The 2016 Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!

And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.



1. Jesse Winker, LF/RF                                     
Born: 08/17/93 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Caleb Gindl, Nick Weglarz,

Brett Phillips, Josh Bell, Aaron Cunningham

Height: 6-3 Weight: 210 Throws: L

2013 19 A 486 18 5 16 0.281 0.379 0.463 0.182 13.0% 15.4% 138
2014 20 A+ 249 15 0 13 0.317 0.426 0.580 0.263 16.1% 18.5% 160
2015 21 AA 526 24 2 13 0.282 0.390 0.433 0.151 14.1% 15.8% 137

Background: It took the former supplemental first rounder to get his Class AA feet under him – especially after reaching the level briefly two years ago. But Winker, who appeared in 21 games with the Blue Wahoos in 2014 before a semi-serious career accident forced him to miss the remainder of the year, caught fire in the second half of last season and never looked back. After starting out with a disappointing .229/.343/.314 showing through his first 42 games, the young corner outfielder ripped through the Southern League in the second half, hitting a robust .310/.414/.497 with 19 doubles, one triple, 11 homeruns, and a quartet of stolen bases. Overall, Winker slugged a combined .282/.390/.433 with a career best 24 doubles, two triples, 13 homeruns, and eight stolen bases (in 12 attempts). His production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 37%.

But the best part – which bodes oh-so-well for his future – was his always impeccable strikeout-to-walk ratio last season: he posted an 83-to-74 KK/B, the eighth best showing in the league last season.  

Best Part II: Among the 14 prospect under the age of 22 to get at least 350 plate appearances in Class AA last season, Winker’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second highest, trailing only Philadelphia’s J.P. Crawford.

Projection: I’ve long been on the outfielder’s bandwagon. Here’s what I wrote two years ago:

“A budding analytic superstar, Winker not only showed a well-rounded offensive approach, but one that’s mature beyond his years. Incredible plate discipline, developing power, and, perhaps the best news, the lefty-swinging Winker has handled southpaws well throughout his professional career, hitting .293/.393/.420 off of them. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him develop into .300/.400/.500 hitter down the line, capable of 25+ homerun pop.”

 I followed that up by writing the following in last year’s book:

“The brief, unsuccessful stint he suffered through in Class AA should prove to be nothing more than an anomaly, a minor speed bump. He’s still showing plus-power potential, an above-average eye at the plate, solid contact skills, and an amazing ability to handle southpaws. CAL links him to Justin Upton, which would be his ultimate offensive ceiling.”

Fast forward another year and there’s nothing that’s changed. He’s still: walking at an elite rate, making consistent contact, and flashing 20- to 25-homer pop. The only problem: his struggles with southpaws last season (.211/.328/.326), though it should prove to be nothing more than a blip on the screen given his lengthy track record against them.

Simply put, Winker’s a budding perennial All-Star. And he should slide in nicely alongside Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Devin Mesoraco to give the Reds a potentially potent lineup – though one that’s going to be a bit too lefty-heavy.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016


2. Robert Stephenson, RHP                                        
Born: 02/24/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Dan Cortes, Mike Foltynewicz,

Chris Withrow, Corey Black, Andy Oliver

Height: 6-2 Weight: 200 Throws: R

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A 77.0 5 3 2.57 2.59 11.22 2.34 31.3% 6.5% 0.58 68.1%
2013 20 A+ 20.7 2 2 3.05 3.82 9.58 0.87 26.5% 2.4% 1.31 71.4%
2013 20 AA 16.7 0 2 4.86 4.65 9.72 7.02 24.0% 17.3% 1.08 73.5%
2014 21 AA 136.7 7 10 4.74 4.58 9.22 4.87 23.3% 12.3% 1.19 66.8%
2015 22 AA 78.3 4 7 3.68 4.16 10.23 4.94 27.4% 13.2% 0.92 72.1%
2015 22 AAA 55.7 4 4 4.04 3.35 8.25 4.37 21.1% 11.2% 0.32 71.2%

Background: Easily the top arm in the Cincinnati system – as well as one of the most potentially dominant young hurlers in all of the minor leagues – Stephenson found himself back in the Southern League for the third consecutive season. He first made it up to the minors’ most challenging test as a 20-year-old three years ago, throwing 16.2 innings during his wildly successful breakout campaign. The front office opted to keep the 6-foot-2, 200-pound hurler with the Blue Wahoos for the entirety of the 2014 season. And while he would finish the year with 140 punch outs in just 134.0 innings of work, Stephenson’s once strong control regressed towards below-average status as he issues 70 walks.

