Guys and gals, the 2019 Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect List is complete. If you missed out on it you can see it all right here with stats/info, or the entire list in it’s entirety along with past lists here. Throughout the week I’ve been doing my best to answer relevant questions asked each day about the list, but now that the entire list is out there are probably questions about specific rankings of guys. And there are probably questions about guys who missed out on the list, too.

So, today is the day to get all of those questions in. Between now and 8pm ET, I’ll be answering whatever you’ve got. It’s going to be simple enough: Leave your questions in the comments section below. As I get to your question(s), I will delete them from the comments and bring them over to the post with the answers. Let’s jump on in and get to it.

Why is the Reds, correction baseballs best home run hitter in the minors not among the top 25 prospects in the organization?

It’s easy to fall in love with the power that Ibandel Isabel brings. It’s a different level of power. Major League, Minor League – it doesn’t matter. It’s special kind of power. With that said, Isabel struck out 37% of the time he stepped to the plate in Advanced-A this season while being a 23-year-old. That’s going to be an enormous hurdle to overcome. While there are a few Major Leaguers that strike out at that rate, they are also facing big leaguers.

The big question is could Ibandel Isabel be a bench player because of that power? With the strikeout rate, unless there’s a massive improvement, the profile just isn’t there for a starter. And defensively he’s not good enough to be a late-inning replacement kind of guy anywhere except in a double switch situation.

So does the power make up enough that he’s just a pinch hitter? I’m not sold that profile works without an improved contact rate. He’s not too much further down the list, because he’s got a rare tool grade. But, there’s so much risk involved in finding a way to use that tool in the Majors.

Who do you think made the highest jump this year and who had the biggest fall.

The biggest rise could be looked at in a few ways. In terms of importance, I would have to say Tony Santillan. Why? Well, he’s always had borderline elite kind of stuff. But this season he also showed outstanding control to go with it. Going from a guy who was a Top 250 prospect in baseball, to a guy who in my opinion should be a Top 50-ish guy is enormous.

Now, if you want to take the question as who made the biggest leap in terms of spots up the list, that’s a different look. In that case, it’s got to be Jonathan Willems. He went from someone who wasn’t really on the radar to a Top 25 guy. Willems was known as an athletic guy coming into the year. But he had an OPS of .648 in 2016 and an OPS of .571 in 2017. Granted he was, and still is a teenager. But the performance was poor in the past. He made plenty of adjustments at the plate in 2018. That helped and led to production on the field to go with the athleticism.

Was Rylan Thomas considered?

Yes, he was. There are some things to like with Rylan Thomas. He’s got legit power. He’s more athletic than his immediate positional profile would suggest given that he’s played mostly first base as a pro. You have to also really love that he had an 18% walk rate with a 22% strikeout rate in his debut.

But his defensive profile, even though there’s a chance he’s more than just a first baseman, leaves me wanting to see him hit in full season ball. While I’m not a guy who leans on batting average, .257 from a college player in rookie ball does leave open some questions. If he goes out next season and hits similarly to what he did this year, it’ll be tough to keep him off of the list. For now, though, he was on the outside looking in. Not by a whole lot, though. The power’s absolutely real.

What kept 2018 draftees Bren Spillane, Michael Byrne, and Drew Mount on the outside looking in?

Bren Spillane struck out 41.3% of the time he stepped to the plate in rookie ball. That is never, ever going to work. He needs to cut his strikeout rate almost in half. Byrne is a future reliever who might be middle reliever. Drew Mount is intriguing, but he’s going to have to show stuff in full season ball before he’s going to get some real consideration given his background. None of these guys were really considered for the Top 25.

Well, the obvious question: Who were the others who came close to making your list?

Let me explain the process that I go through when making the list. I open up Excel and create a column for each position. I keep all outfielders in one column. Starters and relievers get their own column. Then I sort each position from best to worst prospect. It’s easier to start out by comparing guys at the same position to each other first. Once that is completed I can then only focus on comparing the top player at each spot.

