We are in the middle of what we like to call prospect ranking season. The big publications are all seeming to start the overall rankings between now and the next week or two. Baseball America and ESPN both released their Top 100 lists on Monday (and Tuesday for ESPN, who split their Top 100 over two days). The MLB Pipeline list is coming out Saturday. Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs have to be right around the corner. The same goes for John Sickels list. It’s a fun time to be a prospect fan if your team has a good farm system. Or, if you happen to be a prospect fan and you’re a Giants fan, a time to take up laughing gas. What about Reds fans, though? How should they feel these days about the system?

Earlier today, Keith Law, who blocked a friend of mine on twitter for “fansplaining” to him how to count to 45 after Law apparently couldn’t do it, released his farm system rankings for 2018 over at ESPN. The list is only for ESPN Insiders, but he has the Cincinnati Reds ranked 6th in baseball. That’s up from where they were last season, which was 8th. Not a bad jump for a farm system that graduated a few former Top 100 prospects, Luis Castillo, Jesse Winker (though he’s still a rookie – Law just doesn’t think so because he can’t count like the rest of us), and Sal Romano since the #8 ranking.

Law cites the depth of the system as being a strength for years, but it’s the very top with Nick Senzel and Hunter Greene that makes the difference this year with it’s high ranking. Being able to have true star caliber prospects can really push a farm system up from that “good” range.

While Law did have some nice things to say about the depth and even the top of the farm system, he did criticize the team for their struggles on the international market. This is an area where the team hasn’t been overly active in the last 10 years, at least when it comes to signing teenagers instead of 20+ year olds from Cuba.

The team just hasn’t spent with many of the other markets on the teenage international players. If we limit it to just teenagers, here’s the list of Top 30 international prospects the Reds have signed over the last 10 years: Yorman Rodriguez, Juan Duran, Jonathan Perez, Cristian Olivo, Jose Garcia. That’s it. In 2014 the Yankees signed 10 Top 30 international prospects in one offseason. While it’s not impossible to be successful in the market without spending 7-figures on guys often, it makes it a lot easier to be successful.

These rankings were done before the Brewers trade went down last night. Even before then the Reds were the top ranked system in the division according to Law. The Brewers ranked 8th. No other team in the National League Central ranked in the Top 10. The Cubs are last on the list among the divisional teams, near the bottom, with the Cardinals and Pirates falling in the middle of the league.

34 Responses

  1. Brad

    I believe two big keys for the 2018 Reds are:

    1) Performance/trade value of Rasiel Iglesias and Scooter Gennett

    2) Performance and Service Time management of Mahle, Romano, Stephenson, Garrett

    3) Opportunistic value of Suarez and Desclafani

    The Brewers moves yesterday make it even tougher for Reds to compete for .500 or a pipe dream of the playoffs. I hope they are conservative with Senzel, Mahle, Romano, Stephenson, Garrett, etc so that they get development time in minors. minimize major league service time but have success upon arrival. Reds need Descfalani to come back healthy and perform at previous levels to be able to flip. In theory, Reds could have 6-8 major league caliber SP by July to create a true surplus. Similar with Suarez. Senzel, Gennett, Long, etc.

    Reds need a trade deadline like the Brewers in 2016 to take on prospects like a Lewis Brinson to either develop or trade for 2019 and beyond.

    • wes

      Spot on Brad! Lot’s of fans here living in past few years of hardship will sacrifice anything to win again but that’s not managements goal and THANK GOD for that! The way things are panning out- I’m fine finishing at the bottom of league again, add depth and figure out who you want to build team around in near future. Hopefully there will be plenty of open competition and guys performing the best get the playing time and/or moving guys out of the way who don’t have trade value.

      Have another good draft and acquire a little more talent and be patient. Soon the rest of the teams in the central will be moving past their prime.

      • Doug Gray

        Here’s the problem: If the Reds finish at the bottom of the league again that means none of the pitching worked out. And if that happens, the Reds are screwed.

      • wes

        Yeah IDK, I think there’s room to take a huge step forward in pitching and still struggle with wins. If hitting takes a small step back and ERA improves a full run. They would be just outside top ten in pitching and around 16-20 in hitting.

        I think they are 4th best team in central and around 8-10 in NL.

        It also may be impossible for a couple guys not to break through this year. Just from a statistical stand point : )

      • Cguy

        Pittsburgh was 13th in team ERA for 2017 & had 87 losses; Toronto 14th & had 86 losses; San Francisco was 16th but still lost 98 games; & The Phillies came in 18th in ERA while losing 96 games. Reds were 29th in ERA last year. Price may have to try hard, but he can have his pitching staff improve team ERA by .50 to .75 runs & lose 85 to 95 games in 2018.