So back in Class AA – again – Stephenson missed a ton of bats in 78.1 innings (89), but continued to deal with those pesky control/command issues as he posted an identical walk rate (4.9 BB/9). The club bumped him up to the International League for another 11 starts. He would finish the year with a 140-to-70 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 134.0 innings of work.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“A big time arm that’s coming along at the most opportune team as Cincinnati begins shuffling towards rebuilding/retooling the big league club. As I noted in [2014’s] book, Stephenson has true ace potential. And while his control/command regressed last season, there’s no reason to believe that it won’t bounce back to his previous career norms next season.”

Well, the control didn’t really bounce back as I originally suspected. But – and it’s a big but – over his final 49.2 innings with Pensacola Stephenson walked just 20 batters – or about 3.6 BB/9. And his control in Class AAA was a bit clouded by three games in which he walked four batters each. Otherwise, he averaged 3.09 BB/9.

He’s a legitimate shutdown ace – if he can learn to keep his walk rates around the league average. In terms of ceiling think a right-hander version of Gio Gonzalez.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015


3. Rookie Davis, RHP                                                   
Born: 04/29/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Bryan Flynn, Andrew Gagnon,

Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Jesse Beal, Luis Diaz

Height: 6-5 Weight: 245 Throws: R

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A- 42.0 2 4 2.36 2.62 8.36 2.79 20.6% 6.9% 0.21 70.5%
2013 20 A 10.0 0 0 0.00 2.48 7.20 0.00 20.0% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2014 21 A 126.0 7 8 4.93 3.79 7.57 3.00 19.1% 7.6% 0.50 63.5%
2015 22 A+ 97.3 6 6 3.70 2.22 9.71 1.66 25.9% 4.4% 0.37 61.6%
2015 22 AA 33.3 2 1 4.32 3.21 6.48 2.16 16.7% 5.6% 0.27 63.0%

Background: Plucked out of Dixon High School in the 14th round in 2011, William “Rookie” Davis parlayed an above-average heater into a second round bonus. The well-built right-hander finally began to repay the club back with a breakout stint with Tampa in the Florida State League last season. In 19 starts with the Baby Yanks, Davis strung together an impeccable 105-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a 2.22 FIP, the second best showing among hurlers with 90+ innings in any of the High Class A leagues last season. And the big North Carolina-born hurler particularly shined during a nine-game run beginning in late May: he tossed 52.1 innings, fanned 59, walked seven, and posted a 2.58 ERA. New York bounced Davis up to the Eastern League for another six games, five of which were starts; he fanned 24 and walked eight in 33.1 innings.

Projection: Just to shine some more light on Davis’ 2015 season, considering the following: the 6-foot-5 right-hander posted an 18.7% strikeout-to-walk percentage, the sixth best showing among all MiLB’ers with 130+ innings at any level. That puts him squarely with the likes of some of the game’s most promising arms – Blake Snell, Jose Berrios, and Brent Honeywell, among others. Davis has always showed a tremendous ability to miss bats and limit free passes; he’s fanned 21.3% and walked just 6.0% of the total hitters he’s faced over his four professional seasons. He isn’t quite on Luis Severino’s level, but he sure as hell isn’t far off either.   

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017


4. Amir Garrett, LHP                                                      
Born: 05/03/92 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Jake Brigham, Josh Wall,

Douglas Arguello, Ryan Searle, Dan Griffin

Height: 6-5 Weight: 210 Throws: L

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 R 23.7 1 1 2.66 4.05 6.46 3.80 16.8% 9.9% 0.00 63.6%
2013 21 A 34.0 1 3 6.88 5.57 3.97 4.24 9.7% 10.3% 1.06 61.1%
2014 22 A 133.3 7 8 3.65 3.87 8.57 3.44 22.6% 9.1% 0.74 67.7%
2015 23 A+ 140.3 9 7 2.44 2.90 8.53 3.53 23.1% 9.6% 0.26 73.9%

Background: A successful – wildly successful, if I may toot my own horn – inclusion on last season’s Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2015, here’s what I wrote in that portion of the book: ‘The big lefty, who moonlighted as a basketball player at St. John’s during the offseason, walked away from his two-sport dream to concentrate fully on baseball. He posted a 127-to-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the Midwest League last season.” Well, Garrett went from a late-round two-sport player into a member – and winning pitcher – of last season’s Future’s Game. So here’s the breakout season: the 6-foot-5, 210-pound southpaw posted an impressive 133-to-55 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a 2.44 ERA and 2.90 FIP in 140.1 innings of work. Here are some more impressive tidbits about qualified Florida State League arms:

  • His strikeout percentage, 23.1%, ranked first.
  • His strikeout-to-walk percentage, 13.7%, ranked fourth best.
  • His 2.90 FIP ranked third.

