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Stephenson was the first high school pitcher the Reds had selected in the first round since picking Homer Bailey in 2004. Like Bailey, Stephenson has risen through the minors on the basis of a high-90s fastball and a hardbreaking curveball. And like Bailey, Stephenson found the going much tougher once he reached the upper levels of the minors. Bailey reached the majors in his fourth pro season, 2007, but didn't arrive for good until 2010. Stephenson reached Triple-A Louisville in his fourth pro season, but he still is a little ways away from being ready for the big league rotation. The Reds did not call up Stephenson in September even though he will be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The Reds used nine other rookie starters, so it wasn't for lack of opportunity or a roster spot. After Bailey's early big league struggles, the Reds have learned to take it slow, so Stephenson spent more than a year and a half at Double-A Pensacola in 2014 and 2015. The Reds now believe it's better to let Stephenson work through his control problems in the minors rather than in the majors where he'll be building service time. For years, hitters have known that when Stephenson gets ahead in the count, they have to watch out for his double-plus curveball. This year, he gave them something else to worry about. He went back to the split-changeup grip he used in high school. The Reds had taken the pitch away earlier in Stephenson's career because they felt it was harder on his elbow. He grew more and more comfortable with his old/new change in 2015, and now it garners plus grades most outings and has gotten double-plus grades on better nights. That's a vast improvement over the fringy traditional changeup he threw last year. He commands it better and it has more late action, generating more weak contact and swings and misses. But as his changeup improved, Stephenson's curveball seemed to back up. While his curve still is a 70 pitch at its best, Stephenson didn't locate it nearly as well or throw it nearly as often in 2015. His fastball also backed up. He dialed back his velocity significantly in an attempt to be more precise. The 94-99 mph he showed in the past became 92-94 with the occasional 97. Stephenson's delivery has no major flaws, but he has below-average control which stems from when he fails to stay tall in his delivery, collapsing too much on his back leg. When that happens, he throws uphill, which makes it hard for him to locate down in the zone. Throwing strikes is the No. 1 goal for Stephenson. Even with a reduction in his velocity, he has three plus pitches to toy with hitters if he can get ahead in counts. In the 14 starts in which he threw at least 60 percent strikes, he went 6-3, 2.39 with 90 strikeouts and 28 walks in 87 innings, but he had a 6.85 ERA in outings where he threw less than 60 percent strikes. Stephenson has front-of-the-rotation stuff that he will realize with better control. An assignment to Louisville seems probable in 2016, as does an in-season callup to the rebuilding Reds.
The Royals believed that the somewhat-raw Reed had one of the better arms among lefthanders in the 2013 draft, so they made the Mississippi juco product a second-round pick. For two seasons, he flashed big-time stuff but also big-time control issues before it all came together in 2015. The Reds acquired Reed--along with lefthanders Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb--in the Johnny Cueto deadline trade with the Royals. Reed can dominate with two pitches on his better nights. His double-plus fastball will range anywhere from 91-97 mph and it touched 99 in a one-inning stint in the California-Carolina League all-star game. Reed's fastball has late, darting life and his low three-quarters arm slot makes it especially rough on lefthanded hitters, and they hit .163 against him in 2015. His 85-87 mph slider is a second plus offering that received doubleplus grades from some scouts. It's a wipeout offering with hard, late tilt. Reed's changeup is average to a tick above, depending on the outing. He doesn't use it all that often. His control improved significantly in 2015 and his delivery carries no glaring red flags. Reed has a ceiling as a potential No. 2 starter, with his biggest red flag being lack of track record, for he had little success before 2015. He will compete for a spot in the Triple-A Louisville rotation in 2016 and could even be in Cincinnati at some point.
