As we are coming out of the All-Star break, it seems that means it’s time for many places to begin to update their pre-season Top Prospect lists. A few days ago it was the crew at Baseball Prospectus who did just that. Today it’s ESPN who is updating their list. You’ll need an ESPN+ subscription to read their entire list. But, like the Baseball Prospectus list, two Cincinnati Reds prospects made the cut. The two players, however, weren’t the same. Taylor Trammell was on both lists and the top on the list from the organization. But Jonathan India, who made the Baseball Prospectus list, missed out here. Hunter Greene, however, showed up quite high on the ESPN list. Be sure to note that draft picks are included, but players in the Majors are not even if they have eligibility remaining.
Outfielder Taylor Trammell hasn’t had the best statistical season in Double-A this year. He’s hitting just .249 and slugging just .345 for the Chattanooga Lookouts thus far. His stats didn’t prevent him from being rated as the #14 overall prospect in the minor leagues.
The lack of power output has been a big reason he’s hitting for a low average. As I have noted here several times this year – no one really doubts that the power is in there and will be there in the future. So the fact that it’s not playing just yet, as a 21-year-old in Double-A, isn’t much of a concern. The write up at ESPN notes much of that, too.
So I’m sanguine we aren’t seeing the real Trammell, who is a plus runner with a very good eye at the plate, above-average raw power and very quick hands. He’s a future left fielder because of his arm, but his other four tools are strong enough to make him a good regular or a star there.
The part of the write up before that notes that Taylor Trammell has dealt with several injuries this year – to his fingers from a collision with the wall in spring training, to a hamstring issue he had last month. And that’s certainly worth noting. The average and slugging both will improve with health, time, and maturation.
What’s been impressive to see is the plate discipline improvements that he’s made this year. In 76 games this season, Trammell has walked 51 times and struck out 70 times. The strikeout rate is where’s it been every year of his career, between 21.5% and 22.8%. But is walk rate has climbed every single year. It was strong in 2016 in his first professional year when he walked 9.1% of the time. This season that number has climbed to 16.5%. That’s a rate that would be among the best in Major League Baseball if, of course, it were happening at the highest level.
Right-handed pitcher Hunter Greene hasn’t pitched since late March. It was last July that he tore his UCL in his pitching elbow. It wasn’t a full tear (they rarely are), but it was a small enough tear that rehab was considered an option. There are more than a few successes with going that route, even on the Reds who can point to Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani who both went the rehab route after tearing their UCL and never wound up needing Tommy John surgery.
That was not the case for Hunter Greene. His rehab process seemed to be going well, and he even pitched during spring training of 2019. Here’s video from the third week of March.
But the next time he took the mound after that video was shot, he re-injured his elbow, this time tearing his UCL to the point that rehab wasn’t going to be an option. He underwent Tommy John surgery in early April and is expected to miss at least the next year.
But, his upside is nearly unrivaled. And when he’s been healthy, he’s been dominant at times. After a tough start in the first few weeks of 2018, he went on a run of 58.2 innings with a 2.91 ERA, 13 walks, and 71 strikeouts in 58.2 innings before the injury shut him down. Here’s a part of what the ESPN write up had to say about their 22nd rated player.
Greene could be the best pitching prospect in the minors … but he’s hurt, missing all of this year and part of next due to Tommy John surgery, so we’ll have to wait until next year to see his 80 fastball and athletic delivery again.
There were six prospects that got a nod in the “honorable mention” section. None of them were Cincinnati Reds prospects. Both Taylor Trammell and Hunter Greene dropped in the rankings from the pre-season ESPN list. Trammell was ranked 12th coming into the year. Greene was ranked 16th. Neither is down much, but four guys ahead of them both graduated from that list, too.