2013 Cincinnati Reds Top Prospects


System Overview: After dealing away significant portions of the farm system in the past several years –Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Didi Gregorius — as well as some prominent promotions to the big leagues — Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman — the farm system still packs a punch near the top, but dramatically falls off after the top handful of prospects.

Leading the way is left-hander Tony Cingrani, a collegiate reliever at Rice University, who has shown the makings of a potential top of the rotation starter. Speedster Billy Hamilton could become a dominant difference-maker at the big league level — if he maintains some semblance to his elite plate discipline. After those two is a mixture of young promising players in the lower levels — Robert Stephenson, Jesse Winker and Nick Travieso — and reliever J.J. Hoover, who could develop into an above-average setup man. Otherwise, it’s a collection of useful but moderately flawed prospects.



1. Tony Cingrani, Age: 23, Position: LHP

Armed with a low 90s fastball, Cingrani, the organization’s third round pick in 2011, has quickly ascended through the minor league ranks before making his MLB debut in late September. The former Rice University reliever began the year in High-A, throwing 56.2 innings while averaging 11.3 K/9 and just 2.1 BB/9. He was then promoted to Pensacola and continued to dominate. In 89.1 innings with the Blue Wahoos he still showed an elite strikeout rate (10.2 K/9), but the number of free passes allowed almost doubled, to 3.9 BB/9.

Cingrani finished the minor league season with 146 innings, while averaging 10.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 to go along with a solid 2.81 SIERA.

Projection: Kudos not only goes to Cincinnati’s front office for picking the left-hander in the third round, but also for converting him into a starting pitcher. He’s done little wrong in the professional ranks and continues to not only show a tremendous ability to miss bats, but also solid-average control and no discernible platoon splits. He’s very likely to develop into a front of the rotation type pitcher, maybe even peaking as a legitimate number one.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#2. Billy Hamilton, Age: 22, Position: CF

Arguably — and statistically — the fastest man in baseball history, Hamilton set a professional baseball record by swiping 155 bases last season, the second consecutive year he’s topped triple digits. Naturally a shortstop, the organization began transitioning him to center field during winter ball.

As a 21-year-old in High-A last season, Hamilton hit .323/.413/.439 with 18 doubles, nine triples and one homerun. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 28% better than the league average. After 92 games the Reds promoted him to Double-A, and he continued to perform at an above-average level, hitting .280/.401/.377.

Projection: Yes, Hamilton has elite speed. But what has set him apart so far is his eye at the plate. In 605 total plate appearances last season, he walked 86 times, or 14.2% of the time. It’s awfully easy to take advantage of his base stealing prowess when he finds first as often as he does. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to maintain such high walk rates once he gets to the majors — pitchers will likely challenge him more often due to his below-average power — but it’s still a very promising sign. Assuming Hamilton can stay injury-free in 2013, he could take over the center field job as soon as 2014.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average


#3. Robert Stephenson, Age: 20, Position: RHP

The club’s first round pick — 27th overall — in the 2011 draft, Stephenson split last season between the Pioneer and Midwest Leagues. In 15 total starts, the 6-foot-2 right-hander tossed 65 innings, averaging 10.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 to go along with a solid 3.16 SIERA.

Projection: Through the first dozen-plus games of his professional career, Stephenson showed solid promise, missing an above-average amount of bats, showing a solid feel for pitching considering his age, and generated an average amount of groundballs. For now, though, I’ll reserve any long term projections until following the 2013 season.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#4. Daniel Corcino, Age: 22, Position: RHP

About three years younger than the average Southern League hitter, Corcino showed promise as a 21-year-old by averaging nearly eight punch outs per nine innings to go along with a decent 4.11 SIERA. After showing a dramatic improvement in his control in 2011 (2.2 BB/9), it took a large step backward once he got into a more advanced league. In 143.1 innings (a career best), the right hander walked 65 (4.1 BB/9).

Projection: Corcino’s walk rates have ranged from extraordinary (2011; 2.2 BB/9) to extraordinarily bad (2009; 5.1 BB/9) to somewhere in between. He certainly has the tools to develop into a solid mid-rotation starter, but he has to learn to harness it. He’s definitely better suited for a repeat in Double-A.

Ceiling: 3.5

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#5. Jesse Winker, Age: 19, Position: OF

The 49th pick in last season’s draft, Winker put together an impressive debut, hitting .338/.443/.500 with 16 doubles, three triples, and five homeruns in 62 rookie level games. His total offensive production was 46% better than the league average, the fourth highest mark in the Pioneer League.

Projection: Winker showed solid-average power with potential to develop into above-average, a tremendously patient approach at the plate (14.5% BB-rate), good contact skills (18.2 K-rate), and the ability to handle both lefties and righties. He has the potential to move quickly through the system.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#6. Nick Travieso, Age: 19, Position: RHP

The organization’s first pick in last year’s draft, fourteenth overall, Travieso tossed just 21 innings, striking 14 and walking five.

Projection: Very, very little data to go on. But given his lofty draft status he’s certainly one to watch in 2013.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#7. J.J. Hoover, Age: 25, Position: RHP

A career starter who was slowly transitioning into a fulltime relief role with Atlanta before his acquisition, Hoover dominated the Triple-A competition last season, posting phenomenal peripherals (13.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9) and an uber-impressive 1.48 SIERA in 37 innings. The right-hander also made 28 appearances with the Reds throughout the course of the season, showing a slight decrease in skills (9.1 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9) but enough promise to develop into a useful arm late in games.

Projection: Armed with a low- to mid-90s fastball, Hoover’s 2012 was his best season to date. The only red flag, however, is his abhorrence to the groundball. His 22.4% groundball rate in Cincinnati was only slightly worse than during his time in Louisville (28.6%). It could be a problem given the homer-friendly nature of the Reds’ home ballpark.

Ceiling: 1.0-win reliever

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable


#8. Kyle Waldrop, Age: 21, Position: OF

After spending just one year with Billings, Waldrop, a 12th round pick in the 2010 draft, took a tremendous developmental step forward in A-ball last season, hitting .281/.344/.418 with 21 doubles, six triples, eight homeruns and 10 stolen bases. His total offensive production was 13% above the league average, a promising level of production considering that he was one year younger than the average Midwest League hitter.

Projection: After showing well below-average plate discipline in 2011 (3.4%), Waldrop more than doubled that total last season, to 8.1%. Also adding to the optimism was his ability to decrease his strikeout rate (22.2% to 16.4%). The lone red flag was an overall decline in power. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, he still profiles to have 15- to 20-homerun power.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#9. Tucker Barnhart, Age: 22, Position: C

Barnhart’s 2012 was a tale of two seasons, really. He offered a solid-average bat with promising peripherals (12.6% BB-rate, 19.5% K-rate and .131 ISO) during his 59-game stint in High-A. But once he was moved to Pensacola his numbers nosedived (7.7% BB-rate, 15.5% K-rate, and .092 ISO). Defensively, he threw out an amazing 38% of would-be base stealers.

Projection: Given Barnhart’s propensity for nailing potential base stealers, it wouldn’t be a shock for him to carve out a quasi-long career in the big leagues as a useful backup catcher. Add the fact that he’s typically shown an above-average eye at the plate and a heavy platoon split (.292/.373/.439 against RHPs; .189/.257/.27 against LHPs since 2011) and it’s easy to envision him becoming a pretty valuable platoon option.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#10. Henry Rodriguez, Age: 23, Position: 2B

Rodriguez has had a meteoric rise through the minor leagues, making his big league debut just three seasons after his minor league beginnings. Last season began in Double-A for the young second baseman, where he hit .348/.385/.439 with a decent walk rate (6.3%), well below-average power (.091 ISO), and good contact skills. His total production was 29% better than the league average.

The organization then promoted him to Triple-A and his production declined noticeably. In 51 games with Louisville, Rodriguez hit .244/.264/.333 and witnessed a fall-off in plate discipline (2.7% BB-rate), power (.089 ISO) and in his K-rate (15.8%).

Projection: Prior to 2012, Rodriguez has shown solid-average power — he hit 28 homeruns between 2009 and 2011 — but it completely evaporated last season, so much so that the young second baseman now profiles as a utility infielder unless he rebounds this year. Also standing in his way as a potential everyday player is his lack of a willingness to walk. There’s certainly big league value in Rodriguez, probably just not as an everyday player.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#11. Juan Perez, Age: 21, Position: SS

A solid, yet unspectacular 2012 season for Perez, who hit .251/.334/.396 with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. To go along with his 27 doubles and nine homeruns, the left-swingy shortstop added nine triples and 24 stolen bases. In total, his offensive production was just 7% better than the league average.

