Reds Are in the Final Stages of Rebuilding Process

The Cincinnati Reds are in the final stages of their rebuilding process. This means they have traded all their viable, healthy veteran players for prospects and now are in the process of waiting for those prospects to develop. Some of them have already reached the Reds. Others will filter through this year. The Reds hope it will only take a couple more years before these prospects give the Reds a playoff run.

The best of the bunch is their 2016 first round pick Nick Senzel. While he played some shortstop in college the Reds felt his larger frame would do better at third base. At short he would just be an ordinary defender while at third he could become a gold glover. That thinking has shifted as the Reds are considering the idea of giving him an opportunity to play short. The loss of Zack Cozart to free agency has opened up a position for a younger player, thought to be Jose Pereza. Senzel has some good power for a shortstop but normal for third base. He also has the ability to hit for average, hitting .340 in 57 games at AA. This would be an upgrade over Peraza, who has more speed but very little power. Last year Senzel spent his whole season playing third base so some AAA tuning at short would be ideal before they throw him out to the major leagues.

The Reds have been waiting for Cuban prospect Alfredo Rodriguez to develop into a major leaguer. His defense is major league quality but his bat is a bit short, with very little power to even spray the gaps. He was 23 when he played in High A ball but his slugging percentage was only .294. The 2018 season will see him in AA where he is just a phone call from the major leagues, but if his bat fails to even slice the ball through the gaps it will be hard to see him get the call. The Reds were hoping he would be the shortstop of the immediate future, but now doubts have clouded his status.

The Reds dished out a $5 million bonus on another Cuban shortstop defector last year. He signed too late to play any games last year. On the Cuban national team he played second base but the Reds think he has the arm to play short. He has the speed to cover ground and the arm to make a line drive throw to first deep in the hole. The bat is a bit of a mystery but it is not expected to show a lot of power.

Alex Blandino was a first round pick of the Reds in 2014 as a shortstop. His stock has dropped as his bat has struggled to make an impact and his below average defense has forced a move to second base. Last year his .270 batting average in AAA, combined with his .444 slugging has brought a little spark to his prospect status. At 26 years of age his time is now to reach the major leagues.

The Reds minor leagues is stocked with outfielders, led by the toolsy Taylor Trammell. The 2016 first round supplemental pick had the speed to steal 41 bases at Low A. It will also allow him to cover a tremendous amount of real estate in centerfield. His arm is solid for right field. Last year the power began to show with 13 homeruns and 77 RBIs. The 2017 season should see him as a run producer in High A.

Jesse Winker should see a platoon role with the Reds next year. Last year he slugged seven homeruns in 47 major league games, slugging .529. The lefthanded hitter did not hit badly against lefthanders in AAA (.280) but struggled in the major leagues (.120). His defense is very below average so if he is not hitting and being a productive part of the lineup he does not belong in left field. Like Kyle Schwarber his best bet may be to be traded to an American League team where he can DH.

Jose Siri had a breakout season power wise for the Reds last year in the lower minor leagues. The Dominican hit a career high 24 homeruns in Low A while also stealing 46 bases. He did have the propensity to swing and miss (130) without drawing a lot of walks (33). This doesn’t seem to have hurt his batting average (.293). The speed and power are there to make him an impact player. First he must rise up the Reds minor league system, beginning his 2018 season in Low A. This puts him at least two years from the major leagues.

The Reds have been waiting a long time for slugger Aristedes Aquino to pan out. His speed allows him to play centerfield, but it does not allow him to be a prolific base stealer. His arm is one of the best in the Reds system so right field may be his final spot. The power in his bat has combined for 40 homeruns the last two years, but last year his average dropped to .216. His ability to make contact suffered last year (145 whiffs) dropping him down the prospect ladder. With their outfield surplus in the minor leagues the Reds may be wise to keep him at AA to begin the 2018 season.

Phil Ervin, the Reds 2013 pick has virtually disappeared from the prospect radar. He did make his major league debut last year, hitting .259 with three homeruns. His speed has garnered double digit stolen bases but his power has failed to materialize. His best bet would be to make the Reds as a fourth outfielder who can play all three outfield positions.

The top pitching prospect in the Reds system, who many teams thought about drafting as a shortstop, is Hunter Greene. The Reds had him play shortstop and pitching, making three starts early in his season and finishing his time at short. Because of the demands of throwing at short and the two different throwing motions the Reds felt it was too risky to use him as a two way player. At 6′4″ the first round 2017 draft pick can hit triple digits with ease with his fastball, sitting in the high 90s. What is scary is that this velocity could tick up as his body matures. His secondary pitches need more consistency since he did not need them much pitching against high school hitters. The Reds may keep him in extended spring before promoting him to Low A around May,

The Cuban Vladimir Gutierrez also has a plus fastball that reaches the mid-90s. He left Cuba in 2015 so it has been two years since he last pitched. Despite his velocity he was very hittable in High A (.267) with a strikeout rate of only 8.21. When he pitched in Cuba he was used out of the bullpen so his secondary pitches are a bit undeveloped. Last year he started 19 games, working 103 innings. Next year he will put those innings to work in AA.

Tyler Mahle had a breakout season last year. The seventh round 2013 pick was virtually unhittable in AA (1.59 ERA and .190 opposition average) in 14 starts. This earned him a promotion to the Reds where he pitched well (2.70) in four starts but suffered with his command with close to five walks per nine innings. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can ride towards the plate in the mid-90s. At 6′4″ he has a good pitcher’s frame. With a good spring the Reds hope he can earn a spot in their rotation to start the 2018 season.

Rookie Davis was the big acquisition in their trade of Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. His stuff appears to be very pedestrian with a less than awe inspiring fastball despite his 6′5″ frame. The Reds called him up last year for six starts and he was assaulted for a 8.63 ERA. He was also punished for seven homeruns in just 24 innings. At best the Reds can hope for a back end of the rotation starter or an arm that can be used in the bullpen.

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