If you’re in full rebuild mode with your fantasy team, look toward the Cincinnati Reds for your pitching needs. Both the rotation and bullpen seriously need a influx of young arms to become stable and bring the Reds back into the N.L. Central hunt. If you been a frequent visitor to this site, you should have some of these up-and-coming arms in your watch list.
Lets’ go back to 2013 (pre-UTRMinor’s days) when our content was with another site. My UTR Breakout pick was Sal Romano, who is now a Cincinnati Top 10 prospect. The Reds UTR pitching in the low minors was messy at that time and I had a difficult time naming a “One to Watch”. I mentioned using the Reds system as a case-study for my system, and now jumping ahead almost three years later, I can say (with modest confidence) that the Reds study has improved my system. Using this year’s version of the UTR-OAS, in providing a review since our our debut, my success rate has grown exponentially. The sifting for Sal Romano prior the 2013 season was the catalyst for this success.
My first UTR roster for the Reds on this site started with Jeremy Kivel, being my “One to Watch” prior to the 2014 season. He was coming off the previous season with the AZL Reds posting a 9.9 K9 rate, but needed improvement in command and control; typical for a drafted high school arm. He finished with similar numbers after the 14′ season in the Pioneer League, but hitters found holes with a 12.0 H/9 rate. He’s been moved into the bullpen, making it to HiA last season, but still is giving up too many free passes. Things could still click for Kivel, but the clock is now ticking for the 23-year old. Sal Romano made the UTR-OAS roster in 2013, along with others who would become the group to make the Reds stable, as I mentioned above. Amir Garrett, who’s now the Reds top pitching prospect, first appeared in 2014 as a 22nd round pick (2011) and just completed his first full season. He would repeat in 2015 and earned the “Legit UTR” tag; and I recommended him as a “Solid Stash.” If you took that advice last February, Garrett should be scoring you fantasy points sometime this season in Cincinnati. A couple more two-timers are Nick Travieso and Wyatt Strahan. Travieso was exposed at Double-A Pensacola (4.1 BB9) and has had trouble repeating his delivery. A commitment to the bullpen may be forth-coming for the former 2012 1st rounder. Strahan was looking to vault into HiA Daytona in 2016 after a successful full season with LoA Dayton. He only saw four starts before succumbing to an injury, requiring Tommy John surgery and will miss a portion of the 2017 season. Ben Lively was also part of the 2014 roster, but the Reds traded him to Philadelphia the following year. Another kid from 2014 that I thought would be a fast mover within the system was Ismael Guillon, but more on him below.
On to the 2015 UTR-OAS roster, where Tyler Mahle could become the next UTR Sal Romano. Unlike Romano, Mahle made the 2015 list with the #1 Factor Score and #4 TPS as a 20-year old in LoA. I would name him as the “One to Watch” going into the 2016 season and he just missed being listed as a Top 100 prospect on many tout lists for 2017. He does repeat this year, and just like Amir Garrett, he will be affixed with the “Legit UTR” and “Solid Stash” net. That will also go for Jose Lopez, who registered in as the #1 TPS in 2015 and is the top ranked UTR-OAS for 2016. Tejay Antone comes in at #4 below to make another UTR-OAS appearance. Antone is a true under the radar type, as he doesnt get much press being a 5th round pick from 2014. UTR followers should continue watching his progress in 2017 with him getting a taste of Triple-A in 2016 as a 22-year old.
With a system such as the Reds, it pays heed to whats happening in the Dominican Summer League. Last year, my spreadsheet boasted a couple teenagers worth noting, and lefty Wennigton Romero maybe the most promising. The Reds brought the 18-year old over to the States after just one DSL season. Romero posted a 5.75 K/BB ratio and 1.20 WHIP facing hitters over 2.5 years older. 19-year old Luis Alecis also had a solid U.S. debut with the AZL Reds. The projectable 6’3″ 190lb right-hander went 2-2 with a 3.26 ERA in 47 IP and rated just over a K and half an inning (9.6).
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Jose Lopez – 17 / .093 *Legit UTR / Solid Stash
22 years old – (LoA Dayton / HiA Daytona)
6th round – 2014
Lopez came into his debut season having missed all of 2014 (Seton Hall Pirates) due to Tommy John surgery. He impressed with a 3-2 record and 3.00 ERA in 15 appearances (14 starts), and ranked as my 2015 Reds #1 TPS UTR Organizational All-Star. The effect of the surgery was a thing of the past in 2016, as Lopez threw 148 innings and held his K/BB ratio near steady at 3.50, compared to 2015. Not bad, considering he had bouts of inconsistency, his ERA took a hit during the last three months of the season and he struggled to keep runners on base. More importantly, I’m impressed that Lopez has kept his TPS at a sub 1.00 (.078 in 2015) in only his second season. Watch Lopez. He could be sneaky good in 2017, and if you have the roster spots, take a flier and stash him.
