2021 Cincinnati Reds Midseason Top 30 Prospects Update
Cincinnati made some modest moves to bolster its bullpen at the trade deadline, acquiring Luis Cessa, Justin Wilson and Mychal Givens. Overall, though, Cincinnati stood pat, hoping it can make a second straight playoff appearance while being realistic enough about its current status (trailing in both the National League Central and wild card races) to not go all-in and sacrifice the future to try to improve its 2021 chances.
Where this team is going for 2022 and beyond is still a little murky. While the Brewers have remained the class of the division, the Cubs have flipped into rebuild mode. The Pirates are still deep into their own rebuild and the Cardinals have taken a step backward.
Jonathan India’s solid rookie season, Nick Castellanos' and Jesse Winker’s big seasons and a Joey Votto resurgence mean the Reds once again have a lineup to be feared. The pitching needs more work, especially in the bullpen.
Cincinnati’s payroll limitations also could create issues this offseason. The Reds already have $80 million in 2022 devoted to just Votto, Mike Moustakas, Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez and Sonny Gray. Add in arbitration years for Jesse Winker and Luis Castillo and the Reds likely will not have much financial headroom to make additional moves.
1. Jose Barrero, SS, Reds
Age: 23. Team: Triple-A Louisville
He’s still not a finished product, but the way Barrero responded to his struggles in a late-season 2020 big league debut is a strong indicator of why the Reds are so high on their shortstop of the future. He came back in 2021 stronger and with an improved approach at the plate. He still swings too often at sliders off the plate and his defensive reliability can improve, but his ability to range wide at shortstop while providing pop at the plate are the ingredients for an above-average big leaguer.
2. Nick Lodolo, LHP
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Chattanooga
After his stuff was sometimes more pedestrian than desired at the Reds’ alternate training site, Lodolo’s arsenal has picked back up this year. His combination of plus control and solid pitches make him a fast-moving mid-rotation starter, maybe as soon as 2022.
3. Hunter Greene, RHP
Age: 21. Team: Triple-A Louisville
When Hunter Greene had a 100-plus mph fastball, but lacked the breaking ball to pair with it, hitters still managed to get excellent swings against one of the fastest pitches they’d ever see. But now that Greene has mastered a hard slider that he can throw for strikes, his fastball plays better as well.
4. Matt McLain, SS
Age: 21. Team: TBA
NEW A two-time first-round pick, McLain fits a demographic the Reds love—productive college middle infielders. He’s the third first-rounder from that demo among the Reds’ past seven first-round picks (joining Jonathan India and Nick Senzel). The Reds will give McLain a chance to prove he can stay at shortstop, but he also has plenty of positional versatility.
5. Austin Hendrick, OF
Age: 20. Team: Low-A Daytona
Hendrick’s pro debut has been a little rockier than expected. Considered one of the best combinations of power and hitting ability in the 2020 draft, he didn’t hit his first home run for Low-A Daytona until his 17th game. He’s drawn walks (as has most everyone in a league with automated balls and strikes) but he hasn’t hit for average or power. We have seen first round hitters from Pennsylvania sometimes take a little longer to get comfortable in pro ball—Neil Walker and Devin Mesoraco are two examples—so it’s worth being patient with Hendrick.
6. Rece Hinds, 3B
Age: 20. Team: Low-A Daytona
A knee injury has largely wiped away Hinds’ first pro season—he hasn’t played since June 2 as he works back from knee surgery. He is expected to return in late August, which will give him time to get back on the field for a month before instructional league. He has power to spare and a plus arm at third base.
7. Jay Allen, OF
Age: 18. Team: TBA.
NEW A three-sport star in high school, Allen immediately becomes the Reds best center field prospect (unless they eventually slide McLain to center field). Allen has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order bat who can be a solid center fielder. If he slows down as he ages, his bat should be up to handling a slide to a corner outfield spot.
8. Graham Ashcraft, RHP
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Chattanooga
Ashcraft has one of the best and most diabolical pitches in the minors. His 95-100 mph fastball has natural cut, and he’s started to learn how to manipulate it even if he doesn’t exactly always know where it’s going. His breaking ball is an effective second offering, and he needs to learn to throw his changeup more. Ashcraft’s fastball-heavy approach and delivery scream reliever, but he carries his velocity for 90-plus pitches and he throws strikes.
9. Tony Santillan, RHP
Age: 24. Team: Cincinnati
Santillan was brought up to make his MLB debut as a starter, but he’s now filling a need in the Reds’ bullpen. Depending on how the Reds’ rotation develops for 2022 and 2023, Santillan could slide back to a starting role (much like Tejay Antone) but his fastball plays up as a reliever.
10. Elly De La Cruz, 3B
Age: 19. Team: Low-A Daytona
NEW No Reds prospect has done more to open eyes this year than De La Cruz. The teenager has shown a plus arm, plus power and plus speed. His eventual defensive home is unclear—he’s more likely a third baseman than shortstop because of his hands and actions but center field is also a long-term possibility. But his ability to do a lot of different things well makes him a name to keep an eye on.
