The Cincinnati Reds have been wheeling and dealing today, signing four players to contracts for 2024 to avoid arbitration and also signing free agent Brent Suter to a deal for 2024 that includes an option for 2025. But they weren’t just out there getting ink onto paper, the club also announced that they were extending spring training invites to eight minor leaguers. Pitchers Julian Aguiar, Chase Petty, Rhett Lowder, and Zach Maxwell all got the invite. They’ll be joined by catcher Michael Trautwein, infielders Tyler Callihan and Edwin Arroyo, as well as outfielder Blake Dunn.

The group of pitchers features three of the Reds Top 25 prospects. Rhett Lowder, the clubs 2nd rated prospect, was their 1st round pick in 2023. He didn’t pitch after being drafted 7th overall out of Wake Forest where he went 15-0 on the season with a 1.87 ERA in 120.1 innings. During his junior season he walked just 24 batters and had 143 strikeouts.

Chase Petty dealt with an elbow injury to start the year. The Reds limited his usage per outing – he never threw more than 4.0 innings in any of his 18 starts. But when he was on the mound he was dominant, posting a 1.72 ERA on the year while not giving up a home run in 68.0 innings. That performance, along with his stuff, pushed him to the 6th spot on Cincinnati’s Top 25 prospect list.

Julian Aguiar had a breakout season of his own in 2023. He posted a 1.92 ERA in 14 starts with the Dayton Dragons before being promoted in the second half to Double-A. He went on to make 11 starts for the Lookouts and posted a 4.28 ERA while in Chattanooga. Overall he threw 125.0 innings with a 2.95 ERA, walking just 37 batters and striking out 138. All of that led him to the #18 ranking on the clubs Top 25 prospect list.

Zach Maxwell didn’t make the prospect list, but he’s arguably the teams top relief prospect. The big right-hander split his season between Daytona and Dayton, posting a 4.11 ERA in 34 games that saw him throw 61.1 innings. His control wasn’t always there as he walked 38 hitters, but he also showed off elite stuff that led to him striking out 96 batters. Following the regular season he went to the Arizona Fall League and posted a 2.19 ERA in 12.1 innings where he walked nine batters and had 22 strikeouts.

Shortstop Edwin Arroyo headlines the position player group that got invitations today. The Reds 3rd best prospect, Arroyo spent almost all of his regular season in Dayton with the Dragons, but got a call up to Double-A Chattanooga for the final week of the season. As a 19-year-old he hit .252/.324/.433 between the two stops, but a slow start to the season hides just how good he was for much of the year. In his final 89 games of the season that covered four months, he hit .281/.360/.480.

Blake Dunn was the team’s player of the year in 2023. He’s only the second player in the organization since 1960 when there’s full minor league data available to hit at least 20 home runs and steal at least 50 bases in the same year. The outfielder played in 47 games with High-A Dayton before being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga where he played his final 77 games of the year. Between the two stops the team’s #15 prospect hit .312/.425/.522 with 23 home runs, 54 steals, 107 runs scored, and 79 runs batted in. He was better in Chattanooga than he was in Dayton, posting an OPS 118 points higher in Double-A.

Michael Trautwein put together his best season of his career in 2023. He began the season in Dayton and played 38 games with the Dragons before moving up to join Double-A Chattanooga. He finished the season with the Lookouts, playing in another 49 games. Between the two stops he hit .248/.360/.384 while seeing action as a catcher (53 starts) and an outfielder (15 starts). The Reds then sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .217/.333/.435 with three home runs in 15 games played.

Tyler Callihan has struggled to stay healthy in the past, but he played nearly every day in 2023. He began the year in Dayton and played in 109 games for the Dragons while hitting .236/.312/.373. The second baseman was then promoted to Chattanooga to finish out his season. In the final month there he played in 22 games and hit .310/.396/.460 with the Lookouts while showing much better strikezone control – walking more and striking out less than he had done with Dayton.

28 Responses

  1. DaveCT

    It’d be something if Callahan asserts himself at a LH hitting 2B and gets a chance before Jorge. If successful, and if Jorge keeps pushing up, he could become a nice trade chip, mind you, as an add-on not a headliner.

    • RedsGettingBetter

      I think you mean Callihan that is mentioned in this article, because Callahan is another intriguing prospect.

      • DaveCT

        Yes, I did, thanks! And, I thought about the spelling as I typed …

        Autocorrect is not my friend.

    • MBS

      I hope Jorge keeps pushing up as well, but as an OF. We’d still have some high ranking future infield depth options with Arroyo, Balcazar, and Cabrera.

      Our OF is depth is in more need, and honestly Collier might need to transition to the OF imo. Especially if we get Kurtz in the draft.

      • DaveCT

        Yes, I did, thanks! And, I thought about the spelling as I typed …

        Autocorrect is not my friend.

      • DaveCT

        Autocorrect isn’t my friend and, as it turns out, the submit button …

        Jorge as CF makes sense as the LH successor to Friedl if/when he priced himself out of our range.

        You will, ahem, note this is one of the few times I’ll go for a position change off a guy’s best position.

        The one significant barrier is if Jorge is as brutal in CF as MK has said. Sorta why CES had exactly one game in RF and one in LF last year at AAA.

        But Jorge IMO does profile as a leadoff/#2 hitter with some pop which would fit as a CF as well as 2B. Won’t be too long now before we find out.

