This week is one where I’ll be trying to finalize the new Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect list. As such, it’s taking a little more time than usual of my day to think up other things to work on/write about. Today felt like a good day to open up an All Questions Answered thread that I can check in on every few hours and answer questions from everyone when I need a little change of pace.
There are a few rules for all of this, though. Try to keep questions to ones that won’t require me to do a bunch of research, such as how many players have had 15 home runs and 15 steals in the same season while playing shortstop. Each person can ask up to three questions. I’ll answer all questions that are asked by 8AM ET on Tuesday (though they may not have answers until after I wake up on Tuesday if they were asked late on Monday night/early on Tuesday morning).
Once a question is asked and I’m ready to answer it, I will delete it from the comments section and add it in to this post along with the answer.
That’s it for now. Leave your questions in the comments and let’s get things started.
As of right now, how many arms do you think the Reds need in the bullpen? Let’s assume Tejay Antone gets healthy.
I hope nothing but the best of health for Tejay Antone, but it’s impossible to make that assumption on my end. He’s had two Tommy John surgeries, had a setback this past spring that led to him missing nearly two full years following the second surgery, and then had an injury after just a handful of appearances when he did return.
But that also is a part of the whole point, too – pitchers do get hurt. Let’s assume there’s an 8-man bullpen. Alexis Diaz, Tejay Antone, Fernando Cruz, Ian Gibaut, Derek Law, Sam Moll, Lucas Sims, and Alex Young seem to be “the group” that would make the team if everyone is indeed healthy to begin the year. It’s always a bad assumption to make, though. When was the last time that happened? Was the mound even 60′ 6″ when it did?
Without having looked at the free agent market, I’d say that the club needs to go get at least one guy that’s a proven, above-average guy they would feel plenty comfortable using in the 8th or 9th inning.
Do you see Jose Barrero carving out a role (possibly utility) with the 2024 Reds or would the best bet be a swap with another organization?
I think that’s probably the only role he’ll have with Cincinnati. His ability to play shortstop, second, and center certainly helps him profile in that utility role. The question, as it has been for the last few years, is will he hit enough to justify it? He’s out of options, so he’s either going to have to make the team, be traded, or be placed on waivers.
You can certainly envision a scenario where trying to make a trade works out. A “change of scenery” move works out sometimes. Other times it doesn’t. The Reds have been on the positive side of picking up guys like this in the past with Brandon Phillips and more recently Will Benson.
Barrero clearly has the tools and athleticism to work with. Despite spending the first two and a half months in the big leagues before being sent to Triple-A, he nearly went 20-20 with Louisville. But his pitch recognition just hasn’t worked at the highest level. He simply chases out of the zone too often. He crushes the ball when it’s in the zone, but he expands the zone too frequently for that to make a difference. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out between now and the end of spring training. I’m not a gambler, but I’d say I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he were to be moved in a trade.
Do you see any current Reds MiLB starting pitchers getting a shot to become a regular member of the rotation at the major league level in 2024? And if so, who?
I guess it depends on how you define “current”. If Connor Phillips counts as a minor league starting pitcher, then yes, he’s got a shot. After him, though, I don’t know that a spot will be out there for someone. Chase Petty’s got a shot, but at the same time you’re looking at a guy who has a few starts in Double-A, didn’t throw more than four innings in a single start in 2023, and didn’t throw 70 innings in the season. Coming off of that he’s likely going to be limited in some capacity again in 2024 – whether it’s just an overall innings limit or something else – and that could mean that he *may* miss out on something if a spot were to open up.
But as always – health matters. The odds a team does what the 2012 Reds did and got every single start from their starting five are incredibly low. Cincinnati’s going to probably use 10 starters or more, but it’s about finding the right time for someone (not just a spot start where no matter what happens they are going back to the minors) and also taking advantage of that. If others are also pitching well, it may not even matter. An example would be if let’s say Hunter Greene misses a month with a hamstring injury or something like that, and someone comes up and pitches well in his place, but the other four guys also pitch well and have been around all year – when Greene comes back he’s getting his spot, and the other four guys aren’t going to lose a spot, either, if they’ve been pitching well.
Does the balance between floor and ceiling change for an organization as it’s major league team progresses? For instance does a team early in development value more high ceiling/higher bust potential players whereas a team currently competing for playoff spots may be more interested in guys with lower ceiling but more sure route to at least contribute?
Yes and no. When it comes to players on the big league roster, the closer you are to competing, the more floor you’re going to want. You don’t want to have guys on the roster who can be outright terrible, even if they have a huge upside. You want those guys playing in the minors and developing. That’s not always possible, of course, for multiple reasons, but that’s what you want.
When you’re talking about the minors – you are always looking for a good mix of both. Those high ceiling guys that work out are rare. Those are your All-Stars, your MVP/Cy Young candidates. It’s tough to find those types. Floor guys, though, still can provide plenty of value even if they don’t necessarily reach their ceiling as a potential every day player/starting pitcher. You need bench players. You need relievers/swing-man types. Heck, even in the minors you need quality depth.
