Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects Chat

Frank (Indianapolis IN): How many of these guys are likely to crack the BA 100?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. I know sometimes I’m a little late to these chats so I decided to try to get here early today. Senzel is probably the only Top 25 prospect, but I could see as many as 7 Reds making a case for Top 100 consideration. Guys who like Winker will probably have him in their Top 100 and I could even see a few guys putting Aquino in their 100. If I was betting, I’d say Cincinnati ends up with 4-5 Top 100 guys, but 6-7 is possible.

Harry (Cincinnati, OH): What did you think of the acquisition of Gabby Guerrero? Has his star dimmed for you?
J.J. Cooper: Guerrero’s star has dimmed more than KIC 8462852 (that’s my obscure reference of the day). He’s always had interesting raw tools, but raw power and arm strength get less and less interesting each year that goes on without him showing some ability to get to the power. His pitch recognition/contact ability have long been subpar and once he’s reached Double-A, that has derailed his progress. There’s still a glimmer of hope for a big league career there, but if you track 10 players with Guerrero’s tools and hit tool concerns who are at this point in their careers, it would be my guess than nine of them don’t figure it out.

Steve (Cincinnati): Hypothetically, would the Reds be better served by drafting a college position player (Kendall), or Hunter Greene given how the system looks. What are reasonable comps for these two players?
J.J. Cooper: You don’t want to miss picking that high, so if I was scouting director (and luckily for Cincy, I’m not), I’d just end up taking the best player on the board, caring nothing about how he fits into the system’s strengths and weaknesses. There’s a long time from now til the draft, but at this point, I’d prefer Greene to Kendall. A strong season at Vandy for Kendall could answer some of the questions he faces, but Greene is a pretty unique/rare prospect as a righthander/shortstop with an exceptional arm and more command/feel than most pitchers with his stuff.

Eric (Cleveland, OH): Chances of Winker developing 15-20 HR type pop, in your opinion?
J.J. Cooper: That’s the big question. That’s been the big question for Winker going back many years. Our high school scouting report for Winker noted that while scouts loved his hitting ability, they also noted he had hit three home runs all year. Winker showed potentially average power before wrist injuries hit, but those wrist problems are something he’s now battled for three seasons, so there’s some reason to worry about whether Winker can get back to 100 percent. Playing in Cincy should help as the park is a wonderful one to hit home runs in. But if Winker is a 12-15 home run left fielder, that’s not a ton of impact, even if he’s posting very solid OBPs. To answer your question, yes, I think he’s a 15 home run big leaguer, but I’m less confident he’s a future 20-25 home run hitter, and that’s what he needs to be to be an above-average corner outfielder.

Jeremy (Washington DC): Rookie Davis isn't even in the organization's top 30 prospects? How did he drop so far given a relatively positive 2016 campaign where he reached AAA? Were his early season strikeout woes enough to drop off the map? He recovered nicely in the 2nd half.
J.J. Cooper: He did recover some in the second half before getting beat up in a late-season call-up to AAA, but scouts who saw him this year described his stuff as pedestrian at best. He competes well, but the stuff was significantly down from what he showed at his best with the Yankees. I had multiple scouts say they didn’t grade him as having an above-average pitch. The Reds don’t have a ton of top 50 prospects, but the depth of the system is quite good, and it was hard to find a spot for him. He’s a possible back-of-the-rotation starter, but this is an org with a lot of guys who fit that description.

Doug (Cincy): Surprising not to see Chris Okey crack the top 10. What are your thoughts on his catching skills, and could he see the bigs as early as 2019?
J.J. Cooper: Okey was pretty worn out in his pro debut, but that’s understandable as he was pretty much Clemson’s only catcher. If the Tigers had a game, Okey was going to catch it. If I was debating who to slide into the top 10, Tony Santillan was the toughest guy to leave out, Okey was a little bit behind him.

Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Do you see Taylor Trammell sticking in CF and does his excellent debut in 2016 push him to Low A Dayton to start 2017, and TJ Friedl to High A?
J.J. Cooper: Long-term he’s likely a corner outfielder as his frame is one that will likely see him keep getting more and more physical. Friedl has the tools/skills to handle an aggressive assignment to HiA, but it’s also not that hard to split time between CF and the corners/DH for two guys in Dayton, so spring training will help determine that.

Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Do you see Nick Senzel as a middle of the order hitter for the Reds after Joey Votto, or better suited to hit in the #2 spot with a little less power and strong plate discipline?
J.J. Cooper: I think there’s enough power there to be a middle of the order bat. But he’s a pure hitter who can fit anywhere from 1-3 or 5-6 depending on what the team needs. Probably not enough pure power to be the profile cleanup hitter.

