Over the weekend we took a look at where I projected each of the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect Pitchers for their starting spot in 2019. Today we are going to look at the position players, which make up 16 of the 25 spots on the list. This is a guess from before I made it to spring training. Injuries or performance could change this.
Nick Senzel (#1) | Outfield
Nick Senzel is being groomed, at least in 2019, as an outfielder. A lot of things after 2019 could change – but for now, he’s being viewed as an outfielder. It seems like his bat is, and has been ready for about a year now. And he likely would have made his Major League debut in 2018 had he not been injured for the second half of the season. A position switch from third base/second base to center field was made in the offseason to try and find a spot for his bat in the Reds lineup in 2019.
Everyone is saying the right things, but management also seems to be hedging their bets publicly a little bit, too. Color me optimistic that they will go with the best 25 guys at the outset of the season and he’ll wind up in Cincinnati. But I’d be crazy if I didn’t think it was more of a 55/45 situation with Triple-A being the 45 on that scale. Projected at the start of the season: Cincinnati.
Taylor Trammell (#3) | Outfield
The 2018 season was spent entirely in Advanced-A Daytona for Taylor Trammell. In 110 games played during the season he hit .277/.375/.406 with 25 steals, 58 walks, and 105 strikeouts. His season was a tale of two halves. In April and May he hit a combined .308/.418/.491 with 29 walks and 37 strikeouts. From June through the end of the season he saw his numbers take a step back, hitting .256/.346/.349 with 29 walks and 68 strikeouts in 65 games played.
Even though he saw his numbers decline in the second half, it was still better than the league average in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. There’s not much reason to keep Trammell from being moved up to the next level. Short of an injury keeping him back in Arizona he should be a lock to join Double-A Chattanooga to start the year. Projected at the start of the season: Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
Jonathan India (#5) | Third Base
After beating up on the SEC pitchers for Florida, the Cincinnati Reds picked Jonathan India with the 5th overall selection in the 2018 Major League Baseball draft. He was assigned to the Reds new affiliate in Greeneville for his first professional stop. It didn’t last long, hitting .261/.452/.543 with more walks than strikeouts in his two-and-a-half week stay. He then moved up to Billings. That stay was even shorter – less than a week. An injury opened a spot in Dayton and the Cincinnati brass moved him to the Midwest League to join the Dragons. In the final month of the season he flashed some things, but struggled a little bit at the plate. He hit .229/.339/.396 in 112 plate appearances.
With his pedigree, and with some experience already in Dayton, historically he would move on up to Advanced-A Daytona. With a new farm director it’s not entirely known how promotions like this will be handled as the track record isn’t there to lean on. Still, it seems more likely that a move up to the Florida State League is in order. Projected at the start of the season: Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas.
Tyler Stephenson (#6) | Catcher
Much like Taylor Trammell, Tyler Stephenson spent his entire 2018 season with the Daytona Tortugas in the Florida State League. Also like Trammell, Stephenson got his season out to a great start. He hit .351/.440/.519 in April with as many walks as strikeouts – 11. But over the next four months only one of them saw an OPS over .700. In his 109 games played he hit .250/.338/.492 with 20 doubles and 11 home runs. He also caught 97 of those games for the Tortugas – making it through a full season for the first time since he was drafted in 2015.
There’s not much of a reason that Tyler Stephenson shouldn’t move up a level. While there was some inconsistency at the plate in 2018, overall he hit better than the league average. And he made improvements throughout the year behind the plate, too. Projected at the start of the season: Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
Jose Siri (#7) | Outfield
Without a spring training to work with due to an injured thumb during the first game, the Reds sent Jose Siri to Advanced-A Daytona when he was ready to begin play in early May. His stay wasn’t long – he played in just 30 games and hit .261/.280/.395 in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. Despite struggles with getting on base – he had just four walks and struck out 32 times – he was promoted to Double-A Pensacola in June. In some ways, Siri improved. He walked at a much higher rate, and his power took off – his isolated power was a very impressive .245. But he also saw his strikeout rate explode as he fanned 32% of the time he came to the plate in Double-A and hit just .229/.300/.474 in 66 games played.