Some positions, like first base, didn’t see the top guy get ranked at all. With that said, and I’m just pulling these from the top of my head, here are some of the guys that were in consideration: Rylan Thomas, Ibandel Isabel, Alexis Diaz, Ryan Hendrix. There were some young guys like Cash Case, Claudio Finol, Debby Santana – all were at least intriguing enough that I took a few minutes to debate them, too.

Was Anna Kendrick considered for your top 25?

For the Cincinnati Reds, no. For life partners? Absolutely.

I am thinking Jennifer Lawrence is not too happy she has to compete with 24 other ladies for your heart.

I mean, I’m not exactly thrilled that she hasn’t made this known publicly, so…. same.

First of all thanks for your list. Best week of the year from my perspective. Even better than draft week.

When you split these player up by position do you place them in the position they played or their projected position? More importantly, do you rank them based upon their current position, future position or do you try (and I know this is difficult) to weight their ranking based upon probabilities of sticking or having to move?

Four examples stand out in your top 25 Jeter Downs played SS some last year but everything I have read says he is a 2B. Mella starts but as you pointed out yesterday his future is as a RP. Clementina plays C but from what I read it is doubtful he will play there in the majors and Willems played 2B but I have read his hands of stone will eventually send him to a corner outfield position.

This past week, and draft week, are the ones that get to me the most. Day three of the draft is the one that tries to kill me every year. This past week is just a long grind. And I hope that the Reds don’t make any big moves during the week because I’m selfish and want those page views coming in a different non-optimal time.

I put guys in the position that I believe they will play – mostly. I put Nick Senzel, for example, at second base. But I could have put him at third or even the outfield and been fine with that one. I’m always ranking on future projection. A guy like Keury Mella is tougher because I do think there’s a chance he could start, though it’s more likely he winds up in the bullpen. I kind of weighed both sides of that coin. I had him listed with the starters in the initial breakdown.

Like Senzel, Jeter Downs could have been listed at multiple spots. I placed him with the second basemen because I feel he’s far more likely to wind up there than at shortstop. But, in the rankings I was sure to list him at 2B/SS because I do think there’s an outside chance he stays at short. Second was listed first, for a reason, though.

With Hendrik Clementina and catcher, I think there’s a lot of “what he is right now” going on. He was a 20-year-old catcher last year. He wasn’t ready to catch in the big leagues and clearly has work to do in order to get to that point. But catching is a long process of learning, refining, improving. I think some people are getting ahead of themselves with his defense and the “certainty” they have about him not being able to play the position.

With Jonathan Willems, I certainly think there’s more bat than glove there. And I could see a day when he may need to slide to a corner outfield spot. But his hands aren’t, as you describe them, made of stone. He’s got to improve them, no question, if he wants to remain on the dirt. He’ll probably be given time to put in the work to remain on the infield, though. He’s still a teenager – there’s time to see if he can figure it out.

How do you compare this top 25 lists to last couple years lists? You see the farm improving, declining, or staying level ?

I think that it’s a tad better. The Top 5 might not be quite as strong today as it was a year ago today, but it’s close. But it’s the next 20 that I feel better about. Often I see people say things like “the farm system should rank better, be stronger because of how bad the team has sucked”, and it just doesn’t make sense to me. The farm has been churning and graduating players over those years. Some of the players they’ve acquired were not even prospect list eligible.

I’d say over the last few years things are mostly staying level, but given that they’ve graduated a handful of guys that were Top 100 prospects in that time, is a good sign. Now, they need those guys to perform better in the Majors moving forward, but the farm has graduated guys that helped their “rating” be high. And the fact that they’re gone but the farm still has five top 100 guys remaining is a good sign. They’ve gotten the talent into the system, and up the chain. The key is getting it to perform in the Majors.

Michael Beltre is 23 so he is approaching the age of not being a prospect but it seems to me that if he could change his launch angle so he doesn’t hit 60% of his balls in play on the ground he has the strength to hit 15 – 20 HR. This in combination with his great BB% would give him much more value. I would love to hear your views on Beltre.