Zach (Dayton, OH): I had the opportunity to watch a few Dayton Dragons games this year. Shed Long put up pretty good numbers and showed a bit of pop to go with his speed in his 2nd year there. Is he going to be in the 11-20 range?
J.J. Cooper: Big Shed Long fan. Not going to give away the Handbook rankings yet, but he’s definitely in the book and it wasn’t something where he was just barely scraping his way into the book.

William (Pensacola, FL): In regards to the Top 10, which player was the hardest for you to evaluate ?
J.J. Cooper: Tyler Stephenson. His 2016 season was largely irredeemable. If the evaluation was based solely on his stats and what scouts saw from him in 2016, he’s not making the Top 30, much less the Top 10. But there are a ton of explanations for Stephenson’s struggles, beginning with the fact that he was healthy for very small amount of the season. And he was a high school catching prospect, which is often a slow-developing demographic (see Devon Mesoraco’s minor league numbers for an example). So while that terrible season factors into the evaluation, you also include some of Stephenson’s very impressive scouting reports from 2015 and the fact that he was a consensus prospect coming out of the draft.

John wick (A theater near you): Was Tyler Mahle close to the top 10? What differentiates him from some of the arms on this list?
J.J. Cooper: He didn’t miss by much. Mahle really knows how to pitch, but he has a little less upside compared to the pitchers in the top 10. If you don’t like risk and you want a starting pitching prospect Mahle is much less risky than someone like Robert Stephenson, he just lacks Stephenson’s upside (or Stephenson’s fallback option as a high-octane power reliever).

Noel (Portland): I'm in a apba league with a bonehead who drafts nothing but Reds. I think Senzel is going to be a stud. Should I trade up and make him cry?
J.J. Cooper: If you like being a little mean, yes. He will then trade you a kings ransom for him in a couple of years.

976 (Fake New York): Does Jimmy Herget have a future in the bigs as a high leverage guy or is he much less than that?
J.J. Cooper: Probably an 8th inning guy. There’s not really a lot standing in the way for him to be a high leverage, setup man in late 2017-2018. Scouts LOVE his combo of stuff and feel.

Christopher Speyrer (Illinois): Surprised that you have Mesoraco as the starting C for the 2020 Reds, as he's signed only through 2018. Do you think Stephenson or Okey won't be ready by then?
J.J. Cooper: Our rules for the lineups are that we don’t automatically assume free agents leave and if Mesoraco is healthy (admittedly a BIG IF), I can’t say either Stephenson or Okey will be better than him in 2020. If Okey’s not ready by 2020, he won’t be ready as he’s a college catcher with plenty of top-level amateur experience (including a ton of time with USA Baseball). Stephenson is more touch and go as to whether he will be ready to be the everyday regular in 2020. Mesoraco was a 2007 HS 1st rounder who became a regular in 2013. A similar timetable for Stephenson would have him becoming a regular in 2021.

Scott (Saint Louis): Surprised not to see Aristides Aquino on the list. How far away was he? Thank you JJ!
J.J. Cooper: Look again. He’s No. 7.

Prospect Fatigue (Danville CA): Shouldn't Robert Stephenson drop further or am I just suffering prospect fatigue? He's been not that good the past few seasons compared to his ranking.
J.J. Cooper: No, it’s fair to say that his results in Double-A and Triple-A don’t warrant the high ranking, but multiple scouts said they still see a future middle of the rotation starter. At a similar stage in his career Homer Bailey was coming off a year where he went 0-6, 7.93 with 4.46 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in the big leagues and an unimpressive 4-7, 4.77 with 3.7 BB/9 and 7.8 K/9 in AAA Louisville. So it’s not like the Reds have seen this story before. But Stephenson’s control/command hasn’t improved despite gearing down somewhat with his fastball. Stephenson has only used one option so far, so there is no reason to not give him plenty more chances to prove he can start. If not, the bullpen will still be there as a fallback option.

Scott Klose (Savannah, Ga): Where do you see Dilson Herrera outside the top 10? At one time he was the heir apparent to the 2b job with the Mets
J.J. Cooper: His big league time in 2014 and 2015 means he’s no longer prospect eligible. If the Reds could get Brandon Phillips to accept a trade somewhere else, I think they’d love to put Herrera at second base right now, but Phillips has a no-trade clause he’s earned, so for now, Herrera is still blocked. He’s a post-hype prospect who has a chance to be a regular, but has to prove he’s more than a second-division regular.

