The Reds had arguably the best bullpen in all of baseball during the 2012 season. With it appearing that Aroldis Chapman will move into the rotation, it is likely to take a step backward but should still remain a strong point of the team.

There isn’t really a for sure top relief prospect in the system, but there is a rather clear top group of prospects at the reliever position. Drew Hayes was a part of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos bullpen who had a majority of this top group in it. He finished the season with a 3.41 ERA in 63.1 innings with 64 strikeouts and 38 walks. The walk rate was rather high and will need to improve to be a quality reliever at the Major League level, but he has an above-average fastball and slider that can get Major Leaguers out. Curtis Partch began the season in the starting rotation but made his way to the bullpen where he posted a 3.01 ERA in 65.2 innings with 25 walks and  66 strikeouts. Partch has plus fastball velocity  and a slider in the mid to upper 80′s. A late addition to the bullpen in Pensacola was Josh Ravin, who missed roughly half of the season while on the disabled list and he didn’t perform too well in the regular season, though he showed strong stuff. He went out to the Arizona Fall League where he then pitched quite well, controlling the strikezone and throwing a fastball in the 97-99 MPH range that touched 101. With Ravin the question has always been about control rather than stuff. If he can consistently throw strikes, he has back end of the bullpen stuff. Pedro Villarreal pitched out of the rotation, but likely has a future in the bullpen where he has above-average velocity and an above-average slider.  The last guy who belongs in this group is Carlos Contreras who spend his season in Dayton and Bakersfield where he posted a 3.12 ERA with 20 saves in 60.2 innings to go with 24 walks and 63 strikeouts. He has above-average to plus fastball velocity and a change up with above-average potential. All of these players are now on the Reds 40-man roster with the exception of Drew Hayes, who hasn’t needed to be added due to a lack of service time yet.

The next group of guys may not quite had the arms as the above group but are prospects worth noting. Rounding out the rest of the Pensacola bullpen was Justin Freeman who put up strong numbers with a 2.91 ERA in 68 innings with 16 saves to go along with 16 walks and 68 strikeouts. He has a solid fastball and a strong slider to go along with good control. Chris Manno spent his season with Pensacola and posted a 3.78 ERA in 50 innings with 22 walks and 51 strikeouts. He shows average to slightly above-average velocity and mixes in a good change up. Brian Pearl spent the second half in the Blue Wahoos bullpen, though he did struggle after dominating in Bakersfield. His fastball is mostly average, working in the 89-92 MPH range and he mixes in a breaking ball that is an average pitch, but does flash itself to be stronger at times. Mark Serrano rounds out the Blue Wahoos bullpenners. While he is an older prospect, turning 27 in September, he put up a 3.95 ERA in 93.1 innings with 30 walks and 95 strikeouts. He has a fastball in the low 90′s and an above-average slider.

In non-Pensacola relievers to keep an eye on are two guys who were starters, but project better as relievers. Josh Smith has spent some time in the bullpen as a pro and his fastball worked in the 92-94 range with an above-average curveball. Daniel Renken started all season, but has more of a bullpen look to him. As a starter he throws 87-90, though his mechanics are unorthodox and add good deception. He mixes in a quality change up as well.

Then there are several relievers in Low-A and rookie ball who showed something as well. El’Hajj Muhammad and Carlos Gonzalez worked well out of the Dayton Dragons bullpen. Mo Wiley, Carlos Ramos, Alejandro Chacin and Jose Amezcua looked strong in the Billings Mustangs bullpen. Abel De Los Santos, Jackson Stephens and Michael Salter showed off in the Arizona League reds bullpen.

Overall Thoughts

The Reds don’t have a premiere relief prospect at this point, though they do have several premiere arm strength guys. There is a ton of depth at the position, though there should be as relief pitching should generally speaking, be easy to come by. With a slew of guys in the upper minor leagues who could all be Major Leaguers mixed in with a bunch of guys at the lower levels who you can say the same thing about I would give the position a grade B. The lack of a premiere reliever and questions around some of the better arm guys keeps it from being higher.

For other articles in the State of the Farm series, click here.

46 Responses

  1. IndyRedsFan

    It seems the list is really short of lefthanders. After trading Horst and Joseph, and non-tendering Bray, there don’t seem to be many possibilities for the 2nd lefthander In the pen. I’m concerned the Reds will go with Cingrani in this role. I’d much rather see him get another year to develop as a starter. Your thoughts?

    • Alan Horn

      I agree. We have nothing to show for Horst and technically nothing to show for Joseph(although trading for Broxton might have helped our efforts to resign him). Bray was going to get more costly and he has been injured, so that move made sense. I guess Bray could still sign with us if he wanted to. The Braves might have a bullpen close to or better than the Reds.

    • Norwood Nate

      I do think the BP needs a second lefty in the pen. That way Marshall won’t be misused as a LOOGY, which Dusty tended to do at times. I think Cingrani would be great in that role, but I would hate to give up on him as a starting pitcher. I know he could always go back, but he’d need time to build back innings and more importantly would not be working on a usable 3rd pitch.