The Reds have generally been over-aggressive with their promotions of Jose Siri given his struggles in the strikeout-to-walk ratio department. Eventually he’s always made it work, but it has almost always been on the second go-around of a league. My hope is they’ve figured it out and send him back to Double-A to begin the year and let him find success. Projected at the start of the season: Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
Mariel Bautista (#9) | Outfield
In each of the last three seasons, Mariel Bautista has hit .320 of better for the Dominican Summer League Rojos, Arizona League Reds, and Billings Mustangs. It was the 2018 season in which he really broke out, though – finding previously untapped raw power and taking it to the games. He hit .330/.386/.541 with 24 extra-base hits in 56 games played. That included eight home runs. In the previous three seasons – all as a teenager, he had five total home runs. Bautista also stole 16 bases while having 16 walks and 29 strikeouts on the year.
Now a 21-year-old, the toolsy outfielder should be locked into the Dayton Dragons outfield. He’s done nothing but hit since he turned 18, and after last years breakout he really started to show the potential he’s got at the plate. Projected at the start of the season: Low-A Dayton Dragons.
Mike Siani (#10) | Outfield
The Reds picked up Mike Siani in the 4th round of the 2018 draft and gave him 1st round money to pass up college and join the organization. After he signed in early July he was assigned to the newest affiliate in the chain in Greeneville. The center fielder played in 46 games and racked up 205 plate appearances. In that time he hit .288/.351/.386 with 16 walks and 35 strikeouts.That came along with six steals and excellent defense.
You could make an argument for either Billings or Dayton for the assignment in 2019. I’d hedge a small bet that extended spring training then Billings could be a possibility. But my gut says that he’s heading to Dayton to start the year in center for the Dragons. Projected at the start of the season: Low-A Dayton Dragons.
Jose Garcia (#12) | Shortstop
One of the three big Cuban free agent signings, Jose Garcia didn’t play in the year that he signed as he dealt with getting the paperwork cleared. In 2018 he performed very well in spring training, and that led to the Reds being aggressive with their plan and sending him to Dayton. With the Dragons he struggled at the plate. In 125 games he hit just .245/.290/.344. His OPS improved every month of the season, but only August was over .700. Defensively, though, he stood out at shortstop with good range and a very strong arm.
With the offensive struggles, particularly the pitch recognition/plate discipline that led to just 19 walks and 112 strikeouts on the season, it would make plenty of sense to have the shortstop repeat his season in Dayton and see if he could build upon his late-season offensive turn around. But with another shortstop prospect coming up behind him who could use a shot in full-season ball, I get the feeling he gets the bump up to Daytona. Hedge that with a small chance he returns to the Dragons. Projected at the start of the season: Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas.
Miguel Hernandez (#13) | Shortstop
In the 2015 international signing period the Reds went big and signed two of the Top 30 players in the class. Miguel Hernandez was one of those guys. In 2018 he moved up from complex level baseball to the new affiliate in Greeneville. In his 60 games played he hit .301/.338/.406. That came with 11 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 13 walks, and 37 strikeouts. He also showed off quality defense at shortstop.
As noted above in the Jose Garcia write up, Hernandez could use a jump up to full-season baseball. That could push Garcia up, perhaps sooner than he should be. But if the team decides that Garcia should return to Dayton, it may mean that Hernandez stays back in extended spring training and goes to Billings when their season begins. I’d hedge that bet, but put a little more on him starting in Dayton. Projected at the start of the season: Low-A Dayton Dragons.
TJ Friedl (#14) | Outfield
The 2018 season saw TJ Friedl take another step forward towards the ultimate goal of reaching the Major Leagues. The outfielder split his season between Advanced-A Daytona with the Tortugas and Double-A Pensacola with the Blue Wahoos. Between his two stops he played in 131 games and hit .284/.381/.384. His OPS did drop by 100 points from Daytona to Pensacola – dropping about 50 points each in on-base percentage and slugging.
Without the trade with the Dodgers adding two more outfielders to the Reds big league roster, the trickle down may have helped land TJ Friedl in Triple-A to begin the season. But that did happen. And that’s going to mean he’s likely heading back to Double-A where he only played in 67 games last season. Projected at the start of the season: Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
Stuart Fairchild (#16) | Outfield
The season got started in 2018 for Stuart Fairchild with an assignment to the Dayton Dragons. In the first half of the season he played well there, hitting .277/.377/.460 with 31 walks and 65 strikeouts. The outfielder was then promoted to Advanced-A Daytona to join the Tortugas. His offense declined with the promotion to the more pitcher friendly league. In 63 games in the second half with Daytona he hit .250/.306/.350 with 17 walks and 63 strikeouts.