Rock solid would be used to describe the season had by Mahle in 2016. It damn near came to a coin flip between him and Lopez for the top spot. Without a doubt, the righty would haven’t gotten the nod if it wasn’t for the June promotion to Double-A, thus dropping from the UTR radar. Either way, they both deserve the tags given, especially Mahle, who’s trajectory is just starting to peak, as he could be in the Cincy rotation by mid-2018. Mahle was one of the youngest pitchers in Double-A last season, but impressed just the same despite posting a 4.92 ERA in 71.1 innings. He faded toward the end of the season, so let’s take a look at his stats, minus those last four Pensacola starts. In his first 10 of 14 starts, Mahle went 5-2 with a 3.54 ERA (53.1 IP), struck out 46 while issuing 15 walks. Overall for the season, he posted a 21% K and 7% walk rates. One wouldn’t describe him as a dominant pitcher, as his fastball only reaches the lower 90’s. His calling card would be the plus command and near plus change-up. Like Jose Lopez, his TPS hovers around .100 which should excite fantasy players for a pitcher this young in the upper minors.
I really had hopes of Guillon taking off after making the UTR-OAS roster in 2014. He missed all of 2015 with a torn latissimus muscle in his back. It was a tough call whether Guillon would return as a UTR-OAS, as he only made 13 starts in 32 appearances. Returning from injury, and also being the top UTR lefty in the system, I give Ismael the nod knowing that the Reds handled him with kid gloves. He could be a decent up and down type working from the bullpen and thats were he might hold the most fantasy value. Keep a watchful eye on him. He just turned 25 last week and thus drops from my UTR radar for 2017. Had I not included Guillon in the Top 5, then Jacob Constante would have found the list. Constante is a hard-throwing lefty who did struggle in his first season at LoA, but showed flashes and scored a Factor Score of (11). His TPS (.147) on the other hand, brought his struggles front and center.
22 years old – (HiA Daytona / Triple-A Louisville)
5th round – 2014
Antone makes it back-to-back OAS mentions and once again, comes in at #4. He improved his Factor Score by two, but increased his TPS +19 due to the spike in HR’s allowed over 2015. That year, Antone only allowed 2 home runs over 158 innings while at LoA Dayton along with a 62% groundball rate. He almost matched his IP in 2016, but surrendered 16 home runs. The good news is that the rest of peripherals held steady. It could be that his stuff became suspect in the jump to HiA. He does throw a low 90’s fastball with decent movement, an above average changeup and breaker. Just turning 23 in December, the 6’4″ 205 lb right-hander could be a sleeper at Double-A Daytona in 2017.
In his debut season as a pro in the Dominican Sumer League, Valenzuela went 2-3 with a 2.04 ERA while racking up 61 K’s and only 13 walks over 66.1 innings.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Jimmy Herget – 18 / .058
22 years old – (HiA Daytona)
6th round – 2015
Herget and Ohanain (below) were also neck-to-neck within my system and I could have just placed a tie for the top relief spot. Herget earns the spot with his performance at a higher level. The 6’3″ 170 lb. righty absolutely dominated the Florida State League with 24 saves in 50 appearances, and 83 K’s in 60.2 innings (32%). He also oppressed right (1.97 BA / .532 OPS) and left-handed batters (.226 BA / .613 OPS). Herget is a side-armer who throws mid-90’s fastball, along with a wicked slider that baffles the lefty hitters. His ceiling could be in the late-inning role with the big club by 2018.
Ohanian jumps from the #3 TPS rank in 2015 to the runner-up spot, thanks to Alejandro Chacin and the missing season from Zack Weiss. Chacin was removed from UTR status after spending all of 2016 with Double-A Pensacola. He earned my “ASAP Roster Add” in the 2015 UTR-OAS mention and followed-up by making 30 saves with Pensacola. It’s unknown whether his stuff will mark him as the future closer in Cincy or if he’ll just end-up in middle relief role. Weiss was a “Legit UTR” and was on target to possibly make the Reds bullpen sometime in 2016, but a Spring Training injury nagged him throughout 2016. Weiss never logged an inning of work, and reports are unsure when (and if) he will in 2017. Back to Ohanian, he finished his first full season in LoA Dayton and proved he’s more than a control pitcher. He hammered Midwest League hitters with 61 strikeouts in only 35.1 innings of work and a 1.58 FIP, compared to his 3.31 ERA.
Hernandez has been around awhile. He was signed in 2008 by the Giants as an 18-year old and languished within the Giants system for 5 seasons, never getting beyond the Arizona League. The Giants released the right-hander in March 2015 and Hernandez landed in the Indy League (Frontier). The Diamondbacks then signed him a month later, but lost him to Cincinnati in the 2015 Rule 5 draft. Fast-forward a year later and Hernandez finds himself on the Reds 40-man roster. Soon to turn 25-years old, Hernandez may have finally settled in and could be a late bloomer. He still needs to harness his control, which is the only blemish to his periphials in 2016. He posted skimpy 4.2 H/9 rate (29 hits in 62 IP), 10.7 K/9 rate, but a horrific 5.7 BB/9 rate. It will interesting to see what he can do at Double-A Pensacola in 2017.