It’s that time of year again. It’s prospect ranking season and every day this week we are going to unveil five more spots on the list as we work our way through the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect List for the 2018 season. You can see the entire list here (once it’s completed at the end of the week). If you were supporting the site on Patreon you would have gotten the entire Top 25 list last week and had early access to this, and all other scouting related articles that show up on the site. Click that orange banner above to see what all you can get for helping keep the site alive.

Just as a reminder, these write ups will not feature full scouting reports. Those will be included with the Season Reviews, which will start in a week – first working my way through the Top 25 prospects before then branching out into another 75 interesting prospects through the remainder of the offseason.

*To be eligible for the list a player must have 2017 Rookie of the Year eligibility (Fewer than 130 at bats in the big leagues, fewer than 50 innings pitches or less than 45 days on the active MLB roster that doesn’t include September)*

16. Jose Lopez | RHP | Age: 23

2017 Teams: Daytona Tortugas, Pensacola Blue Wahoos | Acquired: 6th round, 2014 Draft | Height: 6′ 1″ | Weight: 185 lbs

The season began in Daytona for Jose Lopez, but he didn’t stick around long. Lopez made just nine starts before earning a promotion to Double-A. Despite a move up in competition and a more hitter friendly league, the right hander performed better. Over 96.1 innings with Pensacola, Lopez posted a 2.43 ERA with 35 walks and 95 strikeouts. That was a little better than his 2.84 ERA with the Tortugas where he had 14 walks and 48 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. In most years that’s probably a lock for organizational pitcher of the year, but probably not quite enough in 2017 due to the absurdity that was Tyler Mahle’s season.

Biggest Strength: The overall arsenal of pitches. He shows four average or better offerings, though none of them jump off the page at you.

Biggest Weakness: There’s not a true put-away offering in his arsenal.

Team ERA IP H HR BB K
Daytona 2.84 50.2 50 3 14 48
Pensacola 2.43 96.1 64 14 35 95

17. Alex Blandino | 2B | Age: 24

2017 Teams: Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Louisville Bats | Acquired: 1st round, 2014 Draft | Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 190 lbs

Coming back to Pensacola for a third time wasn’t the ideal plan for Alex Blandino. Things didn’t get out to a smooth start, either. In April he would hit just .182 and posted a .594 OPS. Everything changed when the calendar flipped to May. Over the next 44 games he hit .289/.382/.549 in Double-A, earning him a promotion to Louisville. With the Bats, over 63 games, he kept hitting well. He would post a .270/.390/.444 line in 237 plate appearances with 32 walks and 37 strikeouts to finish out the season in Triple-A. 2017 was big for Blandino, rebounding after a 2016 season that was mired in injury and struggles at the plate.

Biggest Strength: His plate discipline was the best of his career in 2017. He walked nearly as often as he struck out at the highest level in the minor leagues.

Biggest Weakness: While his arm is a strength, it’s sort of wasted at second base, which is the only position he projects as a possible starter.

Team  PA 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG
Pensacola 236 22 0 6 32 49 .259 .374 .462
Louisville 237 14 1 6 32 37 .270 .390 .444

18. Aristides Aquino | OF | Age: 23

2017 Team: Pensacola Blue Wahoos | Acquired: Free Agent, 2011 | Height: 6′ 4″ | Weight: 220 lbs

After being named the organization hitter of the year in 2016 it was a down year for Aristides Aquino. The jump to Double-A didn’t go well as the outfielder hit just .216/.282/.397 for Pensacola. The power still showed up, as he hit 20 doubles, six triples and 17 home runs. But, more advanced pitchers were able to exploit his pitch recognition. In 2017 he struck out 29% of the time he stepped to the plate. After having an incredible 28 outfield assists in 2016 with Daytona that number dropped to nine in 2017.

Biggest Strength: His raw power, and even in-game power is his biggest strength. He’s got the potential for 30 home runs in the future and he’s already capable of hitting 20+ today.

