Now that the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft is behind us and everyone has signed that is going to, it’s time to update the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospects List. There are a handful of new additions, several graduations and plenty of movement for those who remain on the list.
1. Nick Senzel | 3B | 2017 teams: Daytona & Pensacola
Nick Senzel is hitting .305/.373/.473 between Daytona and Pensacola this season to go along with 28 doubles, two triples and six home runs. He’s done nothing since being drafted #2 overall to suggest that he’s not everything you want from the pick.
Strengths and Weaknesses: There’s not really a weakness in his game, but if you had to nitpick, you’d have to say that his home run power needs further development. He’s been a doubles machine this year and some of those are going to turn into home runs in the near future. When it comes to strengths, he’s got them across the board.
2. Luis Castillo | RHP | 2017 Teams: Pensacola & Cincinnati
When the Reds acquired Luis Castillo in the offseason for Dan Straily it was viewed as a steal. Now that he’s been in the system for over half of a year it seems like an even bigger steal. He posted a 2.58 ERA in Double-A Pensacola before getting called up to the big leagues where he’s made four starts with a 3.13 ERA. He’s struck out 30 batters in 23.0 innings for the Reds and has shown good control outside of his Major League debut, walking just 18 batters in a combined 98.1 innings (not counting the debut).
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Luis Castillo is his ability to throw strikes. His fastball control is very strong and he’s able to throw both his change up and slider in the zone frequently. The thing he needs to work on the most is probably finding consistency with his slider. The quality of the pitch can vary from start-to-start.
3. Hunter Greene | RHP | 2017 Teams: Has not played yet
The Cincinnati Reds spent the #2 overall pick in the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft on Hunter Greene. The 17-year-old signed at the last minute, literally, but he’s now in the organization and getting ready to go. He’s currently in Arizona, but is expected to join the Billings Mustangs in short order.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength is his fastball, which sits in the upper 90’s and has touched 102 MPH. He’s also one of the best athletes in the organization. His weaknesses are similar to most 17-year-old pitchers – he’s got to refine his secondary stuff and simply show he can handle a full-season workload.
4. Sal Romano | RHP | 2017 Teams: Louisville & Cincinnati
It’s been an up-and-down season for Sal Romano so far. After getting out to a nice start in Louisville he got a call up to Cincinnati in April, but struggled in his debut and went back down to Triple-A the next day. After a few starts he then hit the disabled list with a shoulder issue. He returned after missing five weeks and made his way back to Cincinnati last week where his second big league start went much better than his first, picking up his first career win with a walk and six strikeouts against the Rockies.
Strengths and Weaknesses: Like Luis Castillo, perhaps his biggest strength is his ability to throw strikes. He can throw all of his pitches for strikes and has generally avoided walking batters over the last two years. Where he could improve is in his consistency with his secondary stuff. The breaking ball is ahead of his change up at this point.
5. Jesse Winker | OF | 2017 Teams: Louisville & Cincinnati
The 2017 season has been fairly similar to the 2016 season for Jesse Winker. He’s once again hitting for a good average in Triple-A and walking nearly as often as he’s striking out. The power, too, isn’t jumping out at you. He’s hitting .305/.386/.391 on the season with Louisville with 16 doubles and two home runs. He’s also seen some action with the Reds, though mostly as a pinch hitter, racking up just 13 plate appearances.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Jesse Winker is his plate approach. He understands the strikezone incredibly well and it shows up when it comes to his walk and strikeout rates. Where he needs to improve is hitting for mroe power. While he’s hit for plenty of power in the past, since he injured his wrist the power hasn’t returned to where it once was.
6. Vladimir Gutierrez | RHP | 2017 Team: Daytona
The 2017 season has been an inconsistent one for Vladimir Gutierrez. He’s posted a 4.85 ERA in Daytona over the span of 15 starts. His peripheral stats are strong, walking just 16 batters and striking out 83 over 81.2 innings pitched. The 21-year-old is in his first professional season after signing out of Cuba last August. He is also making the move to starting pitcher after being a long reliever as a teenager while in Cuba.
Strengths and Weaknesses: There’s a lot to like with Vladimir Gutierrez. He’s got multiple pitches and he throws plenty of strikes, walking just 16 batters so far this season. He also has missed plenty of bats. His biggest weakness that he needs to work on is his consistency. When he’s on, he’s untouchable at times. but when he’s not he can really struggle.