A top high school basketball recruit who toyed with baseball, Garrett made a couple of showcase appearances and intrigued scouts with his 95 mph velocity and extreme athleticism. Under the old draft rules, the Reds were able to spend $1 million in 2011 to convince Garrett to pitch when he wasn't playing basketball. That gamble paid off when the 6-foot-5 southpaw gave up basketball in 2014. He pitched in the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati and dominated in the high Class A Florida State League playoffs. Using a modified workout program, Garrett has added 20 pounds of good weight since giving up basketball. Everything for Garrett begins with a plus fastball. It's what got him drafted and it's still his best pitch. He can dominate with a 94-96 mph heater that he locates to both sides of the plate. His slider also flashes plus, but its quality varies significantly from start to start. Garrett's changeup is clearly his third-best option, but it flashes average as well. He always has had fringy control and command, but his stuff is good enough to succeed if he can develop even average control. He shuts down running games with quick times (1.1 seconds) to the plate. Garrett will head to Double-A Pensacola in 2016. He's one of the Reds' older pitching prospects, but he's also one of the fastest developing. Garrett has a chance to develop into a mid-rotation starter with a fallback option of power lefthanded reliever.
Stephenson flew up draft boards in 2015 when the Georgia Tech recruit went from possible top-50 pick to someone rumored to be in consideration at No. 1 overall. The Reds were thrilled when he fell to them with the 11th pick, and they signed him quickly for $3.1 million. The Reds aggressively pushed Stephenson to the Rookie-level Pioneer League. The Reds felt comfortable jumping Stephenson over the Rookie-level Arizona League because of his advanced hitting approach. He focuses on maintaining balance and control with his stance, with very little load in his swing. He has a line drive-oriented swing that sacrifices carry for contact. His swing naturally drives the ball to right-center field, but he needs to use his lower half better before he can consistently pull the ball to left field for power. Optimistic projections peg Stephenson for 15-20 home runs eventually, to go with an above-average hit tool. He has a plus arm and the tools to be an average defender if he works on maintaining his agility. He's big for a catcher, but he's flexible with quiet hands. Stephenson is more advanced than Devin Mesoraco--the last first-round prep catcher taken by the Reds--at the same stage, and big-bodied backstops like Salvador Perez, Matt Wieters and Joe Mauer have largely eradicated the notion that anyone 6-foot-4 or taller can't catch. Next up for Stephenson is an assignment to low Class A Dayton.
The best pure hitter in the Reds system since the day he signed, Winker struggled in a brief promotion to Double-A Pensacola in 2014 before his season was cut short by a broken wrist. Two months into the 2015 season, he was still struggling to drive the ball, but he hit .316/.426/.516 in the second half and connected for 11 of his 13 homers after June 1. Winker always has had an advanced approach with a balanced batting stance. He has a very simple toe-tap timing mechanism, quick hands and a quiet setup. He uses his legs well in his swing but has a very small load, trusting his hands and bat speed to provide his power. At his best, Winker drives the ball the opposite way to pepper the left-field wall, and he hits the ball out to all fields. He struggled against lefthanders in 2015 but has hit them well over his career. Defensively, Winker has worked hard to become playable in the outfield, but he's limited by below-average speed. His fringe-average arm plays in left field, where he recorded 15 assists. Scouts who like Winker believe he's an above-average hitter who should provide on-base value and solid-average power that will play up in Great American Ballpark. Others don't believe he has the power to profile as an impact regular. He should make his Triple-A debut in 2016.
A three-year starter at third base for Stanford, Blandino is the rare draftee who moves back to shortstop as a pro. He ranked as one of the best hitters in the high Class A Florida State League in the first half of 2015, though he missed most of July with a finger injury before earning a promotion to Double-A Pensacola. After playing shortstop in all but 12 games in 2015, the Reds sent him to the Arizona Fall League to focus on playing second base. Blandino lacks a plus tool but has few significant weaknesses. He projects as a solid regular at second base with quality range and arm strength. Good positioning and sure hands can mitigate below- average range, giving Blandino at least a chance to appear at shortstop in the big leagues. As a hitter, he is notable for the consistency of his at-bats. His average dipped after a promotion to Double-A, but the quality of his at-bats didn't. He projects as a tick above-average hitter with the power to hit 11-15 home runs. Blandino is a solid all-around middle infielder who projects to be a long-time big league regular. Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is under contract through 2017, but Blandino should be ready to assume playing time before then. He'll return to Double-A Pensacola in 2016 but could reach Triple-A Louisville before too long.
