Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the extensions that the Reds have handed out over the last two weeks to Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto that locks them each up for the next 6 years (and Votto for even longer). That clearly is going to have an effect on how the prospects within the Reds system are handled. I will take a look at players on an individual basis and note why it is good and or bad for the player.
With Zack Cozart in his rookie season and still under team control for the next 6 years, he and Phillips are Reds ‘property’ for the same amount of time moving forward as long as Cozart stays with the big club the entire time. Gregorius is a shortstop by trade, and defensively he is a very good one. The thought process has been that his future would come into play up the middle for the Reds at some point whether it was at shortstop of second base.
Where this could be good news for Gregorius is that he isn’t going to be rushed up the ladder. While he has hit over the last few seasons (.285/.332/.393 from 2009-2011), most of his offense has been tied up in his batting average. His on-base percentage hasn’t been over .333 since 2009 in Billings and while plate discipline isn’t really an issue, Gregorius doesn’t walk much due to his high contact rate so his ability to get on base is going to be tied closely to his average. From a power perspective, he hasn’t shown much in his career, only topping .400 at one stop along the way since Billings (Bakersfield-2011). Scouts think he has solid power potential in his swing, with good bat speed. I think part of his lack of power production could be due to how he changes his approach with 2-strikes. No matter what the reasons are at this point, Gregorius could use improvement on the offensive side of his game. With the extensions, it gives him time to spend a full season in Pensacola and a full season in Louisville to work on his game.
The bad side of things for Gregorius is that if Zack Cozart continues to hit well at the Major League level, there may not be a spot open for him in the Reds organization. While positions aren’t full of guys with a similar offensive profile, the ideal third baseman from an offensive perspective isn’t something that Gregorius, Cozart or Phillips really fit so the odds that one of them makes the move there is diminished significantly.
Rodriguez has been playing second base as his primary position with the Reds organization since he was in Dayton back in 2009. He has hit over .300 at every level of the system he has played at since coming to the US, but there have been questions about his defensive ability to play at second base at each stop of the way as well. Some of the questions came from the effort side of things, often getting the rub that he is a ‘loves to hit’ player, but didn’t put much work in on the other side of the ball. In 2012 though, he has spent 6 games playing third base and only one so far at second base (where Brodie Greene has played).
This move could be good for Rodriguez because if the move to third base is more than a way to get Brodie Greene in the line up, he will need some extra time to learn to better play third base. While he does have some experience at third base (33 career starts), it is very limited. While most of his power is to the pull side no matter which side of the plate he is working from, he may have just enough power to play third as he matures with age.
The moves could hurt Rodriguez though if he isn’t being looked at as an option as a third baseman as it could pigeon hole him into a future utility player who can play all around the infield. He has experience at third, second and shortstop in his minor league career and his bat would be a good one to come off of the bench as a switch hitter who doesn’t have a bad side of the plate.
Already in AA Pensacola just two years after being drafted, Greene has been on a bit of a fast track though at age 24 he is pretty age appropriate for the level. Greene has evenly split his time at shortstop and second base as a pro so far, though he is viewed more as a second baseman than shortstop.
There may not be much good that comes out of this deal for Greene. At shortstop, he is likely an afterthought at this point behind Cozart and Gregorius (and perhaps behind Billy Hamilton). At second base, he may have an offensive advantage on the rest of the minor leaguers but he is also the oldest of the prospects who may be in line for second base. If Phillips plays out his contract, Greene would be 30 by the time it is up. That could mean that he finds himself viewed as a utility man by the Reds.
Similar to Didi Gregorius, Hamilton has work that he could do to improve his offensive output. Hamilton, unlike Gregorius doesn’t have much future power to tap into, so his entire offensive game is going to be tied to his ability to hit for a good average and get on base. In 2011 with Dayton, Hamilton struck out in 22% of his plate appearances. For a player who doesn’t have any power, that must be improved upon and by a significant amount if he would like to become an offensive player with value at the next level.
Where this deal could be good for Hamilton is that it gives him plenty of time to work on cutting down on the strikeouts as well as improving his ability to switch hit. While Hamilton is a few years into switch hitting, the longer he does it the better he is likely to become from both sides of the plate. The need to rush Hamilton to the Majors isn’t going to be there as long as the group of players above him all continue to do what is expected of them.
One thing this could do though, something that scouts outside of the organization have long talked about, is perhaps push Hamilton toward a move to centerfield. While it wouldn’t be the worst move in my opinion, I prefer having a shortstop with elite range over a center fielder with elite range.
I am not sure that there is a real downside of these deals for a guy like Hamilton who could use time to work on his overall game and his defensive skillset and age still leave plenty of options moving forward for him.
Soto may be the player that is most effected by the deals of all players in the system. While he has played all around the infield in his career (shortstop, third base, catcher and first base), he is viewed as solely a first baseman at this point in his career. With Joey Votto now locked up beyond his original contract, that puts Soto into the “trade bait” territory given that he isn’t likely to play another position.
Donald Lutz has spent plenty of time in first base in his career, but has transitioned to the outfield in 2012 and from what I saw in the Futures game, he looks like he can cover the corners well enough despite his size. Middle infielders like Devin Lohman, Juan Perez and Ryan Wright have both time and age on their side as well as some potential position flexibility. All of those players also have plenty of things to work on in their game on both sides of the ball (as does nearly every player in the lower levels of the minor leagues).