7. Tyler Mahle | RHP | 2017 Teams: Pensacola & Louisville
If there were a player of the year award handed out on July 10th it would go to Tyler Mahle. He’s posted a 2.08 ERA over 17 starts between Pensacola and Louisville. In 99.1 innings he’s walked just 21 batters and he’s struck out 103. Oh, and he also has a perfect game under his belt this season.
Strengths and Weaknesses: His strength is that he’s able to pound the strikezone with an outstanding fastball that he can vary speeds and movement on. He could improve on his secondary stuff, where none of his offering stand out – but all are solid-ish.
8. Taylor Trammell | OF | 2017 Team: Dayton
After a slow start to the year in April, Taylor Trammell has turned things around in a big way since May began and is now up to .277/.352/.442 on the season. He has also stolen 24 bases in 31 attempts while racking up a good amount of extra-base hits. The outfielder has 17 doubles, eight triples and six home runs.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Trammell is probably his plus-plus speed. He’s got all kind of speed to burn and he uses it well. His biggest weakness is his arm strength. It’s led to several scouts I’ve spoken with to wonder if it won’t push him to left field in the long run. He’s got more than enough speed to handle center field, but their concern is that teams may be able to really run on him in center without it improving.
9. Tyler Stephenson | C | 2017 Team: Dayton
The 2017 season has been about as opposite of the 2016 season as possible for Tyler Stephenson. Most of 2016 was lost to injuries and when he was on the field, playing injured, he struggled. Healthy once again, he’s hitting .270/.364/.407 with 41 walks and 57 strikeouts on the year with Dayton. Behind the plate he also looks better in all aspects.
Strengths and Weaknesses: Tyler Stephenson does a lot of things well right now, but his plate approach may be the biggest strength he has now, though I believe his power will eventually be his biggest strength. His biggest current weakness is probably controlling the running game. While that’s certainly something that’s beyond the control of just the catcher, he’s only thrown out 21% of opposing base runners this season.
10. Tony Santillan | RHP | 2017 Team: Dayton
Opposing hitters are only hitting .209/.286/.312 against Tony Santillan this season. In 16 games this season for Dayton he’s posted a 2.70 ERA in 86.2 innings. That’s come with 33 walks and 85 strikeouts. His pure stuff rivals anyone in the organization, Major or Minor Leagues. Since May 8th, spanning 10 starts he has a 2.11 ERA with 15 walks and 60 strikeouts.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Tony Santillan is his fastball. When he’s at his best, he’s sitting 96-98 MPH with his fastball. The biggest area he needs to improve on, and he’s certainly already done so this season, is to continue to find consistency, particularly when it comes to throwing strikes.
11. Shed Long | 2B | 2017 Teams: Daytona & Pensacola
The 2017 season got out to a nice start for Shed Long, who hit .312/.380/.543 for Daytona in the first half. In a league known to sap power, Long didn’t seem to care as he had 30 extra-base hits with the Tortugas before being promoted to Double-A. He’s gotten out to a slow start in the first two weeks with Pensacola.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Shed Long is his bat. He’s a guy that can use the entire field and despite being on the shorter side of the spectrum, can produce power to all parts of the field, too. There’s not a big area that jumps out as a place where he needs to improve, but if you had to pick one, he could cut down on his strikeout total a little bit.
12. Jeter Downs | SS | 2017 Team: Billings
The Reds compensation 1st round pick in 2017 has gotten out to an outstanding start in his professional debut. Jeter Downs only has eight games under his belt, but he’s hitting .370/.485/.593 with as many walks as strikeouts for Billings. He’s hit two homers and stolen two bases.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Jeter Downs seems to be his bat. Scouting reports coming out of the draft were glowing about how advanced he was at the plate and the early returns are there. It’s very early in his career and there doesn’t seem to be something obvious that he needs to work on other than your normal 19-year-old baseball player kinds of things of just figuring out how continue to progress.
13. Stuart Fairchild | OF | 2017 Team: Billings
The 2nd round pick for the Cincinnati Reds has gotten out to a solid but unspectacular start in Billings through the first two weeks of his career. HE’s hitting .283/.345/.358 with six stolen bases. The former Wake Forest outfielder has struck out just five times in 13 games.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Stuart Fairchild might be the overall well roundedness of his game. He’s a potential 5-tool guy who has shown all of them on the field at various times. It’s tough to peg an exact area where he needs to improve on given his limited time as a professional, but looking back at his college career, improving his plate discipline may be the one if you really wanted to nitpick at something.
