The Reds don’t garner enough attention for their willingness to turn collegiate relievers into starting pitchers. Tony Cingrani, whom I ranked as the 19th prospect two years ago, was taken in the third round out of Rice and made a successful transition. Michael Lorenzen, a supplemental first round pick last June, is holding his own as a first time starting pitcher in Class AA. And, hopefully, the club will take the same route with big right-hander Nick Howard.
For a look at the club’s Top 10 Prospects heading into the year click HERE.
1. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Age: 21
Rightly so, the Reds have pushed the former first round pick aggressively through the farm system. And despite the rapid developmental curve, Stephenson has continued to miss an enormous amount of bats, though his control (4.89 BB/9) has taken a major step backwards this season. In the conversation for top 10 pitching prospects in baseball.
2. Jesse Winker, LF, Age: 20
Bakersfield’s home ballpark tends to inflate offensive numbers, particularly homeruns, but Winker’s road numbers this season, .272/.390/.583, showcase his offensive prowess. Just 20-years-old, he’s topped the Cal League offensive production by a whopping 64%.
3. Phil Ervin, CF, Age: 21
After tearing through rookie ball last season, Ervin has looked overmatched in the Midwest League thus far, hitting a miniscule .227/.295/.331 with 15 doubles, four triples, one homerun and 17 stolen bases. The former first round pick, however, has gotten better as the season progressed, posting OPSs of .561, .625, and .859.
4. Nick Howard, RHP, Age: 21
Virginia turned the once promising starting pitcher into a dominant (surprise!) backend reliever this season. And, presumably, the Reds will push the big right-hander back into the rotation a la Tony Cingrani and Michael Lorenzen. Cincinnati, in that sense, is one of the more progressive clubs in baseball. For Howard’s full pre-draft analysis click HERE.
5. Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Age: 21
The Reds converted the former Cal State Fullerton two-way star into a starting pitcher and aggressively pushed him to the Southern League this season. Strong control (2.66 BB/9), great groundball numbers (54.7%). His strikeout rate, 5.96 K/9, should begin to creep up with experience.
6. Alex Blandino, 3B/SS, Age: 21
One of the more polished bats in college this season, Blandino has the potential to develop into a better than average everyday player. Solid tools without a true standout. For Blandino’s full pre-draft analysis click HERE.
7. Ben Lively, RHP, Age: 22
Quite the find out in the fourth round last June, Lively, who was also previous drafted by the Indians coming out of high school, owns one of the better strikeout-to-walk ratios in the minor leagues this season – 5.94, the fourth best among all qualified high Class A hurlers.
8. Nick Travieso, RHP, Age: 20
After a nice, though uninspiring, trip through the Midwest League as a 19-year-old last season, Travieso returned back to Dayton with better, though still uninspiring, results. Through his first 12 games, the former 14th overall pick has averaged just 6.85 K/9.
9. Taylor Sparks, 3B, Age: 21
The type of risk a team should take in the second round, Sparks flashes above-average power potential, which is at a premium now, but rarely walks. The former UC Irvine third baseman walked just 33 times over his final two seasons in college. For Sparks’ full pre-draft analysis click HERE.
10. Jon Moscot, RHP, Age: 22
Moscot, who’s historically shown strong peripherals throughout his three-year career, has seen a rather large downturn in his strikeout rate during his first extended stay in the Southern League (7.15 K/9). Not overpowering, per se, but the former Pepperdine hurler could develop into a useful backend option.
Photo Courtesy of Michael Spooneybarger/Pensacola Blue Wahoos via milb.com.