And here’s where those numbers rank among all qualified High Class A arms last season: sixth in K%, 14th in K/BB%, sixth in FIP.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in his projection section last season:

“A wild card in the truest sense, Garrett has the one thing you can’t teach – size. Six-foot-5 southpaws will always garner a second look. He hasn’t been challenged yet in terms of competition, so his 2015 season – one where he’s likely to move to High Class A – could be very telling. And because he’s been splitting his time between baseball and basketball, his experience is incredibly limited.”

Needless to say, the former hoopster passed the High Class A test with flying colors. The big lefty is still working through some average-ish control; in his 26 starts, he walked four or more five times. Garrett looks like a backend starter, perhaps peaking as a #4-type arm.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017


5. Eric Jagielo, 3B                                                         
Born: 05/17/92 Age: 24 Bats: L Top CALs:   Marvin Lowrance, Pedro Alvarez,

J.D. Davis, Josh Bell, Danny Valencia

Height: 6-2 Weight: 215 Throws: R

2013 21 A- 218 14 1 6 0.266 0.376 0.451 0.185 11.9% 24.8% 152
2014 22 A+ 359 14 0 16 0.259 0.354 0.460 0.201 10.6% 25.9% 132
2015 23 AA 248 16 2 9 0.284 0.347 0.495 0.212 7.3% 23.4% 141

Background: Acquired along with the supremely underrated Rookie Davis as part of a four-for-one deal that shipped All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman to The Big Apple. Jagielo just can’t seem to shake the injury bug. After taking an upper-80s heater to the face during the Instructional League last offseason and before that missing two months with an oblique injury, the lefty-swinging third baseman’s 2015 season was interrupted – and ultimately ended – by midseason knee injury. Jagielo tore up his left knee in a mid-June slide into home and an MRI later revealed that he had some loose bodies floating around. Prior to going down, Jagielo was handling himself nicely with Trenton in the Eastern League, hitting .284/.347/.495 with 16 doubles, a pair of triples, and nine homeruns.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the former third baseman for the Fighting Irish three years ago prior to the draft:

“Jagielo has two red flags to be wary of: Notre Dame’s home field tends to inflate numbers and his strikeout rate, 13.7%, while not high, is a bit of concern given his average power. He won’t be a star, but he could be a solid-average everyday player, peaking with 15 or so homeruns and a .260/.330/.420 line. And, of course, a lot of that will hinge on his ability to his southpaws.”

Jagielo has elevated the ball – and subsequently hit far more dingers – with a higher frequency since entering professional baseball. He’s shown a solid-average eye at the plate and has handled lefties without too much of an issue either. Just as I wrote three years ago, his offensive ceiling resides somewhere close to a .260/.330/.420 line – assuming, of course, that his injuries won’t hold him back.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016/2017


6. Keury Mella, RHP                                                       
Born: 08/02/93 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Allen Harrington, Jon Kibler,

Jhoulys Chacin, Danny Miranda, Dustin Antolin

Height: 6-2 Weight: 200 Throws: R

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 R 36.0 3 2 2.25 2.73 10.25 2.75 27.7% 7.4% 0.00 73.9%
2014 20 A- 19.7 1 1 1.83 3.01 9.15 2.75 24.7% 7.4% 0.00 79.2%
2014 20 A 66.3 3 3 3.93 2.79 8.55 1.76 22.0% 4.6% 0.14 60.5%
2015 21 A+ 81.7 5 3 3.31 3.79 9.15 2.87 24.0% 7.5% 0.55 66.7%
2015 21 A+ 21.3 3 1 2.95 4.62 9.70 6.33 25.3% 16.5% 0.84 83.3%

Background: Cincinnati acquired the 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander as part of straight-up one-for-one swap with San Francisco that sent free-agent-to-be Mike Leake to the Bay Area. And after another solid season in which Mella missed a whole lot of bats with above-average control, the deal looks like a win-win for both organizations. Mella spent the entire season hurling gems in High Class A where he would make 16 starts in the California League and another four starts in the Florida State League following his trade. The Dominican-born hurler finished the year by fanning 24.3% and walking 9.4% of the total batters he faced en route to totaling a 3.23 ERA. For his career, Mella is averaging 9.3 punch outs and 3.0 walks per nine innings.

Projection: Mella’s one of those intriguing, sneaky good arms that nobody’s really talking about – yet. And some of that may be from the fact that he’s totaled just 293.2 career innings, spanning parts of four seasons. But they’re some pretty impressive innings nonetheless. His four-game stint in the Cincinnati organization muddied the waters a bit in terms of his overall production, especially his walk numbers. But make no mistake about it – Mella owns above-average control. He’s likely headed to Class AA in 2016 and has a chance of finishing it in the International League. Sneaky good #4-type arm.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017


7. Cody Reed, LHP                                                      
Born: 04/15/93 Age: 23 Bats: L Top CALs: Aaron Blair, Gil De La Vara,

Justin De Fratus, Brad Meyers, Jhonny Nunez

Height: 6-5 Weight: 220 Throws: L

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 R 29.7 0 1 6.07 5.13 7.58 6.98 17.2% 15.9% 0.00 58.6%
2014 21 A 84.0 3 9 5.46 4.37 6.21 3.86 15.0% 9.3% 0.54 56.9%
2015 22 A+ 67.3 5 5 2.14 2.75 8.69 2.41 23.4% 6.5% 0.40 80.7%
2015 22 AA 28.7 2 2 3.45 4.27 5.97 2.51 15.8% 6.7% 0.94 61.7%
2015 22 AA 49.7 6 2 2.17 2.24 10.87 2.90 29.9% 8.0% 0.18 77.3%

Background: The first signs of rebuild – that dreaded word – occurred when the Reds’ front office, led by the underappreciated Walt Jocketty, shipped off veteran ace and free-agent-to-be Johnny Cueto to the eventual World Champs for former TCU ace Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Reed, a massive 6-foot-5, 220-pound lefty out of Northwest Mississippi Community College. Reed, a 2013 second round pick, had a massive coming out party in 2015. After posting some lackluster – or worse – peripherals across his first two stints in professional ball, Reed blew away the Carolina League competition for 13 games; he posted a 65-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a 2.14 ERA with Wilmington. Kansas City would bump the big southpaw up to Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League for five starts before the midseason deal. Cincinnati would keep Reed in Class AA for another eight starts – eight very, very dominant starts. Overall, he finished the year with 144 punch outs, 42 walks, and an aggregate 2.41 ERA.

Projection: Reed looked like the second coming of Koufax in his brief tenure in the Reds’ system late last year. Of his eight starts, he fanned 10 or more twice and at least eight batters three other times. And he coughed up 10 of his 12 earned runs in two disastrous outings. His control has been trending in the right direction since his horrible debut and it now grades out as above-average. He has an innings eater body, generates a solid amount of groundballs, and a potential above-average big league ability to miss bats. Reed could develop into a #3/#4 type arm.    

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2016


8. Tyler Stephenson, C                                                
Born: 08/16/96 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs: Jobduan Morales, Tomas Nido,

Oberto Munoz, Pedro Gonzalez, Jose Garcia

Height: 6-4 Weight: 225 Throws: R

2015 18 R 219 15 0 1 0.268 0.352 0.361 0.093 10.0% 19.2% 90

Background: The Reds have drafted just three prep catchers in the first round of the draft since 1965: Danny Lamar (1979), Devin Mesoraco (2007), and Stephenson. The first backstop taken last June, Stephenson had a solid debut as he transitioned to the professional game, hitting .268/.352/.361 in 54 games with Billings.

Projection: The offensive output hardly screamed opening top draft pick, but an incoming young backstop is taking on far more responsibilities. And most importantly, he didn’t look overmatched. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Reds challenge the former 11th overall pick by pushing him up to full season action next season.   