14. Jose Siri | OF | 2017 Team: Dayton
There probably isn’t a player with a better overall set of tools than Jose Siri in the entire system. After a slow start in April, the 21-year-old outfielder has gone on a tear through the Midwest League. Since May began he’s hit .308/.349/.540 with 10 doubles, three triples and 12 home runs in 57 games played. He’s also shown himself as an outstanding defender in center field.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Jose Siri may be his ability to play center field, though his power may overtake that soon. The biggest area he needs to improve on, and he’s taken big strides there already this season, is his plate discipline.
15. Aristides Aquino | OF | 2017 Team: Pensacola
After winning the Hitter of the Year award in the Reds organization for his 2016 season, Aristides Aquino has struggled at the plate in 2017. April was really tough for the outfielder. Aquino hit .163/.223/.256 in the month with 31 strikeouts and just five walks. Things have gone better since, posting a .731 OPS in 57 games since the start of May with much better plate discipline.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Aristides Aquino is his power. While he’s not showing the same kind of in-game power that he did last season, it’s still in there and you can see big time power on display at times from him. His area that he needs to improve on the most, and it’s been a work-in-progress over the last few seasons, is his pitch recognition and plate discipline.
16. Jose Garcia | SS | 2017 Team: Has not played yet
The Cincinnati Reds made one last splash on the international market in June as they signed Jose Garcia to a $5M bonus out of Cuba. He hasn’t yet played, but is assigned to the Dominican Summer League Reds.
Strengths and Weaknesses: Information hasn’t exactly been abundant on Jose Garcia, though from the reports we have gotten, he sounds relatively well rounded as a player. For a more detailed report on him, you can check out what I wrote about him when he was signed.
17. TJ Friedl | OF | 2017 Teams: Dayton & Daytona
After a wild 2016 year that saw him burst onto the college baseball scene, go undrafted amidst plenty of confusion, tear up the summer circuit with Team USA and then sign the largest undrafted free agent contract in history, TJ Friedl has carried that forward into 2017. In the first half with Dayton he hit .284/.378/.472 with 14 steals. In 19 games with Daytona he’s struggled a bit early on, hitting just .221 so far.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for TJ Friedl is probably his speed. He’s a plus runner and he uses his speed on the bases and in the field. His biggest area of weakness that needs improvement may be his ability to hit left handed pitching. He’s struggled against lefties this season. His OPS against lefties is nearly 200 points lower against them than against righties.
18. Gavin LaValley | 1B | 2017 Teams: Daytona & Pensacola
Last season saw Gavin LaValley take a step forward offensively, spending most of his year in Daytona. He returned there this season to start the year and this year he’s taken another big step forward. In 77 games between Daytona and Pensacola the first baseman has hit 18 home runs and 19 doubles. Overall he’s hit .284/.332/.534.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Gavin LaValley is his power. He’s a big, strong guy who can barrel up the baseball. His raw power is really starting to show up in games this year. The area that he could improve on the most would probably he drawing a few more walks. This season he had 19 walks in 322 plate appearances.
19. Jimmy Herget | RHP | 2017 Teams: Pensacola & Louisville
It’s been more of the same for Jimmy Herget in 2017: dominating the opposing hitters. The right hander has a career 2.29 ERA since being drafted in 2015. This season his ERA is 2.50 between Double-A and Triple-A where he’s raked up 20 saves. Between the two stops he has 14 walks (3 intentional) and 55 strikeouts in 39.2 innings.
Strengths and Weaknesses: There are a lot of strengths for Jimmy Herget. He throws strikes, he misses bats, he knows how to attack hitters. The only weakness on his resume is that he’s a reliever and not a starter, and that’s not exactly a weakness. As a reliever there doesn’t seem to be anything that is holding him back.
20. Zack Weiss | RHP | 2017 Teams: Daytona & Pensacola
It’s been a long road to coming back for Zack Weiss, who missed all of the 2016 season and almost all of the first half of 2017, too. When he came back this season he rehabbed with Daytona before joining Double-A Pensacola. He’s pitched in 14 games so far this season, covering 16.2 innings. He’s walked six batters and has 24 strikeouts and a 2.70 ERA between the two stops.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The stuff seems to be back for Zack Weiss after missing so much time and eventually having surgery (ulnar nerve transportation surgery). His action has been limited due to time since he’s come back, so it’s tough to peg exactly what he needs to improve on at this point.