Can you comment on the defense of Jacob Hurtubise and Blake Dunn?
Both guys are capable of playing center. I think that Dunn is a little better, but both are good defensive outfielders.
In looking at the last four drafts and comparing those players taken to your top 25, It doesn’t seem like the staff has done a very good job. Just 7 of your top 25 have come since 2020 and an additional one on the Reds roster (McClain). The top prospects are loaded with trades and international signings. Why have the Reds been so good at identifying talent in those later two areas, but not so much in the draft?
There’s a lot of stuff here, so let’s start out with the first point: I’m willing to give anyone and everyone a pass on the 2020 draft. Some guys never even got their season started, so teams were selecting guys from what they saw in 2019, or a 2-week span of games in 2020, and some like workout videos.
You’re forgetting about Andrew Abbott, which seems like it’s a big omission. Injuries haven’t helped in this area, either. Jackson Miller’s played in a handful of games in three years. Bryce Bonnin’s shoulder injury has kept him off of the mound. One guy ran into legal problems and is out of baseball. That 2020 draft was rough. But it also includes Joe Boyle, who would be in the Top 25 and reached the big leagues.
The international group(s) have been particularly strong the last few years. It’s been good, both in terms of depth as well as high-end talent. Part of the reason it may feel like it’s been stronger is that most of that group is still in the low minors and while they’ve found plenty of success, they also haven’t reached the upper levels where many guys tend to step back. Maybe that won’t happen, but it usually does. Another thing in play here is that when it comes to the international side of things – you aren’t relying on being able to pick your talent based on what your record was. In a draft you may select 18th. Internationally you can just spend your allotted amount on whoever. In theory, every player is available to you there. That’s just not the case in the draft.
Can you talk me out of the thought that Sal Stewart is just gonna be a better Mike Moustakas eventually? I cant shake the comp.
I mean let’s get real here: Mike Moustakas has played 13 years in the big leagues and made three All-Star teams….. if any prospect does that it’s hard to complain. Stewart, thus far, has exhibited strikezone control that Moustakas never showed, but he’s also not yet shown anywhere near the same kind of power (Moustakas had 41 doubles and 36 home runs as a 21-year-old in AA/AAA back in 2010). I don’t think there’s an ideal comp between the two, but if we’re talking just overall value and that – Moustakas has had a fine career that anyone in the minor leagues should be thrilled about if they do the same thing.
What is the deepest position of strength throughout the system, and which players might be leveraged/traded to shore up other areas?
I still think it’s infielders, even with the graduations of Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. With how the infield looks right now, if we include Noelvi Marte in the mix at the big league level – where are guys like Carlos Jorge, Cam Collier, Sal Stewart, Edwin Arroyo, Leo Balcazar, Victor Acosta, Ricardo Cabrera, Sammy Safura, Sheng-En Lin, Carlos Sanchez going to play? Some are further away than others, but all of those guys are Top 25-ish caliber prospects and probably don’t have a spot in the big leagues for the next 4-5 years, right? I’m not saying trade them all, and I’m not singling out any particular one of them – and I’d be hesitant to trade a few of those guys on an individual level – but the club is really deep in the big leagues and in the minors on the infield. If you need to make moves, this is the group you’re looking at.
Do you think Jayvien Sandridge will make the 40-man roster?
Yes, I do. He’s got good stuff and his control improved as the season went along. In the first half of the season he had 36 walks in 33.0 innings (40 strikeouts). Since then, including the Double-A playoffs and his time so far in the Arizona Fall League he’s had 17 walks and 65 strikeouts in 37.1 innings.
1. 2024’s top 3 sleepers (off the top of your head)?
2. Same question, breakouts?
3. Apple or pumpkin Thanksgiving pie?
If Leo Balcazar counts as a sleeper, let’s start with him. He’s played well, but after tearing his ACL in late April it feels like he’s been a little “out of sight, out of mind” and he definitely needs to be on the mind heading into 2024. Luis Reyes had an interesting last two seasons and I’m not sure that I have ever mentioned him beyond a game recap. Let’s add Victor Acosta here, too. One of the younger players in the FSL last year, he’s got tools, just needs to put things together a bit more consistently.
Breakouts…. I’ll start with Jackson Miller. Is this anything more than hoping he can stay healthy and perform than being based on something I’ve heard or seen? No. It’s not. Sal Stewart. I think that his power will start to play quite a bit more and it’ll lead to a statistical breakout even though he showed well in 2023. Cam Collier. I think he’ll put together some good hitting numbers this year.
As for the pie…. yes. The answer is yes. With that said, I’d break a few laws to have a piece of apple pie made by my dad again.
Early thoughts on Rule 5 players the Reds protect?
I think that Rece Hinds is the only slam-dunk, for sure protection. Jacob Hurtubise is very, very likely to be protected. As I noted above, I think that Jayvien Sandridge gets protected. After that you get into a group of “I can understand why they were protected” with Christian Roa, Jose Acuna, Jacob Heatherly.
That latter group has two guys with big strikeout numbers but real concerns with throwing strikes. Jose Acuna is not a big stuff guy, but he’s got much better control and he’s performed well since joining the club at the 2022 trade deadline.
