With the 2013 Major League Baseball season nearly upon us, let's take a look at one man's opinion on who the top-20 prospects in the Cincinnati Reds organization are and why. Note: prospect means they're still considered a rookie by MLB standards or are still in the minors.
Top 20 Reds Prospects
1. Billy Hamilton – CF – Combined 2012 numbers at High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola: .311 batting average, 2 home runs, 45 RBIs, 155 stolen bases (in 192 attempts), .830 OPS, 512 at-bats, 22 doubles, 14 triples. Age by 2013 opener: 22. Originally acquired: Second-round of 2009 draft (No. 57 overall). Comment: Shattered the all-time professional baseball record with the incredible 155 steals. Will move from shortstop to centerfield in 2013 (played CF in the Arizona Fall League in 2012). A switch-hitter who has learned to work the count and take a walk. Although he won’t take over as the starter until 2014, there is little question he is the Reds’ CF of the future. The short-term question is whether he begins the 2013 season in Pensacola or Louisville.
2. Tony Cingrani – LHP – Combined 2012 numbers at Bakersfield and Pensacola: 10-4, 1.73 ERA, 146 innings, 98 hits, 172 strikeouts, 52 walks, 25 starts, 1 relief appearance. Major League stats: 5 IP, 1.80 ERA, 4 hits, 9 strikeouts, 2 walks. Age by 2013 opener: 23. Originally acquired: Third-round of 2011 draft (No. 114 overall). Comment: What an absolute steal Cingrani has turned out to be. A big, hard-throwing lefty with good command? Yes, please. There is still some debate on whether he will be a starter or reliever on the MLB level – since he doesn’t have a wide-array of pitches – but the bottom line is that he’s dominated at every level since making his pro debut in the summer of 2011. He’ll likely begin the 2013 season as a starter at Louisville and it will be very interesting to see how he performs. I like the fact that he got his feet wet at the MLB level in September and didn’t look out of place in the least.
3. Daniel Corcino – RHP – 2012 Numbers at Pensacola: 8-8, 3.01 ERA, 143.1 IP, 111 H, 126 K, 65 BB, 26 starts. Age by 2013 opener: 22. Originally acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2008 (Dominican Republic). Comment: Widely considered the Reds’ top pitching prospect entering 2012, hopes are still very high for Corcino. Cingrani’s rise is no knock on Corcino, it just means the Reds have two enticing pitching prospects that are very close to making a big impact at the MLB level. Corcino has been described as a poor-man’s Johnny Cueto and I think all Reds fans would take another pitcher somewhat like Cueto, even if Corcino likely will end up being a step down from his fellow countryman. Like Cingrani, I look for Corcino to begin the 2013 season helping lead the rotation in Triple-A Louisville.
4. Robert Stephenson – RHP – Combined 2012 numbers at High-Rookie Billings and Low-A Dayton: 3-4, 3.18 ERA, 65 IP, 54 H, 72 K, 23 BB, 15 starts. Age by 2013 opener: 20. Originally acquired: First-round of 2011 draft (No. 27 overall). Comment: The Reds are bringing the prized prospect along slowly, but the early returns have been very promising. He struggled after getting called up from Billings to Dayton, but he throws hard (93-96 MPH), has good command and has a good repertoire of pitches. I look for him to start the 2013 season in Dayton and will likely get called up to high-A Bakersfield by midseason at the latest. Or if he’s doing well enough, perhaps he’ll skip High-A and will go directly from Dayton to Double-A Pensacola.
5. Jesse Winker – OF – 2012 numbers at Billings: .338 BA, 5 HR, 35 RBIs, 1 steal, .943 OPS (40 BB, 50 K), 228 ABs, 16 doubles, 3 triples. Age by 2013 opener: 19. Originally acquired: Supplemental first-round of 2012 draft (No. 49 overall). Comment: Those stats are so damn beautiful. I mean, look at those bad boys. An 18-year-old who absolutely raked during his first season in pro ball, and walked almost as much as he struck out? Definitely my favorite pick of the 2012 draft so far. Hopefully he starts 2013 out at Dayton and I would be shocked if he didn’t. Projects as a starting corner outfielder for the Reds one day.
6. Henry Rodriguez – 2B/3B – Combined 2012 numbers at Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville: .282 BA, 5 HR, 36 RBIs, 8 steals, .680 OPS, 362 at-bats, 17 doubles. Major League stats: .214 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBIs, (3-for-14). Age by 2013 opener: 23. Originally acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2007 (Venezuela). Comment: It was big for H-Rod to get the MLB experience that he did at the end of last season. He shows good promise at the plate and appears to be a guy that can be a solid backup for Brandon Phillips at second base and also fill in for Todd Frazier at third. That said, I look for Rodriguez to begin the 2013 season at Louisville, playing mainly third.