      • Colt Holt

        Baseball is a two way sport. Reds had much better offense than many of those teams. If a couple young pitchers stepped up and thrived, this team is ready to compete. The offense and defense is solid, barring offensive holes at Center and Short. Fill in one of those and the pitching comes together, you don’t have to squint too hard to see a 90 win season. League average pitching could go a long, long way on this team…

    • Jordan

      Yeah, I’d agree. I’m torn 50/50 on whether the club should pursue trading Suarez or not. I’d think they’d have to be blown away by an offer. His production on the field, while excellent for the most part, is probably less than a player who the Reds might evaluate equally.

      I think you’re probably past the point where service time means much with Stephenson and Garrett. Garrett, especially, is nearing the end of his option limit and should probably either be squeezed for as much value as he can get or traded. I’m in the BobSteve for Fifth Starter camp, so I’m hoping he’s on the team and pitching well out of Spring. I just finally got the opportunity to see it all come together on a (semi) consistent basis at the end of last year, and want more!

      With today’s smart MLB FO’s, I doubt anyone is buying into Scooter too much at this point. If he continues the production from last year into the ’18 trade deadline, he’s a perfect trade chip to get a top 100 prospect. Raisel should net back a few as well.

  2. Jordan

    Definitely curious. For once, Law seems higher on the Reds system than I thought he might be. Before last night, I’m not sure you could find five legitimate prospect analysts who would have ranked the Reds system above the Brewers. Not complaining, but it definitely makes me leery to put much stock into it.

    That being said, this is the most excited I’ve been about the Reds farm system in a decade, so woohoo!

  3. AndyBado

    Doug, what has kept the Reds from signing teenage international players? Is it just the money? Many players seem to get signing bonuses in the $1-3M range. Or is it lack of scouting/recruiting power? I recognize that they are currently stuck with the $300k cap.

    • Krozley

      Not Doug, but my two cents is that 1) they were outspent by the big market teams before the cap came about, and 2) they were outmaneuvered by teams who secured handshake deals with players before they were officially eligible. The new MLB rules and crackdowns on shenanigans like what the Braves did will help this a bit, but the Reds probably need to do better scouting the 15 year olds to get in the game a little more once they are out of the penalty box.

    • Doug Gray

      Money, mostly. But, as I’ve said before – it’s not as if the Reds weren’t spending some money there that technically didn’t show up. They didn’t spend for 6-7 years on bigger teenage prospects, but did spend a bunch on guaranteed money with Aroldis Chapman – and maybe that money came from the international pool they had planned on using if they didn’t get Chapman. Same kind of thing with Iglesias. Now, maybe it’s possible that both of their monies came directly from what was budgeted for the big league club. I don’t really know either way, but I can see where those signings took away from what could have been planned for future budgets on the international market.

  4. GM Nep O'Tism

    Doug, did you see the recent article about the Marlins from Barry Jackson?


    Apparently the Marlins are looking at getting $110m from revenue sharing and national TV contract, and then at least $50m from the sale to Disney. That’s not counting the money they get from their local TV deal, and tickets/concessions/etc. $160m this year, just from revenue sharing.

    That means the Reds are getting at least $160m from revenue sharing this year as well, right? I know their previous TV deal was $30m/yr, and they got an increase on that. Even if you say it’s $40m/yr, once you add their other local sources of income, that puts them WELL past $200m in 2018.

    Spotrac has the Reds at around $115m in payroll in 2017.

    Why is there such a disconnect between what they’re bringing in and what they’re spending, and why isn’t it talked about more? They seem to get a pass when their payroll was only $6m higher than the Pirates last year.

    • doofus

      Maybe it’s not discussed because Reds ownership doesn’t want it to get out that they’re pocketing some nice change instead of building a winning club.

    • Michael Smith

      The money you seeing spent on the major league roster only. You are not factoring in all the coaches mlb and milb, all the milb salaries, signing bonuses, what they just spent in international spending etc…

      • GM Nep O'Tism

        That $115m actually includes the entire 40-man roster, plus all of the rookie signing bonuses, plus the $15.2m they were still paying for Phillips/Cingrani/Wood.

        The only thing that $115m doesn’t cover is the $5m in deferred payments still going to Griffey Jr and Arroyo. Also yeah, it doesn’t include coaches/managers.

        Once you take away the signing bonuses (which were included) the salaries of the minor league players that aren’t on the 40-man is peanuts. Doug wrote a pretty good article about that.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t know exactly what the revenue sharing gives each team, but I’ve said for years that I don’t care what the teams are saying, they’re bringing in more money than they claim. I’d bet the Reds are getting more than $40M per year on the tv deal, but doubt it’s more than $60M (If I had to bet, I’d say it’s closer to $50M).

      That $50-80M (depending on who you ask) from Disney is a 1-time payment. That isn’t coming in every year, so it’s tough to say they should throw that towards payroll, exactly. You can’t just add that to payroll because it’s not coming back next year, but that payroll is. At least in its entirety. If you wanted to say add $15-20M to payroll because of that money, sure, because that’s probably going to be for 2-3 players who will be on 2-3 year deals.

