It’s that time of year again where we take a look at the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospects. Each day this week we will unveil five new spots on the list as we work our way through the Top 25 Prospects heading into the 2022 season.  If you were supporting the site on Patreon you would have gotten the entire Top 25 list last week and had early access to this, and all other scouting related articles that show up on the site. Click here to see what all you can get for helping keep the site alive and kicking via support through Patreon.

These write ups will not feature scouting reports. Those will be included with the Season Reviews, which will start next week – first working my way through the Top 25 prospects before then branching out into another 50-75 interesting prospects through the remainder of the offseason. For the entire list you can click here (each day it will be updated as the next piece comes out).

*To be eligible for the list a player must have 2022 Rookie of the Year eligibility (Fewer than 130 at bats in the big leagues, fewer than 50 innings pitched, or less than 45 days on the active MLB roster that doesn’t include September)*

11. Austin Hendrick | OF | Age: 20

2021 Team: Daytona | Acquired: 1st Round (2020) | Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 195 lbs

There were some things to like and some things to be concerned about for Austin Hendrick in his first season. The outfielder spent some time on the injured list, so he only played about half of a season’s worth of games. On the bright side, he showed good power and he walked nearly 20% of the time he stepped to the plate. On the downside he hit just .211 and struck out 38% of the time he stepped to the plate. He, like the other Tortugas, had to battle with the automated strikezone on the road, but in home games they had umpires calling balls and strikes – giving them two very different strikezones to navigate during the season.

Biggest Strength: Power potential. He’s got plus raw power to tap into and already shows good game power.

Biggest Weakness: Contact. His strikeout rate was incredibly high at 38% during the season.

2021 Season Stats

12. Tyler Callihan | 2B | Age: 21

2021 Team: Daytona | Acquired: 3rd Round (2019) | Height: 6′ 1″ | Weight: 205 lbs

The first month of the season went quite well for Tyler Callihan. Unfortunately for him that was the only month of the season he would get. He was injured on June 2nd when he made a diving stop and felt something when he threw the ball to first base. Callihan didn’t return after that injury.

Biggest Strength: Hitting. Callihan has a strong hit tool and good power.

Biggest Weakness: Defense. There are plenty of questions about where he will eventually wind up on the defensive spectrum.

2021 Season Stats

13. Mat Nelson | C | Age: 22

2021 Teams: ACL Reds/Dayton | Acquired: 1st Round (2021) | Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 209 lbs

With the 35th overall pick the Reds picked up Mat Nelson. He was coming off of a season at Florida State where he crushed 23 home runs to go along with 17 doubles in 53 games. He had hit just 7 home runs in the previous two seasons (74 games). The breakout at the plate vaulted him up the draft boards after being considered a late day two, defensive first prospect the year before had the draft been more than five rounds. After the draft he only managed to get 10 games into the season before an injury led to him missing the final month of the year with Dayton.

Biggest Strength: Arm. Nelson flashes a plus arm behind the plate that helps him control the running game to the best of his abilities.

Biggest Weakness: Contact. After striking out in 24% of his plate appearances at Florida State in 2021 he struck out in 17 of his 35 plate appearances as a professional before an injury cost him the final month of the season.

2021 Season Stats

14. TJ Friedl | OF | Age: 26

2021 Teams: Louisville/Cincinnati | Acquired: Free Agent (2016) | Height: 5′ 10″ | Weight: 180 lbs

After being passed up in two consecutive Rule 5 drafts, TJ Friedl showed that teams around the league made a mistake by performing well in Triple-A Louisville and reaching the big leagues in the second half of the season in 2021. The then 25-year-old outfielder hit .264/.357/.422 with the Bats while walking 44 times with just 65 strikeouts in 113 games. His 13 home runs in 2021 were nearly double his previous career high.

Biggest Strength: Speed. He’s a plus runner who can use his speed in the field and on the bases.

Biggest Weakness: Power. While he did set a career high in home runs, he’s still got below-average power and doesn’t project for much more than he showed in 2021.

2021 Season Stats

15. Alejo Lopez | 2B | Age: 25

2021 Teams: Chattanooga/Louisville/Cincinnati | Acquired: 27th Round (2015) | Height: 5′ 10″ | Weight: 170 lbs

A season that began in Double-A Chattanooga and reached the big leagues in Cincinnati has to be considered a successful one for Alejo Lopez. He got out to a quick start in Chattanooga where he hit .362 with more walks than strikeouts for the Lookouts in 25 games. With that start he was pushed to Triple-A Louisville. He slowed down a bit with the Bats, but hit .303 and had a career high 6 home runs in 67 games while there. The switch-hitter also walked 12 more times than he struck out. His action in the big leagues was limited, as he went 6-23 in 14 games with the Reds.

Biggest Strength: Contact. In 432 plate appearances across three levels, Alejo Lopez struck out just 37 times.

Biggest Weakness: Power. He showed the most power he’s ever shown in his career during 2021, he’s still got well below-average power.

2021 Season Stats

*All listed ages as as of the date published, not necessarily the age of the player during the 2021 season*

33 Responses

  1. Jonathan Linn

    Question: is there place in the game for players like Alejo Lopez and TJ Friedl who have a higher hit tool than power tool?

