In the first installment of this series I took a look at the Chicago Cubs Farm System because I felt like it was one that has followed a similar path to the Pittsburgh Pirates, at least over the last 10 years or so; on top for a while, falling of at times and attempting to regroup at the moment. The Cincinnati Reds Farm System on the other hand has been all over the place with no real goal or motivation in mind, which is not to say that they haven’t had a strong minor league structure on occasion; I just have no idea where their focus and/or planning is at any given moment in time.
For the past two off-seasons the Cincinnati Reds have taken the unconventional route toward building a competitor, especially considering they are small market team and organizations of a similar ilk rarely operate in this manner or fashion. They have decided to spend on free agents, a tactic that did not pay off last season and unfortunately may not even get the chance to get off the ground with the Major League Baseball season in flux due to unforeseen circumstances. During the past trade deadline they chose to be buyers instead of sellers; throwing conventional wisdom to the wind to the detriment of their farm system.
Currently the Reds have only two prospects in the MLB Pipeline Top 100. They would still have three, but Taylor Trammel is donning an Amarillo Sod Poodles in the San Diego Padres organization thanks to the aforementioned trade. Due to this and other transactions, including promotions, the Reds Farm System sits at #24, right behind the Chicago Cubs. As it was with the Cubs there is still some high end talent within the minors, it is just that both of these systems as a whole are not as strong as they could be or once were. As the season progresses or should I say if the season progresses, others could join the ranks of the top 100; including older brother of Pirates #8 Prospect Sammy Siani, Michael Siani, who currently sits at #6 on the Reds Top 30 List. As I did with the Cubs system I will only be focusing on the Reds Top 5 players according to MLB Pipeline to keep it a regular column and not a complete novel.
1) Nick Lodolo-LHP (MLB Pipeline #48)
Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Damien High School in California, the young left handed hurler was the first pitcher off the boards to the Cincinnati Reds at #7, out of TCU. Lodolo had limited action in his first professional season, appearing in only 18.1 innings across to levels. However, he was extremely impressive in this short time striking out 30 and not walking a single batter, all while posting an ERA of 2.45 and a WHIP of .982; ending the year in Dayton with Cincinnati Low-A Affiliate, the Dragons. Lodolo is an extremely polished pitcher, with three above average pitches in his arsenal; a low 90’s fastball (55), a low 80’s slider (55) and a changeup with deceptive arm action (55). Look for him to quickly rise through the levels of the Reds system when baseball returns.
2) Hunter Greene-RHP (MLB Pipeline #53)
Picked by the Reds in the First Round (#2 Overall) of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Norte Dame High School in California, Greene has about as high of a ceiling as any pitching prospect on the Top 100. After a hectic fist season, more of a leveled out second season and an inspiring performance at the 2018 MLB Futures Game Greene was shut down for the remainder of the 2018 season with a elbow strain, ultimately resulting in Tommy John Surgery prior to the 2019 season beginning. When healthy Greene has one of the best fastballs (80 Grade) in the minors, reaching 97 to 102 mph with ease. Throw in a slider (55) that has flashes of being a lights out second pitch and a change up (50) and Greene’s potential is still that of a front line starter of the future.
3) Tyler Stephenson-C
After being drafted in the First Round (11th Overall) of the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Kennesaw Mountain High School in Georgia, Stephenson had an unfortunate beginning to his professional career with injuries during his first two seasons. Since that time he has worked very hard to get things back on track, having the most successful and well rounded year this past season with the Chattanooga Lookouts (Cincinnati’s Double A Affiliate), followed by a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League. In 89 games he slashed .285/.372/.410 with 6 homers. His defense also steady improved as it pertained to pitch framing and arm strength, giving him the ceiling of an every catcher in MLB for years to come. I also see it as a vote of confidence in Stephenson’s abilities that the Reds maintained a group of solid veteran catchers rather than overpaying for a potentially more long term solution behind the plate.
4) Jonathan India-3B
After a breakout season in 2018 at the University of Florida, India was selected by the Reds at #5 overall in the First Round of the 2018 June Amateur Draft. His first full season in professional baseball in 2019 he battled a nagging wrist injury, which obviously had an affect on his overall offensive production. In spite of this he was able to show off some of his power, posting a .402 Slugging Percentage and smashing 11 homers. His approach at the plate also improved as the season progressed; including a promotion to the AA Chattanooga Lookouts from the High A/Advanced Daytona Tortugas. His BB% increased from 10.1% to 15.2% and his K% decreased from 22.9% to 17.9%. After a full offseason to recuperate, the Reds are hopeful that India is back on track and can build upon the positive strides he took through adversity during 2019.
5) Jose Garcia-SS
As a Cuban defector, the Reds signed Garcia for $5 million at the end of the 2016-2017 signing period on June 10, 2017 and potentially rushed him into action at the start of the 2018 season; assigning him to the Low A Dayton Dragons to begin the year. Garcia struggled his way through his time there, slashing .245/.290/.344 with 6 homers and 32 extra base hits, while striking out 21.7% of the time and walking only 3.7%. Luckily for the Reds his defensive capabilities of a 55 grade fielder and a 60 grade arm were not affected by this and he evidently was able to make some offensive adjustments going into the 2019 season. Last year with the High A/Advanced Daytona Tortugas Garcia batted .280 with 8 homers and 46 extra base hits in 21 less games and 78 less at bats than the previous year. His wRC+ also increased dramatically, going from 81 to 131. Prior to the situation this year, the now 22 year old Cuban was estimated to arrive at Great American Ballpark in 2021, however it is clear that some adjustments may need to be made to this timetable.
With the Cincinnati Reds hoping that they put themselves in a position to compete in the upcoming years, this unexpected work stoppage has the potential to be is fairly devastating. Sacrificing their Farm System and financial future for more immediate results is not a stance that I supported from the beginning and could easily come back to bite them as they move forward. For their sake I hope there is at least some baseball played this season because one year of wasted time could affect them more than a lot of other organizations and as of right now, looking at their Top Prospects, it does not seem like there is much of a backup plan.