Cincinnati Reds instructional league is officially over. Without a 2020 season to play, instructional league was more important this year than it has been in the past. For most of the guys who were out in the greater Phoenix area it was their first on-field time since March right before spring training shut down. Not all of the players were out on the field with their teammates for the first time, though. Austin Hendrick was among a handful of true prospects who got a taste of some action later in the year at Prasco Park with the alternate site roster.
For Austin Hendrick his introduction to professional baseball was a bit different than it would be in a normal year. In a typical season a guy with his 1st round pedigree would have spent time playing in Goodyear with the AZL Reds, in Greeneville with the Reds, or in Billings with the Mustangs. In those leagues he would have been playing against other players who were recently drafted, or younger international players. Instead, Hendrick spent the last two weeks of September facing guys like Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Ryan Hendrix, Tony Santillan – top prospects in the organization with far more experience and stuff that he would almost assuredly never have seen in rookie ball. There were also guys at Prasco who had pitched in the big leagues like R.J. Alaniz, David Carpenter, José De León, Brandon Finnegan, Jay Jackson, and Joel Kuhnel.
On Tuesday, Austin Hendrick posted some video over on Instagram of him hitting a home run off of Cleveland Indians #8 prospect Ethan Hankins, who was their 1st round pick (35th overall) in 2018.
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Last week I had a chance to speak with VP of Player Development Shawn Pender about Austin Hendrick and how he’s looked on the field this year.
“”He’s looked really good. He’s swung the bat very well,” said Pender. “He’s a very conscientious worker. He’s shown a strong arm. Some of the experience things, like base running and outfield play – he’s actually made a couple of really nice plays. He runs the bases very aggressively. There’s things he need to improve on, and the great thing about him is that he’s an open book and always asking questions and really diligently doing all of the things we’ve asked. Really pleased with what I’ve seen thus far.”
Ryan Nutof adding a little extra velocity
Ryan Nutof, unlike Hendrick, didn’t get on the field this year until instructs. In 2019 he split his season between Daytona and Chattanooga. He dominated in Daytona, posting a 2.61 ERA in 31.0 innings with 8 walks and 39 strikeouts. Things slowed down a little in Chattanooga as he posted a 5.89 ERA in 18.1 innings with 9 walks and 17 strikeouts. The right-handed reliever hasn’t been known as a soft tosser by any stretch, but hasn’t been a guy that’s been known as a particularly hard thrower, either. He’s reached back for 98 MPH over the past month out in Arizona, though – up about 2 MPH from where he’s peaked at in the past.
Other news and notes
Alex Johnson was one of the more interesting signings from the 2019 draft. Taken in the 36th round out of high school in Buffalo, he was projectable at 6′ 6″ – but also had not pitched much in high school. During the shut down, Johnson worked with Hunter Greene according to Kyle Boddy. He’s out in Arizona and while he’s been inconsistent at times – which is to be expected given his limited pitching experience – he’s looked good at times.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts that the Reds will sign Didi Gregorius to a 3-year deal this offseason. That would certainly be an interesting development, particularly with what it would mean for Jose Garcia. It feels like Garcia still needs some time in the minor leagues to work on his hitting, it doesn’t feel like he’s going to need three years, either. Too much talent is never a problem to worry about, but if you get to that point it means you need to find ways to maximize what you have and that leaves a lot of questions about what Cincinnati would do in that scenario if and when Garcia were to show he was ready to step into the big leagues and hit the ground running.
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