It’s that time of year again where we look at the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospects. Each day this week we will unveil five more spots on the list as we work our way through the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect List for the 2019 season. You can see the entire list here (once it’s completed at the end of the week). If you were supporting the site on Patreon you would have gotten the entire Top 25 list last week and had early access to this, and all other scouting related articles that show up on the site. Click that orange banner above to see what all you can get for helping keep the site alive and kicking.

Just as a reminder, these write ups will not feature full scouting reports. Those will be included with the Season Reviews, which will start next week – first working my way through the Top 25 prospects before then branching out into another 50-75 interesting prospects through the remainder of the offseason.

*To be eligible for the list a player must have 2019 Rookie of the Year eligibility (Fewer than 130 at bats in the big leagues, fewer than 50 innings pitches or less than 45 days on the active MLB roster that doesn’t include September)*

16. Miguel Hernandez | SS | Age: 19

2018 Team: Greeneville, Billings | Acquired: Undrafted FA, 2015 | Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 170 lbs

After years of being dormant on spending money on international teenagers, the Cincinnati Reds broke through in the summer of 2015 and signed two of the top 30 players in the class. Miguel Hernandez was one of those players, along with outfielder Cristian Olivo. Hernandez has performed well since signing. This season the Reds assigned him to their new affiliate in Greeneville to begin the year. After a slow start in June, he hit .317 in the final 51 games of the season for the Reds in the Appalachian League with 13 walks and 26 strikeouts in 201 plate appearances.

After the Greeneville Reds season ended, Hernandez joined the Billings Mustangs for the final week of the year as they pushed for a spot in the playoffs. In his first game he went 2-6, but then went  0-18 with 3 walks and 2 strikeouts the rest of the season over the final six games. He spent nearly all of his time at shortstop while in the field, though he did play second base for the first time in his career for 37 innings.

Biggest Strength: Defense. Miguel Hernandez is an above-average defender at the toughest position on the field outside of catcher.

Biggest Weakness: Power. While there’s more power in there than the two home runs he hit in 2018, power is his lowest rated tool.

17. TJ Friedl | OF | Age: 23

2018 Team: Daytona, Pensacola | Acquired: Undrafted FA, 2016 | Height: 5′ 10″ | Weight: 170 lbs

After struggling in the second half with Daytona in 2017, the Cincinnati Reds sent TJ Friedl back to join the Tortugas to begin 2018. He didn’t struggle this time around. In the first half of the season he hit .294/.405/.412 with 38 walks and 44 strikeouts. The Florida State League wasn’t the same challenge for him and he earned a promotion to Double-A in the second half.

With the Blue Wahoos the 22-year-old had a few more struggles with the bat, but still held his own. Over the 67 games in the Southern League, Friedl hit .276/.359/.360. His power dried up some, which isn’t surprising given what we know about the ballpark in Pensacola and what it does to left handers. In total, he’d steal 30 bases and post a .381 on-base percentage while splitting time between left and center fields.

Biggest Strength: Speed. He’s an above-average runner and he uses it well on the bases and in the field.

Biggest Weakness: Power. There’s not a lot of power now, or projected power in the future to his game.

18. Keury Mella | RHP | Age: 25

2018 Team: Pensacola, Louisville, Cincinnati | Acquired: Undrafted FA, 2011 (Giants) | Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 200 lbs

Beginning the season in Double-A, Keury Mella was rather dominating for most of the first half. He would make 16 starts for the Blue Wahoos and post a 3.07 ERA over 85.0 innings. He walked 31 batters and had 87 strikeouts. It was a big improvement from his time in Pensacola the year before where he posted a 4.30 ERA during the year. That got him promoted to Triple-A. After three starts for the Bats and a 3.18 ERA he was called up to Cincinnati.

Over the next three weeks he’d pitch out of the Reds bullpen. The first two games were strong, but he really struggled in his final two appearances before returning to Louisville. With the Bats he would pitch in two more games. His season would end on August 24th, though, after exiting a start against Indianapolis with an oblique strain.

