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.

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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25 Responses

  1. Doc

    For comparison, how about including a list of the top 10-15 ZIPS player projections for Reds for the 2022 season along side the actual numbers produced by those players. Convince me with actual performance comparisons that ZIPS projections have any credibility.

  2. SultanofSwaff

    I believe Steer will have a solid, glue guy sort of season….2-3 WAR. That said, if you believed what you saw from Stuart Fairchild in his ~100ABs then it’s reasonable to think he’ll have the better year if given enough at-bats.

  3. LDS

    The current state of baseball reminds me of Sabine Hossenfelder’s book on the state of physics – “Lost in Math”. It’s funny to look back on the general abuse of high school math nerds in the 60s & 70s and realize that they now rule the world of sports.

  4. Matt

    I second Sultan’s comment. I like Steer to get a lot of playing time and make the most of it. I also hope they let Fairchild have plenty of time to see if what was seen at the end of last season is legit. With an outfield of Myers, Solak, Senzel, Fraley, and Fairchild, he should get plenty of playing time.
    I’m also still holding out hope that Williamson finds some control and fills out one of the rotation spots. Maybe not out of spring training, but soon after. That is, unless they sign Cueto or something.

    • MK

      Matt, I think your outfield projection might be a little too right-handed. With Siani and Friedl at least one of them will probably be included in your mix.

      • MBS

        We are carrying 3 catchers, so we only have 3 bench spots for other positons. 1 outfield, 1 middle infield, and 1 corner infield would be my guess.

        I’d go with Myers RF, Friedl CF, Fraley LF, and Solak as 4. I think Fairchilds last remaining option will work against him in 23, and Senzel cost might get him DFA’d. I’d also guess Siani will start in AAA until an opening presents itself.

      • Matt

        Ya know, you’re both probably right. I hate that for Fairchild, since he looked like he belonged at MLB. But the option will be a big deal. Senzel can also be optioned, if they wanted to go that route.

        Barring anymore additions, and only using their current roster, my best guess for opening day 13 is Stephenson, Votto (if healthy), India, Newman, Steer, Fraley, Senzel, Myers.

        Bench of Casali, Maile, Reynolds, Solak, and Fairchild/Friedl.

      • MBS

        @Matt, I really didn’t consider the DH spot could be an additional OF. That opens up a lot of different scenarios. I do think the limit, even with the DH spot available for the OF, is 5 OF’s. I’m adding Senzel back to the mix, with that new outlook.

      • BK

        The Reds tendered Senzel a contract, so he’s getting paid regardless. He has options, too. The Reds appear committed to giving him a season to produce offensively. Given Senzel’s ability to play both infield and outfield, he likely has an inside track to making the 26-man roster, given the Reds will carry three catchers this season. The last spot may come down to Fairchild vs. Solak.

      • MBS

        Didn’t realize they’ve already tendered Senzel a contract.

        You could make arguments for either Solak, or Fairchild, it might come down to who outshines who in spring. I’m sure both will get shots at some point this year.

      • BK

        This is how I see the 13 position player rosters spots:

        C – Stephenson
        1B – Votto
        2B – India
        SS – Barrero or Newman (both have options)
        3B – Steer
        LF – Fraley
        CF – Friedl
        RF – Myers

        B1 – Maile
        B2 – Casali
        B3 – Reynolds
        B4 – Solak, Senzel or Fairchild (all have options)
        B5 – Solak, Senzel or Fairchild (all have options)

        Barring injuries (don’t we always have those?), Alejo Lopez likely starts at AAA.

        Friedl (LH and solid last season) and Steer have inside tracks to roster spots but are not guaranteed to start. Spring Training is very important for them Barrero, Senzel, Solak, and Fairchild to make the team.

      • MK

        I could see Senzel at third base. This might cut down on his injury issues, which started to crop up more after he moved to the outfield.

      • DaveCT

        MK, I agree about Senzel and 3B, not to mention possibly 1B if Votto isn’t ready. I’ve never liked Senzel’s body language in the OF vs the INF. Some guys just aren’t cut out for what’s been expected of Senzel.

      • Bourgeois Zee

        I’ve got the following:

        C Stephenson/ Maile/ Casali
        1B Votto
        2B India
        SS Barrero
        3B Steer
        MI Newman
        LF Fraley
        CF Friedl/ Fairchild
        RF Myers
        OF/ IF Senzel

        Senzel can play CF, 2B, and 3B. Fairchild can cover both LF and CF, plus RF. (Solak’s only a LF guy who can stand in CF.) Friedl is LH and can play all three OF spots as well (though he’s best served in LF and CF).

        Reynolds is released. Lopez might be too. (Lots of good middle infield prospects in the minor leagues.) Solak will be the first call up from AAA (and might end up on the Opening Day roster if Votto can’t go out of the chute).

  5. Lee

    Do you think we’ll see Stuart Fairchild on the OD roster? I’m not sold on him, but it would feel off not to give him a closer look with how he ended last season.

    • Krozley

      I think Fairchild makes it because he can play all three OF spots and is a right-handed compliment to Fraley and Friedl. He could also see a lot of DH time as he seems like a guy that will hit well with regular playing time (as he did in September and in the minors).

      I agree with BZ’s 13 man crew listed above with Reynolds making the team in the likely case someone starts the year on the injured list (most likely Senzel) or Barrero has a horrible spring.

  6. Stock

    I think the only prospect this provides any value to is Steer. ZIPS does not project PA. They just say if CES gets 550 PA he should hit 27 HR. Reality is he will be lucky to get 100 PA.

    As for Abbott. He won’t pitch 102 innings in the Majors this year. In fact I would be very surprised if he was up prior to September 1. I believe there is little chance he will not be a prospect next October.

    RedsMinorLeagues.com top 25 prospects (plus 1) who could lose rookie elgibility this year:

    Probably: Steer
    Possibly: Williamson, Stoudt
    Slight Possibility: EDLC

    • Bourgeois Zee

      Christian Encarnacion-Strand could well see some time as a 3B/ 1B/ DH in the middle of a Red lineup largely bereft of power. If he continues to hit as he did last season, he’ll only need half a season in AAA. That puts him in the majors for around 250 – 300 PAs, give or take. He’d lose rookie eligibility with that many PAs.

      Steer is definitely going to lose his rookie eligibility, assuming health.

      Ricky Karcher might well also spend quite a bit of time on the major league roster. He’s got electric stuff and found some control at the end of the AAA season. He’s one to watch.

      Williamson and/ or Stoudt will absolutely lose rookie eligibility as well.

      I don’t think they’ll promote EDLC, McLain, Joe Boyle, Andrew Abbott, or Connor Phillips to the parent club before September, but I’m guessing EDLC and Boyle (or perhaps Abbott) get the call then. The others are likely going to lose eligibility in 2024, assuming health.

    • Optimist

      Steer is likely an opening day starter at 3rd. Stoudt is the sleeper here. I suspect the Reds are more willing to let Williamson spend more time developing, and if Stoudt performs well in his first 6-8 starts he’ll come up in a spot start/long relief role. Doubt we’ll see Williamson or EDLC until after the break, or later in the summer.

  7. AMDG

    Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit 32 homers in 48 games at the Double-A level?

    Wow, that’s some serious power!!!

  8. MK

    Are they going to get to start the season with 28 again for the first month?