Coming into the 2014 season the Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects list looked like this:

  1.  RHP Robert Stephenson
  2. OF Billy Hamilton
  3. OF Phillip Ervin
  4. OF Jesse Winker
  5. OF Yorman Rodriguez
  6. RHP Nick Travieso
  7. RHP Jon Moscot
  8. RHP Michael Lorenzen
  9. RHP Carlos Contreras
  10. RHP Ben Lively

Outfielder and right handed pitchers make up the entire Top 10. The two positions were strengths of the system. The list was updated at the midseason mark, though it was before the draft picks had signed and was mostly made up of the same players. Today though we are just going to look at how the Top 10 guys entering the season performed. All player stats at the bottom of the article. Note: This is NOT the updated list. The prospect rankings will be updated in late October after instructional league is completed.

1. RHP Robert Stephenson

It was an up-and-down season for the right handed pitcher as he battled to find his consistency most of the season. There were some good things to come from the season, but there were some things that he will need to improve upon as well. He struggled to throw strikes for long periods of time during the season and posted a high walk rate that will need to come down. On the flip side, he easily led the league with 140 strikeouts (the guy in second had 121 strikeouts in nearly 30 more innings). He was just one of two pitchers in the league under the age of 22 to throw 50 innings in the league, so he certainly had age on his side and he held his own. His stock is probably down a little bit, but he’s still an elite pitching prospect in the game.

2. OF Billy Hamilton

The speedster has been about what most expected from him in his rookie campaign. So far on the season he’s hit .265/.300/.375 with great defensive value and a bunch of steals (55 as I type this).  Like Stephenson, Hamilton has shown some good and some not-so-good. On the not-so-good side of things, his on-base percentage of .300 is very low. He’s walked just 27 times on the season and has 103 strikeouts. The ratio of strikeouts-to-walks isn’t where you want to see it. The other thing that isn’t so good, and surprising at that, is that he’s been caught stealing 21 times in 76 attempts (72% success rate). While that is about the break-even point for base stealing, for Hamilton and his speed, you would expect him to be a little more successful. On the good side of things, he’s been every bit the defender that I expected. He’s among the best in the game thanks to big time range and a good arm. His defensive value, according to Fangraphs, is nearly double that of any other center fielder in the game. His six home runs are more than I expected, but overall his power seems to be in the range of what was expected for him. Overall he’s been an above-average player, but it’s mostly tied to his outstanding defensive abilities and strong base running.

3. OF Phillip Ervin

Another up-and-down season on the list as Phillip Ervin struggled mightily out of the gate, played well in June and July and then struggled in August. Ervin’s year didn’t get off to a good start due to how the 2013 year ended. He had offseason wrist surgery and wasn’t able to do much in terms of baseball activities until spring training began. It likely led to his slow start of the season. At the end of May the outfielder was hitting under .220 and had an OPS under .600. He picked things up in the middle of the season, hitting .260/.340/.453 for June and July. He tailed off over the final month of the season though and overall, at the plate his season was not what was expected after his outstanding debut in 2013. The one bright spot for Ervin came on the base paths where he stole 30 bases in just 35 attempts, good for an 86% success rate. With the known injury and offseason problems that were a result of the injury, I will say that the season was still a disappointment, but I am also not going to say his stock is way down either. It’s down a little bit for me, but I still saw enough flashes to think that the 2013 season wasn’t a fluke and is something that is still possible for him again in the future.

4. OF Jesse Winker

It would be tough to say that 2014 was anything but a success for Jesse Winker when he was on the field. Unfortunately his season was cut short by a wrist injury after a car accident that led to him missing the final six weeks of the season. He got off to a great start in Bakersfield, hitting .317/.426/.580 with 40 walks and 46 strikeouts in 249 plate appearances before earning a promotion to Pensacola. He only spend three weeks there before the injury and didn’t get going offensively, hitting .208/.326/.351 in those three weeks. The plate discipline carried over though as he walked 14 times with 22 strikeouts. It wasn’t just a successful year at the plate though, as he continued to improve his defense in left field. His bat will be what carries him, but he’s made improvements on the defensive side two years in a row now. His stock is certainly up even with the injury that took away part of his season. He will also be playing in the Arizona Fall League beginning in October to help make up some of that missed time.

5. OF Yorman Rodriguez

Outside of an injury and subsequent 3-week slump when returning from it, Yorman Rodriguez put together the best season of his career in 2014 and now finds himself up with the big league club for September. He began the year by hitting .325 in April before suffering an oblique injury and hitting the disabled list. He returned in May and struggled mightily, hitting .139 in the three weeks he played. June and July were solid rebound months where he hit .269 and .264. August however was where he really busted out. The 21-year-old had walked 27 times on the season coming into August, but the light kicked on and he walked 20 times in August to go with a .294 average and a .529 slugging percentage. Outside of May, the outfielder hit .283/.355/.420 on the season with 43 walks and 92 strikeouts in 429 plate appearances. His stock is up in my book.

6. RHP Nick Travieso

The Reds 2012 first rounder put together his best season in 2014. The 20-year-old right hander posted a 3.03 ERA in 142.2 innings pitched, allowing just 10 home runs, walking just 44 batters and striking out 114. He led the league in wins by a wide margin, finished seventh in ERA, second in innings and sixth in WHIP. In April and August he posted ERA’s under 2.00 for the month as he began and finished the season on strong notes. He improved his stuff, consistency and control in 2014. He also raised his groundball rate by 25%, jumping from 40% in 2013 to 50% in the 2014 season. His stock has moved up.

7. RHP Jon Moscot

In just his third season Jon Moscot found himself finishing out the year in Triple-A. A big time jump in just 2.5 years on the job, but the right hander just continued moving along. In 25 starts for Pensacola he posted a 3.13 ERA in 149.1 innings, walking just 43 batters and striking out 111. He then was called up and made three starts for Louisville to end the year. The 2014 season was much like the 2013 season with the exception of a poor April from 2013. He lowered his walk rate, though his strikeout rate also came down, and he pushed his innings total up to 166.2 on the season. The right hander kept his stock the same as it was last year with a good season that got him within one level of the big leagues.

8. RHP Michael Lorenzen

Coming into the season Michael Lorenzen had very little experience starting and all of hat he did have came in a brutal Arizona Fall League season where he had 12 walks to just five strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched and an ERA of 11.42. None of that mattered once the 2014 season rolled around as he put together a season that may have been the best of anyone in the system considering that he jumped up to Double-A and the amount of experience he had (or didn’t have in this case). The right hander posted a 3.13 ERA in 120.2 innings pitched with 44 walks and 84 strikeouts. He posted a 56% ground ball rate on the season and showed improvements in his secondary offerings and an ability to throw strikes. The strikeout rate was a bit lower than you would like, but with his stuff they are going to come with time. His stock is up as he showed that the Reds knew what they were doing when deciding to put him into the rotation.

9. RHP Carlos Contreras

The season for Contreras was a bit up-and-down. He would make a few starts for Pensacola, but would injure his back early in the year and hit the disabled list for nearly six weeks. Once he returned he made the move to the bullpen where he posted a 0.00 ERA in 6.1 innings with two walks and 10 strikeouts over a two week span before getting called up to the big leagues. Despite being optioned to Louisville twice the rest of the way he never actually appeared in a game for the Bats as he was recalled quickly both times. His time in the big leagues has been hit-or-miss. Over his first seven games he had an ERA of 1.93 in 9.1 innings with three walks and eight strikeouts, but since then he has struggled to throw strikes, walking 12 batters in 9.2 innings while posting an 11.17 ERA with 11 strikeouts. His stock is down a little bit, but only because he has been shifted to the bullpen and isn’t likely to be looked at as a starter moving forward. His future role as a potential setup man or closer will be tied to how many strikes he can throw.

10. RHP Ben Lively

If Ben Lively didn’t convince you with his 2013 season then the 2014 season had to do the trick. Lively followed up an incredible 2013 season with a 2014 season that saw him split his time between Bakersfield and Pensacola where he posted a 3.04 ERA in 151.0 innings, 52 walks and 171 strikeouts. His time in Bakersfield was stronger than in Pensacola, but the righty posted a 3.88 ERA in 72.0 innings with the Blue Wahoos while striking out more batters than innings. The lone issue was that his walk rate more than doubled going up a level. Still, he took himself from rookie ball to Double-A and kept on moving in the right direction. His stuff improved and his stock is up.

Players who have graduated their prospect status: Billy Hamilton and Carlos Contreras

Overall Thoughts

For the most part, I believe that the players from the top 10 had successful years and improved their stock. Stephenson and Ervin were the only ones that I felt saw their stock drop some, but Stephenson still remains an elite level prospect in the entire game while Ervin still shows the tools that got him drafted in the first round and he did show some improvements as the season moved along. Several others took steps forward and a few guys took big steps forward as well. While the big league club didn’t see much help from the farm this season besides Billy Hamilton and Jumbo Diaz, the farm system improved itself with new additions, guys taking steps forward and the few guys that did take steps back didn’t move back very far.

Stats

Pitchers

Player Year Age Lev W L ERA IP H HR BB K WHIP
Robert Stephenson 2014 21 AA 7 10 4.74 136.2 114 18 74 140 1.38
Nick Travieso 2014 20 A 14 5 3.03 142.2 123 10 44 114 1.17
Jon Moscot 2014 22 AA-AAA 8 11 3.40 166.2 160 16 50 120 1.26
Michael Lorenzen 2014 22 AA 4 6 3.13 120.2 112 9 44 84 1.29
Carlos Contreras 2014 23 AA 2 1 2.70 20.0 15 0 11 27 1.30
Carlos Contreras 2014 23 MLB 0 1 6.63 19.0 18 2 15 19 1.74
Ben Lively 2014 22 A+-AA 13 7 3.04 151.0 117 13 52 171 1.12

Hitters

Player Year Age Lev PA 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB K AVG OBP SLG
Billy Hamilton 2014 23 MLB 554 25 7 6 46 55 27 103 .265 .300 .375
Phillip Ervin 2014 21 A 561 34 7 7 68 30 46 110 .237 .305 .376
Jesse Winker 2014 20 A+-AA 341 20 0 15 57 5 54 68 .287 .399 .518
Yorman Rodriguez 2014 21 AA 502 20 5 9 40 12 47 117 .262 .331 .389