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A member of an excellent 2011 high school pitching class that included Jose Fernandez, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, Daniel Norris and Henry Owens, Stephenson has arguably the best pure arm strength of that group, though he has moved more slowly up the ladder than some of his peers (Fernandez, Bundy and Norris have reached the big leagues). After a dominating 2013 season that concluded with a poor stint at Double-A Pensacola, Stephenson threw five dominant innings for the Blue Wahoos in his 2014 debut, striking out 11, walking one and allowing only one hit in five scoreless innings. That proved to be his season highlight, for he never reached double-digits in strikeouts again, and he pitched through seven innings just three times all season. Stephenson was durable, but he also wasn't very effective. He led the Southern League in strikeouts (140) and finished second in opponent average (.224), but he also led in home runs (18) and walks allowed (74) and finished second worst in the league in ERA among qualifiers. Stephenson's stuff didn't back up even while his ERA ballooned to 4.74. He still could run his double-plus fastball up to 99 mph at times and still sat 93-96. His 80-82 mph curveball still is a hard-breaking yo-yo that some scouts also project to end up as a double-plus pitch. And while his changeup is clearly his third pitch, it shows flashes of potential when he's not throwing it too firmly. Stephenson's feel for the game has not caught up to his stuff. He is prone to overthrowing when he gets in trouble. Much too often, Stephenson will try to throw an absolutely perfect curveball when he gets in trouble, which usually means he misses with it. The same problem happens with his fastball. Instead of taking a bit off to gain improved command of his heater, he humps up, which leads to him missing his target. Stephenson is slow to the plate and doesn't control the running game--12 of 13 basestealers were successful against him in 2014. There's nothing wrong with Stephenson that experience shouldn't fix. His delivery is relatively clean, and he has shown in the past that he can throw strikes, even if his 2014 walk rate indicates fringe-average control. Much like Homer Bailey before him, Stephenson has to learn that a plus-plus fastball isn't always enough to succeed against more advanced hitters. Scouts and managers who saw him in the Southern League generally still project Stephenson as a front-end starter and thought of him as one of the more promising arms in baseball. Because he hasn't mastered Double-A yet, Stephenson could end up heading back to Pensacola for a tuneup in 2015 . Even if he doesn't begin the season in a crowded Triple-A Louisville rotation, he should get there before long. He should be part of the Reds' rotation in 2016 if he shows the expected improvements. He has all the makings of a future No. 2 starter, even if his 2014 season didn't offer a whole lot of statistical evidence.
The Reds hit the jackpot by signing Cuban flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman to $30 million deal in 2010 and hope to get a similar payoff from a seven-year, $27 million deal with Iglesias. He worked primarily as a reliever in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2013, with 50 strikeouts and 20 walks in 54 innings, working primarily as a reliever. He when he also pitched for the national team. He didn't return to the mound until the 2014 Arizona Fall League, where he led all relievers in opponent average (.045). The Reds view Iglesias as a starter candidate with four pitches. He sat at 92-95 mph in the AFL, right in line with what he showed with the national team, but he impressed even more with his feel for staying a step ahead of hitters. Iglesias' plus slider is his best secondary pitch, and he varies the shape of it to turn it into a potentially plus hard curveball earlier in the count for get-ahead strikes. His changeup is more advanced than expected for a pitcher with so little starting experience, but it's too firm at times. Iglesias' arm is loose and his delivery is athletic. Like many Cuban pitchers, he'll vary his arm slot a little at times, and some scouts worry that he won't repeat his delivery enough to throw consistent strikes. While Iglesias projects as a loose-armed starter, his long layoff means the Reds likely will send him to the big league bullpen for at least a year while he builds innings. He has the stuff to be a solid setup man now, but if he can improve his command, he has the assortment to be a mid-rotation starter.