Biggest Strength: The fastball. In 2018 Mella found a bit more velocity than he had shown in the previous few seasons and it led to an uptick in strikeouts.

Biggest Weakness: His slider lags behind the fastball and change up.

19. Stuart Fairchild | OF | Age: 22

2018 Team: Dayton, Daytona| Acquired: 2nd round, 2017 Draft | Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 190 lbs

The season got out to a strong start for Stuart Fairchild. Assigned to the Dayton Dragons out of spring training, the outfielder split time in Dayton’s outfield between center and left field in the first half. While in the Midwest League he hit .277/.377/.460 where he stole 17 bases with 31 walks and 65 strikeouts.

It was in the second half of the season that saw him promoted to Daytona. After joining the Tortugas he saw his offense take a step backwards. The Florida State League sapped his power output, and the pitchers were a bit more stingy across the board. The downed walk rate and lower power led to a .250/.306/.350 line in the second half of the year. The totality of the season was solid, but it was a tale of two halves for the outfielder.

Biggest Strength: Speed. He’s got above-average speed and he’s capable of using it well in the field and on the bases.

Biggest Weakness: Power. He’s got fringe-average-ish power. It will play fine if he can remain in center, but if he has to slide to a corner position it could be the difference between being a starter or a 4th outfielder.

20. Aristides Aquino | OF | Age: 24

2018 Team: Pensacola, Cincinnati | Acquired: Undrafted FA, 2010 | Height: 6′ 4″ | Weight: 220 lbs

After a down season in Pensacola in 2017 the Reds sent Aristides Aquino back to Double-A to start with the Blue Wahoos once again. Things got out to a slow start for the right fielder once again. Through July 15th he hit just .237/.286/.406 with just 17 walks and he struck out 81 times. Things were not going well for the second year in a row.

After a few days off he returned to the lineup and everything seemed to change. In the final 36 games he significantly cut down on his strikeout rate, dropping it from 27.2% to 21.6%. His walk rate also improved from 5.7% to 12.2%. Those improvements also came with more power, as he slugged .535 down the stretch with 10 home runs, 5 doubles, and a triple. The overall production on the season was a bit better than the previous season, but he made real strides in the second half of the season with adjustments to his plate approach.

Biggest Strength: Power. He’s got plus power potential and it’s already an above-average skill he uses in games.

Biggest Weakness: Plate approach. While there were big strides made down the stretch this season, overall he’s going to have to show that over a longer stretch as it’s been something that’s plagued him for most of his career.

36 Responses

  1. Big Ed

    Fairchild showed me something after a very slow start at Daytona. After a 5-26 start in June, he slashed .228/.277/.293 in July. But in August he improved to .283/.330/.446, so it is a good sign that he can make adjustments.

    He has to cut down his strikeout rate, which was around 25% at both levels.

    • Stock

      But even the August numbers are substandard and below what you want from someone his age. .143 ISO and high K% tell me his ceiling is as a 5th OF an that is a reach, because he is not young for his age.

  2. Patrick

    After looking at the top 20 prospects and looking at the Reds roster. It is hard to have much hope for the future of this team unless the Reds get help from outside.

    It is the island of misfit toys. The players in the minors do not line up with filling the holes in the majors. The biggest hole being starting pitching. Outside of Greene I do not see one guy that looks to be better than Romano as a starter. I think Romano is only a starter on a 90 loss team better as a bullpen guy.

    Strength in the minors mirrors strengths in majors 2B, 3B.

    • Smitty

      I think you’re forgetting about Santillian?? Also, I still like Vladimir Gutierrez’s upside and what he brings to the table. This year will tell a lot for those 2. Also, We have a Top 10 farm system I believe, so far away from Island of Misfit Toys, unless you’re just in the holiday spirit already

      • Patrick

        Not forgetting Santillian. or Gutierrez they have shown me nothing special.
        Being 8-10 farm system just is not cutting it. They need to be 1-3 after 4 straight years of 90 losses where over that span THEY HAD THE WORST RECORD IN THE MAJORs.
        Being 8-10 just means more losing you can not make up the talent gap with that. It would be good if they were close to .500 club.