      I think there is the possibility of resigning Bray to a lesser salary, or picking up someone in Rule V. But there’s also the possibility that Arredondo becomes the LOOGY, but I usually get nervous when he comes in because I feel there’s just as much of a chance he walks the one guy as there is he gets an out.

      • Alan Horn

        I agree on the getting nervous part. Arredondo is like Broxton, he has good stuff but usually makes things interesting. I think Broxton will do the job, but he is a younger Coco to me(which is not bad but requires a few tums).

      • Foxbud

        A LOOGY is a bit overrated as Arredondo is pretty good against LH hitters.

  2. Alan Horn

    Doug or anyone, how much better off would we be with Morse versus Ludwick.
    I know in terms of no players traded, we would be better off with Ludwick.
    Can Morse play a decent LF? I would hate to trade Leake as I feel we will need him at some point. How long could we retain Morse under his current contract?

      • Herbie

        Yeah. Just like I said the last thread you asked this Alan, his defense is pretty atrocious. He wouldn’t really be an upgrade over say, Heisey.

  3. Stock

    He struggled with his control for the Wahoos but I think Tim Crabbe would make for a good RP. Did you leave him off this list because you think he has a shot as a SP?

    • Doug Gray

      Left him off because of the control problems. If he can cut his walk rate in half, he has a chance.

  4. wally

    Indy Alan. I hear you but I have to say this do not under estimate Manno He will be a very good lefty out of the pen at the big league level. I watched him all year live and up close. He just does not hit bats. Deception with a good arm , very good change and slider/cutter that works

    • Norwood Nate

      I am a little surprised that Manno didn’t make the top tier of relievers. I always slot him in with the others in that tier when I am thinking about minor league relievers in the Reds system.

    • Alan Horn

      I forgot about Manno Wally. He is a option. The cup isn’t empty but it isn’t running over either. I keep hoping Cingrani can make it as a starter. If not, then he is another option. If he does have to revert back to a reliever, then it gets better. I just hope they don’t trade Cingrani.

  5. Tim

    No way Walt even considers the Homer for Fowler trade unless he doesnt think we can sign Homer to an extension.

  6. wally

    also I have to say Partch Ravin Hayes. Great arms especially the first two guys. I worry about Hayes , fastball tends to be flat. If Ravin just throws strikes and he has the biggest upside potential. Pearl last season got hit hard at the AA level. To be fair to him, he pitched hurt, I saw him from my perch in pensacola, and he did not look healthy.

  7. sultan of swaff

    Bottom line—any good organization needs to be producing one solid bullpen contributor per year. The Reds have been doing that for the most part. This is what drives me batty about the Broxton deal. First, I don’t think he was even the best guy available for the money (I would’ve signed Soria or Adams or both on a one year deal), and second, his peripherals aren’t much better than what Cingrani or Hoover could produce. A poor allocation of resources IMO.

    Of the group mentioned, I think Ravin and Partch are the cream of the crop and most likely to make an impact in 2013.

    I see the Reds didn’t non-tender Ondru the Giant. Thoughts?

    • Norwood Nate

      Does Ondru have options left? He was called up in 2010, spent the whole year (I don’t remember him being sent down) in Cincinnati in 2011, was optioned late August this past year so Navarro could come up during Mes’s suspension.

      He’s like Leake, his service time is probably about to the point where he doesn’t have much time left to be optioned. But I don’t see a spot for him in the BP this year unless (knock on wood) injuries occur.

  8. Mel

    I very much like Wally and Elliot have been to some games in Pensacola, let me say this for the last time, please go s to pensacola to watch the future, a great place to watch the game and I must say the best beach on the east coast . Sorry for the rant. Ok here I go the best arms I saw in th epen this year are by far Partch and Ravin. Ravin did not pitch much but his arm is alive. Ravin needs to get a full season under his belt and stay healthy . Partch made the transition from SP to RP and did a bang up job. Both guys have huge upside, bottom line is 96-98 is hard to look past and so the 40 man roster calls your name. Wally and Elliot have seen a bunch of games this year and they can tell you even more about the pen. Manno i also believe could be a impact pitcher in the pen. He is not and I repeat not just a LOOGY. he in fact is tougher on right handed batters. Lets see what he does in AAA this year. My feeling is he kicks butt. I am a manno fan and i have been loud about my feelings, he will take some time to adjust to AAA but he is the type of pitcher that compliments a bullpen. Also Cingrani may be the choice to start his career in the pen , I dont like the idea but he must develop that third pitch

  9. Vic

    I have a hard time understanding why a young pitcher like Carlos Contreras with a fastball at 97 and good change up is already pigeon holed as a reliever.

  10. Scott from upstate NY

    Doug: Although it may be overlapping your current positional format can we have a State of the Farm segment grouped say “Middle of the Order run producers”? (The 3,4,5 hitters at each level)

    Forgive me if you have already covered this in the offseason already.