7. Nick Travieso – RHP – 2012 numbers at Low-Rookie AZL Reds: 0-2, 4.71 ERA, 21 IP, 20 H, 5 BB, 14 K, 8 starts. Age by 2013 opener: 19. Originally acquired: First-round (No. 14 overall) in 2012 draft. Comment: Travieso is a fireballer who has been clocked as high as 99 MPH on the gun. He doesn’t throw nearly that hard usually, but he can get it up in the mid-90’s somewhat consistently. He didn’t put up impressive stats during his first summer in pro ball, but unlike Stephenson, at least he got some starts under his belt the same year he was drafted. He will likely wait it out in 2013 until Billings’ season begins. I just don’t see him being ready to start the year at Dayton.
8. Kyle Lotzkar – RHP – Combined 2012 numbers at Bakersfield and Pensacola: 7-6, 4.55 ERA, 112.2 IP, 99 H, 63 BB, 123 K, 23 games, 22 starts. Age by 2013 opener: 23. Originally acquired: Supplemental first-round pick in 2007. Comment: Ugh. Talk about a disappointing season from Lotzkar. It’s hard to believe he was actually selected to play in the Future’s Game in 2012, although his numbers were better at that point in the season. However, at least he stayed healthy for a change and he does appear to have a high ceiling, keeping him as a top-10 prospect within the organization for now. It wouldn’t shock me to see Lotzkar start the year in Pensacola in 2013, but I would bet he’ll begin the season at Louisville. Is he ready for Triple-A though? That’s a big question.
9. Neftali Soto – 1B – 2012 numbers at Louisville: .245 BA, 14 HR, 59 RBI, 2 SB, .713 OPS, 465 ABs, 30 doubles. Age by 2013 opener: 24. Originally acquired: Supplemental third-round of 2007 draft. Comment: He clubbed 31 home runs in just 396 at-bats in 2011 (mostly at Double-A) to lead all minor league players in the Reds’ organization, but struggled making the transition to Triple-A and his numbers plummeted. There’s no question he’ll repeat a year at Louisville. He’s like a kid getting held back in school. I still have hopes he can be a solid long-term backup for Joey Votto and provide some pop off the bench for the Reds (or become a nice trading chip). If he performs well early in 2013 at Louisville, he might get his shot sooner rather than later.
10. Tucker Barnhart – C – Combined 2012 numbers at Bakersfield and Pensacola: .247 BA, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 1 steal, .693 OPS, 328 ABs, 4 doubles, 1 triple. Age by 2013 opener: 22. Originally acquired: 10th round (No. 299 overall) of 2009 draft. Comment: Known more for his defense than offense, which better be the case after looking at the above stats. Actually, Barnhart has held his own pretty well offensively considering his age, but questions remain as to whether he’ll ever hit well enough to play in the Big Leagues. There is no question about his defense though.
11. Ismael Guillon – LHP – Combined 2012 numbers at Billings and Dayton: 6-1, 2.38 ERA, 75.2 IP, 61 H, 31 BB, 90 K, 15 games, 14 starts. Age by 2013 opener: 21. Originally acquired: Signed as international free agent (Venezuela). Comment: How could you possibly not be excited about a left-handed pitcher with those numbers at that age? Guillon will likely start the 2013 at Dayton, but a midseason promotion to Bakersfield wouldn’t be surprising. Can he piece together two good seasons in a row? If he can, he will skyrocket on everyone’s prospect list.
12. Kyle Waldrop – OF – 2012 numbers at Dayton: .284 BA, 8 HR, 50 RBI, 10 steals, .767 OPS, 416 ABs, 21 doubles, 6 triples. Age by 2013 opener: 21. Originally acquired: 12th round of 2010 draft. Comment: Waldrop continues to get better and better. I’m excited about him and think he’ll eventually be a Major League player. And don’t look too much into him being “only” a former 12th-round pick. The reason he lasted that long was because everyone thought he would go to college. The Reds had to offer him a pretty penny to sign. But they did, he accepted and he’s living up to the hype. Look for him to begin 2013 at hitter-friendly Bakersfield where his already-solid numbers could improve exponentially.
13. Tanner Rahier – 3B – 2012 numbers at AZL Reds: .192 BA, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 5 SB, .577 OPS, 193 ABs, 9 doubles, 1 triple. Age by 2013 opener: 19. Originally acquired: Second-round of 2012 draft (No. 78 overall). Comment: Those stats are brutal by any measure, but he was considered a steal in the second round. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now since it was a small sample size and his first taste of pro ball.
14. Dan Langfield – RHP – 2012 numbers at Billings: 3-0, 2.68 ERA, 37 IP, 27 H, 17 BB, 54 K, 15 games, 5 starts. Age by 2013 opener: 22. Originally acquired: Third-round of 2012 draft (No. 109 overall). Comment: The third-round has sure been a good time for the Reds to take college pitchers in recent years. They traded two former third-rounders – Zach Stewart in 2009 in the Scott Rolen deal and Donnie Joseph in 2012 in the Jonathan Broxton deal – but Cingrani and Langfield remain. Langfield was considered great value in the third round and he proved it with his impressive strikeout numbers (and solid numbers overall). I look for him to begin the 2013 season in Dayton and it will be interesting to see how he performs for the Dragons.