Travieso's season hit a snag when a comebacker broke a bone in his forearm in June 2015. He returned in time to help high Class A Daytona to the Florida State League playoffs and went to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time. Travieso is yet another Reds pitcher with a strong trunk and thick legs, and the plus fastball to go with them. In high school, he was very open in his delivery and finish. He's straighter to the plate now, which has also helped him create more angle on his pitches. Travieso's fastball generates easy plus grades because it sits 92-95 mph and touches 97, and he spots it well to both sides of the plate with solid-average control. His secondary offerings are key to his development. His average 83-84 mph slider has some depth and is his go-to weapon, but midway through 2015 he also added a slower curve as an early-count offering. His fringe-average changeup showed improvement this year as he threw it with more conviction. Even after spending three seasons at Class A, Travieso will be ready for Double-A Pensacola in 2016 as a 22-year-old. His fastball, durability and control give him a good chance to be mid-rotation starter.
The Giants signed Mella for $275,000 as an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He already had a 92-93 mph fastball and impressive curve, and his "advanced" age allowed him to move quickly in pro ball. He missed some time in 2014 with a minor rotator-cuff injury but showed no ill effects this year. The Reds acquired him, along with third baseman Adam Duvall, when they traded Mike Leake to the Giants. A thick-legged pitcher with present strength, Mella has a pair of plus pitches in a 91-95 mph fastball that touches 97 and a 78-82 mph curveball that has a sharp 11-to-5 break. He doesn't yet trust his changeup enough to make it a solid third offering, but it has average potential because he throws it with excellent arm speed. The big question scouts have with Mella is his delivery, which is up-tempo, long in the back and effortful as he throws across his body. The crossfire delivery adds deception but also makes it hard to command his fastball to his arm side. Cincinnati worked with him in instructional league to get him more direct to the plate. The Reds will keep Mella in the rotation for now, though many evaluators believe he'll end up in the bullpen. He'll join a crowded Double-A Pensacola rotation in 2016.
A 23rd-round pick who received a well above-slot bonus ($450,000) to turn down Tennessee for pro ball, Romano has lived up to expectations as a big, fresharmed Northeastern pitcher with room to grow. His fastball just keeps getting better and better, and the once low-90s fastball has now touched 99 mph. He can carry 96 deep into games. Romano can elevate out of the zone with a 95-99 mph four-seam fastball, but he's at his best when he's throwing a 93-95 two-seamer with turbo sink. He got away from that approach in a late-season promotion to Double-A Pensacola, staying up in the zone too often and getting shelled. He also learned that he has to locate his secondary offerings better. Romano sometimes shelved his power curve for a harder, slurvy slider that is a less impressive, less consistent and more hittable pitch. The Reds have stressed to him the importance of throwing the power, low-80s, downward-breaking curveball more often. He needs to improve the ability to throw his breaking balls for strikes, which can also be said for his improving, but still inconsistent, changeup. Romano has the durability and stuff to be a No. 4 starter, but his high-energy approach and velocity would also allow him to move quickly as a high-leverage reliever or closer.
When a team signs a skinny, seventh-round high school pitcher to an above-slot $250,000 bonus, this is what they hope will happen. Mahle, whose brother Greg pitches in the Angels system, has gotten stronger, added 2-4 mph of velocity, and his continual refinement has been even more impressive than the jump in velocity. Scouts see Mahle as a Mike Leake-type who lacks a devastating pitch but has an ability to succeed thanks to control/command and three solid offerings. Mahle throws harder than Leake and sits 91-94 mph and touches 96. He does a good job of altering his velocity to toy with hitters' timing. He loves to pitch inside and his fastball has solid life. Mahle has exceptional control for his age and is one of the Reds' most efficient pitchers, as he could make it through six innings on 65-75 pitches. His curveball and changeup are both solid-average offerings, though his curveball flashes above-average at its best when it shows tight, 12-to- 6 break. Mahle has taken significant strides in his two years as a pro. Even if he doesn't add any more velocity or sharpen his curveball or changeup, his combination of stuff and command should give him a chance to succeed as a mid-rotation starter, and he's young enough to make further strides. He heads to high Class A Daytona in 2016.
