To view the entire Top 25 list you can click here (once completed).

Today begins the 2015 Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect list. Things are a little bit different this year. I usually begin at the back of the list and work forward, but it seems that a majority preferred to see it go the other direction so we are going to try that out this year. Subscribers will get to see the top tool for each player as well as a new thing for this season where I will list the upside role for the player. All ages are listed as of June 30 of this past season and is the official “age” of a player during the season. Each day this week will have five players listed to complete the Top 25 and on Friday afternoon there will be a free chat (or All Questions Answered) post to address any remaining questions everyone has about the rankings or players.

*To be eligible for the list a player must have 2015 Rookie of the Year eligibility (Fewer than 130 at bats in the big leagues, fewer than 50 innings pitches or more than 45 days on the active MLB roster that doesn’t include September)*

1. Robert Stephenson | RHP

2014 Teams: Pensacola Blue Wahoos | Acquired: 1st round, 2011 Draft | Height: 6′ 3″ | Weight: 195 | Age: 21

For the second straight season Robert Stephenson finds himself atop the list. His 2014 season was not as good as the previous one but his top of the line stuff remains. He struggled with his control during the year that held him back at times despite an overpowering fastball and curveball combination.

W L IP H HR BB K ERA WHIP
7 10 136.2 114 18 74 140 4.74 1.38

2. Jesse Winker | OF

2014 Teams: Bakersfield Blaze,Pensacola Blue Wahoos | Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft | Height: 6′ 3″ | Weight 210 | Age: 20

The outfielder is arguably the best pure bat to come through the system since the crop that included Jay Bruce and Joey Votto in 2008. He combines outstanding plate discipline with good power and has been called perhaps the best hitter in the minor leagues by some national prospect writers. Winker would hit .317/.426/.580 in the first half with Bakersfield before moving up to Pensacola where an injury slowed him down and eventually led to his season coming to an end three weeks into the second half. He’s currently in the Arizona Fall League and among the league leaders in nearly all offensive categories.

PA 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB K AVG OBP SLG
341 20 0 15 57 5 54 68 .287 .399 .518

3. Michael Lorenzen | RHP

2014 Teams: Pensacola Blue Wahoos | Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft | Height: 6′ 3″ | Weight: 195 | Age: 22

Coming into the 2014 season it was a big unknown as to whether Lorenzen could make the transition to starting pitcher. After the season there isn’t much doubt as he jumped up to Double-A without any past starting experience and posted a 3.13 ERA in 24 starts while showing big time stuff, solid control and big groundball rates. Arguably the most improved player from the year before simply given the task that he had to take on.

W L IP H HR BB K ERA WHIP
4 6 120.2 112 9 44 84 3.13 1.29

traviesoheadshot4. Nick Travieso | RHP

2014 Teams: Dayton Dragons | Acquired: 1st Round, 2012 Draft | Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 215 | Age: 20

The 2014 season was one where Travieso took the raw stuff that he flashed in 2013 and began to show it more and more consistently. With more consistency and an uptick in velocity the right hander really established himself as he posted a 3.03 ERA in 142.2 innings for Dayton while controlling the strikezone well throughout the season.

W L IP H HR BB K ERA WHIP
14 5 142.2 123 10 44 114 3.03 1.17

5. Yorman Rodriguez | OF

2014 Teams: Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Cincinnati Reds | Acquired: Free Agent, 2008 | Height: 6′ 3″ | Weight: 195 | Age: 21

Rodriguez has had some ups and downs throughout his career but put together arguably his best season as a professional in 2014. He started out hot but hit the DL with an obique strain for two weeks. He slumped for three weeks in a big way after returning but got things going again and outside of that slump he hit .286/.358/.423 with a career high walk rate. Rodriguez showed improvements in the field as well while still flashing the raw tools that most in the system can’t come close to matching.

Player PA 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB K AVG OBP SLG
Pensacola 502 20 5 9 40 12 47 117 .262 .331 .389
Cincinnati 29 0 0 0 2 0 1 12 .222 .276 .222

Top Tools and Upside Grade

Upside Grade Explanation

Grade Explanation
80 MVP Caliber/Cy Young Caliber
70 All-Star caliber/#2 starter
60 Above-average starting position player/ #3 starters/Elite closers
50 Average Starting Position Player/#4-5 Starter/Elite set up men and good closers
40 Quality bench player/swingman starter/good middle reliever
30 Fringe big-leaguer who is often moved between AAA and MLB
20 Career minor leaguer

It must be noted that this is for their pure upside and how far they are from reaching that is not factored in. This grade is simply in a world where their pure raw talents all come to fruition. It’s a perfect world grade for what a guy could become not a grade based on what they are necessarily likely to become.

