2017 Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects

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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.

Of the four players the Reds acquired from New York for Chapman, none rank among the organization’s Top 30 Prospects—and two (Caleb Cotham and Tony Renda) have been dropped from the 40-man roster.

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 | bba_video_icon_red

Born: June 29, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Tennessee, 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Brad Meador.

Hitting: 60
Power: 55
Speed: 50
Arm: 60
Defense: 55
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.

Billings (R) .142 .293 .182 33 3 5 1 0 0 4 6 5 3
Dayton (LoA) .329 .415 .567 210 38 69 23 3 7 36 32 49 15

2. Cody Reed, lhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: April 15, 1993. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Northwest Mississippi JC, 2013 (2nd round). Signed by: Travis Ezi (Royals).

Background: One of three lefthanders the Reds acquired in the 2015 deadline deal that sent Johnny Cueto to the Royals, Reed dominated at Double-A Pensacola in 2015 and impressed at Triple-A Louisville in 2016. That success did not continue in Cincinnati.

Scouting Report: Reed’s big league debut featured many lowlights but also several encouraging signs. He lived in the bottom of the strike zone with a 93-96 mph fastball and a hard 87-89 mph slider that starts on the outer half of the plate and finishes on the hands of righthanded batters. His low three-quarters arm slot gives lefthanded batters a tough look. However, Reed’s fastball steadily backed up in the big leagues, in part because he was trying to guide the ball into the strike zone. His slider became less biting and more sweepy. Falling behind in counts, his fringe-average 85-87 mph changeup was effective as a groundball creator that carried an element of surprise because he threw it so infrequently. Reed’s control played as fringe-average in the majors, but his command is a bigger concern after he tended to catch too much of the plate in his debut.

The Future: Reed still could develop into a frontline starter because he has two potentially plus or better pitches. He must improve his command and control.

Louisville (AAA) 6 4 3.08 13 13 0 0 73 71 6 20 65 .259
Cincinnati (MLB) 0 7 7.36 10 10 0 0 48 67 12 19 43 .328

3. Amir Garrett, lhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: May 3, 1992. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HS—Henderson, Nev., 2011 (22nd round). Signed by: Clark Crist.

Background: Garrett’s dream of becoming an NBA player met reality at St. John’s where he averaged 6.2 points per game in two seasons. Because the Reds signed him for $1 million as a 22nd-round pick in 2011, however, Garrett always had a fallback option. He has pursued baseball exclusively since 2014, and in that time the 6-foot-5 southpaw has reshaped his body by gaining weight and has advanced to Triple-A Louisville.

Scouting Report: Given his two-sport background, Garrett is one of the most athletic pitchers in the minors. That has allowed him to develop at a rapid rate and catch up with more experienced pitchers. At their best, Garrett’s plus 90-95 mph fastball and above-average slider keep hitters uncomfortable. His slider is not as consistent as it needs to be, which explains why he had more trouble against more advanced hitters in Triple-A. Garrett’s changeup can be an average pitch when he sells it and locates it, but he has below-average feel for the pitch and below-average command overall.

The Future: Garrett can be a mid-rotation starter with improved command. Otherwise he could have a lengthy career as a lefthanded reliever relying on his fastball and slider. He heads back to Triple-A in 2017 and is a viable big league callup option at any time.

Pensacola (AA) 5 3 1.75 13 12 0 0 77 51 0 28 78 .184
Louisville (AAA) 2 5 3.46 12 11 0 0 68 48 6 31 54 .202

4. Robert Stephenson, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Feb. 24, 1993. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—Martinez, Calif., 2011 (1st round). Signed by: Rich Bordi.

Background: Stephenson made his big league debut in 2016 and works with as many as three above-average pitches, but his development has been anything but smooth since he reached Double-A Pensacola for the first time in 2013. The 2011 first-rounder cruised through Class A but has shown well below-average control at Double-A and Triple-A with 4.8 walks per nine innings, and he recorded a similar rate in his first 37 big league innings.

Scouting Report: The high-90s fastball Stephenson once pitched with has not been present for two years. He generally pitches at 91-94 mph and will bump 96 when needed. He gets downhill plane on both his two- and four-seam fastballs, sticking predominantly to his four-seamer. He can now throw his above-average curveball for strikes and bury it for a chase pitch, but he needs to emphasize staying on top of the pitch. Stephenson’s split-changeup is crucial to his outlook but the pitch lacks consistency. His split flashes above-average with late tumble but just as often lacks deception and movement.