    • wes

      Reds surely don’t get a pass here. Tons of comments wanting Reds to spend more. Problem is there funds are not unlimited. So they have to be cautious passing out long term deals or they get in bad spots like they did with Phillips and currently are with Homer and Meseraco.

      Reds were top 10 in payroll when they were recently at their height, which is close to current 115M figure. I believe they can get to 140/150 but if you do that now and max payroll- it limits what you can spend in future years in arbitration and free agency. So patience is the best route. Also, almost every single free agent contract is player friendly and not team friendly, but maybe times are changing with this off-season?

      Reds should always make free agent signings like they have been. Trying to strike gold like w Straily is best route vs paying a premium price that you see a lot of top end players get.

      And just one more blow to the terribly ran Marlins. Jeter the Joke set the quality of MLB back and letting those losers buy that franchise was a terrible terrible mistake!

    • Krozley

      The Reds operating income was $16 million in 2016. In 2017, they had more salary, the international signings, and less attendance, so it was probably at best a break even year. The new TV contract, which is more than double the old, kicks in this year and they got the one time infusion from the BAMTech sale. I would think that new money sits in reserve for future investment in personnel when the time is right, or at least I hope it does.

      • Doug Gray

        Where did you see that the TV contract more than doubled the old one? The only thing I’ve ever seen regarding it’s value is when someone, I believe Bob Castellini, said it’s “in the same range as other markets the Reds size” as a comparison. But, that’s anywhere from $45M-$60M, and some of the teams in that range also got a piece of their local sports affiliate, while the Reds did not. If you actually saw a place with numbers, I ‘d love to see it. It seems that we know how much TV money every team in baseball is getting. Except the Reds.

  5. doofus

    I chuckled about your friend being blocked by Laws. Laws does not like to be challenged when he’s wrong. Keith Laws knows a few things about baseball, but he is one of the most self-absorbed, arrogant punks around. He probably gets pushed around a lot because he’s only about 3’10” tall.

  6. The Rage

    The Reds system is going to get clipped with many graduations this year, so we probably won’t be 6th next year.

    Fwiw, I feel vindicated about Amir Garrett. I told you Doug, Amir hung out around 93-94mph and would sit between 91-97mph most starts. I have seen the guy pitch for 2 straight minor league seasons. When his velocity could not get up above 92mph, I said that was not Amir. You pointed a finger.

    Next comes Disco………….The Reds have many bodies to replace his role.

    • Krozley

      That is a classic typo in the 2nd paragraph. It probably won’t be there much longer.

      • Doug Gray

        I really, really thought about leaving it alone. It was a good one.

    • Stock

      I think at least one of Trammell/Greene are top 10 prospects next year and both will be top 25. I think Gutierrez moves into the top 50 as does the Reds 1st round pick. I think Siri jumps into the top 100 and possibly the top 50.

      Finally, I think Stephenson, Santillian, Long, Downs, Garcia and Lopez have a shot to be in the top 100. This year’s class is good. Next years class will be great.

    • Doug Gray

      Well I’m glad you feel vindicated. I don’t know what the heck I pointed a finger at, though. I said since the start of the year that Garrett wasn’t throwing as hard as he used to.

  7. Michael Smith

    GM NEP thanks for the advice on reading a column I have read a half a dozen times. I was throwing out things that are not being factored into the overall amount. The minor league guys are being paid peanuts. Having said that it is well north of a million dollars just for minor league salaries. This does not include all the things the team pays for including staff, scouts, food etc… A much bigger expense is the major league teams staff, travel, food, etc…

    Having said all of that most years I struggle to see the reds running in the red.

  8. Brad

    Did I read correctly than FanGraphs has Reds only 3 games better than Marlins in 2018?

  9. donny

    Finally , a web site , even though is not a good one, got it right.
    Reds farm 6th best in baseball. I would have them around 6th.

  10. Reds4ever

    Doug, mark Sheldon came out with an article on garrett. So we now know he was hurt all year. And dick Williams said some stuff that didn’t add up. He said they also sent Garrett down because of his hip issue. Along with innings.

    • Wes

      AG is spot on talking bout his domination. I really hope he starts in big league pen like Hadar in Milwaukee last season. Get him plenty of meaningful outings then consider him for rotation down the road if u must. He seems mostly likely candidate to replace ilglasis as lights out closer

      • Bill

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Garrett claim the fifth rotation spot out of spring training. If health was holding him back and given this is his last option year, I think he gets the nod with a strong showing.

  11. donny

    I am interested in seeing who will have a better season with the [bat] in A+ ball.
    Taylor Trammel or Jesus Sanchez of the Rays. Both are very good prospects coming up through the ranks around the same age.