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)*
1. Hunter Greene | RHP | Age: 22
2021 Team: Chattanooga/Louisville | Acquired: 1st Round (2017) | Height: 6′ 5″ | Weight: 230 lbs
After not pitching in games that counted since July of 2018, Hunter Greene jumped to Double-A Chattanooga to begin the season and was dominant for the Lookouts in the first six weeks of the season as he posted a 1.98 ERA in seven starts. The Reds promoted the then 21-year-old to Triple-A Louisville. He would spend the rest of his season there, making 14 starts with a 4.13 ERA. He wasn’t as consistent there, sometimes dominant but other times struggling – which isn’t surprising given that he was the youngest player in the league for much of the year.
Biggest Strength: Fastball. Greene touched 105 MPH this year and his average fastball velocity is tops among all professional players.
Biggest Weakness: Consistency. This is nitpicking, of course, given that we’re talking about a guy who has 179.0 innings under his belt spread across five years since he was drafted. But Greene did have a few outings with Louisville where he ran into problems and would surrender a big inning where it seemed things just fell apart.
2021 Season Stats
2. Jose Barrero | SS | Age: 23
2021 Team: Chattanooga/Louisville/Cincinnati | Acquired: International FA (2016) | Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: “175” lbs
After making the jump from Advanced-A to the big leagues in 2020’s strange season and being overwhelmed at the plate by Major League pitchers, Jose Barrero began the 2021 season in Double-A Chattanooga and he didn’t hold back as he hit .300 with 16 extra-base hits in 40 games before he was promoted. Once he arrived in Triple-A he took things to another level, hitting .306 with 10 doubles and 13 triples – leading to a .594 slugging percentage – in 45 games. He once again saw some limited action in the big leagues, but unlike his time in 2020 or even in the minors in 2021, the Reds played him in centerfield more than they played him at shortstop as they tried to find a way to get him some playing time down the stretch.
Biggest Strength: Arm. Barrero has plenty of average to above-average tools, but his arm sticks out as a plus tool that he can use well on the infield.
Biggest Weakness: There’s not much left to prove in the minors for Barrero. But his time in the big leagues has amounted to just four walks and 43 strikeouts. He’s going to have to improve that ratio moving forward.
2021 Season Stats
3. Nick Lodolo | LHP | Age: 23
2021 Teams: Chattanooga/Louisville | Acquired: 1st Round (2019) | Height: 6′ 6″ | Weight: 205 lbs
Starting the season in Double-A Chattanooga, Nick Lodolo dominated for the Lookouts. He allowed three runs in his first five starts (1.01 ERA), but he developed a blister on his pitching hand and would make just one start over the next five weeks as he dealt with that issue. When he returned he was limited in his use, pitching into the 4th inning – by design – in just three of his seven starts. Lodolo joined Triple-A Louisville at the start of August. That promotion lasted just three starts and at the end of August he went to the injured list with “shoulder fatigue” and missed the final month of the season.
Biggest Strength: Control. He’s walked just 11 batters in 69.0 professional innings.
Biggest Weakness: Change Up. Lodolo doesn’t throw the pitch often, but when he does it lags well behind both his fastball and breaking ball.
2021 Season Stats
4. Elly De La Cruz | SS | Age: 19
2021 Teams: ACL/Daytona/Dayton | Acquired: International FA (2018) | Height: 6′ 5″ | Weight: 195 lbs
There may not have been a bigger breakout player in all of minor league baseball than Elly De La Cruz. After solid numbers in 2019 in the Dominican Summer League, De La Cruz came stateside in 2021 and not only put up absurd numbers in Goodyear, but he turned heads with the tools he was showing, too. Cincinnati quickly promoted the switch-hitting shortstop to Low-A Daytona. The 19-year-old was a bit inconsistent there, but continued to show off big power and explosive tools as he posted a .269/.305/.477 line.