The Future: Stephenson has struggled in a similar manner as Homer Bailey, a prep first-round righthander drafted by the Reds in 2004. Stephenson can reach a mid-rotation starter ceiling if he sharpens his control, as Bailey did, and he has no glaring delivery flaw to resolve.

Louisville (AAA) 8 9 4.41 24 24 1 0 137 115 17 71 120 .228
Cincinati (MLB) 2 3 6.08 8 8 0 0 37 41 9 19 31 .279

5. Taylor Trammell, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 13, 1997. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Kennesaw, Ga., 2016 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Jon Poloni.

Background: Even though Trammell was Georgia’s high school football player of the year as a senior, he knew his long-term focus would be baseball. He carried a 4.0 grade-point average in high school and his parents are engineers, so teams had to take his Georgia Tech commitment seriously. The Reds had a higher bonus pool in the 2016 draft—nearly $14 million—than any club and flexed that financial advantage to sign Trammell for $3.2 million.

Scouting Report: Trammell handled an aggressive assignment to Rookie-level Billings with ease in his pro debut. He hit .303 and ranked third in the Pioneer League with 24 stolen bases. Trammell is a blazing runner who earns 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale and hits line drives with modest power. But scouts won’t be surprised to see him grow into a merely above-average runner with plus power as his upper body fills out to match his already developed lower half. Trammell plays center field now but scouts project him to wind up in left field based on his instincts and fringe-average arm. For a young hitter, his knowledge of the strike zone and hand-eye coordination are notable and could make him a plus hitter.

The Future: Trammell impresses the Reds with his work ethic and he is a better-than-even bet to reach his ceiling as an impact left fielder. He moves to low Class A Dayton in 2017.

Billings (R) .303 .374 .421 228 39 69 9 6 2 34 23 57 24

6. Jesse Winker, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Aug. 17, 1993. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Orlando, 2012 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Greg Zunino.

Background: Winker was a key member of USA Baseball’s 18U team in 2011 and as a pro he has hit .296 in more than 2,000 plate appearances. But wrist injuries have sabotaged his 2015-16 seasons, leading to an evaporation of his power production and questions about his ability to profile in left field. Winker broke his wrist in 2015 diving for a ball in the outfield and missed time in 2016 with a sprained wrist.

Scouting Report: Most scouts believe Winker will hit for average. He uses the whole field, but his natural lefthanded swing path carries the ball to left-center field and produces more singles than doubles. Winker controls the strike zone, which has contributed to a .398 career on-base percentage. What he doesn’t show is power in games—even though he hits for plus power in batting practice. Scouts project him to have average power (about 15 home runs), which, combined with his on-base ability, could make him an above-average offensive player. Defensively, he’s a fringe-average left fielder with an accurate but fringy arm and below-average speed.

The Future: Scouts who have seen Winker since high school are disappointed he hasn’t seemed to get any stronger—but he can really hit. He should make his big league debut at some point in 2017.

Louisville (AAA) .303 .397 .384 380 39 115 22 0 3 45 59 59 0

7. Aristides Aquino, of

Born: April 22, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2011. Signed by: Richard Jimenez.

Background: Heading into 2015, Aquino appeared poised to build on an excellent season at Rookie-level Billings, but instead he struggled at low Class A Dayton and returned to Billings. But at high Class A Daytona in 2016 his production caught up to his tools, and he ranked second in the Florida State League in home runs (23) and slugging percentage (.531).

Scouting Report: Aquino always has passed the eye test. He’s a tall, broad-shouldered right fielder with athleticism to go with his impressive and still growing strength. He keeps his hands moving, pumping the bat throughout his pre-pitch setup, but he stays controlled in his stance with solid plate coverage. He takes a big rip, but it’s a relatively level swing that keeps the bat in the hitting zone for a while. When he gets his arms extended, Aquino pulls the ball for home runs, but he’s also comfortable driving the ball to right field for doubles and triples. Because of his power-oriented swing, he often turns in average run times out of the batter’s box, but he’s a plus runner underway and that speed plays both on the bases and in the outfield. He’s an above-average defender in right with a plus-plus arm.

The Future: Aquino has prototype right-field tools, though his plate discipline issues enhance his risk profile. He has impact potential as he heads to Double-A Pensacola in 2017.

