The Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect list isn’t quite balanced. There are only nine pitchers in the Top 25, with 16 position players on the list. Today we are going to look at the nine pitchers that did make the list and look at where it’s likely that each of them start. This is a guess from before I made it to spring training. Injuries or performance could change this.
Hunter Greene (#2) | Right-Handed Pitcher
The 2018 season for Hunter Greene was cut short when he suffered a partial tear of his UCL in his pitching elbow. He opted for rehab rather than Tommy John surgery, and things seemed to go well with that route. At least to this point. He spent his season last year with the Dayton Dragons, and he performed well – dominating for the final two months while he was playing. The next step would seem to be a jump up to Daytona. But I’m not so sure that he’s going to begin the year with the Tortugas.
There’s a few reasons for that: First, the Reds are still going to want to limit his innings. Second, he’s still coming back from a torn UCL, and while there’s no report that he’s not healthy – giving him extra time isn’t a bad idea. Third, he’s gone from being listed on the “Dayton Dragons alumni roster” for their 20th anniversary game to not being listed on it. While not every player on that roster was going to be scheduled to play, it’s an interesting change that may be telling. With all of that going on, my guess is that he will begin the season by staying back in Goodyear before joining Daytona after the season begins. Projected at the start of the season: Extended Spring Training.
Tony Santillan (#4) | Right-Handed Pitcher
In 2018 Tony Santillan split his season between Advanced-A Daytona and Double-A Pensacola. In Daytona he made 15 starts with a 2.70 ERA, 22 walks, and 73 strikeouts in 86.2 innings. When he moved up to Pensacola in the second half he made another 11 starts. That came with a 3.61 ERA in 62.1 innings with 16 walks and 61 strikeouts.
In some other years I would have thought that with a good performance in the second half of 2018 at Double-A it would make for a promotion to Triple-A. But this year the amount of starting pitching depth may keep a guy like Tony Santillan back in Double-A to begin the year and get a little more time at the level. I would hedge my bet that he could begin in Triple-A, but I’ll favor heading back to Double-A slightly in this case. Projected at the start of the season: Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
Vladimir Gutierrez (#8) | Right-Handed Pitcher
The 2018 season was tough at the start for Vladimir Gutierrez. In his first 11 starts for Double-A Pensacola he posted a 6.75 ERA in 54.2 innings while allowing 10 home runs. Over the next, and final 16 starts of the season he was rather dominant. He threw 92.1 innings with just 8 home runs allowed and posted an ERA of 2.92 in that span.
Similar to Tony Santillan, the depth could be a deciding factor for where Vladimir Gutierrez begins his season. That he had a full season in Double-A last year, though, gives me the thought that he will get the bump up to Triple-A to begin the 2019 season. I would hedge it a little bit with the idea that he could return to Double-A and join Chattanooga, but Triple-A is my guess. Projected at the start of the season: Triple-A Louisville Bats.
Lyon Richardson (#11) | Right-Handed Pitcher
The Cincinnati Reds second round draft pick in 2018 had a rough introduction to professional baseball last year. In 11 starts for the Greeneville Reds he posted a 7.14 ERA in just 29.0 innings. He walked 16 batters and had 24 strikeouts.
Historically the Reds haven’t been aggressive promoting many 19-year-olds to begin their first full season out of the gate. With Lyon Richardson that seems even more likely to be the case given his pitching history and experience. Look for him to begin the year in Goodyear back in extended spring. Projected at the start of the season: Extended Spring Training.
Keury Mella (#15) | Right-Handed Pitcher
Last year saw Keury Mella pitch at three different levels. The then 24-year-old began the year in Double-A, making 16 starts with a 3.07 ERA. He then made another five starts in Triple-A where he posted a 2.74 ERA. For the second season in a row he would also see limited action in Cincinnati. With the Reds he pitched in four games out of the bullpen.
With the amount of starting pitching depth the Reds have it will be interesting to see what they do when it comes to the role for Keury Mella. He’s going to begin the year in the minors, and at the Triple-A level. The question is will he be in the rotation or will he be in the bullpen? It’s tough to see where he’s a starting moving forward. Is this the year he gets pushed into a relief role full time? Projected at the start of the season: Triple-A Louisville Bats.
Jimmy Herget (#20) | Right-Handed Pitcher
The 2018 season was the worst of the minor league career for Jimmy Herget. And that says a whole lot about how good his career has been. The reliever spent the entire season in Triple-A Louisville where he posted a 3.47 ERA in 59.2 innings. He allowed just five home runs, walked 21 batters, and he had 65 strikeouts. In no way was his season anything but successful.
There’s a few spots potentially open in the Cincinnati bullpen. How the team handles who steps into the rotation for Alex Wood to begin the season – as they likely will need at least a short-term filler – could make for an extra spot. That could go to Jimmy Herget, who is on the 40-man and has very little to prove in the minors at this point. But he’s got options and that could be working against him when several other pitchers vying for the bullpen spots can’t be sent back to the minors without exposing them to waivers. Fairly or unfairly, sometimes that’s just how the game works. Because of that, I’ll hedge my bet on him heading back to Triple-A to begin the season. Projected at the start of the season: Triple-A Louisville Bats.
James Marinan (#21) | Right-Handed Pitcher
The Reds acquired James Marinan half-way through the 2018 season. The then 19-year-old was pitching for the Arizona League Dodgers, having made three starts on the season when he was traded to Cincinnati. The Reds sent the teenager to Billings to join the Mustangs. Once he arrived he made 11 starts in the hitting friendly Pioneer League, posting a 3.98 ERA in 43.0 innings with 19 walks, 1 home run allowed, and 39 strikeouts. The next logical step would be a bump up to Dayton. He’s had some success in Billings, and at 20, the age and experience isn’t something that should hold him back. Projected at the start of the season: Low-A Dayton Dragons.
Ryan Hendrix (#23) | Right-Handed Pitcher
To say that Ryan Hendrix dominated the Florida State League in 2018 would be an understatement. The then 23-year-old posted a 1.76 ERA for the Daytona Tortugas in 2018. He racked up 12 saves, allowed just 2 home runs, and he struck out 79 batters in 51.0 innings. He did walk 26 batters on the year, but his walk rate dramatically improved as the season went along. Now a 24-year-old, there’s no reason to keep him from moving up to Double-A Chattanooga. Projected at the start of the season: Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
Joel Kuhnel (#25) | Right-Handed Pitcher
While teammate Ryan Hendrix racked up 12 saves, it was Joel Kuhnel who led Daytona with 17 saves. He pitched in 44 games and finished 35 of them while posting a 3.04 ERA for the Tortugas. In his 53.1 innings he walked just 11 batters – and 2 of those were intentional. He would also rack up 56 strikeouts and allowed just 2 home runs on the season. Much like Hendrix, there’s no reason that Kuhnel shouldn’t get promoted to Double-A to begin the year. Projected at the start of the season: Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.