The Reds' best pure hitter to come through the system since Jay Bruce, Winker produced at high Class A Bakersfield, and seemed set to build on that after a midseason promotion to Double-A Pensacola. But he injured his wrist diving for a flyball just 21 games into his time in the Southern League. He returned in time to play in the Arizona Fall League. Winker's advanced approach at the plate is the foundation of his success. He understands the strike zone very well, knows how to draw a walk and understands how to look for a certain pitch in a certain zone when he gets into a hitter's count. His swing is simple and geared for hitting for average. Winker has plus raw power, something that's apparent whenever he enters a home run derby, but when the games count, his swing is geared for line-drive doubles to the alleys. He projects as an above-average hitter with average power, but if he wanted to change his approach, he could boost his home run numbers at the expense of his average and on-base percentage. Winker is a below-average runner, but he's shown steady improvement on defense to become a steady, if less-than-rangy, left fielder. Winker will get to catch up for lost time in Pensacola in 2015. He is the team's long-term answer to its troublesome left-field position, but he's not ready to take over just yet. Did not play
The Reds work creatively to acquire pitchers in the draft. They've had success drafting lower-profile college pitchers with funky arm actions, and they've shown interest in those who serve as two-way players in college. Lorenzen served primarily as Cal State Fullerton's center fielder, but he also closed, recording 35 saves in 45 college innings. After Lorenzen's rough stint in the 2013 Arizona Fall League, the Reds still promoted him aggressively to Double-A Pensacola in 2014. He handled the aggressive assignment with no problems. He finished third in the Southern League with a 3.13 ERA. He has turned into a vastly different pitcher than he was in college, when he threw mostly 95-98 mph four-seamers up in the zone. As a starter, Lorenzen relied on a 92-95 mph two-seamer with sink and bore. It was a pitch-efficient, bat-breaking means of achieving results. He still showed the ability to run his four-seamer up to 97 mph when he wanted. Lorenzen impressed scouts with his competitive demeanor to go with his athleticism. His slurvy 82-84 mph slider works more vertically than a traditional slider, and some scouts describe it as a curveball, but it's an average pitch. His changeup is below-average, but he locates it and has shown aptitude for throwing it. Lorenzen's lack of strikeouts are a concern, but he has plenty of stuff and will head to Triple-A Louisville in 2015. He projects as a mid-rotation starter who could arrive in Cincinnati by the end of 2015.
Howard flourished as a two-way star at Virginia. As a sophomore, he was the Cavaliers' third baseman and played some shortstop in addition to pitching in the weekend rotation. He moved to the bullpen as a junior, setting an Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record with 20 saves, while also serving as DH on a Virginia club that lost in the College World Series final when he gave up a game-winning homer to Vanderbilt's John Norwood. He signed for $1,990,500 as the 19th overall pick. Much like they had done with Michael Lorenzen, the Reds drafted Howard with the intention of moving him to the rotation. Howard sits at 92-95 mph as a starter and pairs his plus fastball with a pair of breaking balls. His high-70s curveball is the more developed of the two, with its 12-to-6 break, while his slider is harder at 82-84 mph with some tilt and depth. Both project as at least average pitches. Howard's changeup is the least advanced, but it has some deception and he shows some feel. It could be at least a fringe-average pitch. His simple, low-effort delivery combined with his athleticism should help him to develop big league average control, but he did struggled to hit his spots at low Class A Dayton. Howard is more advanced than Lorenzen at a similar stage. He'll head to Double-A Pensacola in 2015, and if he handles that assignment, a late-2016 arrival in Cincinnati isn't unreasonable.
Traded by the Blue Jays to the Marlins with Justin Nicolino and Henderson Alvarez, DeSclafani received the first shot to replace injured ace Jose Fernandez but could not lock down the spot and worked in relief exclusively during his September callup. He now heads to the Reds along with Chad Wallach for Mat Latos. DeSclafani pitches off a hard four-seam fastball that parks at 92-94 mph when he's at his best. He can get groundballs with a two-seamer in the low 90s, and his hard 81-85 mph slider earns average grades for its velocity and late three-quarters tilt. DeSclafani does it all from an easy delivery and pounds the bottom of the zone. He doesn't miss many bats with his slider, though it has improved, and he needs to use and develop his fringe-average changeup, which is too firm and lacks separation. After sticking with the slider for a while, he reintroduced the curve and began throwing it regularly in the Arizona Fall League. If he can throw four pitches for strikes, he would give the Reds a potential No. 4 starter, and he'll compete for a rotation spot this spring.
