by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Cincinnati is clearly a rebuilding franchise, and they’ve done a good job assembling some impressive prospects at the top of their system. However after the first few names there is a sizable drop-off, and that’s not something that can be overlooked. Throw in that outside of Nick Senzel the elite prospects are still a bit away, and while the future is there we are going to have to be patient. Let’s take a look at how things currently stand:
1) Nick Senzel – Third Baseman
Grade – A
ETA – 2018
Selected second overall in the 2016 draft, Senzel is on the fast track (as expected). Splitting time between High-A (246 AB) and Double-A (209 AB) he hit .321 with 14 HR and 14 SB. While those are solid numbers, they don’t tell the entire story either:
- Power – Senzel added 40 doubles and 3 triples, showing that the power is there and will continue to develop
- Approach – Power hitting prospects tend to struggle with strikeouts, but he showed a solid approach with a 9.6% SwStr% (leading to a 19.1% strikeout rate and 9.7% walk rate)
He’s not going to produce gaudy steal numbers, but a .290/25/10 is possible. He has the upside to be among the elite third baseman in the game and could arrive early in 2018.
2) Hunter Greene – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A
ETA – 2021
The second overall selection in the 2017 draft, many viewed him as the top talent available. Touching triple-digits, the high school pitcher has the size (6’4”) and is projectable. No one is going to question the potential and he could ultimately develop into one of the elite arms in the game, but it’s going to take time and we all know the risk of investing in young pitchers given the rash of injuries.
Of course Greene isn’t your typical pitcher, and he also has the fallback of being thought of as a potential first round pick for his bat as well. That gives him a bit of a safety net from a prospect perspective.
3) Taylor Trammell – Outfielder
Grade – A-
ETA – 2020
He played most of the year as a 19-year old at Single-A, showing an impressive line hitting .281 with 13 HR and 41 SB (while also adding 24 doubles and 10 triples). The obvious red flag is his 123 strikeouts, but the question isn’t in his plate discipline as he posted a 12.4% walk rate. He does need to cut down on the swings and misses (14.6% SwStr%), but that should come with more experience. Even if it doesn’t he’s already proven that he can consistently get on base, whether it’s via walk or using his elite speed, but any type of further growth just improves him that much more dramatically.
Taylor has the potential to evolve into one of the elite leadoff hitters in the game, and even if nothing changes he should be a good one (.260/10 HR/30 SB type).
4) Tyler Mahle – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived
Splitting time between Double and Triple-A Mahle showed pinpoint control (1.87 BB/9) while also striking out nearly a batter per inning (8.61 K/9, courtesy of a 10.5% SwStr%). He also has the size (6’3” and 210 lbs.), and looked good in his first taste of the Majors (2.70 ERA). There’s value in that makeup, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no risk either. He’s not a groundball specialist, with a 40.1% groundball rate in the minors, and pitching half his games in Cincinnati that could lead to home run issues moving forward. When coupled with a solid, though unspectacular, strikeout rate Mahle should emerge as a mid-level starter but it’s hard to imagine him as one of the elite.
5) Jose Siri – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2020
When we look at a player who put up 24 HR and 46 SB over 498 AB (and also added 24 doubles and 11 triples) while hitting .293, no one is going to question the upside potential. The tools are all there, assuming he can refine his approach and learn how to make consistent contact. He debuted in full season ball last season, and that continues to be the biggest question (strikeout rate / walk rate):
- 2016 – 39.1% / 2.3%
- 2017 – 23.6% / 6.0%
Last season’s strikeout rate came courtesy of a 17.9% SwStr%, so there’s risk for further regression as he moves up against more advanced pitching. Sure it was an improvement over his first taste of full season ball (20.2% SwStr% in ’16), but he’s also a 22-year old prospect who is playing against kids who are likely a few years younger. Could he put it all together and figure it out? Absolutely, but he’s not an uncommon type of prospect and given his age the concerns are that much greater.
The Next Five:
6) Jose Isreal Garcia – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
7) Jeter Downs – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
8) Jacob Heatherly – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
This should be viewed as a very aggressive ranking, but the 2017 third round pick is left-handed and showed an ability to generate swings and misses (18.2% SwStr%) and groundballs (60.2%) over 39.2 IP in his debut. He needs to find his control, but if he does he is going to fly up prospect rankings this season.
9) Tony Santillan – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
10) Shed Long – Second Baseman (Grade – C+)
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: