Reds Looking for Playoff Chase

Last year the Cincinnati Reds had the fifth best minor league system as rated by myworldofbaseball (admittingly not the most analytic measuring device). Some of the players who appeared in the Top 100 from last year were Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, Taylor Trammell, Jessie Winker and Tyler Mahle. The trades for Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig telegraph that this may be a different team in 2019 with a new goal, competing for a playoff spot rather than tanking for a high draft pick.

In 2008 the Reds had the second best farm team. Only one of those players still play on that team. Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto are now elsewhere. Joey Votto is still a Red. From 2008 to present the Reds won the Central Division in 2012 and were a wild card in 2013. They failed to make the playoffs after that.

If they can find a position for him the top prospect for the Reds is Nick Senzel. The first 2016 pick has an impact bat but his best positions are occupied by more veteran players. Last year his season was limited to 44 games because of vertigo issues. This year the Reds hope to use him in centerfield. Third base is his natural position but the Reds signed Eugenio Suarez to a long term deal. Nick has decent speed to cover the centerfield territory in Cincinnati. At some of the larger parks his range could be more challenged. If they can fit his bat in the lineup that should give the Reds 20 plus homeruns per year and a solid offensive contributor. Though the Reds sent him down the Scooter Gennett injury could open a spot for him, though he had been playing centerfield in spring training.

Last year Taylor Trammell was voted the MVP of the Futures game with a triple and a homerun. The triple hit the top of the wall and Taylor had gone into his homerun trot, otherwise with his speed he could have had an inside the park homerun. The 2016 supplemental first round pick has the speed to play center, but his lack of a throwing arm could limit him to left. There is pop in his bat and the speed in his legs to become a 20/20 player. He should spend the 2019 season in AA.

The Reds 2018 first round pick Jonathan India is another third baseman. Drafted out of Florida he should rise quickly so a search for a new position for him could begin in a couple years. Currently they have him slated for third. Last year he played 27 games in Low A. He runs well, has a good arm, played some shortstop in college so his ultimate use could be as a utility player. The bat has some pop and he appears to make decent contact. He had a 15/12 walk to whiff ratio in Rookie ball but that changed to 13/28 at Low A. That could be where the Reds begin his 2019 season with a quick promotion to High A by mid-season.

Jose Siri is a multi-tooled outfielder. He has excellent speed to cover ground in center and steal 20-30 bases. The power is there to hit 20 plus homeruns. His arm is also strong enough to play right field. Where he struggles is making contact. Last year he struck out 123 times in just 96 games, while walking just 28 times. That could stunt his batting average if he fails to show more patience. Injuries last year limited him to 96 games. He should open the 2019 season in AA where he ended the 2018 season. A callup to the major leagues is possible by mid-season if he can control the strike zone and hit his pitches.

Aristides Aquino can still provide power. Last year he hit 20 homeruns at AA. A 35/112 walk to whiff ratio has kept his average down and dropped his prospect status. His outfield defense can be a little spotty so he needs to hit if he wants to play.

Two Cubans the Reds signed that have a chance of contributing this year are Jose Israel Garcia and Alfredo Rodriguez. Jose is not to be confused with the Cardinals Jose Adolis Garcia. Jose Israel is an infielder who may lack the power to play corner. He also had an alarming 19/112 walk to whiff ratio at Low A which won’t help his batting average. The range and speed exist to play shortstop but for the Cuban junior national team used him mostly at second.

Alfredo has the smooth tools to play shortstop. The Reds shelled out $7 million to sign him in 2016. The concern with him is whether he will ever develop the bat to hit in the major league. Last year he barely hit above the Mendoza line with a .210 average. A hamate bone injury limited him to just 46 games, depriving him of the much needed at bats he needs to improve his hitting.

On the pitching front Hunter Greene is their best pitcher. The 2017 first round pick has a fastball that consistently hits triple digits. Unfortunately, the pitch is a little too straight and opponents hit him at a .251 clip. He also needs to work on developing more consistency with his secondary pitches. An elbow injury shut him down after 18 starts last year, but so far he has avoided surgery. The Reds will watch him closely in 2019, perhaps starting him at extended spring training before promoting him to a full season league later in the season.

Tony Santillan is a big guy (6′3″, 240) with a hard fastball that hits just above 95. He also has a slider and a change that sits at 85. What has changed his game is his improved control. He reduced his walks, dialing down his fastball a bit, which also made him a little more hittable. Last year the second round 2015 pick gave up 13 homeruns in 149 innings. Tony appears durable and will eat up innings at the back end of a rotation.

Vladimir Gutierrez is another Cuban player who signed in 2016. The Reds paid a $4.75 million bonus to acquire him. At 6′0″ he is not a big man but his fastball can light the radar in the high 90s with a good changeup to make the pitch appear even faster. Vladimir throws strikes and could see time in the Reds rotation this year after having success at AA last year (4.35 ERA in 27 starts).

At some point in time Tyler Stephenson could catch them. The 2015 first round pick has some pop in his bat, but he has been slow to develop any consistency. His defense has improved to the point that he is an above average defensive catcher and his arm is strong to control a running game. At 6′4″ he has a lot of length to be a catcher but he sets a low target. Tyler will start the 2019 season in AA and could be with the Reds by 2020.

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