When the Reds signed Garrett for $1 million as a 22nd-round pick in 2011 they hoped that one day he would give up his basketball career to focus on baseball. After playing hoops for two seasons at St. John's and spending one year sitting out as a transfer at Cal State Northridge, Garrett attended spring training for the first time in 2014, decided to focus on baseball and went 5-4, 2.86 at low Class A Dayton during the second half. No Reds pitcher improved more in 2014. Garrett showed erratic control early, but in the second half he consistently showed a plus fastball (92-95 mph) that he can throw to both sides of the plate but is pretty straight. He throws a slurvy slider that is a bigger breaker than ideal but does have some power. Some scouts think it's too much of a chase pitch, but most see it as an average offering with a chance to end up as plus. Garrett's changeup is erratic, but at its best it's a fringe-average offering that is a little firm. His control has improved dramatically, but his command still has a way to go. With extremely long legs and arms, the 6-foot-5 lefty has to work to repeat his delivery, and he's slow to the plate. Given that he'll be 23 in 2015, Garrett could end up as a power reliever with a plus fastball and potentially plus slider. But he could grow to be a mid-rotation starter if he continues making strides.
In the case of Travieso, the Reds had an inside advantage because international scouting director Tony Arias' son Nicholas played on the same Archbishop McCarthy High club that finished No. 1 in the country their junior year in 2011 and No. 5 their senior year. Travieso's stuff picked back up at low Class A Dayton after dipping in 2013. He went back to bringing his hands over his head to begin his windup later in the season, which coincided with his best run of 2014. He sat 92-95 mph and touched 97 in a 4-0, 1.56 August. Travieso generally sat at 90-93 mph, showing a tick above-average fastball and an 84-86 mph slider. His slider flashes aboveaverage, but like many young pitchers, he throws as many loopy breaking balls as sliders with good tilt. His below-average changeup needs refinement. Travieso likes to pitch inside, and he impressed evaluators with his competitiveness. His delivery has some effort, but it hasn't kept him from throwing strikes, and he shows the potential for average control. After spending most of the past two seasons at Dayton, Travieso likely will head to high Class A Daytona in 2015, but he's shown enough feel that if the Reds have a need at Double-A Pensacola, he could skip a level. He projects as a No. 4 starter with a chance to be a little better than that if he can improve his secondary stuff.
A tall, live-bodied right fielder with a big arm who wears No. 27, Aquino models his game after Vladimir Guerrero, right down to a batting stance that begins with a bat waggle above his head. Signed for $115,000 in 2011, Aquino struggled with contact issues in his first years in the organization, but he also showed flashes of immense potential. He broke out in 2014 at Rookie-level Billings, leading the Pioneer League with 23 doubles and 64 RBIs. A student of the game, Aquino has steadily improved, learning to speak English quickly. In 2013, he could drive a fastball but was an easy mark for offspeed offerings. In his return to Billings, he showed a better ability to stay back and drive the ball to the opposite field. With long arms, Aquino shows plus power when he can extend. He uses a big leg kick that may have to be toned down as he moves up the ladder, and he doesn't like to take ball four if he sees a pitch he likes. Aquino had an average arm when he signed, but it's now a plus weapon in right field--he led PL outfielders with 13 assists' and he has grown to be an average defender. His tick above-average speed has allowed him to be a threat on the bases. Aquino is one of the Reds' most well-rounded position prospects, and if he continues to improve, he'll make noise at low Class A Dayton in 2015.