Biggest Weakness: Pitch recognition has long been the biggest weakness for Aristides Aquino. He made strides in 2016, but he’ll have to make them again if he’s going to get the most out of his bat in the future.

Team  PA 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG
Pensacola 504 20 6 17 39 145 .216 .282 .397

19. Jimmy Herget | RHP | Age: 23

2017 Teams: Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Louisville Bats | Acquired: 6th round, 2015 Draft | Height: 6′ 3″ | Weight: 170 lbs

Jimmy Herget split his season between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. In the first half he spent time closing out games for Pensacola. With the Blue Wahoos he posted a 2.73 ERA in 29.2 innings with 44 strikeouts and 12 walks. During the second half he earned a promotion to Louisville. He picked up nine saves for the Bats. In 28 games he posted a 3.06 ERA in 32.1 innings with 28 strikeouts and just nine walks. Physically he doesn’t look like he will overpower you, but he can reach 97 MPH and put you away with a wipeout slider.

Biggest Strength: The slider can come from different arm angles and just get hitters all kinds of tied up.

Biggest Weakness: It’s tough to find one here. His strikeout rate declined in Triple-A (35% to 21%). If you have to nitpick something, it’s probably the need to improve the strikeout rate against more advanced hitters.

Team  ERA IP H HR BB K
Pensacola 2.73 29.2 22 1 12 44
Louisville 3.06 32.1 30 4 9 28

20. Miguel Hernandez | SS | Age: 18

2017 Teams: DSL Rojos, AZL Reds | Acquired: Free Agent, 2015 | Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 170 lbs

In the summer of 2015 the Reds handed out two of the biggest signing bonuses they’d given out in a number of years. Miguel Hernandez landed one of those, along with outfielder Cristian Olivo. He would begin the year with the Dominican Summer League Rojos, hitting .285/.337/.397 and earning a promotion. The Reds brought him stateside in July and assigned the teenager to the AZL Reds. There, in 32 games he hit .314/.338/.407. Between the two stops he hit .299/.338/.402 with 14 doubles, five triples and two home runs.

Biggest Strength: Defense. He’s got a chance to be a very strong defender at a key defensive position.

Biggest Weakness: He’s so young, so there’s a lot he still needs to work on. He only walked four times in 145 plate appearances once he joined the AZL Reds. That could be worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Team  PA 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG
DSL 167 10 2 1 11 24 .285 .337 .397
AZL Reds 145 4 3 1 4 18 .314 .338 .407

45 Responses

  1. Stock

    Here come the upper level player people were thinking should be here yesterday. Another good day. With all the SP and no room in the rotation I think Reed, Garrett, Stephenson and Romano could all end up in the pen. I think they will be better options than Herget, Hernandez, Bender and whomever. Therefore, no closers make my list. I love Hernandez on this list. I have him leading off tomorrow. I am predicting that Santana slots in at 25 on your list. I hope you are slotting Lopez too low. I would love for him and Mahle to fill out the rotation allowing Finnegan to move to the bullpen. Finnegan, Garrett, Romano, Stephenson, Reed, Iglesias and Lorenzen could form a 7 man bullpen of former SP prospects with Bailey, Disco, Castillo, Mahle and Lopez/Gutierrez in the rotation. Blandino is in a nice spot.

    16-20 for me are Ervin, Fairchild, Santillan, Rodriguez, Blandino.

    Santillan has to show more control to get in my top 10. He started the year fine but the second half he went backward. Fairchild had no power in a league that power is hard to hide. I think that if Billy goes on the DL this year he will lose his job to Ervin who I think is better. Rodriguez may be a reach but if his glove is that good the bat doesn’t need to be great.

  2. Bill

    2018 will be a big year for Aquino. Without improvement at the plate, I doubt he’s on the list by midseason. But if he can figure things out, he’s a prototypical RF with power and a gun for an arm.

    • Wes

      Does he automatically get promoted to Louisville ? When does organization make those decisions?