Buff (Colorado): There's no mention of a move to the bullpen in your write up of Robert Stephenson, though several analysts I've read think that's his future. Thoughts? Any chance that he starts the season in the Reds' pen?
J.J. Cooper: Reds have already said Lorenzen and Iglesias are headed to the bullpen. They have Jumbo Diaz coming off two solid seasons. Blake Wood likely will be in the pen too as will newly signed reliever Drew Storen and Tony Cingrani and the team has hinted they would like to add one more reliever to the roster before spring training. That’s a lot of bullpen options (and that’s not counting Zack Weiss/Jimmy Herget, etc.) There’s no reason to give up on Stephenson as a starter yet. Stephenson has two options left. If we’re having the same discussion in 2019 then Stephenson likely needs to be a reliever, but for now if Stephenson moves to the big league pen, it’s more as a move to acclimate him to the big leagues than to give up on his chances to start. This team is not good enough for 2017 to need to make that kind of move.

DB (Virginia): How much behind Okey do you consider Cassidy Brown? Seemed to play we offensively and defensively at Billings.
J.J. Cooper: He’s several notches below Okey on the depth chart. Brown did have a very good debut and impressed with his quick release and blocking ability behind the plate, but Billings is a great place to hit and 2016 was the first time Brown has really hit. He hit .138 with more strikeouts than hits as a sophomore at Loyola Marymount. Brown made some mechanical changes, so there is reason to think he’s figured some things out, but in comparison to Okey, Okey has a much longer track record at this point.

Tony (Athens, Ohio): Could you please explain your insinuation that Rookie Davis isn't a top 30 prospect in the system? I can understand leaving Eric Jagielo off, but *nobody* who was acquired in the Aroldis Chapman trade would fit in the top 30 seems like a glaring oversight.
J.J. Cooper: I am guessing you’re not implying that he should have ranked because he was included in the Chapman trade but that seems to be how the question is stated. I struggled to find scouts who saw Davis as more than an up-and-down guy this year. Guys liked his competitiveness but they didn’t like the stuff. He posted a 4.42 FIP this year and didn’t miss bats. There are pitchers at the back end of the top 30 who either have much more upside (admittedly with more risk) or similar performance and a clearer big league role.

Gordo (Dayton): Can you give a reality check on Ariel Hernandez? Best curveball in the system?? I thought velo was his calling card? I'm about to get too excited about this pitcher.
J.J. Cooper: I wrote a long piece about Hernandez’s curveball. This explains it pretty well I hope.

Gordo (Dayton): Draft question - in hopes of landing Hunter Greene with the #2 pick, he seemed like the opposite of the type of player the old twins regime would value. Do you have any read on the current leanings of the twins new FO?
J.J. Cooper: Too soon to say who any team would take at No. 1 this far out but I think the old Twins regime and the new one will be taking a very long look at Hunter Greene.

J.J. Cooper: I’ll be right back. Talking on WLW 700 AM. Will be back shortly.

J.J. Cooper: Doh, 1530 WCKY right now. WLW at 6:10 tonight.

Thom (Indiana): Reds spent a ton of money on ARod how is his development coming? It looks like a lot of money for a SS who can't hit.
J.J. Cooper: Clearly the Reds think that he’s going to hit. Their evaluation is different than than majority of scouts who saw Rodriguez in Cuba, but there are examples of Cuban shortstops exceeding expectations as a hitter. I remember watching Jose Iglesias struggle to hit the ball past the pitcher early in his U.S. career. He’s gone on to be a productive enough hitter to be a regular in Detroit. His ranking on the BA Reds Top 30 does incorporate a lot of those outside voices, so he’s not knocking on the door of the top 10, but we’ll see how his Stateside debut goes in 2017.

Maria (Columbus): Hi JJ, thanks for your chat. How many home runs do you think Jess Winkler needs to hit to justify a regular role as a corner outfielder?
J.J. Cooper: I think with his bat/OBP skills he could be a regular with 10 home runs if he can provide a number of doubles as well. But you’ve got to hope for a .400+ slugging percentage when it’s all said and done.

Johnny (Cincy): Joe Hudson seems to be a really good defensive catcher. Does he have a big league future?
J.J. Cooper: He is very solid defensively, but unless he hits more he looks like more of the long-time AAA veteran who you can call on in case of injury rather than big league backup. The hope is that catchers can figure things out at the plate later than most other positions and Hudson’s defense will keep giving him opportunities to figure things out.

