The Cincinnati Reds farm system had a strong showing today as Baseball America released their Top 100 Prospect list. It’s the first list from a major publication to be released, though the Baseball Prospectus list is expected to come out tomorrow – so it’s officially prospect list season. Cincinnati’s top four prospects all made the list and three of them were well inside the top 50.

Jose Barrero was the first Reds prospect list and he came in 33rd overall on the list. The shortstop had a big minor league season in 2021 as he had 19 doubles, a triple, 19 home runs, and added 16 steals during the year between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. The shortstop also hit .303/.380/.539 between those two stops. Barrero also had a home run (and a walk) during All-Star weekend in Denver when he was selected to play in the Futures Game. Later in the season he was called up to Cincinnati, but he didn’t play often as he managed to get just 56 plate appearances in about seven weeks of play while seeing more time in the outfield than at shortstop.

Not too far down the list is Hunter Greene. He was the 35th overall prospect on the list. The #2 overall pick int he 2017 draft has a strong comeback year after returning from Tommy John surgery (April 2019) and then only pitching at the alternate site in 2020. He began the year in Double-A Chattanooga where he made seven starts and posted a 1.98 ERA. Greene moved up to Triple-A Louisville after that and made 14 more starts. Most were strong, but he did have a few poor starts mixed in and posted a 4.13 ERA in 65.1 innings with the Bats. Overall between the two stops the top pitching prospect in the organization had a 3.30 ERA in his 106.1 innings where he walked 39 batters and had 139 strikeouts.

Nick Lodolo was next on the list, literally. The lefty was #36 on the list. He started the year in Double-A and he was making a mockery of the Double-A south until blister issues kept him off of the mound, and then limited how many innings he was getting when he returned. Still, the lefty posted a 1.84 ERA over 10 starts and 44.0 innings with the Lookouts while allowing just one home run, walking just 9 batters, and striking out 68. Lodolo moved up to Triple-A, but only threw 6.2 innings before he was shut down with shoulder fatigue for the final month.

The final Reds prospect to make the Top 100 was shortstop Elly De La Cruz. The switch-hitter exploded onto the scene in the summer and went from unranked in Cincinnati’s Top 30 to ranking 77th overall in baseball. Beginning the season with the Arizona Complex League Reds, De La Cruz his .400/.455/.780 in the first two weeks with 11 extra-base hits in 11 games and was moved up to Low-A Daytona. A late season slump dragged his numbers down with the Tortugas, but in 50 games he hit .269/.305/.477 with 24 extra-base hits while there.

For the Reds, it’s a good showing after entering the 2021 season with just two Top 100 prospects – Jose Barrero and Austin Hendrick. Reminder that both Tyler Stephenson and Jonathan India missed the list and went on to have strong rookie seasons (with India, of course, taking home the National League’s Rookie of the Year). The organization graduated Stephenson, India, Vladimir Gutierrez, and Tejay Antone from their farm system during the year and still landed four Top 100 guys and probably have another few players who were at least close to being in the conversation.

12 Responses

  1. Old Big Ed

    We should learn to take any prospect ratings with a grain of salt. Baseball America is generally pretty good, but it couldn’t find a place for the eventual Rookie of the Year in its top 100.

    This extends to the major league draft, too. Johnny Bench was a second rounder in 1965. Mike Trout went 25th overall in 2009, whereas picks 9-16 have amassed a total of 8.4 bWAR, for their collective $18.5 million bonuses. The teams may be making educated guesses, but at heart they are still guesses.

    For about 95% of the prospects, you really won’t know until the lights come on in the big ball parks. It’s still preferable to have highly regarded prospects, but it is no guarantee.

    • Stock

      I agree with you Ed in several accounts. India was dinged and knocked out of the top 100 because he got hurt. If a player is outside the top 100 at 2020 year end and is the 2021 rookie of the year, the people who ranked him outside the top 100 did not take in all the information.

      Likewise, if a ranking system ranks a player outside the top 500 at year end 2021 and he appears in the top 100 at midseason, they messed up.

      In that regard I feel that Jay Allen will be ranked 150-200 in most publications. However, a year from now I feel these same publications will have him in their top 50. I understand this is a sample size situation. But if you are ranking prospects based on talent and ability to succeed in the majors should not be so drastic unless there has been a notable change such as average fastball velocity increased 2-4 MPH or exit velocity increased 20%.

      The exception of course is this year. Scouts did not get to see players perform last year so De La Cruz’ dramatic improvement is understandable. He was not in the top 500 a year ago not because the talent was not there but because he did not get a chance to display his talent. In May of 2021 De La Cruz was not on my radar. By July of 2021 I had him ranked as my #5 prospect.

    • BK

      Great points Ed. Tyler Stephenson is another example of a player who missed several Top 100 list (he was #95 on MLB’s pre-2021 list), but is off to a pretty solid ML start.

      I think what makes prospect evaluations so tough is that in addition to the measurable traits such as pitching velocity, spin rates or exit velocity there are several aspects that are much more difficult to grade such as a pitcher’s ability to consistently command their offerings or a hitter’s ability to hit increasingly better breaking balls. If you look through prospect lists, quite a number of the players have amazing tools that all hinge on their ability to “hit” or improve their “command”.

    • Tom

      All told anyone would rather be drafting higher than lower. Here are the pre-arb WAR values for draft picks 1-50 (data as of 2014):

      Draft Pick Pre-FA WAR Market Value $
      1 to 5 9.2 70.1
      6 to 10 5.2 39.7
      11 to 15 4.1 31.2
      16-20 3.5 26.7
      21-25 3.1 23.7
      26-30 2.8 21.5
      31-35 2.6 19.9
      36-40 2.4 18.6
      41-45 2.3 17.5
      46-50 2.2 16.6

      Picking anywhere from 26 to almost 50 is about the same outcome on average. Kind of displays the hit or miss aspect pretty well. Whenever the Reds can pickup a player like Allen at around 30, that’s a pretty nice outcome for chances of success.

  2. donny

    With the grades they gave Lodolo .
    I’m surprised he’s in the top 100 .
    They have him as a plus slider and everything else is average or bellow .

    • donny

      Plus slider ,plus control , everything else average or below

    • Stock

      Isn’t control the #1 tool?

      Greg Maddux threw two pitches, Fastball, changeup. Greg Maddux had a fastball that topped out at 90 early in his career and was in the mid-eighties. He had a very good change-up. But he is one of the best pitchers (if not the best pitcher) of his ERA because his control was excellent.

      • Gaffer

        He actually had 4 different fastballs and 5 changups, he did things no one else did.

  3. Tom

    Why do they (they being the prospect demi-gods) seem to want to lump our prospects together. Been going on for years now.

  4. MikeD

    With the sad direction the Reds are moving, I hope like heck they at least give Barrero the starting shortstop job and let him play through the ups and downs.

    If Hendrick’s can figure things out, it would be a big plus to the organization.

  5. John R. Doggette

    I enjoy reading Doug’ professional analysis and those of the regulars with their own blend of expertise. Given the comments above on this thread who was Your biggest surprise of a player becoming a major league success after a minor league career?