  3. Billy

    Doug, I’m confused about something. You say that Blandino’s arm is a strength, but that he doesn’t profile for anywhere but 2B. Why would 3B not be an option? I tend to think of the difference between 2B and 3B these days as being the 3B has a better arm while the 2B has the better range. Is there more to it than that? It used to be that the 3B was expected to be a bigger bat, but with the way 2B hit these days, I didn’t think that was really true any longer.

    • William Kubas

      Blandino’ chances at AAA in 2017
      AAA 2B 115 chances 1errror
      AAA 3B 58 chances. 6 errors
      AAA SS 36 chances. 4 errors

      By committed errors, his most reliable position would be at second base.

    • Jim H.

      His bat does not profile to a corner infield position. There are 2B who hit like a corner IF, but he is not one of those. You don’t expect that type of production up the middle. Defensively, he can handle any position. Likely a utility guy in the long run, would love for him to exceed that prognosis.

      • MK

        Not sure his range, or lack, profiles as a long term solution at shortstop.

    • Doug Gray

      Because his bat doesn’t project to play at third base.

  4. The Duke

    1. Nick Senzel, 3B
    2. Hunter Greene, RHP
    3. Taylor Trammell, OF
    4. Jesse Winker, OF
    5. Tyler Mahle, RHP
    6. Tony Santillan, RHP
    7. Shed Long, 2B
    8. Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP
    9. Tyler Stephenson, C
    10. Jose Siri, OF
    11. Jose Lopez, RHP
    12. Alex Blandino, 2B
    13. Jeter Downs, SS
    14. Scott Moss, LHP
    15. Stuart Fairchild, OF
    16. Miles Gordon, OF
    17. Gavin Lavalley, 1B/3B
    18. Jesus Reyes, RHP
    19. Phillip Ervin, OF
    20. Jose Israel Garcia, SS/2B

    Here is where I slot in Gordon, who I think has a very high ceiling, but I put just below Fairchild as I like the collegiate production that Fairchild has shown as well as a solid first half season as a pro. The two are very close though, and I would be fine if someone had Gordon over Fairchild. Not a lot of separation in 14-19, 6-13 is a pretty close group too imo, 3-5, and 1-2.

    Outside of an elite level prospect like Senzel, Lavalley is one who I probably believe in the in game power the most of anyone on the Reds list. I could see him as a .250-.260 hitter at the big league level with 30+ HR. I also think the NL is going to cave and adopt the DH sooner rather than later, so there may be a place for him to play.

    Reyes took a big step forward this year, a lot like Lopez, he’s just a little older and I believe in the stuff a little bit less. His year still got me excited though and I could see him ending up in a back of rotation role over more heralded prospects, or maybe even in a long relief role. Love love love the extremely high ground ball rate, as that plays very well in GABP, especially in an era where everyone seems to be trying to elevate the ball. If he can keep the ground ball rate up as he progresses against more advanced hitters, that’ll play real well.

    Ervin posted a .766 OPS in his first extended taste of MLB pitching, granted it was still a small sample size. And while he may not be Billy Hamilton in CF, I do think his defense plays well enough there to where his offensive contributions aren’t erased by non elite defense. Especially with 81 games being playing in Great American Small Park.

    Gacria’s scouting report, tools, frame, and signing bonus get him inside the top 25, but he could easily fly up the charts or fall out of them completely based on how he looks in 2018.

    Aquino, I’m just too worried about the swing and miss and pitch recognition to have him in the top 20. The power definitely plays, and so does the defense in RF. He’s another boom or bust kind of guy. Herget I have outside of the top 20, because I want to think a reliever is going to be a closer to have him too much higher, and few see Herget as a closer in the future, but stranger things have happened.

    I’m excited about Hernandez’s defense at SS and he showed some promise with the bat, but it’s hard to get too excited about a small sample in the hitter friendly desert. He’s definitely in my top 30 though, just not my top 25.

  5. bellhead

    Every time I see Herget as a lower round prospect I have flash backs to the moneyball scene of Chad Bradford.

    Herget’s defect is he throws funny. If he threw like a normal MLB pitcher then he would be ranked higher.