Projection: Following the departure of Didi Gregorius and Billy Hamilton’s move to center field, Perez becomes the best shortstop prospect in the system. He showed a well-rounded offensive game — solid walk rate, blossoming power and above-average speed — but he lacks one true standout tool. And defensively, he made 34 errors in just 123 games. There’s certainly the potential for growth, but right now Perez profiles as an offensive-minded backup.

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#12. Yorman Rodriguez, Age: 20, Position: OF

After flailing away against the High-A competition (.156/.181/.200), Rodriguez was demoted back to A-ball. And his repeat numbers with Dayton (.271/.307/.430) were only marginally better than the first time around (.254/.318/.393).

Projection: Despite the rather large developmental step backwards, Rodriguez was still just one of just 16 position players under the age of 20 to receive more than 250 plate appearances in the Midwest League. That’s the only silver lining. His walk rate nearly halved from the year before (4.3% vs. 8.1%), while showing modest improvements in his K-rate and power. He has the potential to develop into a lesser-degreed five-tool player. But even that looks relatively far away.

Ceiling: 0.5- to 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low


#13. Ismael Guillon, Age: 21, Position: LHP

After a setback in 2011 — he walked 46 in 63 innings — Guillon began the year back with Billings, his third season mulling around the rookie levels. With the Mustangs, the young left-hander tossed 51 innings, averaging 11.1 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 with a 3.07 SIERA. The organization then moved him to A-ball. And in 24.2 innings, he struck out 27 and walked just 7.

Projection: Guillon’s always shown the ability to miss bats; in 195.2 career innings he’s struck out 224, but the majority of that has been against either age-appropriate or younger competition. His command will be the ultimate determining factor for his future.

Ceiling: 0.5- to 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#14. Kyle Lotzkar, Age: 23, Position: RHP

The team’s supplemental first round pick way back in 2007, Lotzkar briefly dominated High-A (9.23 K/9, 3.42 BB/9 and 2.39 ERA in 26.1 innings) before being promoted to Double-A. With the Blue Wahoos, the young right-hander continued to post an above-average K-rate (10.0 K/9), but his control regressed mightily, to 5.5 BB/9, the second highest mark of his career.

Projection: After spending five seasons in the organization, there’s no longer a question of if Lotzkar can develop even average control, let alone command. He won’t. Instead, the team should push him into a bullpen role to take advantage of his power arm. Otherwise, he won’t come close to sniffing the major leagues.

Ceiling: 0.5- to 1.0-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#15. Juan Martinez, Age: 20, Position: LHP

Martinez had a very promising debut season in professional ball, averaging 9.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 52 Dominican Summer League innings. He also added an extreme amount of groundballs too (56.5%).

Projection: Martinez is no different than an incoming draft choice, so long term projections will be held for another year. However, the numbers can be looked upon with some added skepticism because he was a touch too old for the DSL.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#16 (Tied). Jonathan Reynoso, Age: 20, Position: CF

Now in his third stint mulling around the rookie levels, Reynoso took a rather large developmental step forward last season, hitting .311/.328/.411 in the Arizona Summer League. He showed below-average power (.100 ISO) and an absolutely atrocious eye at the plate (2.9% BB-rate), but relied heavily on his above-average speed, swiping 30 bases in 39 attempts.

Projection: Despite some large red flags in 2012, there’s at least room for some optimism moving forward. His plate discipline in 2011 (8.8%) was far better, and at 6-foot-3 and 177 pounds, his power figures to develop into at least a tick below-average, maybe even better.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#16 (Tied). Neftali Soto, Age: 24, Position: 1B

A 2007 third round pick out of Colegio Marista (Manati, PR), Soto put together the worst season of his career in 2012, hitting .245/.313/.400 during his first stint in Triple-A. He still showed solid-average power (30 doubles and 14 homeruns) and set a career best in walk rate (8.0%), but his total offensive production was 3% below the International League average.

Projection: Soto’s typically shown above-average in-game power, but thanks to a large uptick in his groundball rate (39.7% in 2011 to 49.3% in 2012) that even declined last year. Unless he rebounds strongly early in 2013 — and maybe that won’t even help his case — he’s likely headed down the dreaded Quad-A path.

Ceiling: 0.5- to 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate



Photo of Tony Cingrani Courtesy of Jamie Sabau/Getty


After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.