  2. Optimist

    A very interesting list – Petty and Arroyo on the fast track, and it will expose Dunn to a good 3 months of higher level competition by adding 6 weeks of spring to 6-8 weeks in AAA to see if he’s a June callup. Dunn and Hinds and Hurtubise all looking to debut in 2024. Excellent competition from spring well into summer in AAA.

    Any further hints on where Lowder begins – seems like it could be anywhere between Dayton and Cincinnati?

    • Doug Gray

      If you forced me to bet, I’d say Chattanooga. But if I could put in two bets it would be something like 60/40 on Chattanooga/Dayton. There’s almost no possible way he starts in Cincinnati.

      • Optimist

        I agree with the “almost no possibility”, but it is a non-zero chance I suppose. The more interesting path is if he follows or accelerates the Abbott route – 24 MiLB starts, 23 of which in AA and 7 in AAA. If Lowder is much more the “polish” pitcher, proven performance thru July could make a fascinating August for the Reds. When is the last time (I never recall any) they had pitching to deal at the deadline?

      • Doug Gray

        The big difference here is that Abbott had about 5 fewer big league caliber pitchers he needed to pass by. Lowder could be better but come nowhere near as quickly simply because the Reds have so many more quality options today. The Reds were signing guys out of indy ball by the time May rolled around and then getting them in the big league rotation shortly after that. Maybe Lowder just flat out forces the issue with sheer, brutal dominance. But short of going all Cole Hamels on the minor leagues (without the injuries along the way – just hat kind of insane performance), I’d be surprised to see him in the big leagues this season.

      • Jonathan

        Was Leake such a better prospect? Or was it right opportunity at the right time for him to skip the minor leagues and make the MLB team in his first year?

      • Doug Gray

        I don’t think he was necessarily a better prospect. But he was probably more advanced and the opportunity was definitely right at the time.

    • DaveCT

      I don’t necessarily view this as a full on fast track for Petty. It may well also be an added opportunity for higher level
      Instruction and exposure via ML camp. Either way, or both, I’m in favor.

      • Optimist

        Maybe not that fast of a track – I was thinking it gets him very familiar with the MLB side of the system and sets him up for a 2025 debut if all goes very well this season – mostly in AA, perhaps August/Sept. in AAA, then whenever needed in 2025 MLB.

        As for Lowder, yes Abbott had nobody blocking him, but if Lowder is that much better (and maybe he’s not enough better) he can force the issue. If they hit on all these pitching additions as well as progression from the existing staff, Krall and the FO can go to town at the deadline considering how valuable pitching is for the playoff race. They wouldn’t need Lowder like they were desperate for Abbott, but knowing he’s there for a roster opening or injury callup, or the 2 spots in September could be useful.

      • DaveCT

        I think one very important key for Lowder will be is how efficient he can be as a pro and how deep into games he can go. Putting aside innings limits, etc., and in looking how quickly he may move, I’d think he has the ability to start in Dayton, move up to Chattanooga in June and finish with a few starts in Louisville. As Doug notes, there may not be a need to move him that quickly but he may compel them to do just that. Putting him in position for a 25 call up creates flexibility with the current group at GABP and AAA.

  3. DaveCT

    While spring training always needs extra catching, it’s a nice recognition for Trautwein. He beat Nelson out of Hi-A then seemed to take primary playing time from Vallojin at AA. With the eye test, he looks nice behind the plate. He’s more long and lanky than thick bodied, and he looks locked in with the pitching. LH bat, capable in the OF and he could be a valuable piece.

    • James K

      I am surprised they invited only one minor league catcher. Düring Spring training they have so many pitchers needing to warm up.

  4. Bourgeois Zee

    I think Trautwein is a low-key interesting guy as a backup to the backup catcher. He could well see some time as early as the second half of this season (should injuries occur). At that point, it’ll be up to him to impress decision-makers with his game.

  5. MK

    Bats fans should be in for an excellent season. We would be hard pressed to find another AAA team with as much big league experience as theirs in ‘24. Looks like Williamson, Phillips, Richardson, Spiers, and Kennedy all who got big league starts last year will make up the rotation. The bullpen should also be similar with Duarte, Antone, and Busenitz who also possess ‘23 MLB experience.

    • DaveCT

      Expecting an outfield of Connor Capel, Hurtubise, Dunn and Hinds, too. And I’d love to see Miguel Hernandez break out some. Santillan is on the roster, and it’s likely Stoudt and Legumina end up there as well. They’re loaded.

      • Greenfield Red

        Miguel Herbandez is the forgotten man. It would be cool for him to break out in 24.

  6. MK

    Of the invitees I believe Maxwell will be the breakout guy.

    Funny happening last year in Dayton, Maxwell came a little close to a hitter who hit the dirt. Hitter jumps up and takes a step towards the mound when he looks up to see the defense waiting there as Ibarra had rushed over from 1st base. There was 550 pounds of thunder waiting on the hitter’s to approach. He stopped after two steps.

  7. RedBB

    Really excited to see what Dunn can do. Might not be a 5 tool player but he brings so many positives with his game, not the least of which is HBP….32 in 124G is an insane rate. Also had 54 SB’s in 124 games which is very impressive. Just seems like another Justin Turner to me….

    • Optimist

      Oh yes – and see MK’s comment on Maxwell above (with Ibarra). It was a defensive collision with Ibarra that cost Dunn the better part of a season of playing time. Dunn is pretty solid, but Ibarra . . .