Cincinnati Reds 2022 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat

Following today’s release of our new Reds Top 10, J.J. Cooper answered questions below. 

Jake (Boston):

     I could have sworn Jose Barrero graduated last year, especially since he was removed from your last top 100 update. But anyway, who do you think would be a former/current player comparison for Barrero’s projections?

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Glad to join you all on a Friday and take a break from writing and reporting for a few minutes. Our requirements are the rookie of the year requirements to graduate (130 ABs, 50 IP) but we don’t take in account service time. That said, Barrero (who has 117 MLB ABs) hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s currently No. 21 on our Top 100. We never removed him. Who does he compare to? I do think of comparisons more in terms of production than I do swings/body types. As far as a production comparison, I think Willy Adames isn’t a terrible comparable. Adames settled into the majors at 22. Barrero should do so early next year, which would make him a just-turned 24, so from that comparison it’s not ideal. But like Adames, Barrero should be a solid offensive contributor and solid shortstop. Adames ranked 10th and 19th on our Top 100 in his final two years in the minors, so it’s not a terrible comp there either, with Barrero currently ranking 21st.

Warren (New London):

     Not exactly a prospect question, but what’s your view of Nick Senzel at this point? The 2025 lineup has him in left field—is that where you think he fits, or did you just want to get him in there somewhere? Do you think there’s any chance he ends up back at third base?

J.J. Cooper: This is an interesting and hard to answer one. Left field was to fit him somewhere, although he’s going to have to be significantly better in 2022 and 2023 to have any shot of still being on the Reds in 2025. Players who perform like he has so far rarely get tendered contracts in years 2 or 3 of arbitration. The best answer as far as where he ends up playing is it now somewhat depends on who else is ready to go and where. Senzel at this point has a full season of MLB PAs as well as a longer injury list than he or the Reds would like to see. His last really impressive stretch of offensive production was in 2018. With the Reds seemingly re-trenching in 2022, this is Senzel’s opportunity (hopefully) to settle into the majors, stay healthy and hit. But if that doesn’t happen, he’ll then be a 27-year-old who hasn’t earned a steady MLB job in four seasons in the majors.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     Thanks for taking our questions. What do you think happens with Jose barrero this season? 200ABs at SS? Some in CF? And will it take a trade of another player to make this happen? Thanks

J.J. Cooper: I do not mean to cast aspersions at Kyle Farmer, but I do not think he is a long-term barrier to Barrero playing shortstop in Cincinnati. Farmer is already 31 and last year was the first time he’s ever been an MLB regular. It was actually the first time he ever had 200 MLB PAs in a season. He was absolutely a better than expected shortstop defensively, and he stepped into a gaping chasm in the Reds lineup by doing so–they simply didn’t have any other viable options. Eugenio Suarez isn’t a shortstop these days. But I think Barrero should be a better hitter than Farmer and at least his equal defensively if not eventually somewhat better. And that would allow Farmer to resume his multi-position utility role, where he can play pretty much everywhere and even serve as an emergency catcher if needed.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     In the 2021 Handbook EVERY team’s number one prospect had a BA grade of 55 or higher. What, if anything, does it tell us when the Red’s number one prospect Barrero has a BA grade of 50?

J.J. Cooper: That maybe I was too tough a grader. We take a second pass at the BA Grades when we put together the handbook. Barrero is a clear Top 100 prospect (he’s currently 21). I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Reds have four players in the Top 100 when we produce our 2022 update in January.

Greg (Maine):

     With a lot of arm talent entering the Reds system over the past few seasons, does Cincinnati have an ace? Multiple mid-rotation types? How does it project?

J.J. Cooper: I don’t see an ace here, but if someone was going to develop into it, it’s clearly Hunter Greene. Greene has a clean and smooth delivery, an excellent frame and obviously quality stuff. I do think his fastball lacks the movement to be a pitch he can just rear back and blow past hitters, so that makes it a little harder for him to become an ace, but he throws strikes and has two promising secondaries, so he’s the best option for a potential ace. Nick Lodolo is a pretty safe bet to be a mid-rotation starter, I think he’s a safer bet to do so than almost anyone else in the minors. And then there are the guys like Ashcraft and Bonnin who are harder to peg, as they don’t have typical starter traits, but they have clear swing-and-miss stuff.