11. Matheu Nelson, C
NEW One of the breakout college stars of the 2021 season, the Florida State catcher’s profile may not be what teams look for in backstops, but it’s one they often settle for, accepting that it’s hard to find everything they want in a catcher. Nelson has power and is a solid defender. There are legitimate questions about whether he’ll hit even .250 as a pro, but if he can turn fastballs into home runs, handle a staff and cut down runners with his plus arm, he’ll be a useful big leaguer.
12. Andrew Abbott, LHP
NEW Abbott’s fastball gets swings and misses when he’s sitting in the low 90s. When he runs it up to 95-plus, which he has done sporadically, it gets even better. His three-pitch mix will be mid-rotation-caliber if the Reds’ player development staff can get him to more consistently sit at what is currently the upper-tier of his ability.
13. Bryce Bonnin, RHP
14. Christian Roa, RHP
15. Ivan Johnson, 2B
16. Tyler Callihan, 3B
17. Ariel Almonte, OF
18. Malvin Valdez, OF
19. Mike Siani, OF
20. Mark Kolozsvary, C
NEW Kolozsvary barely played in college until his junior year at Florida. He just keeps getting better in pro ball and has impressed with his game-management skills behind the plate. His bat now has sneaky gap power to go with a fringy hit tool.
21. Alejo Lopez, SS/2B
NEW Lopez has gone from being a late-round pick in a round that no longer exists (27th round, 2015) to a well-rounded utility infielder whose ability to hit for average (he’s a career .306 minor league hitter) and not strike out make him a useful MLB backup. He’s already come up briefly in that role this year and did not look out of place.
22. T.J. Friedl, OF
23. Jackson Miller, C
24. Allan Cerda, OF
25. Lyon Richardson, RHP
26. Jose Torres, SS
NEW Torres is a glove-first shortstop who was one of the best defenders in college baseball in 2021. His improved power for North Carolina State this year gives hope that he’ll be a productive enough hitter to be a bottom-of-the-order regular.
27. Jared Solomon, RHP
28. Riley O’Brien, RHP
29. Thomas Farr, RHP
NEW Farr can bring it, with a fastball that will touch 96-97 mph and a slurvy breaking ball and changeup that are promising as well. That arsenal never played as well as it should have in college baseball, but his high-spin curveball, velocity and ability to mix three pitches give him and the Reds coaching staff a lot to work with.
30. Justice Thompson, OF
NEW Thompson put himself on the draft prospect map with some very loud performances in the early part of the season, but as the season wore on, some of his flaws also became apparent. The Reds will need to work with him to make more contact and keep the bat in the zone longer, but his combination of speed, power and defense in the outfield make him a potential bargain as a sixth-round pick.
Five MLB Breakout Pitchers For The 2023 Season
The following pitchers fall into the grouping of younger starters with varying degrees of major league experience who look primed for a breakout season.
C Mark Kolozsvary hit .188/.341/.321 for High-A Daytona in 2019 after struggling at the plate with Low-A Dayton in 2018. That would seem to be a poor trend, but Kolozsvary was one of many players who benefitted from work at the alternate site in 2020. He has shown an improved approach and more power at the plate this year. Defensively Kolozsvary calls a good game and has handled a top-notch staff at Double-A Chattanooga. His work impressed USA Baseball manager Mike Scioscia enough to make Kolozsvary the Olympic team’s primary catcher.
INF Alejo Lopez has hit his way into a potential long-term role as a backup/utility infielder who hits for average, doesn’t strike out and can play multiple positions. His defense has steadily improved to the point where second base, third base and the outfield are all options and he can be an emergency shortstop.
OF TJ Hopkins had to jump from short-season ball to Double-A after the canceled 2020 season. He’s more than held his own in the aggressive assignment. Hopkins doesn’t have an obvious plus tool, but he does everything reasonably well. He’s not a true center fielder, but he can play there. He’s not a speedster, but he runs well enough and he can hit for average and get on base.
When the Reds selected OF Austin Hendrick with the 12th pick in the 2020 draft, they were picking an outfielder who was viewed as having one of the best combinations of power and hitting ability among the prep class. Injuries have slowed his development at Low-A Daytona, and he has shown a patient batting eye. But he’s yet to drive the ball with authority as expected.
OF Mike Siani is an excellent center fielder, but center fielders have to also hit. So far this year, Siani is hitting .196/.310/.283. Siani takes swings to drive the ball, but they haven't paid off in results—he has three home runs in 219 at-bats this year. He either has to find more power or focus more on spraying the ball around the field.
RHP Luis Mey still has great stuff, but his control remains far from where it needs to be, and he’s not getting the innings he needs to refine it because he’s sidelined with elbow inflammation.
2B Jonathan India has been an above-average hitter while serving as the Reds’ everyday second baseman.
C Tyler Stephenson has been an excellent part-time catcher for the Reds while also playing some first base.
RHP Tejay Antone was one of the best pitchers in the Reds’ bullpen before going on the injured list with a forearm injury.
RHP Vladimir Gutierrez has been a valuable part of the Reds’ rotation, posting an ERA+ that is better than the MLB average.
OF Austin Hendrick has missed time with a groin strain.
3B Rece Hinds is on the injured list with a meniscus tear in his left knee.
RHP Christian Roa missed time with a right elbow flexor mass strain but has returned to action.
3B Tyler Callihan had an excellent start to the 2021 season, showing improved conditioning that paid off in better defense at third, but he injured his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery.