Baseball America had an interesting article up on Tuesday. It looked at how much each teams prospects from their Top 30 rankings performed at the big league level in 2017. Their list only had the Top 10 teams and then the last place team listed. The Cincinnati Reds don’t fall into that group. My question was: Where did the Reds fall? Let’s find out just how much production the Reds got from their Top 30 prospects in 2017.

For the chart below I’ve included both Baseball Reference WAR and Fangraphs WAR. It should be noted that the Baseball America article is looking at the Baseball Reference version.

Player BRef FG
Luis Castillo 2.5 1.8
Tyler Mahle 0.6 0.3
Jesse Winker 0.5 0.6
Sal Romano 0.4 1.3
Phillip Ervin 0.1 0.0
Keury Mella 0.0 -0.1
Ariel Hernandez 0.0 -0.4
Cody Reed -0.1 -0.3
Barrett Astin -0.1 -0.3
Robert Stephenson -0.2 0.4
Amir Garrett -1.6 -1.2

No matter which version you use, the Cincinnati Reds come out to 2.1 WAR. It’s within each version that we see some variance among the players, though. Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson all had half of a win swings or larger from one version to the other. What is worth noting, too, is that Luis Castillo was not a Cincinnati Reds Top 30 prospect within the Prospect Handbook. When it went to the printer the trade had not yet happened. I however chose to include him here. I did not list Austin Brice, who was in that same trade, but fell much further down the Marlins list. I’m not sure if he would have made the Reds Top 30 or not, but he doesn’t move the needle. Brice provided 0.0 WAR in both versions.

Luis Castillo was easily the most productive rookie for the Reds this season. I’m sure you’re shocked by this. Or not, at all. After him, though, if you want to go by the Baseball Reference version, no one really sticks out as being too productive. Jesse Winker and Tyler Mahle produced well in limited action, and would project well in a full season at those same numbers. However, if you look at the Fangraphs version, Sal Romano sticks out. Over a full season, at the same rate, he would have been about a 2.7-3.0 WAR player depending on exactly how many innings he threw. That would have made him one of the 25-35th most productive starters in baseball. Castillo, holding that same pace for 185 innings would have been the 15th most productive starter in baseball.

What sticks out is that the Reds only had one or two guys, depending on which version of WAR you prefer, that provided the team with a solid amount of production for the year. Some guys didn’t get enough playing time to make a difference, and no one was on the team for more than half of the season. Amir Garrett hip injury likely led to many of his struggles throughout the year, but his season drug down the overall WAR in both categories for the group.

The Non-Top 30 Prospects

The Cincinnati Reds did have a handful of prospects with the team this season who weren’t Top 30 prospects entering the season. Here’s how they performed:

Player BRef FG
Wandy Peralta 0.7 0.4
Luke Farrell 0.2 0.0
Jackson Stephens 0.2 -0.1
Deck McGuire 0.2 0.3
Kevin Shackelford 0.1 0.0
Zach Vincej -0.1 0.0
Alejandro Chacin -0.2 -0.1
Chad Wallach -0.2 -0.2
Lisalverto Bonilla -0.9 -0.4
Rookie Davis -0.9 -0.3
Asher Wojciechowski -1.0 0.2
Stuart Turner -1.2 -0.8

Wandy Peralta sticks out here for his strong performance. In WAR, it’s tough for relievers to accumulate a lot of it because of a lack of innings. Still, his season was strong out of the bullpen. After that it was Deck McGuire, who got a handful of innings in September as the next most productive player on the list. Rule 5 draft pick Stuart Turner didn’t play much during the 2017 season, but when he did, both versions of WAR rated him quite poorly.

Overall, the WAR for this group was not good. The Baseball Reference version was -3.1, while the Fangraphs version was kinder at -1.0. Let’s remember, though, that 0.0 WAR is the baseline for “random player called up from Triple-A”. That means that Baseball Reference WAR suggests that this group cost the Reds three wins versus just a random group of other players from Triple-A if given the same amount of playing time. Most of that, however, comes from the negative value of four players.

