- C – Cassidy Brown – 21 yo
- 3.12/.753 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Billings)
- 2016 stats: .322/.409/.383; .792 OPS; 6 doubles, 1 home runs; 4 stolen bases; 35% CS
The majority of the Cincinnati Reds minor league catching situation leaves a lot to be desired. At least in 2016 that is. When Cincinnati chose Tyler Stephenson as the 11th overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Kennesaw Mountain HS (GA) draftee was immediately tabbed as not only the Reds top catcher, but one of the top overall prospects in the system. In Stephenson’s first taste of pro ball, he batted .273, knocked 16 doubles and posted a respectable 2.56/.630 P/A for Rookie Billings. Not a bad debut against competition an average of 3 years his senior. However, 2016 was markedly lost due to injury. A concussion and a wrist injury limited him to only 44 total games between the AZL (5) and LoA Dayton (39). He logged a 2.43/.608, which was admirable given the circumstance. When something like this occurs, it helps bring to the forefront other prospects. Such is the case with 2016 draftee Cassidy Brown. The Loyola Marymount University alum was taken in the 12th round this past year as a junior and was assigned to Rookie Billings. In three seasons for Loyola, Brown batted .243, scored 46 runs and drove in 54. Upon becoming a pro, however, Cassidy’s batting average boost was something the Reds were most satisfied to see; because it wasn’t always this way. In his first two seasons with Loyola, Brown hit a combined .162. So, he made some minor mechanical adjustments, then headed to the Cape Cod League, where he batted .277 for the Brewster Whitecaps and in his final season with Loyola batted .325 in 53 games. Brown’s a defense-first catcher, boasting a .986 fielding percentage and a 35 percent caught-stealing rate, but the offensive production he churned out and mostly the adjustments he made to get there, the Reds could have have an offensive force and monster sleeper on their hands.
- 1B – Hidekel Abreu – 18 yo
- 3.68/.843 – PAG/APPA – (DSL Rojos)
- 2016 stats: .322/.411/.439; .850 OPS; 8 doubles, 4 triples, 3 home runs; 11 stolen bases
When you think about the Cincinnati Reds organization, you can’t help but envision 2010 National League Most Valuable Player and 4-time All-Star first baseman Joey Votto. What the 6’2″- 220 lb. Toronto, Ontario, Canada native has done for the Reds since his arrival in 2007 is priceless. Votto carries a .313 batting average, averages 28 homers, 93 RBi’s and 97 runs scored a season over his 10-year career. Votto also possesses a PAG/APPA score of 3.81/.889, which is an insane level of production to sustain. Yet, I’m surprised he’s still in a Reds uniform. It’s no secret that Cincinnati is in transition, however, Votto still has his place, as he’s signed all the way through 2023 with a club option in 2024. This gives me PLENTY of time to sift through the minor league ranks to find good prospect options. There were several solid performers in 2016, but two stood out. First was this year’s OAS choice Hidekel Abreu, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in May 2015 and assigned to the DSL Rojos roster. The 5’10”- 155 pounder struggled to say the least. Despite being listed as a shortstop upon signing, Abreu played second base exclusively, he committed eight errors, batted .220, logged only three extra-base hits and stole three bases in 27 games. However, his 14:19 BB:K ratio was promising. 2016 saw a repeat with the DSL Rojo squad and Abreu was like a different player. His batting average improved 102 points, he registered a .996 fielding percentage at first and ranked within the roster’s top 5 in every single offensive statistical category. I’m not going all-in on Abreu. He’s an 18-year-old in the Domincan Summer League. However, in prime UTR fashion, we tag kids when they perform like this with the hopes they’ll keep it up. I suspect Abreu will be transferred stateside to either the AZL or possibly Rookie Billings this coming season. My bonus selection was 2014 – 4th rounder Gavin LaValley, who posted power-hitter type numbers with a .459 slugging percentage, 30 doubles and 11 home runs. I like Abreu and the season he had, but watch both he and LaValley closely moving forward.