At an age when he could be just entering pro ball had he been born in the U.S., Rodriguez is making his seventh Prospect Handbook appearance. Signed for a then-Venezuelan amateur bonus record of $2.5 million in 2008, he missed time in 2014 with an oblique injury that muted his production when he returned, but he finished strong and made his big league debut in September. Rodriguez has long been one of the toolsiest players in the system, but his plate discipline and his maturity had to catch up to his talent. He still frustrates scouts because he'll show a tick above-average run time followed by well below-average times in his next few at-bats, but when he's locked in, he shows everything a scout wants to see. Rodriguez has started to show an improved hitting approach by learning how to take a pitch the other way and knowing when to shrink or expand his strike zone. He can play all three outfield spots, but he fits best in right field where his plus arm is an asset. In center field, his average range makes him best as a fill-in. For a player who has reached the majors, Rodriguez's future potential is highly volatile. Scouts see him as a potential fourth outfielder, but one who could turn into more than that if the light switch clicks on. He's headed to Triple-A Louisville in 2015.
Blandino is the rare case of a college third baseman who moved to shortstop in pro ball. The 2014 first-rounder, who signed for $1.788 million, spent the vast majority of his time at third base for Stanford, though he played shortstop in the Cape Cod League. As one would expect, Blandino's move to shortstop had some hiccups. He has excellent instincts, but his lack of first-step quickness limits his range. His tick above-average arm allows him to play a little deeper to mitigate some of his range issues. He projects as a fringe-average to average shortstop who many scouts think will eventually move to second or third base,. At the plate, Blandino made strides during his junior year at unlocking his power, in part by becoming more pull-happy. He uses a toe tap that sometimes turns into a leg kick to start his swing, and he swings from a wide-open stance. Blandino's power is largely pull-oriented and can lead to him selling out and over-swinging, but he has shown the ability to drive the ball the other way. Blessed with plenty of bat speed, he has the ability to be an average hitter with fringe-average power. He's a below-average runner. He'll head to high Class A Daytona for his first full season in 2015.
When the Reds sent Lively to high Class A Bakersfield to begin 2014, they considered it an aggressive assignment. Lively went 5-0, 0.31 in April with a 40-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and forced a promotion to Double-A Pensacola by June. Lively's success is based on a delivery that emphasizes deception over velocity. He gets excellent extension, but even more importantly, he keeps the ball behind his body during his takeaway and continues to keep it hidden behind his head from the batter's perspective until very late. His 88-92 mph fastball generates swings and misses up in the zone thanks in part to riding life. He shows a fringe-average curve that he uses as a get-me-over strike early in counts, then follows it up with a chase slider that is an average pitch. His changeup became more important in Double-A. He showed some feel for it, and it projects as an average pitch as well. Lively's deception and ability to pitch to all four corners of the zone give him more possible outcomes than most pitchers with no above-average pitch. He profiles at best as a No. 4 starter. He'll head to Triple-A Louisville in 2015.
The Reds' most pleasant surprise in 2014 was the development of Waldrop at Double-A Pensacola. A former high school football player who had flashed potential in the past, sandwiched around a number of injuries, Waldrop dominated the high Class A California League and, more importantly, did the same thing after a midseason promotion to the Southern League and then in the Arizona Fall League. Waldrop has to hit because he's a fringe-average defensive left fielder without the speed (he's an average runner) or arm strength (a 40 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) to handle another outfield spot. In the past, Waldrop had been a pull hitter who would succumb to good pitching but destroyed mistakes, but in 2014 he started using the whole field much better and stopped chasing as much. A bit of Waldrop's power melted away in the process, but it was a solid trade-off, for he now shows the potential to become an aboveaverage hitter with still solid-average power. He and Jesse Winker are competing for the same spot in the Reds' future lineup because neither fits in right field. Added to the 40-man roster in November, Waldrop could make himself a candidate for Triple-A Louisville in 2015 with a strong spring.
