The minor league regular season begins in 10 days, with Triple-A Louisville beginning their season on March 31st. With that in mind, today felt like the perfect day to start a short series where I’ll look at a few players that I feel could be primed to break out in 2023 in one way or another. The first prospects on the docket is catcher Daniel Vellojin.
In 2022 many things didn’t go his way. In spring training he suffered a broken hamate bone and missed the first month-and-a-half of the season. His bat never really got going after he returned as he continued to deal with recovery from the injury that was a little tougher on him as a catcher than it may have been on a non-catcher. He finished the year with a .199/.327/.358 line in 71 games split between three levels (A, A+, AA).
In 2021 he had a bit of a breakout while in Daytona. He made the jump from the Dominican Summer League (where he hit .314/.444/.451 as a 19-year-old with more walks than strikeouts in 2019) and while the Florida State League didn’t help him hit for average – just .247 in 2021 – he had one less walk than strikeout and posted an. 803 OPS in a league where the OPS was .714.
After a little bit of time off, Daniel Vellojin headed back to his home country of Colombia to play in winter ball. And play he did. The then 22-year-old played in 50 games and led the league in home runs with 12 (the players tied for second in the league had 8), added 11 doubles, drove in 33 runs, walked as often as he struck out – 35 times in 193 plate appearances – and he hit .292/.430/.597. His OPS was 234 points higher than the league average. While the Colombian Winter League isn’t the best winter league around, there are plenty of affiliated players in the league and there were 14 players with big league experience in the 4-team league – including Reds reliever Reiver Sanmartin and former Red Dilson Herrera.
This spring Vellojin has seen limited action with the big league club, getting into six games and going 2-5 with a double, no walks, and no strikeouts. But what he showed in winter ball showed that his hamate injury was behind him at this point. Combine that with what he’s shown in the previous years at the plate and it seems that there’s a good reason that he could rebound, and with the power he’s shown that he could even have a big breakout at the dish.
Seeing him in that ST game it looks like his body has transformed in the offseason into something that resembles more along the lines of Yogi Berra than a young Tucker Barnhart.
I am really excited about Vellojin. I have him only at #23 on my current prospect list but I could see him moving into the top 10 if he has an ISO north of .200 this year. If he cuts down on his passed balls and has an ISO north of .200 I could see him being a top 100 prospect overall next winter.
In 2006 Joey Votto played in Chattanooga and had a line of .319/.409/.547/.956. That winter Baseball America ranked him as the #43 prospect in baseball.
I have never had a doubt that a .400 OBP is not out of the reach with Vellojin. Based upon MK’s comments above and his performance this winter, I now feel a .500 Slg% is not a reach either.
If Vellojin can match Votto’s OBP and Slg% in Chattanooga as well as improve his defense, he should be a top 50 prospect (and without a doubt in the top 100) just like Votto was prior to the 2007 season.
I have been very impressed with many if not all of the Reds’ prospects and minor leaguers this spring. Outside of the EDLC level kids, they have largely looked talented, skilled, comfortable and acting like they belong. The exceptions are very few. This is a sea change for the system.
Very encouraging to see him dominate winter ball like that. Carry it over to AA and hopefully win a spot next spring. Really would fit nicely in a catching DH tandem with Stephenson, especially being a lefty hitter.
I’m surprised no one took him. Catchers don’t grow on trees especially ones that can hit a little bit. Just look at Chadwick Tromp. I remember him having a breakout year in our minor league system one year and then boom he was released for some inexplicable reason and now he has 3 MLB years under his belt.
Tromp was not released, he reached minor league free agency.
OK thanks Doug. But they declined to add him to 40 man correct?
Seems the Reds have had several Latin catchers that got very little opportunity to play while in Dayton. Usually, the third catchers that warmed up pitchers in the bullpen. List included Tromp, Julio Murillo (now Daytona Manager), and Daniel Duarte (Red’s bullpen catcher). Don’t know the reason they weren’t given a shot as a player and Tromp got a small opportunity later due to injury, but they did not resign him when he became a free agent. All three guys are great kids.
I am not a bit surprised that no one dished out $100,000 on a player whose OPS last year was .685 in the lower levels of the minors. To expect someone that produced that offense last year along with his defensive shortcomings to remain on a ML roster all year is unrealistic.
As for Tromp, the Reds didn’t really miss much by letting him go. If he were still in the Reds system today he would be in Louisville this April.
I went back and reread Doug’s write-ups on Vellijon for this year and last season. Also, wonder about MK’s comment above – BRef has him at 5’11, 160, which seems a wee bit light considering the height – has he filled in or bulked up?
Doug’s review this season considers the quirks in his defense – namely good arm and framing, questionable blocking (excessive WP/PBs). It also reflects an improvement in power, if not the general hit tool.
If the offensive dropoff is the residual hamate issue, his secondary offensive stats are very appealing – power and a very good BB/K ratio. Power and OBP goes a long way, exceptionally so for a catcher.
Finally, he’s 23 as of last week, so a hot start in AA could have him move fast and get a cup of coffee later this year.
A closing question – if the bat continues to develop is there any chance he gets looks at 3b or 1b? Seems like he’s succeeded in improving various aspects of his game, so expand his usefulness as available.
I’m still following Cade Hunter as a dark horse fast-riser, but Vellojin is surely a year or two ahead of him.
Vellojin is officially listed at 5′ 9″ and 202 lbs in the 2023 Reds Media Guide.
I doubt he gets moved off of catcher any time soon.
Tanner is the guy that I think will be a fast riser. He’s got the defense, and arm. The new rules will increase stolen bases, so elite arms are going to be even more important for catchers. Tanners arm is a 70 on MLB pipeline, but some scouts had it at an 80. He’s also got some pop, and a decent bat.
Wouldn’t give up on Nelson. He was transitioning to a wood bat and the increased expectations and skills of a professional catcher. He has the body frame and tools necessary to become a solid alternative.
I agree with you Optimist. I love Vellojin and Cade Hunter. Between Vellojin, Hunter, Duno and all the 1st and 2nd round picks we spent at catcher I think the position is solid in the system.
Last October I rated this position a C- and said it would be a C+ at this point. I rated it a C- because of Vellojin and Cade Hunter. With the addition of Duno I think a C+ is fair.