Lamb ranked as the top pitching prospect in a stacked Royals system heading into 2011 and he placed 18th overall on that year's Top 100 Prospects list. Alas, Lamb blew out his elbow that summer at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and saw his velocity take a nosedive. Some of that heat finally returned in 2015, which intrigued the Reds, who acquired him from the Royals along with lefthanders Brandon Finnegan and Cody Reed, at the trade deadline for Johnny Cueto. After spending multiple years pitching with a high-80s fastball, Lamb's velocity jumped back to 90-92 mph in 2015, and he touched 95. He succeeds because of average control and a great feel for changing speeds. He will drop a glacially-slow curveball at 68 mph, follow that up with a high-70s changeup, mix in a high-80s cutter and finish batters with a low-90s fastball. His curveball is slow, but unlike most slow curves it has late break and depth. Lamb used his cutter too much in his first stint in the majors, and the Reds are working with him on pitch sequencing. He is a nearly ready to step in as a back-of-the-rotation starter. His injury history and his stretches of reduced velocity are causes for concern, but he mixes pitches well and misses bats--his changeup and curve are particularly allergic to bats.
Ervin, the 2012 Cape Cod League MVP, was considered one of the safer bets among the college outfielders in the 2013 draft, but the Reds are still waiting to see the advanced bat he showed in college. As a pro, Ervin has been slow to make adjustments. He has plus raw power, and when Florida State League pitchers tried to bust him inside early in 2015 at high Class A Daytona he showed his bat speed and fast hands. He hit seven home runs in April, all to left field. But pitchers quickly figured out that he was vulnerable to pitches away, and he spent much of the rest of the year rolling over grounders to shortstop, and just two of Ervin's extra-base hits all season (both doubles) were hit to right or right-center field. A hamstring injury that hurt his timing didn't help. If Ervin can learn to drive the ball to the opposite field, he still has a chance to be a regular outfielder, probably in left field. He draws walks, is an average runner, recognizes spin and has the power potential to hit 15-20 home runs if he makes more consistent contact. That could be the difference between a career as a regular and a reserve. Ervin finished 2015 with a 17-game run at Double-A Pensacola and will return there in 2016.
Santillan had pitched his way onto scouts' must-see lists before the World Wood Bat Championship in fall 2014, but he almost pitched his way back off of those lists. After a strong first inning of work, his delivery and his control fell apart in the second inning as more and more golf carts filled with scouts drifted away. Santillan reassured scouts with a solid senior year in 2015, after which the Reds signed him for $1.35 million. He has more athleticism than his thick frame would seem to indicate--he was set to be a two-way player at Texas Tech. Santillan flashes a plus breaking ball, but he doesn't command it yet. It's an 80-85 mph pitch that has power. It has downer curveball action at times and at other times has the late tilt of a plus slider. Santillan's fastball is a double-plus pitch at its best because he touches 98 mph and sits 94-95. He can reach premium velocities without excessive effort, but he too often overthrows and spins off the mound. Santillan slipped fielding a ball, dislocated a finger and missed instructional league. He has the rough outline of a mid-rotation starter, but he's a long way from that ceiling. Scouts see his current delivery as more suited for a relief role. The Reds probably will send him to Rookie-level Billings in 2016.
