International Reviews: Cincinnati Reds
See Also: 2014 Reds International Review
See Also: 2013 Reds International Review
See Also: 2012 Reds International Review
Top signing: OF Cristian Olivo, Dominican Republic, $1 million.
Total signings: 36.
The Reds have stayed away from the big-ticket, million-dollar July 2 signings in recent years. When they have spent big money internationally, it's been for Cuban players, with good success thus far in that market between lefthander Aroldis Chapman and righthander Raisel Iglesias. In 2015, they did get more aggressive with their spending on July 2, signing Dominican outfielder Cristian Olivo for $1 million from Carlos Guzman.
Olivo, 17, is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and showed solid power but no standout tools early on, leading to lukewarm reviews from other teams. As July 2 approached, the Reds saw him running plus times in the 60-yard dash and he showed them big raw power in batting practice. Other teams had more reservations about Olivo’s ability to hit in games, but the Reds liked his bat and ability to make adjustments within an at-bat, and he did go 2-for-6 with a double and no strikeouts at the MLB international showcase last year in February. He’s going to start in center field, though he will likely outgrow the position, which would probably put him in left field given his below-average arm. Olivo will debut in the Dominican Summer League. Over the years, the Reds have signed several Venezuelan players from Ciro Barrios, most prominently outfielder Yorman Rodriguez for $2.5 million in 2008, as well as lefthander Ismael Guillon, infielder Ronald Torreyes and catcher Pabel Manzanero (who hit eight home runs in 39 DSL games last year), among others.
Last year the Reds signed three players from Barrios to six-figure deals, including shortstop Miguel Hernandez for $650,000 in July. Hernandez played third base on Venezuela’s 15U World Cup team in 2014 in Mexico, where he batted .269/.367/.346 in 30 plate appearances with three walks and three strikeouts. He also played in the MLB international showcase in the Dominican Republic last year in February, going 3-for-7 with a walk and a stolen base. Hernandez, 16, is a skinny 5-foot-11, 152 pounds, with the Reds drawn to his feel for hitting from the right side and ability to stay at shortstop, though other clubs had more mixed reviews on both. Hernandez has minimal strength or power at this point, so getting stronger will be crucial for his development. He was a below-average runner before July 2, but the Reds saw average speed from him before he signed.
The Reds also signed a pair of catchers from Barrios in July for $250,000 each. One is Elvis Gomez, a 16-year-old who impressed the Reds with his defensive ability, showing them solid catch-and-throw skills with soft hands and average arm. At 6 feet, 170 pounds, Gomez is a defensive-oriented player whose righthanded bat and gap power will need time and strength to come around. The second catcher, 17-year-old Carlos Reina, is more of an offensive-minded catcher, with solid power for the position from both sides of the plate. At 6 feet, 175 pounds, Rios is athletic and runs well for a catcher, with average arm strength, though he will have to bring along his receiving to remain behind the plate.
Reniel Ozuna is a 17-year-old Dominican outfielder who became eligible to sign in 2014, but he waited until July 2 last year to sign with the Reds for $175,000. Ozuna is an athletic 6-foot-2, 180 pounds with good speed and arm strength in center field. He’s a project who stands out more for his athleticism than his baseball polish, needing more overall strength and development from his righthanded bat. Ozuna trained with Christian Irizarri of Athletes Premier. Giovanni Diaz is another skinny shortstop who signed for $155,000 on July 2. Diaz, a 16-year-old form the Dominican Republic, showed the Reds good instincts at shortstop with average speed and arm strength. He’s 6-foot-1, 150 pounds with a straightaway, line-drive approach and gap power. The Reds have two DSL teams, so both he and Hernandez should get plenty of playing time at shortstop this summer.
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During the 2014-15 signing period, the Reds signed 17-year-old third baseman Raul Juarez for $130,000 out of Venezuela in February. The Reds like Juarez’s righthanded bat, although he hit just .205/.289/.313 in 190 plate appearances with nine walks, 37 strikeouts and two home runs last year in the DSL. Juarez has an average arm and split time last year between third and first base, but he’s built like a catcher (6-foot-1, 165 pounds), so that could be a backup option for him down the road.