Ervin entered pro ball with a track record for hitting, but perceptions can change quickly when a 21-year-old, first-round college outfielder hits .237/.305/.376. While Ervin's full-season debut in 2014 was a disaster, scouts still saw flashes. His approach, contact skills and power were all less than advertised, however. Instead of dominating younger competition, Ervin looked overmatched. He had a wrist problem early in the year which helped lead to his slow start, but even when he was fully healthy, he got into a yank-and-pray approach that left him vulnerable to almost anything other than a fastball on the inner half. Injuries have been a recurring problem for Ervin, who hasn't been healthy for a full year in any of the past five seasons. The Reds have to hope a fresh start will allow him to return to the all-field approach he showed in college and at Rookie-level Billings in 2013. Among the encouraging signs for Ervin in 2014 were above-average speed and improved range and reads in center field, where he projects as at least a fringe-average defender. He'll head to high Class A Daytona in 2015.
Romano had to catch up to the speed of pro competition, but in 2014 the righthander showed signs that he's doing just that. He made big strides with his control by keeping his lower half in sync in his delivery more consistently. While his massive frame doesn't leave room for projection, Romano can run his four-seamer up to 97 mph, but he pitches best when he's pounding the bottom of the zone with 91-94 sinking two-seamers. His power curveball flashes plus and would be even more effective if he landed it for a strike more often. To remain a starter, Romano must improve his well below-average changeup and continue to hone his control. Romano's two-pitch mix may eventually relegate him to the pen, but he could end up a No. 4 or 5 starter. Up next: high Class A Daytona in 2015.
Crawford stood out in a 2013 draft thin on college starters, pushing the Tigers to draft him at No. 20 overall and sign him for $2,001,700. The Reds landed him and shortstop Eugenio Suarez in the December Alfredo Simon trade. Crawford has a strong, athletic build and a plus fastball that sits at 90-94 mph with good sinking movement and touches 96. When he's at his best, he also shows a plus slider at 83-86 mph, but the breaking ball is the biggest wild card. When his slider is biting, he's tough to hit and has an out pitch to put hitters away. When the slider is off, it allows hitters to sit on his fastball. He flashes a changeup, but it's below-average. Crawford's short-arm delivery features effort. With his two-pitch mix, Crawford fits best as a reliever for some scouts, though if he can bring along his changeup, he has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter. He has a shot to jump to Double-A Pensacola with new club.
Getting a good feel on Oklahoma prep hitters isn't easy because they get to beat up on poor pitching. A two-sport star in high school, LaValley was an all-state offensive guard who dominated on the baseball diamond. He slimmed down for baseball season and should melt away more weight. LaValley has excellent bat speed and an advanced, all-field hitting approach that gives him a chance to both hit for average and produce at least average productive power. For his size, he showed nimble feet and a tick above-average arm. The Reds will let him continue to play third base for now, but scouts see him moving to first before long, as he lacks range. He's a well below-average runner. LaValley is one of the more advanced high school hitters the Reds have drafted in recent years. He could make the jump to low Class A Dayton in 2015.
A 2014 second-rounder who helped UC Irvine reach the College World Series, Sparks is an outstanding athlete who plays a well above-average third base, with excellent range, outstanding body control, a quick first step and a strong arm. He's an above-average runner has plus raw power. If he could develop even an average hit tool, he could end up as an above-average big league regular. Sparks, whose father Don played nine seasons in pro ball, falls short of profiling as even an average hitter because his swing is not conducive to making consistent contact. He struck out 154 times in 2014 between college and pro ball. His other tools will earn him playing time, starting at low Class A Dayton in 2015, to correct his flaw.
Barnhart made his big league debut in 2014, filling in when Devin Mesoraco missed time with hamstring and oblique injuries. He performed as advertised. Barnhart won't ever hit enough to be a regular, especially because of the switch-hitter's long-running trouble with lefthanders. Hitting righthanded, Barnhart has a slow swing with no power, which explains why he's hit .153/.221/.186 against southpaws over the past four years. From the left side, he's much better. He still has no power, but he makes contact, sprays singles and draws walks. Defensively, Barnhart's plus, accurate arm helped him throw out 8 of 12 basestealers (66 percent) at the big league level. He calls a good game, and pitchers like throwing to him, but he needs to work on his pitch-framing skills. He'll compete with Brayan Pena for the backup job.