1. Robert Stephenson | RHP

Grade: 80

If everything goes right for Stephenson he has the ability to compete for Cy Young awards with lots of innings, big strikeout numbers and good walk rates to keep his ERA low.

Top tool: Fastball

Stephenson has a fastball that has topped out at 100 MPH, showing elite level velocity at the top end of his range and plus velocity with where he sits with his fastball.

2. Jesse Winker | OF

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Grade: 70

In a perfect world scenario Jesse Winker is a .300/.400/.500 hitter with solid defense in left field that is a perennial all-star caliber player.

Top tool: Hitting

His ability to use the entire field with authority combined with his control of the strikezone should allow Winker to hit for a high average.

3. Michael Lorenzen | RHP

Grade: 70

If everything goes right the former college outfielder will become an innings eating groundball machine with good control and plenty of strikeouts.

Top tool: Fastball

While he doesn’t have triple digit velocity he can reach into the mid-to-upper 90’s on occasion, but it’s the movement that makes his fastball stand out even more than his velocity.

4. Nick Travieso | RHP

Grade: 70

Travieso could turn into a #2 starter with plenty of strikeouts, a low walk total and eat plenty of innings.

Top tool: Fastball

Despite what you may have read at some other national publications Nick Travieso has plus velocity. He hit 98 MPH in August and was sitting in the mid 90’s in the last several months of the season.

5. Yorman Rodriguez | OF

Grade: 70

Rodriguez has a full set of tools that in a perfect world keeps him in center field where he is an above-average hitter at the position with 20+ home runs.

Top tool: Arm

While Rodriguez has more than a few above-average tools his plus arm stands out a little more than the rest of them.

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22 Responses

  1. Norwood Nate

    This is pretty much exactly who i have slotted in the top 5 except Yorman, who i have slotted in the next group. i have Iglesias instead. Since it’s not in front of me i can’t remember if i have Iglesias at four or five. Either way, hard to argue this order.

    • Doug Gray

      Nate, I love your confidence, but I am sure by the end of the week I will have heard all about how wrong even the Top 5 order is.

    • Doug Gray

      He does now! I somehow missed that one the first go-around.

  2. Mac624

    From a pure tools standpoint I certainly agree with your order, but from a stats/production standpoint, which is what produces wins/losses on the field, Stephenson has no business at the top of the heap. Big year upcoming for him. Was 2014 a statistical anomaly or the status quo moving forward? I realize it’s a prospect list, but somewhere along the line, actual on field ability/results should trump the salivating tools. One thing is certain, Winker is making up ground quickly and another subpar year from Stephenson should propel him to the top where in my opinion, he should be anyway based on what he does on the field vs what someone could do IF they put it all together someday.

    • MK

      Using your theory Jesse hit .208 in AA which might be a worse performance than Robert’s at the same level of competition. So tools have to play a large part of this.

    • Doug Gray

      Production does matter. If it were simply all tools then Junior Arias would be ranked in the Top 5 and Jesse Winker wouldn’t. Production on the field does lead to wins and losses, but my rankings are based around what they are likely to produce in the future based around their tools and skillset, not necessarily what they will produce today. The two guys are close. What keeps Stephenson ahead for me is just the position for Winker. Left field is pretty far down the totem pole and while he is solid defensively, it leaves a lot of ground to make up. Both guys are top 50 prospects in all of baseball in my mind, so I don’t think I’m short-changing someone, I just feel ever-so-slightly better about making the argument that Stephenson will have a tiny bit more impact in the big leagues.

  3. sultan of swaff

    Stephenson or Winker, 1 and 1A. Both will be solid major leaguers for a long time. Go back and watch some video of David Cone—Stephenson’s delivery is very similar.

    My only quibble would be with Travieso at #4 for 2 reasons. First, offense is at a premium nowadays and should be weighted a bit more heavily in player rankings, which is why I’d rate YRod higher (a starting OF who could OPS >.700 is suddenly a valuable commodity). Second, Travieso’s strikeout rates (the thing he can most control) are unimpressive for low A ball. Lively has better numbers at a higher level. But I get it, Doug has a soft spot for Nick!