    Almost certain the kid will make the roster out of spring training and will go on barring injuries to a really good MLB career as a reliever.

    • The Duke

      Not that much higher, he’s still a non closer minor league reliever. Almost no reliever is a top 15 guy in a system of any worth unless they are a projected closer.

      • CP

        If we don’t have Iglesias, would he be in the running as a closer? He has closed all the way through the minor leagues. I think he has the stuff and mentality to close, but just may not have the opportunity at the MLB level. If someone like him or Hernandez figure it out at the MLB level, it could make it a lot easier to trade Iglesias if the right deal comes knocking at the door.

    • Doug Gray

      Herget wouldn’t rank higher for me if he threw “normal”. As a reliever, I don’t worry much about mechanics, I care about stuff. He’s got it. But he’s still a reliever that doesn’t project as a true closer type.

      • bellhead

        Even though if he stays healthy he is likely a 10 year MLB player? I know relievers are viewed as low on the prospect scale, but there has to be a point where you have players who are sure fire bets to play 10 years as a MLB reliever if they stay healthy. To me this bumps them up the prospect list as they are much more likely to contribute to the MLB team than Jose Siri. That is my argument.

      • Doug Gray

        It’s not likely that any pitcher has a 10-year career, though. Injuries happen. And even if/when they don’t, most guys simply aren’t good enough to pitch 10 years in the big leagues.

      • The Duke

        No reliever is a sure fire 10 year bet. It’s the most volatile position in all of baseball.

      • Stock

        In this day it will become less and less common for someone who relieves in the minors to make it to the majors. 12 of the 17 pitchers in the bullpen (to Duke’s point 12 of the 15 non-closers) in the world series saw most of their innings in the minors as SP. Maybe Herget has better stuff than several of Reed, Stephenson, Romano, McGuire, Lorenzen and Iglesias. But I doubt it. McGuire looked great with the Reds. Classic example of how a player can dominate as a RP when they probably wouldn’t make it as a SP.

        Don’t you have to rate McGuire ahead of Herget? Better stats in the minors as a SP. Did well in the majors as a RP. I don’t know how hard Herget throws. If he throws 97 – 100 mph maybe he does belong in the top 20 and ahead of McGuire. If not I think the Reds will take the path most teams seem to be heading and place former SP in their BP.

      • Doug Gray

        No on McGuire. He’s going to be 29 next season. As much as I hate to say it, the odds that he’s still in the Majors in 5 years aren’t good based on players with a similar track record. Herget throws anywhere from 91-97. Depends on which arm angle he’s using.

      • MK

        It does seem a reliever gets at least three year for every one good one. Look at the opportunity that a guy like Drew Storen has gotten out of a couple good years in Washington. Burke Badenhop is another example.

    • MK

      Not sure his ‘throwing “funny” isn’t one of the reasons he has been so successful.

      • The Duke

        If you can change arm slots and maintain control, that moving release point can really mess with hitters timing.

  6. Norwood Nate

    I know it’s probably splitting hairs, but I’m a little surprised Blandino and Aquino arrive on the list before Ervin does. Blandino and Ervin are very close offensively in my mind. They both have demonstrated an above average BB%, they both have solid but not great pop, especially for their positions. Blandino is likely a little better as a hitter but Ervin would have the advantage on the base paths and can play a more premium position defensively. They’re probably neck and neck as prospects, I just happen to like Ervin a little more for his speed/defense.

    As far as Aquino he has a really loud power tool and a good arm for RF. As of now he K’s way too much and doesn’t hit enough to make use of the power tool. If the Reds had both Ervin and Aquino on the cut line, I’d guarantee that Aquino would be the one cut. To me, that makes Ervin more valuable as a prospect.

    My personal 16-20: Blandino, Garcia, Sugilio, Moss, Hernandez

    Top 20: Senzel, Greene, Mahle, Trammell, Winker, Santillan, Gutierrez, Stephenson, Long, Siri, Downs, Fairchild, Lopez, Ervin, Gordon, Blandino, Garcia, Sugilio, Moss, Hernandez.