There were some good signs here. If guys like Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Jesse Winker and Tyler Mahle can provide their prorated WAR for a full season in 2018 for the Reds, it would be a big boost to the team. At the same time, there were some tough pills in the data, too. There were too many highly negative value players on the lists. Injury can be pointed to as a factor for a few of the guys, but if the Reds can eliminate the large chunks of negative value by making quicker moves when a player is clearly struggling and replace them with someone closer to average, or even just replacement level, it could go a long way.

Looking at this list, if the team simply replaced anyone with -0.5 WAR or more with 0.0 WAR it would have been worth about an extra six wins if we are looking at the Baseball Reference version. That number drops to just two extra wins looking at the Fangraphs version. While adding talent at the top end certainly helps, being able to avoid prolonged playing time to guys who are really struggling can also move the needle quite a bit. The Reds have a long way to go to get back into contention, but every little bit helps. Avoiding as many injuries to the pitching staff could help solve this problem as there won’t be as many innings to fill by guys very far down the depth chart, but improved depth in the upper minors can also help out in this scenario.


9 Responses

  1. Doug Gray

    Just wanted to apologize for only having one article up on Tuesday. I am a big moron and cut my thumb pretty good in the early afternoon. I wound up bleeding for more than two hours (I was seeing a doctor, or at least at a place with doctors within 15 minutes) and eventually getting stitches. It was a long process. I’m fine and everything will be fine. But, it threw off the entire day and led to a few other things happening that I didn’t plan on. Back to normal today (minus the not using my thumb to type) and should have another post coming in the early afternoon today.

    Also, if you are a supporter at Patreon, there’s a new post over there that you should check out in case you missed the email.

  2. sultanofswaff

    Excellent point about more quickly getting rid of players who are a drag on the team. I mean, think how long it took them to cut Alcantara. 14 starts for Arroyo. Keeping Turner on the roster all year was dumb as well—AAA is loaded with those types. We could go on all day.

    Unfortunately, these sorts of moves are a feature of the Reds over the years and not a bug. The question is why. Is it because they can’t afford a good bench or because they’re bad at identifying talent?

    • MK

      I honestly do not believe Bronson was a decision from the baseball side. Listening to Bob Castelini I think it was his choice to bring back a guy he liked who he thought would also appease the fans a littlewith a fan favorite, in what he knew would be a rough year. I think he was disappointed the year before when Bronson signed with Washington. I heard him say after that “I expect Bronson will be a Red again.” Which got a big cheer from the Caravan crowd in Dayton. Dick Williams was there and I am sure heard the boss loud and clear.

    • DaveCT

      Turner may not be the best example, but the overall point is well taken. At catcher there are plenty of AAAA guys who could back up given Mesoraco’s injury history. For Turner, the jury may be out on him until he get regular playing time. He was well regarded in the Twins system and I’d make the case he has upside, especially on defense.

  3. MK

    Doug, if you are going to amputate a digit go for the pinky not the thumb, it is far less useful, and will draw less attention.

    • Doug Gray

      I never said I was a smart man, MK. Ok, that’s not true. I’ve probably said it a lot. But yesterday screwed up. Big time.

  4. sultanofswaff

    In what could be as important as Bailey finishing the year healthy, to hear that Disco pitched 7 innings in instructional league yesterday can only be viewed as great news. You have to think that between those two and Finnegan, the Reds will get 200 IP of at least league average performance.

    • sixpacktwo

      Finnegan to me looks like a shutdown lefty coming out of the bullpen. We will see.

  5. Hoosierbadger

    One point to add to the mix: in a rebuilding year, I don’t mind the Reds playing negative WAR players provided they are real prospects. There is nothing wrong with letting young players start to make the adjustment. Nor do I have a problem with taking a flyer on a formerly highly ranked player like Alcantara in such a scenario. There is always a judgment call with how long you stick with such a player, but the Reds were in a position to be patient. The approach could yield dividends next year, for example, with Robert Stephenson, who seemed to make some real progress.