ceiling of more than a number four starter.  He’s a good pitcher with a good arsenal, but he comes from a lower 3/4 delivery and right-handed batters get a good look and hit him hard.  But, if you look at the stat line, he looks like a potential ace.  At every level, his strikeout rates are extremely high.  In 2021, he struck out over 13 per nine.  Plus, he doesn’t walk hitters.  These are all good things but in the end, I think big league hitters will get a good look and his ERA will be over league average.  Assuming the shoulder issues he suffered this season are behind him, we should see him sometime in 2022.

5. Austin Hendrick (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with risk
  • Tools Summary: Poor season where he struck out 38% of the time with little power

Hendricks, the Reds first-round draft pick in 2020 (pick 12) had a rough professional debut in 2021.  He played the entire season in Low-A and slashed .211/.380/.388 with seven home runs.  The biggest problem is he struck out 38% of the time.  He appeared to be very passive at the plate and that led to him getting into bad hitting counts.  Plus, his 70-grade power did not show up.  The slow start can be partially blamed on a high school draftee not being able to be eased into the game in 2020 and just struggling.  The plus raw power is there and scouts still like the swing.  But clearly, there is work to be done.

6. Rece Hinds (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2023+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B or Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Light-tower power but with big questions about his ability to hit

Rece Hinds carrying tool is double-plus raw power which is a product of great bat speed and strength.  After missing the entire 2020 season, it was disappointing that he missed more time in 2021 with a knee injury he suffered in June.  When he played, he showed plus power, slugging .515 with 10 home runs in 43 games in Low-A.  While he kept his strikeout rate under control, his size and tendency to chase pitches out of the zone is something he’ll continue to battle.  If he makes enough contact, he could hit 30, maybe more home runs.  At this point, I’m still on the fence on whether he’ll do that.  Finally, at 6-foot-4, a move to a corner outfield position might be in the cards with right-field being a logical place so that his plus arm can be exploited.

7. Jay Allen (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Athletic outfielder with double-plus speed and potential future power.  His hit tool is raw and will take a lot of development and patience

Allen is one of the more intriguing players on this list.  He was a first-round pick last June (pick 30) who is very athletic with double-plus speed and plenty of bat speed to project future power.  In high school, he didn’t focus full-time on baseball so there are questions about ultimately how much he’ll hit.  While it was only the Complex League, in 75 plate appearances, he only struck out 12 times with 8 walks.  For fantasy owners looking for a potentially high upside, high-risk player, well…here you go.

8. Tyler Callihan (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 2B
  • Tools Summary: High floor player with a plus hit tool but light on power and speed

Tyler Callihan’s season ended early when he had Tommy John Surgery in June.  Before that, he was doing what he always does – controlling the strike zone and making contact.  In 99 plate appearance in Low-A, he only struck out 13% of the time while walking 8% of the time.  His swing is made for contact as it lacks loft, so unless a change is made, he’ll have more doubles than home run pop.  He’s an average runner and should be able to steal 8 to 12 bases annually.  He’s the definition of high floor player; and if he adds loft to his swing, there could be some upside in the power department.

9. Graham Ashcraft (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP or Reliever
  • Tools Summary: Excellent season where he struck out well over a batter an inning.  His delivery and lack of a third pitch might force a move to the bullpen

Graham Ashcraft had a good year in 2021.  He shoved it to start the season in High-A striking out nearly 13 per nine and after his promotion to Double-A in July, he continued to pitch well striking out over a batter an inning. He throws hard, not as hard as he did back in college but still sits 94 to 95 with a plus slider.  He doesn’t have a good change-up and has a delivery that might stress his ability to throw strikes, so ultimately, he could move to the bullpen and let his two-plus pitches hunt.

10. Elly De La Cruz (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B with risk
  • Tools Summary: Intriguing tools but the approach needs significant work.

Playing as a 19-year-old in Low-A for most of the season, De La Cruz held his own.  He showed some pop and good speed, but he also struck out 31% of the time and rarely walked.  While there are tools, he needs to improve his approach for those tools to play in-game.  Remember, players who strikeout over 30% of the time in Low-A rarely become impact players in the big leagues.  Now, De La Cruz is very young, and we are not ready to give up on his tools, but there is work to be done.

11. Mike Siani (OF)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF with upside
  • Tools Summary: Double-plus speed but struggles making consistent contact with below-average power

Siani was promoted to High-A and his penchant to chase balls out of the zone was evident.  He struck out 26% of the time but did manage to improve his walk rate.  He’s a double-plus runner and stole 27 bases but has below-average power.  If he can cut down on his strikeout rate, he could get regular at-bats at the highest level, but at this time, he profiles as a fourth outfielder in the big leagues and a waiver wire pickup for fantasy players look for speed.

12. Andrew Abbott (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: Solid three-pitch mix but his size and lack of plus velocity suppresses his ceiling

Abbott was a casualty of the short 2020 draft and wound up going back to Virginia for his senior year.  While it was a delay, in the end, it worked out for the 6-foot lefty as the Reds took him the second round last June. He has a solid three-pitch mix with his curveball being the best of the bunch.  He doesn’t throw hard but everything plays up because he’s able to throw strikes.  Throw in that he will likely be homer-prone given his size, and his ceiling appears to be that of a number four starter.

13. Ricardo Cabrera (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Int’l Player expected to sign ETA: 2025+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: One of the elite 2022 International prospects. Athletic with great bat speed

Ricardo Cabrera will be one of the elite international signees for 2022 and is expected to sign with the Reds.  He’s been a known entity for several years in International circles.  He’s athletic with elite bat speed and one of the better approaches in the class.  He’s a lottery pick for Dynasty League owners but if you are basing your decisions on the amount a player will sign for, Cabrera should be someone to target.

14. Malvin Valdez (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2025+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Toolsy 17-year-old with big questions about how much contact he’ll make

Valdez was our emerging prospect last season as we anticipated him signing with the Reds in January.  As we said last year, he’s toolsy with significant concerns about his ability to hit.  In the DSL, he showed his double-plus speed by stealing 20 bases.  While the bat speed is evident, so are the strikeouts.  In 181 plate appearance, he struck out a third of the time.  So far, he’s tracking on what we thought he would be and if you decide to roster him on your Dynasty League, you have your parameters.

15. Matheu Nelson (C)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 Catcher
  • Tools Summary: Plus potential power with some contact concerns

Matheu Nelson had a breakout junior year at Florida State and his effort landed him a $2 million signing bonus last June.  He didn’t play very well in his professional debut, but if he performs as he did in college, there is plus power but it will come at the expense of contact.  If he can develop 20+ home run pop, which seems reasonable, and makes enough contact, which is debatable, then the ceiling is a Top 15 catcher.  I’ll bet the slight under at this juncture.

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