- 2B – Shedric Long – 20 yo
- 3.12/.753 combined – PAG/APPA – (LoA Dayton – 3.24/.784; HiA Daytona – 3.66/.874)
- 2016 stats combined: .293/.371/.471; .842 OPS; 30 doubles, 5 triples, 15 home runs; 21 stolen bases
With some positions inside each organization, I pine over stats for what seems like hours before I decide on the eventual OAS winner. In the case of the Reds 2016 second base OAS selection, choosing 2013 – 12th round draft choice Shedric Long took me mere seconds. The former Jacksonville HS (Jacksonville, AL) grad dominated the Reds second base rankings this season; and in his first taste of full season ball, all the 5’8″- 180 lb. lefty did was lead all Reds minor league second basemen from Triple-A down in hits (140), runs scored (69), doubles, triples, RBi’s (75), stolen bases, batting, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases (225). Not only did Long excel this season, he literally buried everything he did at the plate in his first three seasons combined. However, his 2015 season, where he logged 42 games with LoA Dayton, showed that he was well on his way, as he posted a 3.10/.751 P/A, batted .283 with seven doubles and belted six home runs. Now, I’m not claiming that Long is suddenly looking down at guys like 2014 – 1st round draft choice Alex Blandino, Double-A’s Brandon Dixon, (who led all second basemen in home runs with 16), or even Triple-A Louisville’s Juan Perez. But, you know what, maybe he should be. I’ll say this, if Long puts up the same kind of numbers in 2017 that he did in HiA last season, then I believe he will leapfrog everyone in his way to become the top second base prospect in the system. Thing is, as a 21-year-old poised to see a promotion to Double-A Pensacola, in this organization, Long is already there for me. Long deserves room on any fantasy minor league “watch list” and with four-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star veteran Brandon Phillips off to Atlanta, the path to the majors is suddenly much more clear for Long.
- 3B – Nick Senzel – 21 yo
- 3.85/.897 combined – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Billings – 2.20/.537; LoA Dayton – 4.14/.956)
- 2016 stats combined: .305/.398/.514; .912 OPS; 24 doubles, 7 home runs; 18 stolen bases
What more can be said about Nick Senzel that hasn’t already been said. “Wow” almost seems tame when describing what the 2016 – 1st rounder did in his debut. The University of Tennessee draftee began with Rookie Billings and surprisingly sputtered upon his debut with the Mustangs batting .152 with a lone double, three runs scored and four RBi’s in 10 games. But it was almost like he was teasing us. The 6’1″ – 205 lb. righty slugger received a promotion to LoA Dayton on July 1st and the July fireworks lasted all the way into early September. His .329 batting average ranked third in the Midwest League, while his on-base percentage (.415) and slugging percentage (.514) ranked second overall. Simply put, Senzel is a star and has the potential to become the new face of the Reds franchise. I expect Senzel to start the 2017 season in HiA Daytona or quite possibly Double-A Pensacola. If you’re in a fantasy league with a rookie draft, feel confident in making Senzel your number one overall selection, as he could reach the majors (and contribute immediately) in extremely short order.
- SS – Blake Trahan – 22 yo
- 3.05/.680 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Daytona)
- 2016 stats: .263/.325/.361; .686 OPS; 21 doubles, 9 triples; 25 stolen bases
I have to admit. In anticipation of breaking down the Cincinnati Reds hitters, I was actually dreading the task. On the surface, the Reds look like a club struggling to be among the league’s top minor league organizations. However, upon scanning Cininnati’s hitters HiA down, the Reds are actually pretty deep. And shortstop is a position of considerable depth. Although 2012 – 37th rounder Zach Vincej led all shortstops HiA down in doubles (24) and RBi’s (47), yet he has surpassed UTR age criteria. The UTR OAS race was extremely close, but this year’s nod goes to 2015 – 3rd rounder Blake Trahan. The 5’9″- 180 pounder out of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette began his pro career with Rookie Billings of the Pioneer League. In 47 games, he ranked eighth in batting (.312) with 32 runs scored, 15 RBi’s, 10 stolen bases and drew 25 walks to only 19 strikeouts. The former Rajun Cajun earned a mid-August promotion to HiA Daytona, but stumbled mightily to the tune of a .114 average and a 0.45/.139 P/A score. This past season, Trahan spent all year with the Tortugas, his first full stint of full-season ball, and erupted, ranking amongst the Florida State League leaders in hits (137), doubles, triples, total bases (188) and stolen bases. There are several shortstop prospects in the system that could take a big leap forward in 2017, which is a real good thing. As it sits now, however, Trahan I believe, is the only one currently looking in the rearview mirror.
- LF – Angelo Gumbs – 22 yo
- 3.21/.782 – PAG/APPA – (HiA Daytona)
- 2016 stats: .298/.342/.460; .803 OPS; 18 doubles, 11 home runs
Left field is one of the few positions in the Reds system that actually has some serious breadth. The position vector starts with 2012 – 1st rounder Jesse Winker who, after four games in the AZL, spent all of last season with Triple-A Louisville where he batted .303 with 22 doubles, three home runs, 45 RBi’s and a perfectly even 59:59 K:BB ratio. He’s certainly the future in left for Cincinnati, but there’s intrigue behind him. 2013 – 1st round draft choice Phil Ervin has a career 3.30/.779 P/A score and could spend all of 2017 in Triple-A; and with Winker and Ervin atop the left field rankings, this leaves a slew of prospects hankering for attention. Now, I could have easily chosen 2016 – 1st rounder Taylor Trammell as this season’s UTR OAS, but you know what, looking at his debut stats and scouting report, might his overall game and stats lean toward a possible shift to center field? He has blazing speed, gap power and an average arm at best in left. We will see. So, this leaves the UTR in me with seven year minor league vet, yet first time Red, Angelo Gumbs. Signed as a minor league free agent in January 2016, Gumbs was originally drafted by the New York Yankees out of Torrence HS in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. The 6’0″- 175 pound righty spent his first six seasons posting a roller coaster ride of stats, which equated to a 6-year 2.54/.631 P/A. This season, Gumbs repeated the Florida State League finishing within the Tortugas top five in hits (112), runs scored (54), doubles, triples, home runs, RBi’s, stolen bases (8) and total bases (173). With three former number one picks logging time in left field this season, Gumbs has a huge hill to climb. Is it possible for him to gain ground on Winker, Ervin and Trammell? I have my doubts, but I like Gumbs. For him to ascend through the system quicker, however, a move from center field position would need to occur.
- CF – T.J. Friedl – 20 yo
- 4.38/.927 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Billings)
- 2016 stats: .347/.423/.545; .969 OPS; 11 doubles, 3 home runs; 7 stolen bases
As I eluded to in Angelo Gumbs aforementioned bio, I have a suspicion that 2016 – 1st Taylor Trammel may eventually make the shift over to center field, which would disassemble the current Jesse Winker/Phil Ervin/Trammell left field log jam. This could/would allow the organization to take advantage of Trammell’s near 80-grade speed. But the move hasn’t taken place, therefore I have to break down who roamed center field for the Reds in 2016. There was plenty, and that list is headed by someone who’s situation would deem him the ultimate UTR, T.J. Friedl. Here’s what I’m going to do for you, the readers, regarding the un-drafted free-agent signee out of the University of Nevada. If you Google his name, you’re going to find an avalanche of articles on this kid. I mean, after all, why not. The Reds found a draft loophole and signed the 5’10”- 170 lb. lefty to the largest non-drafted domestic free agent contract in history ($735k) and all he did to return that favor was post absurd numbers, leaving most in awe, as he was generally a player who was regularly unnoticed by scouts. Again, Google Friedl’s name. Set aside some time to read up on the kid. You won’t be sorry; and you also won’t be sorry if you choose to draft him in any dynasty leagues where you can draft and stash minors. The Reds love him, as everyone should too. He’s the story you have to root for due to his journey to where he is now. If he shoots out of the gate to start 2017 and maintains the same level of production as he did in his debut, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Friedl in Double-A by the end of the season; and quite possibly Great American BallPark by late 2018.
- RF – Michael Beltre – 20 yo
- 3.71/.863 combined – PAG/APPA – (AZL – 3.45/.820; Rookie Billings – 4.05/.918)
- 2016 stats combined: .299/.399/.481; .880 OPS; 13 doubles, 6 triples, 3 home runs; 13 stolen bases
By the looks of things, the Reds appear to have quite the sizable vector full of right field candidates heading into 2017. Scott Schebler, a 2010 – 26th rounder by the L.A. Dodgers leads the list with the starting gig for the major league squad heading into next season. You can’t really count him as a prospect though. However, we did here back when the 6’0″- 225 lb. lefty was the first ever UTR OAS left fielder for the L.A. Dodgers in 2014. This gives way to current top prospect Aristides Aquino, another former UTR OAS from 2014, who had a bounce back season in his first year of full-season ball with HiA Daytona in 2016. Despite top outfielder Jesse Winker‘s career 352 games played in left field on his resume, he spent 52 of his 102 games in 2016 in right field. Do I think Aquino is a left fielder moving forward? Yes I do. I’ve mentioned the term ‘high floor’ in previous bios and as far as the term goes, no position in the Reds system has a higher floor than right field. As for the 2016 statistical ceiling, 20-year-old Dominican Michael Beltre stood above all. Cincinnati signed Beltre and assigned him to the Dominican Summer League in 2013. He repeated the DSL in 2014 and in his first two seasons combined, he batted. 253 with one home run, 20 RBi’s and logged a 2.48/.666 P/A score. Last year, Beltre came state side to the Arizona League, and in only 28 games, he registered a putrid 1.68/.534 P/A, had only four extra-base hits and batted .220. This season it was as if Beltre was a new man, shot out of a canon, starting the season in the AZL once again. Despite playing only 29 games, he ranked third on the squad in runs scored, on-base percentage and led the team with six triples. He received a promotion to Rookie Billings in early August and by the end of the season (22 games), the 6’3″- 180 lb. switch-hitter ranked near the top in several of the teams power categories. I firmly believe that if Beltre hits the ground running in 2017, most likely with LoA Dayton, and performs equal or greater than he did in 2016, the Reds may have yet another quintessential stud outfield prospect on their hands.