Ted (New York): Hi JJ, thanks for the chat. If you had to rate the Reds prospects in terms of pure high end potential, who would the top 5 be?
J.J. Cooper: I like this question. Email it to me at jjcooper (at) with your full name and I’ll make it a full Top 10 for this week’s Ask BA.

Greg (Michigan): Very good to see Friedl voted best defensive outfielder since I've only heard about his hitting. Do you see him being a poor mans Alex Gordon?
J.J. Cooper: Not nearly as physical as Gordon. Friedl most likely future big league role is a good fourth outfielder, but if it all clicks he’s a starting center fielder with bat/on-base skills and speed.

Mr. Rule 5 (Danville CA): Comments on Reds Rule 5 draft pick, Stuart Turner, please?
J.J. Cooper: You had me at Rule 5. Turner has a lot of the same strengths/weaknesses as Reds catcher Joe Hudson (good glove, poor bat), but he’s closer to big league ready. It’s hard to stick as a Rule 5 catcher, but Turner has the defensive ability to give it a shot. Consider him insurance in case Devon Mesoraco isn’t ready to go in 2017. Tucker Barnhart has established himself as a very solid backup who can fill in for an injured Mesoraco. If/when Mesoraco is healthy, there isn’t room for Turner on the roster, but until then, the Reds don’t really have another logical option on the current 40-man roster.

Mr (Danville CA): Comments on Josh VanMeter, who was acquired for Luis Torrens. Are there any Rule 5 or other restrictions on VanMeter as a result of the Rule 5 draft?
J.J. Cooper: He’s a Reds minor leaguer with no Rule 5 restrictions. No worries about having to send him back or anything like that. He just needs to see if he can get stronger and hit the ball with more authority.

Mike (Danville CA): Which Reds prospects see the most 2017 MLB playing time?
J.J. Cooper: Winker, Reed and Garrett. Also Zack Weiss if he shows he’s healthy.

Ben T (Olney, MD): Is Senzel the new Dustin Ackley? I feel like he was one of the recent "safe college bats" that didn't pan out too well.
J.J. Cooper: Other “safe college bats” in recent years included Andrew Benintendi, Alex Bregman and Dansby Swanson. Not saying Senzel is a sure bet, but the track record of top picks coming on the heels of very productive careers in the SEC is quite good.

Tim (Clearwater): Hey JJ, Aquino's HR total in the FSL was really impressive. Is his power the real deal?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. Aquino’s power is what we were writing about when he first cracked the Top 30 after the 2013 season and it’s still the story now, but now he’s made big strides in getting to that power in games.

Kyle (Indiana): Phillip Ervin has sort of flown under the radar the past 2 years. Does he still have a chance to be a starting OF for the Reds in the future?
J.J. Cooper: I don’t see him being a starter, but maybe a useful backup. He’s not good enough defensively in center to be a regular and he’s not likely to be a strong enough bat to be a regular in the corners. I do worry that his approach will keep him from hitting for enough average, but he does the little things well.

Matt (Dayton): I know he is no longer a prospect but do you see Cody Reed as a valuable SP in Reds rebuild? Or are there too many platoon issues and he is a RP?
J.J. Cooper: He’s No. 2 on the list. Less than 50 innings so for our purposes he’s a prospect.

Zach (Indiana): With Ivan De Jesus leaving who in the system has an opportunity to fill his role as utility IF? Brandon Dixon, Tony Renda, Zach Vincej?
J.J. Cooper: I’d love to say Dixon but he doesn’t play any infield position well enough to really fill a utility role. Until the Reds trade Zack Cosart or Brandon Phillips finishes his contract, Jose Peraza is the logical bounce-around guy.

Brendan (New York): What happened to Alex Blandino last year? I was kind of excited for him but last year was not encouraging.
J.J. Cooper: That was a discouraging year. The hope is that he was never right after a significant hamstring injury in spring training, but was a year that had few highlights. Blandino has to hit as he isn’t good enough defensively to provide value without a solid bat. Blandino has now not hit in nearly 600 PAs in AA between 2015 and 2016, so there is reason for some healthy skepticism.

Johnny (Cincy): Is Sal Romano a Jonathan Broxton clone? Speaking of Broxton, do you see Barrett Astin, acquired for Broxton a couple of years back, as a piece for the big league team this year?
J.J. Cooper: I’ve had scouts throw a Broxton comp on Romano. Astin could be a hard-throwing ground-ball machine with his sinker. Lesser role this year but one that helps him develop into a potentially bigger role in 2018 and beyond.