Biggest Strength: The all-around set of tools. There may not be another position player in my time covering the Reds farm system with a set of tools that can match the ones from Elly De La Cruz, who has three plus to plus-plus tools.
Biggest Weakness: Plate approach. De La Cruz has an aggressive approach that has led to a very low walk rate. Drawing just 14 walks in 265 plate appearances is a rate of walks that must improve as he continues to move forward if he’s going to get the most out of impressive hitting tools.
2021 Season Stats
5. Graham Ashcraft | RHP | Age: 23
2021 Teams: Dayton/Chattanooga | Acquired: 6th Round (2019) | Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 240 lbs
The 2021 season saw Graham Ashcraft go 44.0 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run between High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga in the middle of the season. That stretch led to him posting a 3.00 ERA in his 111.0 innings on the season. The big time ground ball pitcher allowed just four homers all season while also picking up 129 strikeouts – a combination that tends to lead to plenty of future big league success.
Biggest Strength: His fastball. He can throw up to 100 MPH and it’s basically a bowling ball that generates high rates of grounders.
Biggest Weakness: Change Up. He doesn’t throw it as often as the fastball or breaking ball, and when he does it’s not on par with the other two plus offerings.
2021 Season Stats
*All listed ages as as of the date published, not necessarily the age of the player during the 2021 season*
**Some publications will not have Jose Barrero listed as a prospect. They may be using the service time adjustment from the 2020 season that applies for arbitration and free agency that makes 1 real day worth 2.7 days of service time. I have chosen to just use 1 day as 1 day, meaning that Barrero still qualifies as a prospect**
It’s exciting for the organization that four of these five will probably be on the Reds at some point in 2022. The only thing I would disagree with on this list is that I believe the biggest weakness (and concern) for Lodolo is durability. The blister thing might just be a fluke, but he missed the last 2 months of the season with shoulder fatigue, at a time when he was pitching 1-2 innings every 5th day. That’s worrisome.
I’ll be shocked if our top 2 prospects don’t become multiple All-Stars. There, I said it.
Love how Doug put Barrero’s weight in quotes. Dude is not 175 anymore lol.
Lodolo is interesting in that, depending on the development of a credible 3rd pitch, he could be a top line starter or go the Tony Cingrani/Andrew Miller route. Given his draft position you’d hope he succeeds as a starter.
I’m gonna quibble a little bit now. De la Cruz physically is a unicorn for sure, but the K/BB rate is a red flag. Ashcraft, w/o a 3rd pitch, seems destined for the bullpen. I guess I need to see a little more from both before ranking them so high. So for me personally, I’d slot McClain 4 and Allen 5 and slide these other two down a touch.
Great work Doug. As I said yesterday, I love the mix of high floor/ high ceiling guys. The Reds are headed in the right direction. It seems Krall recognizes what he has and is positioning resources to support and add to this young core. I know most view it as a sell-off, and given how the team has operated lately it’s hard not to disagree, but we’ll see.
I agree 4 of the 5 look like near term candidates. Curiously, Doug notes that both Lodolo and Ashcraft have weak change ups. Is that a pitch that players tend to develop as they advance?
The change up is usually the last pitch to develop. But it’s also a weird pitch in that it’s more of a “feel” pitch, too.
MLB pipeline has Lodolos change up as a 55. I’m a little crestfallen to hear it needs some work.
I agree Sultan. I put Allen in front of De La Cruz because of the K% – BB%. Allen’s is excellent, De La Cruz not so much. I have Ashcraft at #9 because of the feeling that he is a bullpen piece. His ERA the last 2 months was 4.59 which is not all that impressive.
I think it’s safe to say Mahle, Castillo, and Gray will all be wearing Cincinnati Reds on opening day. I’d put confidence Miley will too. I’d like to see Greene take that last starting spot and not look back.
I’d say his ST competition will be Ashcraft, Lodolo, Sanmartin, Gutierrez, and maybe Santillan.