The last time the Reds drafted a college player with Sparks' combination of plus power, plus defense, plus speed and well below-average feel to hit was first-round Texas outfielder Drew Stubbs in 2006. While Stubbs' hit tool never developed, his speed, defense and power allowed him to be a big league regular anyway. The Reds have similar hopes for Sparks. Four of his tools grade as above-average, but his overall profile suffers from a struggle to make consistent contact. He generates excellent power, but his two-piece swing rises through the zone on an uppercut, making it hard to hit all pitch types and leading to a 33 percent strikeout rate at high Class A Daytona in 2015. He struggles to recognize breaking balls, especially against righthanders. Sparks has some of the best power in the organization. His raw power grades as double-plus and could play as average. Sparks has the tools to be a plus defender at third base with outstanding range and agility and an above-average arm. Some evaluators believe Sparks could play shortstop and center field because he has a quick first step and above-average speed--but he has to become more reliable. He led Florida State League third basemen with 36 errors in 2015, with 23 coming via inaccurate throws. If Sparks can hit .240, he could be an everyday regular, but he heads to Double-A Pensacola in 2016 with a lot of work to do.
The Reds have had a gaping hole in left field for much of the 2010s. The club has had little choice but to turn to a series of veteran free agents such as Jonny Gomes, Ryan Ludwick and Marlon Byrd, in part because Rodriguez, signed for a then-Venezuelan record $2.5 million in 2008, has not been ready. When the Reds traded Byrd in 2015, it was a perfect opportunity for Rodriguez to prove he's more than a potential extra outfielder. Unfortunately, he was hampered by a calf injury at Triple-A Louisville that sidelined him from late July until the end of the year. Rodriguez can line home runs to right-center field, but at other times he gets pull-happy and becomes vulnerable to pitches on the outer half. Rodriguez is a tick above-average runner who is better than that underway. His arm plays as plus in right field, but he's stretched defensively in center. Where Rodriguez comes up short is his fringe-average power production is a stretch in a corner, while his hit tool is average at best. Still just 23, he is young enough to improve, but since he will be out of minor league options in 2016, he won't be able to get the consistent at-bats he needs to develop further, leaving him likely stuck in a backup outfield role, which is a tough fit for a righthanded batter who isn't a plus defender or runner.
Strahan walked 4.6 batters per nine innings in three years at Southern California, inhibiting his ability to produce results even with solid stuff. He has significantly improved his command and control in pro ball. Strahan has slowed down his between-pitch tempo and the overall rhythm of his delivery. He always will rack up walks because his 91-93 mph two-seam fastball has lots of movement, but at his best, he can pitch off his heater because of its extreme sink and movement and back it up with a 12-to-6, latebreaking curveball. Both garner tick above-average grades. Strahan can touch 95 mph with his fastball, but at that velocity it's much straighter and more hittable. His changeup also improved at low Class A Dayton in 2015. It's still a fringe-average offering, but his slowed-down motion helped aid the deception of his changeup because now he maintains arm speed and locates it better. Strahan will turn 23 early in the 2016 season, so if he does well at high Class A Daytona, the Reds could speed up his ascent with a midseason promotion. A future slide to the bullpen remains a possibility.
The Reds believe in drafting, signing and developing pitchers who are athletic, from Cuban imports Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias to two-way college standouts Michael Lorenzen and Nick Howard. Rainey fits that profile perfectly. He hit 19 home runs as a first baseman while also serving as West Alabama's closer, striking out 50 of the 113 batters he faced as a senior in 2015. Rainey's stuff seems well-suited to relief because he has 92-96 mph velocity and an above-average slider that could allow him to move quickly as a reliever. But he also has a strong lower half with massive thighs. Rainey's 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame helped the Reds conclude that they should try him in the rotation, even though his too-firm changeup is in the formative stages, his control is below-average and his stuff faded in the later innings of his initial pro starts at Rookie-level Billings. Scouts see Rainey moving back to the bullpen after logging innings as a minor league starter. He will pitch at low Class A Dayton in 2016.