    • Doug Gray

      I can understand that, Nate. Don’t really take any issue if someone wants to rank those three in that way.

      I think that the upside for Aquino pushes him up – that power is real and if he can adjust his pitch recognition just a little bit, it could get real interesting real quickly.

  7. Brennan

    Still no Moss, Alf-Rod, LaValley, or Friedl. Hope they’re on tomorrow’s list or at least mentioned in just missing

    • Cguy

      Ditto for J. Stephens, P. Ervin, A. Hernandez, A. Brice, R. Davis (injured), & K. Mella -all of whom played for the Reds in 2017. Also not yet on the list is Z. Weiss who returned from injury & had a pretty good year. Lots of candidates for only 5 more spots.

    • Norwood Nate

      There’s a couple of high upside, performers from the rookie leagues we may see show up tomorrow as well, such as Mariel Bautista, Reniel Ozuna, Hendrik Clementina, Alejo Lopez, and Jacob Heatherly. Possibly, but unlikely, someone like Debby Santana as well. Combine those guys with guys like Stephens, Moss, Reyes, Friedl, LaValley, Weiss, Ariel Hernandez, Rainey etc and we have a lot of guys to think about for those 5 positions. A mix of upside and upper level performance.

      • Cguy

        There’s even a guy like Deck McGuire, pitching over 180 innings with 181Ks between AA & ML, while holding his ERA under 2.8 & his WHIP under .9 at both levels. Age 28 & the 11th pick overall in 2010, very little chance to make anyone’s top 25 list.

      • Stock

        If you include Clementina don’t you have to include Kolozsvary. Also Packy Naughton made the Pioneer League top 20 prospects over some guys on this list. A lot to choose from and it will be interesting.

  8. Arnold Ziffle

    That is a strong 16-20. Most are deserving of a higher ranking, and this shows the depth is getting better. Only one reliever in the top-20 is a very good sign for starters and position player depth, too. Glad to see Blandino getting back up there. I think he is on the cusp of breaking into the majors next year and showing well.
    Jose Lopez will play an important role in 2018. Especially if a starter or two ahead of him gets traded this winter or a couple go to the bullpen. After Mahle he will be the next in line, the next man up for the rotation. Reed and Stephens probably/might go to the pen, Davis is injured, and if a trade happens that involves Stephenson or Garrett or Romano, Lopez could be that #7 starter patiently waiting his turn at AAA.

    • Stock

      Agree Arnold. I think people pay too much attention to the radar gun and not enough on the ability to throw strikes. Castillo, Mahle, Lopez and Romero throw strikes.

      Amir Garrett walked 3 in his first 20 IP last season and was a stud. He walked 37 in 57 innings after that and struggled. I am hoping Garrett can throw strikes next year and lock in a long term spot in the rotation but if not Mahle/Gutierrez/Lopez are banging on the door.

      • The Duke

        Wennington Romero has a BP fastball though. When he couldn’t put it exactly where he wanted it, he got rocked by A ball hitters. He’s not in my top 30.

      • Colorado Red

        Amir was hurt most of last season.
        I think if he is healthy we will see the real Amir.

      • Stock

        Cliff Lee had a FB that averaged 90 mph or so. In 2007 Lee walked 3.33 batter per 9 IP. The Indians didn’t even offer him arbitration. He resigned with them and lowered his BB/9IP to 1.37 and won the Cy Young.

        Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine never had an Elite FB (85 mph in 2002 when they went 34-17 in 2002 both with an ERA 1.6)

        Jered Weaver was throwing 88-90 mph in 2011 and 2012. However his BB/9IP those two years was 2.1. He finished 2nd and 3rd in the Cy Young those years. By 2015 his FB was averaging 84 mph but his ERA was 4.64.

        In Bronson Arroyo’s first stint with the Reds his FB averaged 88 mph. He wasn’t a great pitcher but he was a lot better than Homer Bailey for one. And Arroyo didn’t have the control displayed by Lee, Weaver or Romero.