Mike (Danville CA): Which Reds prospect has the most extreme opinion difference within the BA Staff? Why?
J.J. Cooper: Probably Robert Stephenson. Understandably there are some skeptics in the office because the concerns haven’t been alleviated and his fastball is a grade or two worse than it was earlier in his career.

Rojo Fandango (Boston): Who are your sleepers for this organization? Are Blake Trahan, Ian Kahaloa and Michael Beltre among them?
J.J. Cooper: If by sleepers you’re looking for non Top 30 guys, none of those guys qualify. All 3 are in the Top 30. I’d call Jesus Reyes, Andrew Jordan and Scott Moss more sleepery.

Drew (Los Angeles, CA): Ballpark about how many teams' Top 10 TJ Friedl would make. Is he not that strong of a prospect, or just a victim of the depth of the Reds' system?
J.J. Cooper: Evaluate him as a college OF who was a third/fourth-round talent from this year’s draft. That’s the high end of where he ranks right now. For most teams, a third-round pick isn’t going to make the Top 10 even with a strong debut, but in the weaker systems he’d crack the top 10. This is a deep system with the depth being more notable than impact talent at the upper levels.

Dan (Indy): Is it reasonable to comp Jesse Winker to Mark Zagunis in the Cubs' system? also, has the Reds farm officially overtaken the Cubs farm, as it comes to current prospect-eligible talent?
J.J. Cooper: Nice pull there Dan. Impressive. There are some similarities between Winker and Zagunis as bat-first corner outfielders whose power is questioned. I’d much rather be the lefty bat (Winker) than the righty (Zagunis) for the platoon advantage. Yes, I think the Reds system is better than Chicago’s.

Jose (Washington DC): Is Nick Senzel right now exactly where Alex Bregman was a year ago? Advanced bat out of the SEC with a good hit tool and advanced approach at the plate but questions about overall power... What are the odds Senzel ups his power in a meaningful way (not quite Bregman-esque, but more than is expected)
J.J. Cooper: I’d rather have Bregman, as he’s a shortstop and he’s always had the run-through-the-wall mentality that has wowed scouts for years, but yes, there are similarities. Advanced hitters are often the guys who eventually get to more power without losing the ability to hit. Senzel could end up exceeding all our power projections.

Billy (MD): On Doug Gray's site, it is said that Senzel's speed has shown to be better than average, yet he got a 50 rating from you guys. It seems that speed should be pretty easy to agree on. Any idea why there might be a disconnect there?
J.J. Cooper: I got 50s and 55s from different sources with all saying that he’s an advanced baserunner. I’d expect as a big leaguer you’re going to see more of an average runner who takes extra bases because he sees the whole field very well.

Johnny (Cincy): What is the consensus on Taylor Sparks? Reasonable to expect a power hitter that strikes out a lot with a potentially good glove and great arm? Do you hear any comps for him?
J.J. Cooper: A lesser Drew Stubbs that plays 3B (speed/defense and power like Stubbs) but Stubbs was a .260 minor leaguer who faced (as it turned out accurate) concerns about his hit tool. Sparks is a .225 minor league hitter so far, so those concerns that were seen with Stubbs have to be cranked up to 11.

Johnny (Cincy): Is Nick Howard a lost cause at this point? Obviously his pro career has been rough the past two seasons, but could he still turn it around as a reliever?
J.J. Cooper: Steve Blass disease is very tough to get back from. You hope he can get back to throwing strikes, but so far, the thing has had a tight grip on his delivery.

Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Where do you see Vlad Gutierrez starting in 2017? Can he make the jump to AA, or is High A Daytona more realistic?
J.J. Cooper: Guys, it’s in the writeup for Vladdy….I say where he’s likely to go.

Jeremy (Washington, DC): If Herrera still qualified as a prospect, where would he fall on this list? Do scouts see him or Peraza as a more dynamic player up the middle?
J.J. Cooper: Peraza is more dynamic. Better bat, better speed, better defense. Herrera does have more power.

Sam (Washington DC): Is Alfredo Rodriguez likely to stick at shortstop? Will he make the Handbook?
J.J. Cooper: He’s in the Top 30 and he isn’t a SS, that would be a shock. Scouts who doubted his hitting ability didn’t doubt his glove. He’s a smooth, rangy, flashy defender.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone for the questions. Still a ton I couldn’t get to, but I’m at jjcoop36 on Twitter and if you have further questions.

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