    • Doug Gray

      Offense is at a premium today, but the game changes some over time. Who knows where it will be in 10 years when all of these guys will still be playing baseball (hopefully)? Ultimately though, rarer doesn’t mean it’s more valuable to wins or losses necessarily.

      With that said I do have a soft spot for Travieso. Guys with good fastballs who can throw them where they want them just do something for my projection based mind. The strikeouts will come for Travieso just like they will for Lorenzen (though I think Travieso does wind up with a slightly higher rate in the long run).

  4. fromcubawithluv

    I know you haven’t seen much of Iglesias but I cannot imagine how he is not in the top 5. In fact, I have a hard time not having him in the top 3. He will be ranked in the top 100 in all of baseball by every other place. It is bold to leave him out.

    Anyways, still really appreciate the list! Thanks for putting in the work.

    • Doug Gray

      You are going to be really surprised where he winds up then. I won’t go into it today since he’s not on this list, but when he does show up on the list you can feel free to ask all about it and I will give my explanation for why I ranked him where I did.

    • stock

      I have him at 15. I love the Reds top 14 prospects and Iglesias has to prove he is more than a RP before I move him in the same category as the top 14. One question I have for Friday is that I love our top 14 prospects (I have Romano and Waldrop at 13 and 14). Does anyone think there was a year when the Reds 10-14 prospects were so good.

      • Doug Gray

        I have guys outside of my top 10 that I think could wind up in the Top 5 in national publications and I think that really gives you a good idea of how strong the top 15 really is.

  5. stock

    I love going this direction because Friday would have been anticlimactic the reverse direction. Of course you could argue today was anticlimactic.

    I agree with your top 5. The only difference for me is I had Yorman at 3 and Lorenzen at 4 and Travieso at 5. Who would have ever thought I would be higher on Yorman than you are. Of course you could argue that we are the same on Yorman but you are higher on Lorenzen and Travieso.

    Tomorrow will be interesting at one point I thought I had surprises in my 6 and 10 slots. I am starting to think that this may not be the case anymore.

    Great first day Doug.

    • Doug Gray

      Maybe you aren’t higher on him than me, but that I am simply higher on the others than you? #mindfreak

      A little insight into how I do my rankings:

      I rank each position against itself. I will go through all of the catchers and rank them first and then work my way down each position. Then I go into excel and I just have to compare the guys on the top line to figure out who should be next on my list. It seems like a good way to go about it for me. It keeps the amount of information and guys I’m looking at for a given spot to a minimum.

      After I had all of the positions ranked, in my mind I had what I thought was a “range” for a lot of guys. I mean really, I had already gone over all of the reports on everyone and felt good about their ranking among their positional peers. After the top 5 though, things were really tough to figure out how to place guys. As I like to say, though this applies more to the prospect guide since it has the full reports, the reports I give on the players is far more important than the number next to their name. It’s one of the reasons that I decided to go with the upside grade this year. A guy like Aristides Aquino is going to have a higher upside grade than some guys ranked ahead of him, but it just goes to show that he has a ways to go in order to get there compared to others.

  6. Daryl

    Doug,

    You have seen these guys way more than I have but I would have my top 5 as
    1. WInker
    2. Stephenson
    3. Lorenzen
    4. Rodriguez
    5. Waldrop

    I am thinking you may have Waldrop in the next group for sure, maybe at 6 even but his bat is just hard to ignore at this point. And for me it is almost debatable between Yorman and Waldrop. I could flip flop them for sure.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t want to give too much away, but you are a bit higher on Waldrop than I am. I think there are in different tiers.

    • Stock

      I really like Waldrop but in addition to Winker and Yorman I still have 3 positions players until he is ranked. This explains why I like the top 14 prospects in the system so much. Really I like #15 also. He just has to prove himself with more than a couple of 1 inning stints.

  7. Reds fan

    I’m interested to see where Garrett will go. I thought after this he might be outside top 5 and I can’t wait to see where you put Aquino.

    • Doug Gray

      I feel comfortable about where I ranked Garrett. Aquino is one that I sat there and debated with myself over and over.

  8. DaveCT

    Doug, I do my ratings in the exact same way. Its also a good way to evaluate things more large scale, i.e. organizations.

    What’s especially good for me is there is an element of keeping myself honest, such as when I rate a player within a category (say 3B) above another, then go through a few rounds and see that one player not being rated above more than a few others of like or lower rank. In these cases I usually find a better (3B) prospect I had ranked lower for some reason, but that will beat other others more consistent with the talent.