The low Class A Dayton outfield in 2015 featured a trio of talented athletes, including Jonathan Reynoso, Narciso Cook and Aquino, a $115,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 who has the best chance of putting it all together. A broken wrist suffered in mid-April helped ruin Aquino's season, however. He missed two months, and upon his return showed little ability to work to get into counts where he could use his plus power. At this point, his few walks are more of a reflection of the pitcher's wildness than anything else. Aquino swings aggressively at most anything around the plate. He can make contact with fastballs, breaking balls and changeups around the zone, but if he falls behind, he lacks the ability to work back to a more favorable count. If he gets something to pull, Aquino can deliver plus power. He has a plus arm with average range in right field. He has average speed and runs better underway because he's so long-limbed. He probably will return to Dayton, but he has a chance to advance if he hits. The Reds elected not to protect him from the Rule 5 draft by not adding him to the 40-man roster.
The Reds' track record with successful college shortstops is comparatively robust. From Justin Turner and Chris Valaika in the 2006 draft to Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart in 2007, the Reds have seen such players regularly exceed expectations and turn into productive big leaguers. Trahan fits that profile. He hit over .300 while walking more than he struck out in all three seasons as a starter at Louisiana-Lafayette. His hands are in constant motion as he circles the bat in his hands as he waits for the pitch, then he takes a large timing step, shifting his weight back in his stance. Trahan's hands work well, and he has an excellent understanding of the strike zone. He projects as an above-average hitter who's tough to strike out and gets on base. Trahan is an average runner with little power. He has reliable hands at shortstop, average range and a tick above-average, accurate arm. He will not be the plus defender many teams look for at shortstop, but his confident, all-out approach to the game will allow him to get the most from his tools. Trahan has a good chance to at least be a big league utility player and may exceed those expectations. He struggled in a brief glimpse at high Class A Daytona in 2015, but he should be ready to return there in 2016.
One of the younger players in the 2015 draft class, Kahaloa will play the entire 2016 season as an 18-year-old after signing with the Reds as a fifth-round pick. His ability to find the strike zone and mix in an advanced breaking ball and changeup belie his youth and give scouts reasons to believe he could be a future major league starter. Adding to his stuff, Kahaloa makes it difficult for hitters to pick up the ball with a hip turn in his delivery that keeps the ball hidden until late. His delivery is relatively simple and repeatable and should allow him to continue to find the strike zone. He already shows the ability to locate to both sides of the plate as he pitches down in the zone. Kahaloa has touched 96 mph, but he pitched more consistently at 90-92 during his high school season and in the Rookie-level Arizona League. The Reds have reason to believe that with his youth, he'll more consistently touch those mid-90s numbers in the future. At this point, Kahaloa shows the potential for three average pitches, but he's young enough to potentially turn some of those average offerings into plus pitches.
Feel for hitting is not a yes or no proposition, and it's not always a linear progression for those who answer yes. In 2014, Waldrop began to show an improved, more advanced approach to hitting when he began laying off pitches out of the zone and started using the whole field instead of using the pull-heavy approach he had used in the past. It looked to be a strong step forward, but Waldrop relapsed in 2015, seeming to forget everything he learned, especially when he hit .185 in 55 games at Triple-A Louisville. Tellingly, all six of the lefthanded-hitting Waldrop's home runs were pulled to right field. His timing seemed off, and he began pressing as his season fell apart. The Reds have to hope that Waldrop can flush 2015 and get back to the all-field approach that worked before. He's a fringe-average left fielder with a below-average arm who can also play a fringe-average first base. Waldrop has some strength and athleticism and is an average runner. He has shown glimpses of being an above-average hitter with average power, but as he returns to Louisville in 2016, he's farther away than he was a year ago.