    • Big Ed

      You do realize that the rules allow teams to change a player’s position, don’t you? Henry Aaron started in the minor leagues as a second baseman, but the Braves managed to find a place for his bat.

      I think there is a misconception out there that most teams have maybe 6 minor league pitchers who project to be #1 or #2 starters. I am happy with a system that has Hunter Greene, Tony Santillan and Josiah Gray, although it would be nice to have a strong lefty, too. And you never know who among the pitchers without 95+ fastballs will turn into Kyle Hendrick or Cliff Lee. Today’s hitters are so geared up for big fastballs that a control and command guy leaves them befuddled.

    • Stock

      I agree with your assessment on Romano. Santillan does have a shot at being a worthy piece in the rotation. But the Reds need to go outside and get at least one quality SP. I think a good SP from outside could team with Castillo and DeSclafani to form a quality top 3. I personally thing they need 2 players from the outside. They also have to show Bailey the door unless he shows dramatic improvement.

      • Tom

        There just isn’t a reason to believe Desclafani will stay healthy.

  3. Norwood Nate

    Two guys show up here that I had sort of forgot about. I should have remembered Mella’s good numbers in the minors, but I think his performance in a SSS with the Reds tainted my view of him. Honestly, I still see him as bullpen depth, which means I wouldn’t rank him this high.

    With Aquino I don’t really consider him a prospect at this point. Second year st same level, still average-ish numbers. Upside of a first half Duvall in his prime both with power and OF arm. Similar plate discipline as well.

    I think Fairchild is a tad too low. A little surprised no Clementina in this range as well. I’d probably go with him over Aquino.

    • Stock

      I agree with your assessment on Aquino and Mella. However, I also feel Fairchild’s ceiling is about equal to Aquino but a little higher because he is younger and can play CF.

      • MK

        One strength not mentioned on Aquino is tremendous arm strength and accuracy. Aquino can become a player that can put a team on his back and carry them for a couple of weeks not sure Fairchild can do that. It too k Alex Blandino parts of three seasons at AA to figure it out and he certainly had a lot more experience, with his Stanford time, than Aquino. I think he is no less a prospect than the previous two winters.

  4. Smitty

    Hey Doug, thanks for the rankings! I’d like to see your comparisons of Siri and Friedl. I do agree Siri has more upside, especially with his speed/power combo. I do like Friedl a lot more than others. Maybe it is because of his potential to leadoff and his low strikeout rate.

    • Doug Gray

      The only advantage Friedl has is in plate discipline. Every other aspect of the game is going to Siri and by a lot. Now, that plate discipline does let Friedl hit for a higher average, and have a better on-base percentage. Those things matter, but they aren’t enough to make up the advantages in the other departments. I’m not sure that Friedl’s floor is higher because the floor seems to be 4th outfielder for both of them, and as a 4th outfielder Siri’s the better defender, better base runner, and guy more likely to be used as a pinch hitter. If you look at the ceiling….

    • Stock

      I am with you Smitty. I have Friedl in my top 10. Not much power but does everything else. Hard to imagine he is not an improvement to Billy Hamilton and Hamilton has a career WAR of 10.

      • Cguy

        A year ago Friedl wasn’t in Doug’s Top 25 Prospect List, now he’s solidly in the top 20 for the 2nd time. I wouldn’t consider him a top 10 yet, but 2018 laid the foundation for TJ to perhaps have a breakout season in 2019. India, Siani, & Gray have skewed the top 15 list. Richardson, a bit of a gift ranking. Still, a lot of talent in that top 20 list.