With the decline in the second half with Daytona last year, and the depth ahead of him heading to/likely remaining in Double-A, it seems like a good fit for him to return to the Tortugas. Projected at the start of the season: Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas.
Aristides Aquino (#17) | Outfield
The entirety of Aristides Aquino’s 2018 minor league season was spent in Double-A Pensacola. But his season wasn’t spent entirely in the minors. He saw very brief action in the Major Leagues, getting one at-bat for Cincinnati. His season was a tale of two-halves. Aquino finished strong, posting an .807 OPS in the final 53 games of the season. In the first 62 games, though, he struggled for the most part – hitting .231/.288/.417.
After the year he was non-tendered by the Reds, but signed almost immediately after that to return to the club. He’s spent each of the last two seasons in Double-A, and while he hasn’t thrived, he made strides in the second half. And with a set of prospects targeted for Double-A it could lead to a move up to Triple-A in order to get playing time for everyone. Projected at the start of the season: Triple-A Louisville Bats.
Andy Sugilio (#18) | Outfield
The season started out well for Andy Sugilio, going 3-5 with a double in the first game of the year. But the second game of the season didn’t go as well as he left with a hamstring injury and missed the next five weeks. When he returned he didn’t quite look healthy and at times looked to still be favoring his hamstring. He struggled to hit through July before turning things up in the final month of the season.
The tools are there, and overall his season in 2018 wasn’t bad, but it didn’t go great, either. He hit .278, but had just a .308 on-base percentage with a .380 slugging percentage. The argument could be made to send him back to Dayton, but there will be guys coming up that also need playing time so he’ll get bumped up to get his, too. Projected at the start of the season: Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas.
Hendrik Clementina (#19) | Catcher
In 2018 Hendrik Clementina split time at the catcher and designated hitter position with the Dayton Dragons. He played in 96 games and showed off plenty of pop, hitting 22 doubles, a triple, and 18 home runs in just 376 plate appearances. His .824 OPS was tops on the team for players with at least 300 trips to the plate. Behind the plate he showed improvement during the season. The 21-year-old should be moving up to Daytona to join the Tortugas when the season begins. Projected at the start of the season: Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas.
Jonathan Willems (#22) | Second Base
Completely off the radar entering 2018, Jonathan Willems broke out a bit with the Greeneville Reds in 2018. In 55 games the 19-year-old hit .263/.300/.470 – showing off good pop in his bat and interesting offensive tools. He did struggle with his plate discipline/pitch recognition, walking just 8 times all season and striking out 57 times in 61 total games between Greeneville and Billings. Defensively he struggled, making 24 errors in 58 games in the field – mostly at second base.
The plate discipline and the fielding issues could certainly be made as a reason to keep him in extended spring training and send him to Billings when their year begins in June. If the Reds choose to keep Jose Garcia back in Dayton and also promote Miguel Hernandez up and have them split the middle infield spots it would also push Willems back to extended spring. Hedge that on the lower end, and expect him to begin with the Dragons. Projected at the start of the season: Low-A Dayton Dragons.
Michael Beltre (#24) | Outfield
The season began for Michael Beltre in 2018 back in extended spring training, but he was in Dayton for the second straight year before the end of April was up. And he played like he was making up for lost time, hitting .297/.404/.448 before earning a promotion at midseason to Advanced-A Daytona. The power output didn’t follow, which isn’t unexpected given the pitcher friendly nature of the Florida State League. But the plate discipline did follow as he walked 40 times with just 48 strikeouts, while hitting .261/.390/.362 in 58 games during the second half.
Where Michael Beltre winds up could be a coin flip. Heading back to Daytona for a little more time wouldn’t be out of the question. But moving up to a crowded Double-A outfield could also make some sense – he’d just likely have to spend more time moving around between the field and the designated hitters role. My coin flip lands on heading back to Daytona, but it really does seem like a coin-flip situation here. Projected at the start of the season: Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas.