Over at Baseball America this morning Josh Norris wrote about the 10 possible Major League Baseball Prospect Super Teams in 2020 for all levels of Minor League Baseball. The Cincinnati Reds didn’t land a team on the list – which isn’t surprising given that Baseball America rated the Reds farm system as the 28th in all of baseball (a rating that I disagree with – but, they didn’t ask my opinion on it).
With that said, I still found it to be a fun thing to look at and to think about. Rosters for the assignments in the minor leagues won’t be finalized until a few days before the regular season begins – and even then there are some moves that happen after the rosters are released at times. For the most part, though, those moves usually don’t involve the higher rated prospects on the teams.
When it comes to the Cincinnati Reds farm system, one deal feels a little bit more prospect heavy than the others: The Chattanooga Lookouts. That is, of course, if my estimated assignments are correct. Among my current Top 25 Reds prospects, eight of them are going to be in Chattanooga. But, there’s some wiggle room on a few of those guys, too, with where they could ultimately be assigned. Let’s take a look at the breakdown:
Shortstop Jose Garcia: The #4 overall prospect in the Reds organization, Garcia led the Florida State League in doubles last season while hitting .280/.343/.436 for Daytona. Odds he winds up in Chattanooga to begin the year are incredibly high – let’s say 95%. Tough to see how he would be asked to repeat Daytona after last year, and it’s very unlike the Reds (or most any team) to have a guy jump over Double-A.
Third Baseman Jonathan India: Cincinnati’s #6 overall prospect, India finished the 2019 season with Chattanooga. He only played in 34 games with the Lookouts in the second half after being promoted there from Advanced-A Daytona. Overall on the season he hit .259/.365/.402 between the two stops, but he made strides with the Lookouts as he bumped up his walk rate in a big way, and cut down on his strikeout rate. Still, just 34 games doesn’t tend to get a position player bumped up unless they just absolutely dominate a league. Much like Garcia, it feels very safe that India will begin his season in Chattanooga.
Outfielder Stuart Fairchild: Fairchild is the Reds #7 overall prospect, and much like Jonathan India, split time between Daytona and Chattanooga last season. Fairchild performed well in his 42 games with the Lookouts, hitting .275/.380/.444 with 19 walks and 23 strikeouts. He spent a little bit more time in Double-A, but it was still under half of a season. With his success there it does make it a tad more likely he could jump up to Triple-A to begin the season, but given the outfield depth in spring training at the Major League level it leaves some spots potentially unavailable in Louisville. Combine all of that and it feels safe to assume that Fairchild will start out with the Lookouts – but there’s a small shot he begins with the Bats in Louisville.
Outfielder TJ Friedl: The Reds #10 prospect didn’t have the most ideal 2019 season. He spent the first half in Chattanooga where he hit .235/.347/.385. His average was low, but the peripherals behind his stats were good. But his season ended early after an ankle injury required surgery in early July that shut him down for the rest of the year. Half of a season in Chattanooga with solid last season with some solid peripherals probably brings him back to the Lookouts in 2020 to begin the season.
Outfielder Jameson Hannah: Acquired in a trade-deadline deal with Oakland, Hannah, the Reds #19 prospect joined Daytona for August after spending the earlier part of the season in Advanced-A Stockton while in the Athletics organization. Between the two stops at the level he hit .274/.339/.369 with 34 extra-base hits in 110 games. That performance feels like it’s enough to get him the bump up to Double-A Chattanooga – though it’s possible that the outfield crunch could be felt and he could return to the Tortugas to begin the season. Still, it seems more likely he makes the jump to Double-A.
Starting Pitcher Tony Santillan: After a breakout 2018 season, Santillan, the Reds #5 prospect, returned to Double-A in 2019 after making 11 second half starts at the level the previous season. Things didn’t quite go the same for the right-handed starter as he posted a 4.84 ERA while watching his walk rate jump up and his strikeout rate decline. He battled a few injuries during the season – nothing long term or serious, but enough that he made three different trips to the injured list and threw just 102.1 innings during the season. It’s possible he could jump to Triple-A with 164.2 career innings under his belt in Double-A, but his struggled last season make it seem more likely he’ll head back to Chattanooga to start the season.
Starting Pitcher Packy Naughton: The Reds #22 overall prospect, Naughton put together one of the best seasons among starting pitchers in the organization in 2019. He began in Daytona, but quickly earned a promotion to Double-A after just nine starts for Daytona. Between his two stops last year he posted a 3.32 ERA in 157.0 innings. He threw just over 100 innings in Double-A last season, so there’s a change his performance and experience there could lead to a promotion to Triple-A to begin the season. It’s a bit more of a coin-flip than some of the other players here, but I’m leaning towards a start in Chattanooga.
Reliever Ryan Hendrix: Cincinnati’s #15 prospect, Hendrix may have the best pure stuff of any reliever in the organization. In the last two seasons he’s posted ERA’s of 1.76 and 1.85, and last season he pitched with Chattanooga. But he only threw 19.1 innings at the level – missing three months in the middle of the season with an elbow injury. He returned late in the year, throwing 9.0 innings in eight games during August. Teams can and do get a little more aggressive with reliever promotions, so it’s possible that despite having just 19.1 innings in Double-A under his belt that Hendrix could jump to Triple-A. With his stuff, that wouldn’t be surprising, but we’ll lean slightly towards a return to the Lookouts.