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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Nick Senzel, 3b|
|2. Cody Reed, lhp|
|3. Amir Garrett, lhp|
|4. Robert Stephenson, rhp|
|5. Taylor Trammell, of|
|6. Jesse Winker, of|
|7. Aristides Aquino, of|
|8. Sal Romano, rhp|
|9. Vladimir Gutierrez, rhp|
|10. Tyler Stephenson, c|
The Reds’ rebuilding effort hit full speed in 2016. The organization hopes that it has hit rock bottom with a 94-loss season and has now started the slow climb back to both respectability and contention in the National League Central.
One characteristic of rebuilding teams is opportunity. Teams like the 2016 Reds have a surplus of at-bats and innings available for the taking, and ideally that playing time goes to young players—or at least lesser-noticed players who could turn into valuable big league pieces.
In that regard, the Reds experienced a bit of success in 2016. The club had to play almost the entire year without two of its highest-paid players—catcher Devin Mesoraco and righthander Homer Bailey—which made even more at-bats and innings available.
In this context, Cincinnati identified a few possible solutions for the future. Left fielder Adam Duvall, acquired in the 2015 Mike Leake trade, combined power and surprisingly good defense with plenty of strikeouts. Waiver claim righthander Dan Straily proved to be a surprisingly strong addition as a mid-rotation starter.
Shortstop Jose Peraza, whom the Reds acquired after the 2015 season when they traded Todd Frazier, showed Cincinnati that he needs a spot in the 2017 lineup. The Reds’ patience in center fielder Billy Hamilton paid off when his second half at the plate (.293/.369/.333) hinted that he can get on-base enough to let his best-in-baseball speed play on the bases as well as in center field.
The farm system is deeper as well thanks to holding the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft and having the second-most money to spend internationally. The Reds’ draft class should pay benefits for years to come, and Cincinnati will choose second overall again in 2017.
But Cincinnati must lament how the system could be even deeper. A series of poorly-timed decisions stretching over a number of years will cost the Reds for years to come.
Most notably, Cincinnati traded closer Aroldis Chapman at the worst possible time, right after news broke that Chapman was being investigated for a domestic violence allegation.
The Reds’ return from the Mets for right fielder Jay Bruce at the 2016 trade deadline also was modest—Rookie-ball lefty Max Wotell and Triple-A second baseman Dilson Herrera—and Cincinnati is stuck with 35-year-old second baseman Brandon Phillips for one more season.
All of those missteps can be overcome, but for the Reds to contend before Joey Votto reaches the decline phase of his 10-year extension, they will have to figure out how to turn the team’s impressive group of upper-level pitching prospects into solid big leaguers. That’s the biggest challenge in 2017.
1. Nick Senzel, 3b |
Born: June 29, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Tennessee, 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Brad Meador.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: All through his prep career at Farragut High in Knoxville, Senzel was never viewed as the star. His teammate Kyle Serrano drew the majority of the scouting attention, though the Reds’ reports from that time did note that they believed Senzel would have a chance to become a very good player. But first he needed to head to college. After three years at Tennessee, Senzel has far surpassed Serrano as a prospect. As a junior in 2016 he hit .352/.456/.595 with a Southeastern Conference-best 25 doubles. The Reds selected Senzel with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft and signed him for $6.2 million, the highest bonus amount for any member of his draft class and also the record for a drafted player in franchise history.
Scouting Report: Senzel was arguably the safest pick in the 2016 draft. Even scouts who aren’t sold on him being an impact player see him as a polished college bat who should move quickly. He has worked hard to develop into an above-average defender at third base who even held his own in a stint at shortstop with Tennessee. Senzel has above-average short-range quickness thanks to quick hips. His hands are average. Defensively, his best asset is his plus arm. Senzel’s throws have plenty of carry, but they are even more notable for accuracy. He can throw from a variety of arm angles and doesn’t need to set his feet to uncork an accurate throw. At the plate, Senzel is a hitter who sometimes drives the ball for power rather than a slugger who can hit. He stays balanced in his swing and has excellent pitch recognition, laying off tough breaking balls out of the zone while catching up to fastballs. His biggest vulnerability in his pro career has been when pitchers bust him up and in with fastballs, though he will yank the occasional inside pitch. All seven of his pro home runs were pulled to left field. He has average productive power, but he is more comfortable lining the ball from gap to gap. In batting practice he shows plus raw power. Senzel is a heady baserunner who has a knack for basestealing. He will turn singles into doubles by aggressively coming out of the batter’s box and reading how outfielders play balls in the gaps.
The Future: Senzel’s long track record of production—he hit .300 or better in each of his three years at Tennessee and was the Cape Cod League MVP in 2015—makes scouts comfortable that he will be a future big league regular. The debate is just how much impact he will make. Senzel’s excellent work ethic and surprising athleticism give him a chance to exceed some of those expectations. He projects as a .280-.290 hitter with 15-20 home runs, plenty of doubles and solid defense at third base. If he hits the high end of his projection he’s a plus hitter with plus power. Players with Senzel’s type of hitting ability and strength sometimes exceed their power projections in the majors. He’s ready for high Class A Daytona in 2017 and should reach Double-A Pensacola during the season. Senzel should be competing for a job in Cincinnati by 2018.