Based on pure stuff, Moscot has more potential than Ben Lively, his Double-A Pensacola rotation-mate in 2014. Both righthanders lack a true plus pitch, but they succeed because they can throw three pitches for strikes at any point in the count. Moscot, a fourth-rounder from Pepperdine in 2012, has a touch more velocity on his fastball than Lively. He sits 89-92 mph with some cut and tail to his fastball, but he doesn't generate nearly as many swings and misses as Lively because he lacks the same deception. Moscot has above-average control that allows him to locate his potentially average slider and changeup. He has a big, durable frame. He heads to Triple-A Louisville, with a long-term future as a potential No. 5 starter.
Holmberg didn't exactly make a great first impression following his trade to the Reds (for Ryan Hanigan) in December 2013. He showed up to spring training in poor shape and had to work his way into better condition during the season. Shelled in a pair of emergency starts, Holmberg did a much better job during a September callup. He intrigued evaluators when he was dominating hitters in low Class A thanks to a plus changeup, but scouts even then were wary of his lack of fastball velocity. It's a belowaverage 87-89 mph offering. Holmberg's fringy curveball forces him to rely on his changeup heavily. He walked very few batters in the low minors, but he has seen his walk rate soar as he neared the majors. That's not because he's lost his feel for throwing strikes; his lack of stuff forces him to nibble. Holmberg profiles as a useful depth option for the Reds to stash at Triple-A for spot-starter work.
Mejias-Brean is the kind of unassuming player who may end up with a lengthy big league career. The most optimistic scouts see him as a potential everyday third baseman, but most see him as a backup corner bat. Mejias-Brean's swing does not generate much loft, so it's hard to project him as hitting more than 10 or so home runs a year, but he understands the strike zone and at his best draws a lot of walks to go with a hit tool that is at least average. Mejias-Brean's plus arm is his best asset defensively, but he also has quick reactions and athleticism. He will return to Double-A Pensacola in 2015 to prove he's better than his late Southern League slump.
Coming into his junior year, Strahan looked nearly undraftable because he had walked more batters than he had struck out. But he managed to improve both his stuff and control in 2014. Strahan can generate swings and misses with his four-seam fastball at 94-96 mph up in the zone, but he's at his best when he's throwing his two-seamer at 92-93 with above-average sink. He mixes a slow, early-count curveball for a strike and a harder curve that is a two-strike chase pitch that flashes plus. His changeup is a belowaverage but useable pitch. Strahan's upright delivery isn't free and easy, and he finishes with pronounced recoil. Some scouts see a future power reliever, but the Reds will let Strahan start at low Class A Dayton.
Arias has as much talent as any position player in the system, but his career has moved at a very slow pace. After trying and failing to handle shortstop and third base, he adapted much better to center field. Arias missed almost the entire 2014 season after breaking his leg sliding into third base on April 11. He made it back to Bakersfield midway through August, played with the Reds' advanced instructional league team and then headed to the Dominican Republic for winter ball. He has above-average raw power, but he expands the zone too much. He's an above-average runner and has an above-average arm that plays in right field, but he has the speed and range to be a fringe-average center fielder as well. After six pro seasons, he needs to make it to Double-A Pensacola and prove he can handle more advanced pitchers.
Signed out of Mexico during the 2013 season, Elizalde had Tommy John surgery after signing, forcing him to wait until 2014 to make his U.S. debut. He showed an excellent understanding of the game both between the lines and in the clubhouse, where his experience playing with veterans in the Mexican League was apparent. A plus runner when he signed, Elizalde dealt with hamstring problems and generally graded as a fringe-average runner in 2014. His best-case scenario is as a top-of-the-order hitter with on-base skills, but more realistically he'll be a fourth outfielder who can play above-average defense in either outfield corner--he has an average, accurate arm--or can play center field in a pinch.