  5. Billy

    If memory serves, this is typically the range where we’d find the top relief prospect, and I think it is safe to say that Herget is the top relief prospect in the organization. Is this a sign that the organization has more depth than usual, or are the relief options not as solid as in a typical year?

    • SultanofSwaff

      Agreed. See my comment below about guys with a high probability of making the bigs even if it’s as a reliever (these guys are more valuable than you think!). Yes, it’s a no brainer to me to slot Herget and Rainey above Miguel Hernandez. I mean, take one look at the video of Hernandez ‘hitting’ and tell me he has any chance of making it to even AAA.

      • Billy

        Sultan, I feel like the rankings should be more reflective of potential impact players. Like bench guys, relievers are relatively easily replaced. Yes, a 4th OF does have value. But having a 4th OF isn’t going to be what moves the needle in making the team better.

        It’s just interesting to me that, in a world where relief pitching is becoming much more important, the Reds’ relief prospects don’t stack up to past years – at least relative to their respective prospect lists.

      • Doug Gray

        An overwhelming majority of Major League relievers were minor league starters and not minor league relievers. Take Keury Mella for example: Probably a reliever. Ranked here.

      • Billy

        Doug, Miguel Hernandez steps way back on his follow through with his back leg. It’s like he finishes his swing and steps completely out of the batter’s box behind him. Is that normal? I don’t see the same thing in Aquino or Friedl’s video. (In fact, Friedl steps toward the plate.) What causes that? Is it just a natural movement as a batter transitions to become a runner? Does it suggest that Hernandez is running before he finishes his swing? I’d just like to understand that mechanics better.

      • SultanofSwaff

        Billy, if you watch the video Hernandez’s back foot slides out on breaking pitches. Gives away any ability to hit the ball hard, as evidenced in how often he rolls over these pitches and grounds out. This will be easily exploited by more advanced pitchers imo.

      • Doug Gray

        Sultan isn’t exactly wrong here. But he kind of is, too.

        If Miguel Hernandez, a teenager, never makes any improvement in recognition of the breaking ball, then yes, he might have some issues moving forward. Odds are, though, like most guys, he’ll make some improvements in this area.

        Almost every hitter alive has their back foot come off of the ground during the swing. The transfer of energy causes it. It gets exaggerated when a guy is fooled/adjusting a little bit. Jose Peraza, for example, did it and still does it. But, he’s done it less as he’s aged and gotten a little better approach.

  6. SultanofSwaff

    I think people are sleeping on Friedl. Aside from speed, nothing about his game jumps out at you, but he can do everthing—bunt, field, excellent baserunner, take a walk when necessary……Point is, this kid has a very high floor.

    If I’m making the rankings, I’m always giving extra weight to guys like Friedl who have a much higher probability of making the majors even if it’s just as a 4th OF or reliever over more toolsy players with big holes in their game. It’s the Tucker Barnhart debate all over.

    • Champ Summers

      I mean if Sam Fuld can have an 8 year MLB career then TJ can certainly carve out a nice niche if he can take the next step forward. He is very likely a 4th type guy but he has the feel of a guy that could stick around for a few years.

  7. Stock

    Maybe I am focusing too much on age in my rankings but I have Finol and Santana ranked 16 and 17 and Doug does not have them in his top 25. I don’t have Mella, Fairchild or Aquino in my top 25 in large part because of their age. I know Mella and Aquino showed improvement in 2018. But at the end of the day Aquino’s ceiling is as a 5th OF and Mella’s ceiling is as a 7th man out of the pen. I don’t see that he is as good of an option out of the pen than Herget, Rainey or Powers. If Rainey could harness his control he would be well above him and Herget and Powers should probably be above him now. While Fairchild is not old for A+ ball he is not young either. He showed improvement late in the year but I feel he clearly showed his ceiling is as a 5th OF too. Santana has the potential to be an all-star. His improvement last year was incredible.