21. Ariel Hernandez | RHP | 2017 Teams: Pensacola, Louisville & Cincinnati
There are guys with great stuff and then there are guys like Ariel Hernandez. After breaking out in 2016 he’s continued down that same road in 2017. Splitting his time between Double-A, Triple-A and the Major Leagues he has thrown 46.1 innings pitched and has an ERA of 1.93. That’s come with 28 walks and 55 strikeouts.
Strengths and Weaknesses: His stuff is nearly unrivaled in baseball. He throws 97-100 MPH consistently and may have the best curveball you’re going to see – and it’s coming in at 89 MPH. The area that he needs to continue to improve on, and he’s taken big steps there over the past 18 months, is cutting down on the walks.
22. Jackson Stephens | RHP | 2017 Teams: Louisville & Cincinnati
The 2017 season has already seen Jackson Stephens reach the big leagues and pick up his first win. He only made one start, but he had a good showing as he racked up a season best eight strikeouts with just one walk in 5.0 innings. After a slow start in April for Louisville he has posted a 3.62 ERA in his last 14 starts.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The strength for Jackson Stephens may have been his curveball, which is a good looking offering. However, in his Major League debut he decided to come out and throw 97 MPH, something he’s never done before and that may have changed things a little bit. In a system with a bunch of starting pitching options, Stephens may eventually get pushed to the bullpen and if he can throw 97 in shorter outings and mix in that curveball, things could get real interesting real quick. The biggest area that he could work on is just being more consistent.
23. Phillip Ervin | OF | 2017 Teams: Louisville & Cincinnati
It’s been an inconsistent season in 2017 for Phillip Ervin. He’s hitting just .250/.315/.368 in Louisville, but he’s hit well in three of the four months so far. May, however, was a real struggle as he posted an OPS of just .431 and that stretch has really kept down his overall numbers. In the 209 plate appearances outside of May, Ervin has hit .283/.351/.444 with 19 walks and 40 strikeouts.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The biggest strength for Phillip Ervin may just be the overall package of his game. He’s mostly solid or better across the board when it comes to his set of tools. He can run well, there’s a little bit of pop in his bat, he can play around the outfield. The biggest area of weakness in his game for the last few years has been his ability to hit for average.
24. Alfredo Rodriguez | SS | 2017 Team: Daytona
To say that Alfredo Rodriguez is a good defensive shortstop would be an understatement. He’s got outstanding range and hands and in my recent trip to Daytona he made six highlight reel caliber players over the course of four games. It was about as impressive as it could be. He also hit the ball well while I was there, but overall on the season he has had some struggles at the plate. He’s hitting .256/.294/.294 on the year with the Tortugas.
Strengths and Weaknesses: The strength is clearly his defensive abilities. He has range, quickness, good hands and a strong arm at the shortstop position. The weakness, however, is also clear. He’s struggled to hit the ball. While I believe there’s more in the bat than he shown, it is an area that he must improve on as he moves forward.
25. Alex Blandino | 2B | 2017 Teams: Pensacola & Louisville
After two years of struggling to hit in Pensacola it was May of 2017 when Alex Blandino seemed to put things together. In the 57 games since April ended, Blandino has hit .268/.369/.481 between Double-A and Triple-A with 21 doubles and six home runs. He’s played all around the infield, too. He’s gotten time at shortstop, second base, and third base this season between his two stops.
Strengths and Weaknesses: For Alex Blandino his biggest strength may be that he’s showing himself to be well rounded. He can play multiple positions on the infield, he gives you a quality at-bat when he’s at the plate and there’s a little bit of pop and speed in his game, too. Where he could improve on things is finding some more consistency. While he’s been hitting well over the last two months his recent history has shown a lot of inconsistency at the plate.
That’s it, guys and gals. That’s the updated list. I will do my best to answer any of your questions below over the next few days. Remember, though, I’m in Pensacola watching the Blue Wahoos. That means that from about 3pm until after the game is over, that I will be sporadic in replying, or possibly non-existent as my focus will be on things taking place at the ballpark.
Players who have graduated: Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Austin Brice.