Dayton (HiA) .273 .327 .519 484 69 132 26 12 23 79 34 104 11

8. Sal Romano, rhp

Born: Oct. 12, 1993. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS—Southington, Conn., 2011 (23rd round). Signed by: Lee Seras.

Background: The Reds knew patience would be required when they spent $450,000 to lure Romano from a Tennessee commitment as a 23rd-round pick in 2011. As he has filled out his 6-foot-4 frame, he has improved his consistency and stuff. In 2016 at Double-A Pensacola he bounced back from a slow start to record a 3.52 ERA with strikeout (8.3) and walk (2.0) rates per nine innings that ranked among the best in the Southern League.

Scouting Report: Romano has started all but one game in his pro career, but scouts project him as a future lock-down closer in part because they believe his stuff and his makeup are well suited to the role. His thick frame that suggests durability and above-average control required of starters. Romano’s plus 93-98 mph fastball with boring action could top 100 out of the bullpen, and it pairs well with a plus 85-89 mph slider with late tilt. His below-average changeup is too firm and lacks deception. If he’s going to remain a starter, it needs to improve, though he held lefthanded hitters to a .662 OPS in 2016 thanks in part to his his willingness to throw inside. Scouts like his competitiveness and high-energy demeanor.

The Future: Romano is ready to move to Triple-A Louisville as a starter, but a move to the bullpen still looms. As one scout put it, he needs to focus less on missing bats and more on breaking them with his shot-put of a sinker.

Pensacola (AA) 6 1 3.52 27 27 0 0 156 157 10 34 144 .260

9. Vladimir Gutierrez, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 18, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 172. Signed: Cuba, 2016. Signed by: Tony Arias/Chris Buckley.

Background: Gutierrez left the Cuban national team at the Caribbean Series in February 2015 after two effective seasons in the Cuban major league. Poor workouts in 2015 kept him from getting the offers he expected, but he eventually signed with the Reds in late August 2016 for $4.75 million after he showed an improved fastball. The Reds spent nearly $12 million on Gutierrez and Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez in 2016.

Scouting Report: At the time of his defection, Gutierrez possessed one of the best combinations of stuff and projection in the rapidly thinning Cuban pitching market. His fastball sat at 88-93 mph in Cuba and was 92-96 in a three-inning workout for multiple teams in April 2016. His curveball, the best in Cuba before he came to the U.S., is back after what Gutierrez called an ill-conceived idea to shelve his curveball for a slider. His high-70s curve is a power pitch with tight spin and downer action that could end up being a plus offering. He also still throws a slider as a less-effective but usable breaking ball. Gutierrez has developed an 83-84 mph change with deception and fade that could be average one day.

The Future: The Reds previously signed and developed athletic Cuban pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias, though Gutierrez is further from the big leagues than they were. He has a ceiling of mid-rotation starter and will join high Class A Daytona in 2017.

Did Not Play signed 2017 contract 4 5.70 9 8 0 0 36 46 7 12 45 .311

10. Tyler Stephenson, c | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Oct. 16, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HS—Kennesaw, Ga., 2015 (1st round). Signed by: John Poloni.

Background: The 11th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Stephenson endured an injury-marred full-season debut at low Class A Dayton in 2016. First he sustained a concussion when a ball caromed off a post during a soft-toss drill and hit him in the head. After he returned from the disabled list he injured his wrist and missed all of June. He tried to return, but he had season-ending surgery in mid-August.

Scouting Report: When healthy, Stephenson’s natural swing path takes the ball to right and right-center field, and he shows an ability to cover the plate. Scouts like his advanced approach and think he shows at least average hitting potential. Stephenson will have to work on pulling inside pitches to maximize his average power. He shows a plus arm, while his receiving and blocking seemed to suffer as the accumulation of injuries and struggles at the plate wore him down. Stephenson is big for a catcher and his footwork needs work, but he has the agility to be an average defensive catcher with a strong left hand to frame pitches on the corners. He will have to work hard to maintain flexibility and remain light on his feet.

The Future: The Reds will give Stephenson a mulligan for 2016, and he will return to Dayton in 2017 with the hope that good health will equal better results.

AZL Reds (R) .250 .348 .450 20 4 5 1 0 1 2 2 7 0
Dayton (LoA) .216 .278 .324 139 17 30 4 1 3 16 12 45 0

Last Year’s Reds Top 10 Prospects

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