Mahle is the kind of pitcher who often makes it to college as scouts wait to see if he matures as they project. The Reds decided to take a chance on his potential and paid him $250,000 as a seventh-rounder in 2013 to bypass UC Santa Barbara, where his brother Greg (drafted by the Angels in 2014) played. Mahle has skinny legs and a lanky frame, and his future depends a lot on whether he can add a tick to his fastball as he matures and gain strength. He had immediate success at Rookie-level Billings in 2014 because of his excellent control, finishing second in the Pioneer League with a 3.87 ERA. Mahle currently pitches at 88-92 mph, so he does have an average fastball on his better nights, but there's not any plus pitch in his assortment. His 11-to-5, slow curveball and slider both vary between below-average and average, and he has an average changeup. If he gains velocity, then his clean delivery and above-average control give him a chance to be a back-end starter as he embarks on an assignment to low Class A Dayton in 2015.
The son of big leaguer Tim Wallach, Chad has been around the game all his life and it shows. The Cal State Fullerton product brings all the intangibles and physical tools teams want in a catcher. Selected by the Marlins in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, Wallach turned in a disappointing pro debut offensively at short-season Batavia in 2013, but he reworked his swing for 2014 and hit .321/.430/.476 at low Class A Greensboro. He joined the Reds organization in December as part of the Mat Latos trade. Wallach doesn't figure to hit for much power, instead relying on a more controlled swing to drive balls into the gaps, particularly right-center field. One of the seven homers Wallach did hit came off of Nationals top prospect Lucas Giolito. Defensively, he has improved and now clocks average pop times on throws to second base. He showed good game-calling skills and worked well with the staff at Greensboro. The big-framed Wallach will have to stay on top of his condition to maximize his durability and remain agile behind the plate. He moves well for his size and does a good job knocking down balls in the dirt, but he has had some trouble handling plus stuff. He'll head to high Class A Daytona for his Reds debut in 2015.
When Joey Votto missed much of 2014 with a series of injuries, Lutz stood as the logical replacement. The Reds looked past him, though, and chose backup catcher Brayan Pena. Even with the Reds out of the playoff race, Lutz served only as a pinch-hitter. He's a power hitter with a long, high-maintenance swing who struggles without regular at-bats, so his big league role was the worst use of his talents. He has been granted a fourth minor league option year, which gives the Reds one more year to evaluate him. The mas- sive Lutz is an fringe-average runner, but he's below-average defensively in left field or at first base, which played a part in him not getting regular big league time. He has the power to produce 20-plus home runs, but his defense and his below-average hit tool will likely preclude him from an everyday big league job.
When the Reds selected Kivel in the 10th round of the 2012 draft, they knew they were getting a big arm they could dream on. But that dream always carried a lot of risk, and so far Kivel's control issues have kept him from tapping into his potential. The Reds decided to shift him to the bullpen, giving up the idea of developing him as a starter. Out of the pen, Kivel's fastball jumped back up to the 94-96 mph he showed early in his pro debut. His delivery and mentality never seemed to fit as a starter. He's an aggressive power pitcher with below-average control. The Reds hope that the move to the bullpen will help him throw more strikes as he simplifies to a power approach with his plus fastball and fringe-average slider.
Contreras has long possessed one of the better arms in the Reds system. Used as a power reliever early in his career, he moved to the rotation in 2013, but after he went on the Double-A Pensacola disabled list last season with back spasms, he moved back to the bullpen when he returned. By late June, he was working out of the big league bullpen. His big league debut was a struggle because his always-shaky control fell apart with a tighter big league strike zone. Contreras has a long arm path that hinders his control. He has a 92-94 mph fastball, a fringe-average changeup he uses against lefties and a below-average slider he spots against righthanders. Contreras' stuff is good enough to retire big league hitters if he throws strikes, but he has yet to prove he can do that. If he doesn't improve his control, he'll be stuck at Triple-A Louisville, where he could begin 2015.
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