Thursday morning saw Kiley McDaniel release his version of the Top 100 prospects in baseball list over at ESPN. You need to be an ESPN+ subscriber to see the whole list. The Cincinnati Reds have three players on the list, and just like nearly every other list we’ve seen from reputable publications this offseason, the Reds top prospect is someone that another place rated behind several other of Cincinnati’s prospects.

Kiley McDaniel tabs catcher Tyler Stephenson as the organization’s top prospect and ranks him as the #35 prospect in baseball. That’s the second highest ranking for any of the organization’s prospects this offseason – Hunter Greene was rated 28th overall by Keith Law of The Athletic. Greene also made the ESPN list today, as did shortstop Jose Garcia. Both players were on the back half of the Top 100.

For Tyler Stephenson, McDaniel notes that there’s a high floor for the catcher, but that if he gets the most out of his tools that he could be one of the better catchers in the entire league. He’s even higher on the upside of Hunter Greene, suggesting there’s “front-line starter, if not an ace” upside there. For Jose Garcia he wonders about the contact skills and how that could ultimately eat into the raw power – but likes the overall package of tools that he’s bringing to the table.

This is just another showing that leads one to believe that the top six or seven prospects in the Reds organization are all pretty close when it comes to how the industry views them. In some places a publication has a guy rated as the top prospect that another publication has rated as the organization’s 7th best prospect. ESPN, Baseball America, The Athletic, Baseball Prospectus – they all had a different prospect from the Reds organization as the top guy.

Cincinnati has depth at the top of the farm system. For the most part, the belief is that there isn’t a true “elite” level prospect in the organization right now, though. Many believe Hunter Greene could (again) be that guy, but they prefer to wait and see what he looks like post-surgery in games that count this year before placing the right-handed starter back into the top 50, top 25 of their lists.

The Reds system could rise in 2021

Yesterday we saw farm system rankings come out from Baseball America and The Athletic that ranked the system as a middle of the park farm. Today Baseball America listed the Reds as a team that could see their farm system jump up the rankings in 2021 due to the depth they have that could see more than a few guys jump into the Top 100 with good performance in the upcoming season.

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10 Responses

  1. DaveCT

    McDaniel is pretty reliable, i think. Stephenson may never be a gold glove catcher but i think his bat will play and that his athleticism will compensate, in this case for his size, behind the plate. If not, i believe there may eventually be an opening at 1B.

  2. Michael P

    I think Reds could easily end year with 5 in top 100. Add in the three top 35 picks in the draft and the system could be much brighter for the beginning of the 2022 season.

  3. Brock

    Doug, is there 1 publication that you would say is more in line with your thinking on the farm system right now than the others? Or do all of them have their strong/weak points in terms of evaluating the Reds’ system?

    • Doug Gray

      I think pretty much everyone except Law is underrating Hunter Greene.

      As far as an individual person, I think I like what Kiley McDaniel does the most when it comes to prospect rankings (he’s at ESPN now). Baseball America isn’t just one guy, but they are the gold standard in the industry. I trust both quite a bit when it comes to evaluating players that I haven’t seen before.

      With that said, everyone has the strengths and weaknesses when it comes to evaluating guys on the field. You’re going to get a lot of opinions on even the known, good, Top 150 in all of minor league baseball caliber prospects. When you get beyond those guys then you really start to get varied opinions. It’s just like everything else in life – we’ve all got blind spots. I specifically know scouts who I believe overvalue certain things in prospects. A lifelong scout told me a few years ago that you’ve got to understand where the game is today and where it’s heading – evaluating things today like you would have a few years ago doesn’t quite work because of how the game has been changing. He, of course, was right. But not every scout has adjusted their mindset to stuff like that, either. Sometimes it’s not even that. Maybe they just are the kind of scout that prefers this or that thing in a player over that or this thing, and I’m the other way. Maybe they focus too much on a perception of how a guy plays. Or maybe they don’t focus enough on it.

      One thing I always tell people when it comes to prospect rankings: The number next to the players name is not nearly as important as what the person actually writes in the scouting report. Read that part and place weight on that far more than the number associated with their name because you may read the report and come away thinking differently about the guy than the ranking would have suggested because you value something about their game differently. It’s tougher to get that kind of stuff with a full farm system review because with 30 organizations you just aren’t going to get the in-depth kind of thing like you would with an individual prospect because eight whole people would read the 40,000 words it would take to do it right. I’ll say this much: A farm system ranking for me should be based around the top 5-10 guys and that’s probably it. Depth is good to have in a farm system, for sure, but landing All-Stars (or better) is what separates teams. Having a bunch of good relievers and #4/5 starters isn’t a bad thing, but that’s not going to be the thing that made your team into a World Series contender. You need guys that can be #1 and #2 pitchers. You need middle of the order hitters (that can hopefully play some defense). Those guys, by-and-large, don’t come out of nowhere as non-Top 5 in a system prospects. You tend to be able to identify the guys with that kind of upside early, and they by-and-large, perform at high levels in the minors, too.

  4. Gaffer

    After watching prospect evaluations for over 30 years, my telltale sign of a prospect to bet on is consistent production at every level of competition, no big outlier years. I know that’s boring and takes patience but that has the highest correlation. Saying a guy has “tools” but never produces has the worst correlation especially when the tools are power or speed only. Similarly, guys who have “no flaws” seem to pan out way more than a guy with a single “80 tool”. That being said, there is no “can’t miss” prospect and most people just say that after they have already been successful in retrospect. Skills in MLB are simply way, way too hard to predict until you already see them mastered.

    • Doug Gray

      My number one rule is this: If a guy’s only outstanding tool is speed, then the odds are very much against them (usually speed guys have defense, too – because of the speed). You’ve got to be able to hit somewhat, unless you’re a pitcher.

      • Michael Smith

        Thinking back Doug other than Hamilton was there another prospect that jumps out with just the speed tool?

      • Doug Gray

        Another one from the Reds: Theo Bowe. One currently with the Reds, at least at the time he was a prospect: Dee Strange-Gordon.