This shouldn’t be a positional battle, but hopefully Barrero has an insane ST so that there is no Barrero/Farmer debate.
Mentioned yesterday, but at least 2 of the players here should lose rookie eligibility this season, with a shot at Lodolo and Ashcraft as well, depending on how the season plays out.
Ye, that statement didn’t last long. Bye bye Miley
Doug, I have been been an avid reader of your site for years can you recall the Reds ever being this deep in there farm system? Off the top of my head it makes me think of Bruce Votto Cueto and Bailey, but this group of prospects seems like a better group there seems to be more layers to this group am I crazy to be this excited?
That group of Bruce/Votto/Bailey/Cueto was certainly deeper than this top 4. Those guys were all top 25 caliber prospects (and ranked as such following 2008 depending on where you were looking). We aren’t going to see that with this group this offseason. A few years later you had Chapman/Mesoraco/Alonso as the 1-2-3 and I’d say that group was on par with this one, too. That 2016 class that had Senzel/Winker/Stephenson/Garrett/Trammell stacks up, too.
I’m not sure this class really stands out above some others. But it stands with all of them except that 2008 one.
What happened to Alonso? The Reds really look like winners of the Latos trade.
Chapman’s career would be interesting if he stayed as a SP. Since he has won two Reliver of year awards, i wonder if he is a borderline HOF as a Closer.
When he was traded to San Diego it was when Petco was still a stadium where everything died short of the wall. He would admit years down the road that he changed his swing and approach because he knew trying to hit for power there just wouldn’t work.
Would SS Jeter Downs or RHP Josiah Gray be a top 5 prospect in this ranking if they weren’t given to the Dodgers. If not where would they be ranked? I think Lodolo is to high on the List due to shoulder issue concerns. Hope I am wrong and he can stay healthy but his medical history down time has been pretty bad. Remember when India was called a bust by many on this site.
Jeter Downs will rebound in 2022 after being pushed past AA to AAA to quickly. If we could just keep our own signed and developed player in the system, this team might look like the Tampa Rays club.
I wonder if Ashcraft might reach the Reds rotation as soon or sooner than Greene or Lodolo. At any rate, I see our rotation getting cheaper sooner rather than later and possibly trading one or more of our high priced starters for controllable pieces at other positions(outfield).
Would not be surprised to see a couple of these young guys pitching in Cincinnati in 2022. Maybe at least one in a bullpen role. To me Ashcraft, like Santillan, has the stuff and body style to be a closer, just don’t know if his arm has the resiliency for the job
Have to wonder in 2022 what will Sonny Gray be. The All Star Gray of 2019, or the average to below average Sonny of 5 of last 6 years.
If he is moved this winter it might be more about getting value for a 32 year old while there is still some value to get, than saving money, though that would be a positive as well.
MK what are we basing the Gray is average to below average assessment? His era+ for the last three years was 162, 133 and 114.
Moving Sonny is my #1 offseason goal if I’m GM. Leverages rotation depth to clears payroll (extensions!) and gets you a cost controlled prospect.
Gray has been above average every year in Cincinnati. You are way off base MK
Well, Miley now gone, for NOTHING, so you are onto something
Got to believe Barrero will see a lot of outfield time in 2022, out of necessity and because Farmer plays such nice defense at short.
I don’t got to. I don’t want to. And I will honestly be pretty mad about it if it happens.
I tend to agree Doug. Farmer did play a great SS. I watched most every game and was impressed with his defensive play. That being said, they have to give Barreo his shot at SS as he is likely the SS of the near future at least. They need to quit messing around with rookies moving them from position to position while they are trying to get their feet on the ground after freshly arriving in the MLs. At least with Barreo while not so true with Stephenson, Lopez and Schrock. SS is a key position and Barreo doesn’t need the extra pressure of playing another position while trying to learn to hit ML pitching..
I agree. People seem to think Farmer is Babe Ruth. I just can’t understand it. Baseball is about stats. It’s easy to see what kind of player he is. And while he is a solid defender, he don’t have the range of the better shortstops. I like him as a bench player, but that’s what he is.
So Shawn who said anything about Farmer’s bat and since I was talking about defense I bet Farmer is better at short than the Babe would have been.
Mk, his bat wasn’t terrible either for a SS. Farmer’s only fault is his range and his age is getting up there where he could lose even more range. Barreo deserves a shot at SS. The verdict on him should be in by a month or so into the season and hopefully, we still have Farmer as a 2nd option in the case Barreo should fail at SS. I will say this. Farmer played SS about as well as one could expect for the balls he could get too.
MK. I was actually agreeing with Doug that I would be pissed if Barrero was moved. While Farmer is solid at SS, making the easy plays. He don’t have good range.
Literally the only stat Fatmer ranks well in defensively is fielding percentage. And that is a tiny part of what makes a good defender. His range is below average as is his arm.
Sorry, I fatfingered my phone.
I think it makes great sense for barrero to get some outfield time- but the majority of his time should be at shortstop. He’s going to be phenomenal. But I’d also like farmer to get some playing time and he is good there defensively. Let’s face it, our center filed options are hideous and barrero will be the best athlete in the team.
This statement gives me the feels: 4. Elly De La Cruz | SS | Age: 19
Biggest Strength: There may not be another position player in my time (Doug Gray) covering the Reds farm system with a set of tools that can match the ones from Elly De La Cruz!!!!
If 2022 has same trajectory, watch out!
Ashcroft’s “bowling ball” fastball reminds of Romano’s reports coming up. Is a sinking fastball actually a positive attribute in today’s game?
It certainly is, especially when you can also miss a whole lot of bats.
He play his college ball at UAB which is close to my neck of the woods.
Romano never struck people out at nearly the same rate as Ashcraft, and Ashcraft also generates more ground balls. There’s a lot to like with him.
Miley move is odd. I figured he would be moved. Thought the Reds could get a org filler prospect back similar to Barnhart deal. More odd that they put him through waivers and 4 teams passed on him (AZ, Pitt, Wash, Miami). Good for Cubs picking him up. I bet they get a solid prospect in return at 2022 trade deadline for him.
I’ve been a hold out in support of the FO, but this crosses a line with me. Even just getting a 2-3rd round upside rookie ball player would have felt like small steps. Getting nothing for Miley is sadistic.
I hear you. I didn’t see any way he was staying. Bigger question to me is why didn’t Miami or Washington claim him? Clear upgrade over their 4/5 starters and both claim to want to contend. I understand Arizona and Pittsburgh passing as both are not contending.
Sanmartin starts for a month then Greene or Lodolo comes up. Actually makes sense. Clearly, was not a huge market for Miley now. I bet that changes come trade deadline.
Watch the Cubs trade him next week at the GM meetings LOL
Same here Tom. I had been giving the FO the benefit of the doubt…but that time is over. What the heck? Why not just trade Miley and get something for him? No wonder Dick Williams retired…
I think 50% of the general public could have got something for a highly productive SP like Miley. This is embarrassing
The first few teams had zero interest in winning or spending money. The cubs were the first one to say hey we would like a good pitcher for 10 mil.
In theory, Washington is and Miami claims to be.
I read in Baseball reference web site that Barrero exceeded his rookie limits in 2021 season so I wonder if him shouldn´t be considered for this ranking anymore or just for his very short experience is kept in …
Elly De La Cruz looks to compete for the next Reds top prospect spot with Jay Allen nearly in the future, Isn’t he?
I worry about the Lodolo’s shoulder fatigue since pitching just few innings in this season overall so he really had no a lot of work.
These top 5 prospects have me stoked for next couple years. 4 of them could be in majors this year. They will take their lumps in 2022 but could be stellar in 2023. Then propects 6-10 could be on cusp the following year. This is as deep as I can recall reds prospects ever being. We’ve always had couple that appears likely to make the show but never this many!