College relievers, especially setup men, have a poor track record for pro success. Most big league relievers are minor league and college starters, after all. Weiss, who collected 25 saves at Double-A Pensacola in 2015 to lead the Southern League, has a chance to buck that trend because his stuff has gotten significantly better as a pro. Where he pitched at 88-92 mph in college, he now sits 92-96 with a plus fastball to go with a pair of plus breaking balls. Weiss throws both a low-80s slider and high-70s curve. They are similar enough that they often seem to blend together, but hhis slider is a solid chase pitch, while the more downward-breaking curve can lock hitters up early or late in the count. He relies more on one or the other depending on the outing or the inning. His below-average changeup shows some promise, but he doesn't use it all that often. Weiss always has demonstrated average control as a pro, but his command and his sequencing improved in 2015. A number of Reds' front office officials believe Weiss' varied repertoire would allow him to start, but he's close enough to the majors that he probably will stay in the bullpen. He is ready for Triple-A Louisville and could reach Cincinnati in 2016.
An island of just 150,000 people, Curacao currently boasts three big league middle infielders: Didi Gregorius, Jonathan Schoop and Andrelton Simmons (with the Rangers' Jurickson Profar on deck). Daal works out with Gregorius in the offseason and hopes to follow in his footsteps. He took a big step in that direction at high Class A Daytona as he became a much more reliable fielder. Daal has gotten significantly stronger since signing, but he still has bottom-of-the-scale power--no qualified full-season minor league batter hit fewer extra-base hits (six) in 2015. Daal's swing is wisely geared to contact. He sprays the ball around the field with an emphasis on hitting to the opposite field. Daal played second base early in the season in deference to 2014 first-rounder Alex Blandino, but he's a better defensive shortstop than Blandino with a tick above-average range, an above-average arm and shortstop actions. The time at the keystone seemed to help him slow down and play more under control when he moved back to short. He's also a tick above-average runner. Daal's bat might limit him to a utility-infield role, but he's made enough improvement to leave open the possibility for more as he heads to Double-A Pensacola in 2016.
A high school offensive lineman on the football field, LaValley weighed as much as 270 pounds. As baseball became his primary focus, he slimmed down, but there was only so much slimming he could do as long as he was also trying to block defensive linemen. After turning pro, LaValley was free to shape his body for baseball, and he dropped down to about 215 pounds, gaining agility but also losing some of the pop that the Reds expected to see. He handled an aggressive jump to low Class A Dayton demonstrating a solid approach by using the whole field, drawing walks and showing a relatively advanced hit tool that projects as above-average. But his power disappeared. LaValley's .091 isolated slugging percentage ranked in the bottom third of qualified MWL hitters, and his hits didn't pass the eye test either--the ball rarely jumped off his bat. Defensively, LaValley showed good body control, soft hands and a solid-average arm at third base to go with average range. He has to develop at least average power to project as a regular. A jump to high Class A Daytona won't help him add to his slim home run numbers.
There are no good injuries, but Moscot's dislocated left shoulder could not have come at a worse time. Moscot injured himself diving to tag the Tigers' Anthony Gose on a rundown. The season-ending injury came in his third start after joining the Reds rotation. Moscot throws a solid five-pitch mix of average offerings: a 90-92 mph sinker he can cut, a 92-94 mph four-seamer, a low-80s slider, low-80s changeup and a below-average curveball. He has a strike-throwing approach with fringe-average control. With his injury, Moscot will find himself battling young starters with more stuff and now more big league experience. Moscot did make it back onto the mound by the end of instructional league, but his injury was serious enough that he may have some rust to shake off in March. Moscot doesn't miss many bats, but he does generate groundballs. He profiles as a No. 5 starter, and now he has to work hard to stand out.
With the exception of signing big league-ready Cuban righthander Raisel Iglesias, the Reds didn't make a big splash on the international market in 2014. They did spend $400,000 to sign Turnbull, one of the better prospects out of Australia in recent years. For a 17-year-old jumping straight from Major League Baseball's Australia Academy to the Rookie-level Arizona League, he had an outstanding debut as he showed savvy and baseball intelligence. Turnbull laid off pitches out of the zone, covered the plate well and showed a little bit of developing power. It's really too soon to tell if Turnbull will grow into a slugger or focus on hitting for average, but he has plus raw power and the feel to be at least an average hitter. Defensively, Turnbull has an average arm, though he needs to improve his transfers. He boxes too many balls right now but he shows glimpses of having soft hands. Turnbull should jump to Rookie-level Billings.