  11. Wally

    Doug quick note , you are correct Manno tends to tie up rightys more not sure why. Watching him live about a dozen times this year, he just flat out hides the ball. I think Manno and Cingrani are working hard this off season on their cutter/slider/curve. I must say as a pure reds fan, i am excited about having both guys in our system. I also could see both guys being effective. Tony has a bit more bite on his fastball and boy i think we all got a taste of what he can do in the bigs.

    • Doug Gray

      Manno is better against righties because he has an outstanding change up and his breaking ball isn’t nearly as good. Lefties throw change ups to righties and breaking balls to lefties. A lefty with a good change up is going to be quite good against righties because the pitch tails away from them and sinks.

  12. Alan Horn

    If the Reds do trade for a short term solution to the lead off hitter void, what does everyone think of Coco Crisp as a fit? He makes around 7 million per year, I don’t think he is signed long term. Stubbs would need to sit(or be in the trade) and we would still need to sign Ludwick or sign/trade for someone else for LF or 3B.

    • Scott from upstate NY

      I think Walt is going to have a hard time filling the leadoff need. Free agents want multiple years which isn’t going to happen with Hamilton a year away. If Walt goes the trade route he is likely going to have to overpay including talent such as Corcino or Cingrani, which leaves the all too familiar late January pick up. A Njer Morgan type which isn’t really an improvement to Stubbs. Juan Pierre wouldn’t be ideal, but I thought he would be a suitable stopgap, however he has already signed. Crisp fits the realistic mold but not at 7 million. A cheap free agent coming off injury or down year looking to prove himself on a short contract would be realistic, but who would that be? The Reds need some luck like the Orioles had last year getting production out of cast off players.

  13. wanderinredsfan

    A few things:

    1. There is no such thing as a ‘relief pitcher prospect’. There are pitching prospects, but the role is always a thing in flux.

    2. However, if we are talking potential/probable relief pitchers with huge upside, then it seems this is the perfect place to discuss Amir Garret and Kyle Lotzkar. Seems odd that these guys aren’t discussed here.

    3. Villareal should remain a starter. His control is superb; this skill is much better suited in the rotation. Plus, he should be able to go 200+ innings within the next couple of seasons. He may never be more than a #5 type starter, but there is a lot of value for a consistent #5 across baseball.

    • Doug Gray

      1. Sure there is. 95% of the relievers in the system aren’t capable of being starters.

      2. I honestly thought about mentioning both of them, especially Garrett, but I will talk about them next week as starters.

      3. Should, but unless he is traded, he won’t. On the Reds depth chart he is at best 9th in the starting rotation.

      • wanderinredsfan

        re. Villareal

        I think he is higher up the depth chart going into spring training.

        Right now, I have Villareal as the 2nd guy out of AAA to start a big league game, right behind Mike Leake (if Chapman is in the big league rotation), and just ahead of guys like Redmond or Reineke. Perhaps Cingrani is higher up, but I don’t think they start him before Villareal, or even Redmond, at least early in the season.

      • Doug Gray

        If they need multiple starters in April, sure, you are right. But let’s all hope they don’t need the 7th or 8th guy on the depth chart in April. After that though, he is going to find himself behind the 5 MLB guys, Leake, Corcino, Cingrani and then perhaps behind Redmond as well.

  14. Alan Horn

    Nationals sign Bray to a minor league deal per MLBtraderumors.com.

    • wanderinredsfan

      Bray’s health must really be in dire straits. I would have pegged him for something more than a minor league deal.

      • Alan Horn

        I agree. A lefty reliever who has had success in the past should have more value unless his health is a concern.

      • Herbie

        I always find it odd when players go back to teams they were traded from. Even if it is different management.

  15. Wally

    Wander I like your point but with Amir, he is not even close. He is more likely 3 years away from the show. I watched him pitch this year. Nice live arm but does not know how to pitch , that will come with commitment to the game. He loves Basketball and has made that clear to all. lets see. Kyle , I have to say he has the best curve ball in the minors. He took his lumps this year but the reds love him and why not. He has great uoside and does not seem to get bothered on the mound. Doug the relief pitchers we were talking about were mainly leftys(manno and Cingrani) and I think both guys could start , here is why both did in the past and were very good. manno throws four pitches but does not usethem all as a relief guy Cingrani has two solid pitches and is working on others. You just never have enough lefty pitching. as far as Brey , i do not hear good things about his health at all

  16. MK

    I thought a reliever who made the great strides in 2012 was James Allen although he made his greatest strides when he became a starter. Always a reliever in college it will be interesting to see where the Reds put him, starter or relief, in 2013.

    • Doug Gray

      You are right. I completely overlooked him. For some reason he simply escaped my mind. He should have been included with at least a mention.

  17. peppe

    the winter meetings very informative arod needs a operation i think i heard it 1000 times

  18. zblakey

    Is there a listing anywhere of the top available players in the Rule V draft?