When talking about projection and prospects we are usually talking about long term development and what a player could ultimately become. Today we aren’t quite talking about that kind of projection. Instead we’re looking at what the ZiPS projection says about which of the Cincinnati Reds prospects is likely to have the best season in 2023 at the big league level.
On one hand the Reds top three “most valuable” position players according to ZiPS are all prospects. Part of that is because Tyler Stephenson is only projected to get 343 plate appearances, while the three guys ahead of him at 417, 539, and 540 plate appearances. The other part is that ZiPS projects Stephenson to be a solid, but unspectacular hitter and post what would be by far his worst offensive season.
When it comes to the overall value for the 2023 season, Spencer Steer comes out on top of all the Cincinnati Reds position players at 1.9 WAR. ZiPS projects him to hit .246/.324/.432 and provide above-average defense. It also seems that there’s some projection of him playing a little bit of everywhere.
When it comes to the best offensive projection for 2023, though, that nod goes to Christian Encarnacion-Strand. ZiPS puts a .255/.309/.482 line and a 105 OPS+ mark for the corner infielder. That comes with 27 doubles, 4 triples, and 27 home runs. It also comes with a lot of strikeouts (173) and not many walks (32). The system certainly believes that he’s got some real power to work with, though, and that’s not surprising given that he’s coming off of a season in the minors where he hit 12 homers and slugged .568 in 48 games at the Double-A level.
When it comes to the pitching there’s not much on the prospect front that sticks out. Andrew Abbott has the best projection among the prospects and he’s projected to be slightly below-average in 2023. Like most of the Reds top prospects, he didn’t see time in Triple-A last season – in fact, only Spencer Steer, Michael Siani, and Brandon Williamson saw any time above Double-A among the Top 25 prospects in 2022. With projection systems how you perform higher up the ladder matters quite a bit. The lack of Triple-A time is going to come into play for a lot of these players in the projections and by the time they get some experience under their belts at the level the projections will change.