Antone did not sign as a Mets 22nd-round pick in 2012 out of Legacy High in Mansfield, Texas, the same program that produced Noah Syndergaard in 2010. Antone headed to Texas Christian, transferred to Weatherford (Texas) JC and quickly proved to be a solid draft prospect. He is a ground-ball machine with downward plane and an advanced ability to command his fastball to the bottom half of the strike zone. Antone generated 26 double plays at low Class A Dayton in 2015, allowed just two home runs in 26 starts and recorded a 2.18 groundout-to-airout ratio that ranked 10th among qualified minor league starters. Antone can touch 94 mph, but he sits 89-91 to generate more sink on his two-seamer. Antone doesn't have a secondary offering that grades out as above-average. He can throw his below-average curveball for strikes, but it breaks quickly out of his hand and lacks depth. He struggles to stay on top of his well belowaverage changeup. Antone's delivery includes a significant hip turn as he gathers himself over the rubber, but he repeats it well and has advanced control and command for his age. He needs the challenge of a higher level--high Class A Daytona in 2016--that will force him to develop his curveball and changeup.
The Reds knew that Crook was a candidate to struggle in a jump from the Rookie-level Arizona League to low Class A Dayton in 2015, but they also believed he wouldn't be challenged enough by extended spring training and an assignment to Rookie-level Billings. As expected, more advanced pitchers toyed with Crook initially, and he recorded a brutal 56-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .199 average in the first half. But in the second half Crook's impressive tools started to catch up to the league. He hit .274/.313/.474 as his tick above-average power started to play. Crook's swing isn't fluid or handsy, but he's strong enough to muscle the bat through the zone. He's an excellent athlete who posts above-average run times. He played center field in Dayton, but long-term he will slide over to right field, where his aboveaverage arm plays. His hit tool is less advanced than his power and projects as fringe-average at best. He'll head back to Dayton, but if he can build on a strong second half, he won't stay there for a full season again.
When the Reds traded Alfredo Simon to the Tigers in December 2014, Crawford was considered as important a piece in the return as shortstop Eugenio Suarez. Suarez went on to produce a strong season for the Reds as a replacement for the injured Zack Cozart, ensuring himself of a place in the club's 2016 plans, while Crawford barely got on the field. Crawford was held back in extended spring training with shoulder tendinitis. Eventually he made it onto the mound for five outings in early July before being shut down again. He needed shoulder surgery, though he will be ready for spring training. Pre-injury, Crawford threw a plus 90-94 mph fastball that touched 96 with quality sink. His slider flashed plus but was inconsistent. A lot of scouts thought that Crawford's effortful delivery would eventually lead to a move to the bullpen. Now he has to prove he's healthy before he can work on improving his command and his fringy changeup.
Howard was a two-way star at Virginia, playing shortstop and third base and serving as a starting pitcher his first two years. He slid to closer and DH as a junior as he set a single-season Atlantic Coast Conference record with 20 saves. The Reds believed that Howard was a good fit as a starting pitcher with an athletic delivery and a chance for three plus pitches: a 92-97 mph fastball, a 12-to-6 curveball and a 82-84 mph slider with depth along with a below-average changeup. But all of that fell apart in 2015 as Howard, the 19th overall pick in 2014, lost the strike zone. He was forced to dial back his velocity to guide the ball when he wasn't missing the zone badly, and he had outings where he was incapable of throwing strikes. Eventually, the Reds shut down Howard in July with a minor shoulder problem, but the down time was as much to give him a mental break. He returned to action briefly in instructional league, throwing a successful pair of innings to give him something positive to take into the offseason. If Howard can get through this mental block, he has premium stuff, but at this point, it's impossible to predict what direction his career will take.