15. Donald Lutz – 1B/LF – Combined 2012 numbers at Bakersfield and Pensacola: .269 BA, 22 HR, 71 RBI, 1 SB, .852 OPS, 416 ABs, 25 doubles, 1 triple. Age by 2013 opener: 24. Originally acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2007. Comment: Lutz will be looking to follow in Ryan Hanigan’s footsteps and eventually make the Reds’ team as a former undrafted free agent. It’s one thing to go undrafted in the NFL where there’s seven rounds, or the NBA where there’s just two. But in MLB with a robust 50 rounds? Not many undrafted players make it, but Lutz appears to be one of the exceptions to the rule. He didn’t hit well after getting promoted to Pensacola in 2012 after raking at Bakersfield, but he’ll get another shot with the Blue Wahoos in 2013.
16. Ryan LaMarre – CF – 2012 numbers at Pensacola: .264 BA, 5 HR, 32 RBIs, 30 SBs, .708 OPS, 482 ABs, 22 doubles, 3 triples. Age by 2013 opener: 24. Originally acquired: Second-round of 2010 draft. Comment: I’m not a big fan of LaMarre, who barely has any power and doesn’t get on base enough. He’s excellent defensively though and will likely be a backup Major Leaguer one day. It will be interesting to see what the Reds decide to do with LaMarre and Hamilton this year. They can’t be on the same team since they’re both centerfielders and both need as much playing time as possible. Perhaps the Reds will take things slowly with Hamilton and will start him at Pensacola, which would allow LaMarre to roam CF for Louisville.
17. Yorman Rodriguez – CF – Combined 2012 numbers at Dayton and Bakersfield: .241, 6 HR, 51 RBI, 11 SB, 348 ABs, 21 doubles, 3 triples. Age by 2013 opener: 20. Originally acquired: Signed as international free agent (Venezuela) in 2009. Comment: Once considered one of the organization’s top-10 prospects, his stock has taken a free-fall. He makes this list based on talent and talent alone. His stats have been dreadful the last two years. But we have to keep in mind he’s still going to be just 20 when this coming season begins. There’s still plenty of time for him. I don’t like the reports that he’s lazy and aloof though. So much for the talk a few years ago about Rodriguez and Juan Duran being the cornerstones of the Reds’ minor league system. Both of those high-priced international signings have been busts to this point.
18. Jon Moscot – RHP – Combined 2012 numbers with AZL Reds and Billings: 0-2, 2.63 ERA, 27.1 IP, 19 H, 6 BB, 26 K, 12 games, 11 starts (10 games, 10 starts at Billings). Age by 2013 opener: 21. Originally acquired: Fourth-round of 2012 draft (No. 142 overall). Comment: Not a hard-thrower, but gets the job done. That was his reputation in college and he continued it during his brief pro stint last summer. Likely to begin the 2013 in the rotation at Dayton.
19. Seth Mejias-Brean – 3B – 2012 numbers at Billings: .313 BA, 8 HR, 40 RBIs, 6 SB, .925 OPS, 179 ABs, 12 doubles, 2 triples. Age by 2013 opener: 22. Originally acquired: Eighth-round of 2012 draft (No. 262 overall). Comment: Helped lead his Arizona team to a College World Series championship, and then proceeded to tear it up at the professional ranks upon joining Billings. Will likely begin the 2013 season as Dayton’s third-bagger and I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on him.
20. Jonathan Reynoso – CF – 2012 numbers with AZL Reds: .311 BA, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 30 SB (39 attempts), .739 OPS, 190 ABs, 7 doubles, 3 triples. Age by 2013 opener: 20. Originally acquired: Signed as international free agent (Dominican Republic). Comment: Definitely a free-swinger, but has a lot of potential due to his speed and moderate pop. Will likely wait it out and begin the 2013 season at Billings.
No longer a “prospect” but still wanted to mention: JJ Hoover – RHP – 2012 numbers at Triple-A Louisville: 4-0, 1.22 ERA, 37 IP, 15 H, 55 K, 12 BB, 13 saves. Major League stats: 1-0, 2.05 ERA, 30.2 IP, 17 H, 31 K, 13 BB, 1 save. Age by 2013 opener: 25. Originally acquired: In trade with Atlanta Braves in exchange for Juan Francisco in 2012. Comment: Hoover is barely past the cutoff due to the games and innings he logged last year, so he won’t be considered a rookie in 2013. However, if he were eligible, I’d put him fifth on this list. He’s that good and I still can’t believe the Reds were able to get a quality, young bullpen arm for Francisco. Hoover looks like a keeper and then some. His stats in 2012 were incredible, both in the minors and with the Reds.