    Santana would without a doubt (in my mind) be a first round pick if he were eligible for the draft this June. Four players from last year’s draft make the top 15. If two second round picks are worthy of a top 15 spot then Santana should be right with them. There were ten players who are 18 years old taken in picks 21 – 73 (late first round through end of 2nd round). Of these 10 players only Jeremiah Jackson has stats that could be considered better than Santana who was 17. All 10 players started their career in one of the two complex leagues. Jackson was one of several players who was promoted. I would be surprised if Santana started this year in the AZL so in my mind he is ahead of all these players. He is ahead of Richardson although I think the difference is minimal and hard to determine. I also think that because of the lack of experience Richardson has the potential to improve more than any player in the system. Finally, Santana vastly improved his K/BB ratio as the year went on. This tells me he is focused on improving and must be working hard. I like this. I have never seen such a dramatic improvement in K/BB ratio in such a short period of time (15 in June, 4.5 in July and 2.2 in August). August’s 2.2 K/BB ratio and .260 ISO are fantastic. His August stats were better than Bautista’s stats this year. And he is 4 years younger and one level behind. I know this is only one month’s worth of stats but his month to month improvement is remarkable. The Reds brought him to the USA at age 17. The Reds brought Bautista to the USA at age 20. Seems the Reds have a lot more faith in Santana than they had in Bautista. And he proved them right. I feel he will start this year in the Pioneer league and I feel his stats will be comparable or better than the stats posted by Bautista.

    I know Finol showed no power but he is 18 and playing in the Appalachian League. Once he was given everyday AB he hit .300. I think he can play SS though with Miguel Hernandez at his level he didn’t get many chances. Again, all ten of the 18 year old prospects drafted picks 21 – 73 started at the complex level. He didn’t so it sounds to me as if he would have been available last spring he would have been a 1st round or at least a 2nd round pick. Again, the Reds drafted 4 players in the 1st or 2nd round (or paid 2nd round money). All four make the top 15. I think Finol belongs in the top 25.

    I have Mariel Bautista ranked 18 and Lyon Richardson ranked 19.

    • Doug Gray

      I’m not sure the term ceiling means what you think it means if you think the ceiling for Aristides Aquino is a 5th outfielder. Or that Keury Mella’s ceiling is the 7th guy out of the bullpen.

      • Stock

        Aquino will be 25 next April. with the exception of 1 AB (a strikeout) he has never had a PA above AA. He hit .240 in AA as a 24 year old. Sure he improved the 2nd half of the year but is still destined to K more than 25%. But the real killer for me with Aquino is that his IFFB rate in his two years in Penscola were 34% (2017) and 35.5% (2018). He would need to cut this in half for him to make my top 25. No one makes it to the majors with a 30+ IFFB rate (not even a catcher). The chance of him winning a full time starting position in the majors is close to zero if he is limited to Corner Outfield.

        As for Mella, I don’t think he will ever spend a full season in the majors. Maybe he will fill in due to injury but that is his ceiling. Look at the current situation of the Reds. These 7 pitchers were ranked higher by you when they were prospects, or ranked in top 100 prospects or signed contracts because they are proven.

        Brice, Garrett, Lorenzen, Hernandez, Iglesias, Hughes and Wisler

        Then you have other players ranked higher by you that will be pushed to the bullpen because of a lack of SP spots.

        Romano, Stephenson, Reed, Sims, Santillan and Mahle

        Will one or two of these make the rotation this year? That puts at 12 or 13 on the Reds depending on how many above are in the rotation.

        I am not sure what happened to him in AAA. The K’s disappeared. ERA was fine thanks to an excellent BABIP but was not impressed with his performance at Louisville. Even worse in the majors.

        I really don’t see Mella ever making the majors long term. You can argue his ceiling is 5th or 6th man out of the pen but you are splitting hairs here. My prediction is he will never have a full time gig in the majors.