    Players like Kenny Lofton, Tony Gwynn, Carl Crawford, Johnny Damon, Paul Molitor, Tim Raines? I realize lot of these guys I listed are HOF’ers.

    • Doug Gray

      Sure there is. There’s a bunch of them in the league now. They just almost exclusively are bench/utility guys.

      • LDS

        I’d like to see the Reds start someone that can actually get on base regularly and/or put the ball in play, regardless of power. They lost several games this year where a flyball or a single would have won it for them. In other words, I’ll take a Carew over Kingman any day of the week (or a Lopez over Suarez).

      • Doug Gray

        That’s a part of the problem, LDS….. most guys who can’t threaten the defense with power can’t get on base regularly in the big leagues. Pitching is better, and so is the defense. Simply making contact isn’t enough anymore.

      • Doug Gray

        No. Bench guy is the ceiling due to the fact that defenses and pitching are a lot better now than they used to be and simply making contact doesn’t lead to hits like it used to. Better defenses (due both to the fact that guys are better at defense AND that they are positioned significantly better), smaller ballparks (meaning less area for the ball to land), the lack of turf (which allowed really bad, crappy swings that created 900 foot high choppers to allow you to leg out a single or bounce it over the infield)….. it all just means you need to be able to hit the ball hard enough to actually do something with it.

    • Stock

      I disagree with this assessment. 33 of the 132 players who had at least 501 PA had an ISO under .150. That is 25%. Lopez’ ISO in AAA was .143 and Friedl’s was .158. 8 of these 33 had a WAR of at least 3.1 which put them in the top 60.

      Of these 33 only 2 struck out less than 10% of their PA. Alejo Lopez struck out in 7.2% of his PA in Louisville. No player with 501 PA struck out so infrequently.

      Friedl struck out 14.5% of the time in Louisville. That would put him at 19th among qualified players.

      one player walked more than he struck out (Juan Soto) Lopez walked more than he struck out at Louisville.

      Players with a WAR greater than 4 and an ISO of less than .150:

      Starling Marte (5.4), Yoan Moncada (4.5) and Nicky Lopez (4.4)

      These 5 had a WAR greater than 3 and an ISO less than .150:

      Whit Merrifield, Yuri Gurriel, Miles Straw, JP Crawford, Adam Frazier

      one third of the ML middle infielders had an ISO of less than .150

      If you want to look at SLG instead of ISO, Lopez had a higher SLG% than 29 of the 48 MI who had at least 501 PA. That puts him in the top 40%.

      I think Lopez will be an everyday player. I think he will be a better everyday player than Farmer.

      Friedl I think has a ceiling as a 5th OF. Therefore Friedl does not make my top 25.

      • Tom

        Comparing Milb stats to MLB stats is dangerous. Lots of great Milb performances.

  2. Norwood Nate

    I’m probably off somewhere, but I count 11 guys for the final 10 spots. I’m guessing one of Barrero or Santillan is not eligible, though baseball-reference lists both as having rookie eligibility intact. Barrero has 124 PA in ML and as far as I can tell from game logs only 15 non-September days through two seasons. Santillan has 43.1 IP in ML and roughly 42 non-September days on the roster. It’s a lot harder to determine days on the roster just looking at game logs, so that’s probably where I’m missing something, likely a few days on the roster before being sent down.
    Or it could be that either one of Roa or Bonnin isn’t on the list. But I’d assume Greene, Lodolo, Barrero, McClain, Ashcroft, Santillan, De La Cruz, Allen, Hinds are shoe-ins for the top10 if all eligible.
    Either way, I like the list and group of prospects coming through the system. When Hendrick is #11 then you got a good top 10. Likewise, when the top 25 doesn’t include guys like Vellojin, Cedrola, or Urbaez who put together really good seasons, it’s pretty impressive. The only guy in the top 20 I’m not sold on as of now is Nelson. Just haven’t seen enough, but I get some Okey vibes from him.

    • Doug Gray

      Santillan spent 55 days on the active roster before September.

    • Krozley

      Based on the milb.com transaction dates for Santillan, he was on the big league club for 54 days before September, so he seems no longer eligible. The 2020 stats for Barrero get factored up for a full season (I think his stats times 2.7), so he has also exceeded the threshold. That leaves one mystery spot in the top 10. A name that hasn’t been mentioned yet is Sanmartin, who has a good chance of being a part of next year’s Reds team. I personally don’t see him as top 10, but think he would belong towards the 20s.

      • Doug Gray

        Barrero is on my list. I don’t think the 2.7 factor applies for non-arbitration stuff.

      • Matt

        All but six of Barrero’s days in 2020 were September days, though. So they shouldn’t count towards rookie status. And only 12 days in 2021, with the rest being September. I think that makes him still rookie eligible.

      • Krozley

        Not sure how that works with eligibility for Barrero. Jim Callis has him as a “graduated” prospect and he is not on the mlb.com prospect list as a result. Not sure how other publications are treating him in that regard. Doesn’t really matter as we all know he is an elite prospect whether he is on a list or not.