I’m pretty much on the same page. Beltre is big and strong. He’s got plenty of raw power. But he hits the ball on the ground like he’s a 1917 player in the deadball era. If he can get the ball in the air, he’s going to do damage. He’s a guy I’d love to see go about altering his swing in order to try and get more fly balls. Maybe it doesn’t work, but if I were the Reds, that would be something I’d be talking to him about for an offseason plan and I’d make it a high priority as far as minor league “ideas” go.

What prospect in the 11-25 range do you think could help us the most if they develop enough to start for us in the majors?

I’d say a guy like Mariel Bautista, who ranked 11th. If he were to fully develop you are talking about an above-average center fielder. He can hit, he’d have power, he’d steal some bases, and he’d play a premium position. Obviously a lot of these guys could help if they fully develop, but guys at premium positions are just a bit tougher to find.

Surprised Scott Moss missed your list but is listed on other prospect list. I like your list but if I had one, he would be between 15-25. Was he in the “first 5” out?

He wasn’t. He’d be in that next group of ten, though. I’m just not seeing enough to think he’s a starter long term, at least comfortably. And as a reliever, there’s not a good chance he’s a back end of the bullpen guy (8th/9th inning type). Contrast that with a guy like Keury Mella. Not certain Mella’s a starter long term, but could easily see him as an 8th inning reliever. I believe Scott Moss could be a future big leaguer, but in any role I could see him making it as, it’s not comfortably a high one. If and when he moves to the bullpen, maybe he’ll be a guy that’s just providing a totally different look. For now, though, he has more of that 6th/7th inning kind of look.

Ignoring Gray’s outstanding BABIP (.219) Diaz and Gray had similar seasons. In fact, Diaz struck out one batter per inning more than Gray. Diaz is one year older but lost 2 seasons to TJ. I agree with your ranking of Gray. What kept Diaz out of your top 25?

Mechanics. He looks like a reliever in the long run because of the mechanics. I’m a fan of the stuff, for sure. But after watching him pitch this past season I just worry about his ability to start long term because the mechanics are a bit rough.

Finol hit better than .300 when India left Greeneville and Finol became a full time starter. He hit .300 and I think he could stick at SS. He has absolutely no power at this point so they may have kept him out of your top 25. Also you may feel that he can’t stick at SS. I will admit that he will not get many opportunities with Hernandez at the same level. What kept him out of your top 25 and do you think he should play at Billings next year so he can play SS every day?

I didn’t get the feeling that Finol was going to be a shortstop in the long run from the people that I talked to. I didn’t get a chance to see him at short despite seeing like 14 Greeneville games. But, I do think he’ll get a chance to play there some more in the future, but just didn’t seem anyone was talking up the shortstop part of his game when I asked about the defense. The power aspect didn’t help, but had I had better reports on the shortstop aspect of things, he probably would have been closer to making it. Or possibly even making it.

For years the Reds had no depth at SS in the minors. Now they have Finol, Hernandez, Garcia and possibly India and Downs. Where would you start them next year? My first thought was to start Garcia, Downs and India in Daytona and Hernandez in Dayton. Lately though I was thinking about Garcia and Downs in Daytona with India at Dayton playing SS. At mid-season promote India to Daytona and Garcia to Chattanooga, or India to Chattanooga or India to Daytona to play 3B because the SS experiment didn’t work. Your thoughts?

I don’t think three of those guys wind up at shortstop. Hernandez and Garcia, though – they’re true shortstops. I’d keep Garcia in Dayton and pair him up the middle with Hernandez. They could split second and short. I just didn’t see enough out of the bat with Garcia to think he’d handle Daytona right now. India and Downs can go to Daytona with India at third or second. Downs can go to shortstop and play some second base there. Finol can move up to Billings.

Will the Reds lose their money on Jose Garcia and Alfredo Rodriguez?

I’m far more confident in Jose Garcia as a prospect than Alfredo Rodriguez as a prospect. One guy has shown, even if it’s just half of a season, that he can hit the ball out of the infield. And it’s the one that is significantly younger of the bunch. I don’t have much confidence that Rodriguez is going to hit enough. He’s never hit anywhere he’s ever played and he’s going to be 25 next season.

One Response

  1. Doug Gray

    Thanks for all of the questions, guys and gals. Hopefully I gave good enough answers.