      • Doug Gray

        Again, you don’t seem to understand what ceiling means. It’s not what you think will happen. It’s what would happen in a scenario where everything develops. The ceiling for Aristides Aquino is he’s a .270 hitter with 35 home runs and solid defense with a cannon for an arm in right field. That’s the ceiling. The ceiling for Mella is probably a #3 starter because his slider develops into a more reliable pitch and his control isn’t as spotty.

        You’re confusing ceiling with something else.

        But let’s talk Mella for a second. Guy can throw mid-to-upper 90’s (upper 90’s at times as a starter is where he’ll touch every so often). He’s got a good secondary offering and one that will flash itself as good. That’s not exactly the profile of the guy you bring out of a bullpen in the 5th inning. What else the Reds have doesn’t matter to this argument. That’s not how prospects are valued or ranked. There’s some risk involved with Mella because yeah, he’s unproven. Like literally every other prospect.

      • Stock

        I guess our difference on ceiling is realistic ceiling vs. ultimate ceiling.

        Mella’s best pitch is his fastball. As a relief pitcher for the Reds he never averaged 95.5 on any given night. This is as a RP. As a SP it is going to be even less. ML batter’s destroyed his slider and change-up. I guess he could dramatically improve both pitches and become a #3 SP. But realistically at age 25 he is what he is. He is a good AA pitcher that will struggle in AAA over the course of the year. He will never make it in the majors on a permanent basis. If he does it will be as the last man in the bullpen.

        If Aquino changes his swing and approach so he is not giving away so many easy outs a team would give him a chance. But he turns 25 next year and realistically that just doesn’t happen. The research I just completed found one regular position player in the majors this year who did not appear above AA prior to their age 25 season. The Twins picked up Willians Astudilio as a Minor League FA last winter and he finished the season as the primary catcher after every other catcher hit the DL. There were players that appeared in AAA for several years and were called up this year because of injury (Jake Cave for example). For the Reds Ryan Freel and Chris Dickerson come to mind. But Freel made AAA at age 22 and Dickerson never had a starting gig.

        In short I could not find a position player who never played above AA prior to his age 25 season who had a full time starting position in the majors. That may change next year if Astudillo becomes the starting catcher for the Twins. It would also change if Aquino became a regular. Since the odds are less than 1% I am going to assume his ceiling is as a 5th OF.

        I do understand your view. And a few years ago that was his ceiling. I think that ceilings change. Can he make the adjustments necessary to hit his ceiling? Sure. But history says that at age 25 father time leaves him little chance.

      • Doug Gray

        You’re confusing ceiling with something else. I’m not entirely sure what I’d call it exactly, but it’s not ceiling.

  8. Michael Smith

    Stock I do not think there are two types of ceilings. It is the peak of what you could be. Realistic ceiling is describing what you think the player will be.

    • RedsFaninPity

      I agree with Stock, whether ceiling is ultimate or realistic, in the case of Aquino it needs to be adjusted downward. Given the younger talent in the system, Aquino shouldn’t be in the top 25 now imo. Aquino = Yorman Rodriguez in my book.

    • RedsFaninPitt

      I agree with Stock, whether ceiling is ultimate or realistic, in the case of Aquino it needs to be adjusted downward. Given the younger talent in the system, Aquino shouldn’t be in the top 25 now imo. Aquino = Yorman Rodriguez in my book.

  9. The Duke

    If Hernandez can get only enough power to where they have to respect him, then i’m very bullish on his overall skill set. The contact rate was excellent this year, the arm is good, and the defense at SS is plus. He needs to walk a bit more, but he’s made some strides in that department and wasn’t overmatched as an 18/19 year old playing above complex leagues. I still think it might be best for him to start 2019 in Billings, but a large part of that depends on how he looks in spring training. He’s young enough and has enough of a frame to where I think we can expect him to add about 10-15 lbs of muscle over the next couple years without affecting his athleticism. He’ll never be a power hitter, but I don’t think 10 a year over a season playing in GABP is out of the question.