        The list of SP who averaged less than 90 mph this year includes Estrada, Gio Gonzalez, Keuchel, Rich Hill, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Vargas. Vargas and Hendricks averaged 85 mph and had pretty good years.

        When Hendricks had a BB/9IP of 2 last year his ERA was 2. This year his ratio went up to 2.5 and his ERA went up to 3.

        The first 3 months of 2017 Vargas was walking 2 per nine and his ERA was less than 3. The last three months his walk rate soared and so did his ERA.

        Adam Wainwright never had an elite FB but he still dominated.

        You can argue that these players are the exception. I say look at the Reds pitchers with good FB and poor control and compare their results to those with good control.

        Sad to say but in the first 3 months Scott Feldman was our best pitcher and his FB averaged less than 90 mph. He could have been better if he had better control.

        I am not saying that control is the primary thing to look at, just that it is often ignored. Maybe Romero FB averages 85 mph (I really have no clue) and if it does he is not a prospect. But if it is 90 mph and he continues to maintain a BB/9IP of <2 he is a promising prospect. Also note he was pretty young for Dayton. The Reds must see something in Romero to push him to Dayton at age 19. Most his age are either in AZ or just finished their Freshman year in college.

      • Doug Gray

        Velocity has a positive correlation to strikeouts and ERA. If you don’t have average or better velocity, you better have real command. Not control. Command. Most players don’t. Control matters. But minor league control isn’t Major League control. Take Mahle for example – low, low walk rates in the minors. Walked 11 batters in 20 MLB innings. Do I think he’ll be better than that moving forward? Sure. But it’s not like he got up to the Majors and was some vastly different guy from a skills perspective. Projecting big league command is about impossible.

      • Stock

        I agree Colorado Red. I would love to see Amir win the 5th spot in the rotation and then come May bring up Mahle and send Finnegan to the BP (assuming Finnegan, Disco, Bailey and Castillo stay healthy the first 2 months).

        Put Stephenson, Reed and Romano in the bullpen along with McGuire, Peralta, Lorenzen and Iglesias.

      • The Duke

        I saw Romero pitch 3 times in 2017, and I never saw a fastball of his break 90 mph. I saw many in the 86-88 mph range. All those guys you mentioned had elite level command. Romero doesn’t, at least not now. One of his starts I saw him get through 5 innings scoreless and he probably had about a dozen hard hit balls that either went right at a fielder or were caught at the wall. I saw another start where he was just crushed. He’s got a nice curveball, but that fastball is slow and, at least when I saw it, with not a lot of movement on it. The changeup wasn’t great either. He’s not going to get much bigger (very small frame), so I don’t know how much projection you can put on him either despite being just 19 this year.

        I totally agree that you don’t need elite velocity, or even above average velocity, to be a major league starting pitcher, but from what I’ve seen from Romero, I’m not a believer.

      • Stock

        Castillo (14 BB in 29 IP) and Mahle both struggled early with control after having no control problems in the minors. I heard it was because of the different baseballs. Once Castillo adjusted his BB/9 IP dropped below 3 again. Mahle didn’t have the time to adjust. One must also consider the nerves factor and the awe factor in their first couple of starts. I am pretty comfortable saying that Mahle will have a BB/9 of less than 3 in his first full season in the majors.

        If Romero throws 86 he may not be the prospect I was hoping for in him. Surprises me even more that the Reds would promote someone 19 to Dayton who is not a prospect though.

      • Doug Gray

        He’s advanced, was ready for the league. Breaking ball is very good. Fastball, though, he’s 87-90.

  9. Michael B. Green

    Blandino has a shot as CIN’s UT infielder. He could probably get 2-3 starts a week at 2B/3B/SS too. He’ll need added to the 40MR for that to take shape though. Still, CIN has 1st round draft pick money invested in him.

    Longshot to start at 2B for CIN.

    How many 2B prospects do we have?!?

    Time to deal from strength…

    • RFM

      Alas, a surplus of 2b candidates doesn’t mean they all have noteworthy trade value. Only Scooter might bring back a serious prospect or another major leaguer.