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A



9. Jose Peraza, 2B/SS/CF                                            
Born: 04/30/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Alexi Casilla, Ronald Torreyes,

Hanser Alberto, Ketel Marte, DJ Lemahieu

Height: 6-0 Weight: 180 Throws: R

2013 19 A 504 18 8 1 0.288 0.341 0.371 0.083 6.7% 12.7% 106
2014 20 A+ 304 13 8 1 0.342 0.365 0.454 0.113 3.3% 10.5% 129
2014 20 AA 195 7 3 1 0.335 0.363 0.422 0.086 3.6% 7.7% 121
2015 21 AAA 94 3 1 1 0.289 0.304 0.378 0.089 2.1% 10.6% 79
2015 21 AAA 427 10 7 3 0.294 0.318 0.379 0.084 3.5% 8.2% 97
2015 21 MLB 25 1 1 0 0.182 0.250 0.318 0.136 8.0% 8.0% 44

Background: Funny how a change in regime can dramatically shift an organization’s view of a player. Take for example, say, Jose Peraza – the once near crown jewel of the Atlanta system but dealt away by (savvy) veteran General Manager John Hart. Acquired as part of the three-team mega-deal involving Miami and Atlanta, Peraza was coming off of his best professional season to date, hitting a combined .339/.364/.441 as a 20-year-old splitting his time between the Carolina and Southern Leagues. But the speedy second baseman/center fielder fell back to earth in Class AAA last season, as his BABIP dropped to his typical career norms. He would bat .294/.318/.379 with the Braves and .289/.304/.378 in 22 games in the Dodgers system.

But the story didn’t end there!

Cincinnati acquired Peraza as the centerpiece (oops!) in the three-team deal that shipped Todd Frazier to the White Sox. The Reds also acquired outfielder Scott Schebler and infielder Brandon Dixon.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in the book last year:

“The biggest development for Peraza was his (slight) improvement in the power department [in 2014], which is only amplified by the fact that he moved up two levels. The speed and bat are standout tools, but he rarely walks and the power is still lacking. With Andrelton Simmons fully entrenched at shortstop, Peraza was pushed to the keystone. CAL’s not overly optimistic, linking him to a bunch of utility-type guys. He definitely needs to keep hitting for .300-plus batting averages if he hopes to develop into an everyday guy.”

 Well, he walked just 17 times in his 521 plate appearances in Class AAA. And, of course, the power is still a well below-average skill set. So it’s not surprising to see CAL link him to a bunch of utility-type guys (again). If he can handle multiple positions like a utility guy, hits like a utility guy, and looks like a utility guy – well, he must be a utility guy.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015


10. Alex Blandino, 2B/SS                                           
Born: 11/06/92 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Brad Miller, Jason Donald,

Chase D’Arnaud, Justin Bohn, Eugenio Suarez

Height: 6-0 Weight: 190 Throws: R

2014 21 R 131 10 1 4 0.309 0.412 0.527 0.218 12.2% 13.7% 141
2014 21 A 152 10 1 4 0.261 0.329 0.440 0.179 8.6% 27.6% 118
2015 22 A+ 342 18 2 7 0.294 0.370 0.438 0.144 9.1% 16.4% 148
2015 22 AA 138 7 0 3 0.235 0.350 0.374 0.139 13.0% 15.2% 111

Background: When Cincinnati selected Blandino in the opening round two years ago it marked the fourth consecutive season in which Stanford had a first round pick – though to be fair Mark Appel was two of those selections as he returned back to school. That first round streak ended last season, for what it’s worth. Anyway, the club continued to aggressively push the former Cardinal through the minors last season. After splitting his debut between Billings and Dayton, Blandino jumped up to the Florida State League at the start of last season. In 80 games with Dayton, the 6-foot, 190-pound middle infielder batted a solid .294/.370/.438 with 18 doubles, two triples, seven homeruns, and seven stolen bases. His overall production, per Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 48%, the third best mark in the FSL among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances. Blandino would eventually get promoted to the Eastern League in early August; he would bat .235/.350/.374 the rest of the way – though he still managed to top the average production line by 11%.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the 2014 draft:

“The dreaded ‘Stanford Swing’ aside, Blandino looks like a potential above-average everyday player in the making. He has a pretty good idea at the plate – strong contact skills with a decent eye – to go along with some sneaky power. The problem, however, is that there’s no true standout tool. Solid across the board, yes, but nothing that screams can’t miss.”

Blandino certainly shined in his aggressive promotion to High Class A last season, flashing solid-average or better tools across the board. And he was able to rebound after a slow start in Class AA, hitting .268/.391/.394 over his final 88 plate appearances.

Again, Blandino doesn’t have a true standout tool, but he does show enough offensive promise to develop into a solid big league middle infielder.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017



Author’s Note: All statistics courtesy of


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