  3. Tom

    It just feels like Freidl would put up the same triple slash as a starter in Cincinnati as he would in Louisville. He’s due for an opportunity and should at least push Senzel if not overtake him for CF starter. Senzel could/should come in quite hungry next season. Freidl in a 4th or 5th starter role could go either way in terms of results. I’d prefer he get a chance to play every day for 2-3 months.

    • rgslone

      I agree with you. Freidl is most likely best as a 4th or 5th outfielder – but at this point Senzel’s best use may likewise be as a versatile utility player. Senzel certainly appears to have (or maybe it would be more correct to say “had” before all the injuries) a higher ceiling than Freidl. But what matters is what they add to the team next season. Freidl may add more.

  4. SultanofSwaff

    Gap power, controlling the strike zone, speedy defense……..Friedl seems to have the tools we thought we were getting with Shogo. He certainly showed me enough to consider him for at least a share of the CF job in 2022. Reds did a good job letting him come along at his own pace. I think that’s a solid rule of thumb for the more fringe-y type prospects.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    The high strikeout totals from Hendrick and Nelson are concerning. Small market teams can’t afford to miss on 2 first rounders. Not saying either has to be a starter, but we gotta get one of them to the Show.

    • MK

      Much to early to write off Hendrick. The young man had his first experience of the day-to-day grind of pro baseball.
      As far as Nelson goes he looks like the next coming of Bench compared to Devin Mesoraco at the same point.

      • Doug Gray

        Devin Mesoraco, at the same age, hit .302/.377/.587 between A+, AA, and AAA with 26 home runs.

  6. MK

    Doug could you please explain why you think dealing with an automated umpire half of the time is a negative. So you think it is more challenging than having a human umpire where the strike zone is different every day, especially with young Class A umpires.

    • Doug Gray

      I think having to adjust to what amounted to three different strikezones during a season probably does plenty of harm to a hitter.

      The automated zone is different than the generally “called” zone. And then midseason, the automated zone was changed. It was wider than it was in the first half, but also a little bit shorter, top to bottom, due to the feedback from players in the league.

      Daytona had to deal with human umps and robot umps every other series with the zone changing every other week from the one they just played in. No other team in baseball had to deal with that. I think it’s a real issue.

  7. Tom

    In a rebuilding year, Lopez would be an interesting candidate to get 500 ABs at 2b. As it stands now, there just isn’t room. Perhaps the Reds can hold onto him for a few more seasons and a spot opens up. OTOH, maybe Lopez can help bring in a backend bullpen arm this offseason by trading to an org like AZ, DET, or PIT.

    • Hoyce

      I think Lopez is ideal as a primary backup infielder. And when needing a contact hitting pinch hitter (man on 3rd less than 2 outs). Cheap and solid. Once he gets to arb years. Figure something else out

      • Tom

        The problem might be getting him to the veterans stage where he can be like a Miguel Cairo. He needs a few seasons as starter.

  8. MK

    If you want to get an additional feel for why some of the personnel changes in the Reds development department were made a recent “Mayor’s Office” podcast with Sean Casey interviewing Eric Davis provides a little insight.

    • SultanofSwaff

      Thanks MK. Er, no thanks lol. The level of disdain for analytic minded teaching methods is dangerously myopic. Would’ve loved to hear them explain the success of Tampa Bay. No wonder Boddy and others ran for the hills….while alluding that the ‘drinking buddies’ of ownership held far more sway.

      Casey’s meathead chuckle is unlistenable. Gheesh.

  9. Brad

    Based on the Barnhart trade today, you have to imagine something similar in the works to trade Miley. Get payroll down around $112M including all projected arbitration, subtracting Castellanos. Curious if Redlegs will do anything to add to RF, Bullpen or if 2022 is a “Play the Kids” year with guys like Friedl, Greene, Lodolo getting their shots. Maybe somewhere in between.

    • Crestwood Craig

      With David Bell as Manager, we won’t “play the kids”. Which, considering the Reds want to reduce payroll, seems opposite of what he does.

  10. Redsvol

    I’m pretty underwhelmed by this group. The best of the lot being Lopez while I feel Friedl is simply too old to be this high. Both Friedl and Lopez need to be on the active roster next year. Let the youngsters play and hopefully add some emphasis on contact. Lopez has now shown some potential for power which makes me hopeful for at least doubles.

    Hendricks awful young to give up on. Callihan needs to hurry or get passed up. And Nelson seems like he was way over-drafted. Hopefully he will settle down with a real off-season of development because that was a valuable draft pick used on him.

    • Doug Gray

      We’re in a weird spot with regards to age and prospects right now. Almost everyone is older than guys were in the past because they lost 2020 due to absolutely nothing in their control. Comparing a guy like Friedl, who was 25 almost all season long, to others in the past who were 25, doesn’t quite hold up as well because of that. Normally a guy who turned 26 before making their debut it would be more of a “ding” on the resume. I’m cutting him, and everyone else a little extra slack on the age thing for the next few years, though, because of 2020 setting almost everyone back who wasn’t in the big leagues.