Where do you expect the Reds to start Rhett Lowder and Ty Floyd next year? Some college guys have gone straight to AA (Leiter) with subpar results. Do you expect Dayton or Daytona?
I would be shocked if they began in Daytona. If I were forced to lay money on it, I’d say Dayton, but would love to be able to also hedge that bet with a slightly smaller bet on Chattanooga.
Nick Lodolo, for example, began his first full season in Double-A. But he also pitched a little bit, granted in limited action, during his draft season in Dayton and then didn’t get to pitch in 2020. Lowder and Floyd did not pitch in games during their draft year. Hopefully there’s no reason that they’ve got to sit out all of 2024. Sending them to Dayton and then moving them from there based on performance seems like the safe bet.
I realize he didn’t get many opportunities with the Reds, but do you have any thoughts on TJ Hopkin’s future with the Reds?
Hopkins is interesting. He’s got some tools. He can run, he’s got power, and he can play some defense. The speed, though, is less useful than you’d would expect from someone who is as fast as he is. He’s never really stolen bases despite having above-average to plus speed.
He’ll be 27 when spring training starts, and with 41 at-bats under his belt in the big leagues, that’s certainly not working in his favor. That’s going to leave him with little wiggle room. He’s likely going to have to perform to keep his spot on the 40-man. His first season in the big leagues as a backup/bench player didn’t go well. It was just a handful of games and just 41 at-bats, but if he repeats that in the future he’ll be in discussions when the team needs to create a roster spot.
With that said, he’s performed very well in Triple-A, and as mentioned above – he’s got some tools to work with. He hits the ball hard, can run, has shown good plate discipline in the minors in 2023 – the pieces are there for a quality bench player.
Any updates on Evan Kravetz progress? Seems very pedestrian so far, high BB% but very good K%, and he’s aging out, BUT he’s huge and he’s a lefty. Any hope of unlocking late excellence?
You can always hope for anyone. But Kravetz, even as a lefty, has below-average velocity. And that’s even more so when you pile him into the reliever category. He pitched in 19 games with Louisville and we’ve got Hawkeye data there. Kravetz averaged 90.1 MPH with his fastball. And once he got to Louisville, he struggled, too. After a 2.40 ERA in 30.0 innings with 9 walks and 36 strikeouts in Double-A he had a 6.75 ERA in 30.2 innings with Louisville while walking 23 batters and striking out 31 – facing 33 more batters in his time with the Bats. At this point he’s one of those guys who with his age and his fastball, he’s got to perform and do so from the start.
How many players from the 2021 and 2023 classes do you think will finish their career with a WAR greater than 10?
Three feels like both a safe bet and a little bit crazy at the same time. But it’s where I’m at. 10 WAR is actually a pretty good career for so many players.
How many players from the 2021 and 2023 classes do you think will finish their career with a WAR greater than 2?
Let’s go with eight. The 2021 class is already showing tons of depth and is still holding some very strong performances, on top of having multiple big leaguers already. It’s still so early on the 2023 class – we just don’t know too much here yet.
Rank the following 8 classes on where you think they will finish in WAR in 25 years. 2002 (58.3), 2007 (49.2), 2017 (Currently 9.9), 2018 (Currently 7.5), 2019 (Currently 4.7), 2021 (Currently 5.4) 2022 (Currently 0) and 2023 (Currently 0)?
I think you easily go 2002 and 2007 first and second. They have established leads that are enormous and have avoided any and all “what if” scenarios because the “what if” already happened. After that I’d go 2018, 2021, 2017, 2019, 2022, and 2023. It’s just about safety. The further away guys are the more likely they are to not get there.
Doug, How do you project Hunter Greene as a two-pitch starter in 2024? Could he be an ace? Is he really working on improving his below-average changeup?
I’ve been talking about how he needs to use his third pitch more than he does for years now. He has a third pitch. He actually started throwing a 4th pitch this year while he was rehabbing in Louisville – a splitter – but he then stopped throwing it once he returned to the big leagues.
So I guess this is two-fold. Yes, he is really working on trying to improve that third offering. But he’s got to actually be committed to using it. On May 15th and May 21st he threw his change up 13.5% and 11.3% of the time. The rest of the season he threw the change up under 10% in every game he pitched in the big leagues. In all three of his rehab starts in Louisville in August he threw his change up and splitter at least 15% of the time, but then returned to the big leagues and it was never over 9% in eight starts before the year ended.
Can he be an ace? Absolutely. Will he be without throwing a third pitch more often? Highly unlikely.
Is there some prospect at the farm system that could be compared with Elly’s upside?
No. There are probably only 2-3 guys in all of minor league baseball that could have a similar upside.
If the Front Office adds no players in the offseason, could the Reds be contenders for the central division title or making the postseason anyway?
You never really know how things are going to work out, but on paper – no, not division contenders. Wild card? Maybe so. If they don’t add anyone then the 2024 team would have to remain very healthy to push for the division. Can that happen? Yeah. Is it likely to happen? No, it’s not.