     Thoughts on Matheu Nelson? Was he close to making the top 10?

J.J. Cooper: He was always pretty safely in the teens. It’s hard to see who in the Top 10 he was going to supplant. Christian Roa vs. Bryce Bonnin was a tougher call. Nelson could easily play his way onto next year’s 10, especially as there’s a good shot that the Top 3 will all graduate.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

     In your 2025 projected line up exercise, were you tempted at all to list Jay Allen as one of those OF? Or were the guys you listed that much better than him? Just trying to get your feel about Jay Allen’s ceiling. Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Definitely looked at it for LF. Hendrick and McLain both rank above him, and by the rules of how we line up the future lineups, that means they need to be on the list ahead of him if they have a defensive fit. There isn’t much margin of difference in how the three (McLain/Hendrick/Allen) rank so yes it was tempting, but more so when I lined up these players rankings rather than when putting together the 2025 lineup. I think he could easily be a Top 3 prospect in this system next year. He has a very nice combination of tools as well as baseball skills. And when you consider how well he handled the jump to pro ball despite (or maybe because) he was a multi-sport start in high school, the arrow is quite strongly pointing up.

Andy (New York):

     Hi, thanks for the chat! How do teams work with guys like Hendrick when they have contact problems at such a low level, and how often (roughly) are they successful? I’m old enough to remember Dave Kingman mind you.

J.J. Cooper: I don’t have time to do a full study during a chat like this, but it’s always a significant concern. The success rate for hitters who strike out a lot and produce in the low minors isn’t all that great. The success rate for hitters who strike out a lot and don’t produce a lot is as you might expect significantly worse. If I gave you a list of all the minor leaguers who struck out in one-third of their plate appearances over a couple of seasons. My guess is it would be Joey Gallo and a long list of other players who didn’t become established big leaguers. Hendrick struck out 37 percent of the time in 2021. If he’s anywhere close to that in 2022, he will rank much lower. But it was his first year in pro ball coming off a cancelled season. Next year will be crucial for him.

Rick (Stafford, Virginia):

     After Greene & Lodolo, which arm in the Reds system is the one that excites you the most? Ashcraft or someone else?

J.J. Cooper: It’s hard not to say Ashcraft as he has a pitch that can get swings and misses in the strike zone in his fastball/cutter/sometimes morphs into a slider.

Larry (Plattsville):

     De la Cruz seems like the most interesting prospect the Reds have had in years, who in the bigs does he compare to?

J.J. Cooper: I like how you phrased that. He is definitely one of the most interesting. He’s fascinating because he went from basically unknown to potential Top 100 Prospect in the span of a few months this summer. I would say he’s also one of the highest-ceiling prospects the Reds have had in a few years thanks to his combination of power, speed, defensive ability and aptitude. The Oneil Cruz comparisons aren’t ideal as while De La Cruz is tall and skinny, Cruz is kind of in a world of his own there. As far as what he could end up being performance wise, that’s tough as he is such a high-variance player. If he doesn’t improve his selectivity and swing choices, he could still not even be a big leaguer. If he does improve that (as he should since he’s a very young player and one who seems to thrive at responding to coaching), his ceiling is as a regular all-star who hits for average and power while playing a premium position.

Frank (Dayton):

     A deep dive question but who were some of the players from the last two international signing periods that were debuting in 2021 that you were hearing good things about? The results were mixed, but some real strong debuts from some guys this season.

J.J. Cooper: Yerlin Confidan, Malvin Valdez and Ariel Almonte will all be soldily in the Top 30 I expect.

Steven (Dayton, OH):

     Has the shine fully worn off of Austin Hendrick? What would he need to do next season to get back on track

J.J. Cooper: I do think he’ll likely need to tweak his swing to some extent to unlock the potential that is in there. But we’ve seen that can be done, as many, many players have shown over the past 10 years.

Chuck (South Bend):

     Hi, my question is about Joe Boyle, former Notre Dame pitcher, do you have any updates on his progress with the Reds, he has a great fastball but was pretty wild at college.

J.J. Cooper: Boyle still has some issues throwing strikes, but he also has really good stuff. The bad news was in his first two starts with Low A Daytona, he walked nine in seven innings. The good news is his final outing saw him strike out 10 and walk only two in four innings. He has the stuff to get big league hitters out, but his control has to improve a lot.

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out and have a great weekend.

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