The last time that the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect list was updated was in November, following the end of the 2019 season. With spring training taking place, at least partially, then the draft – there are new players in the organization, and there’s new information on a few players that were around in November, too.

For the most part, the rankings remain unchanged. Most players didn’t do much in a very limited minor league spring training to change the opinion on them. But that isn’t the case for all players eligible for the list. Two players in big league camp jumped onto the list who weren’t there in the last update. One player is new to the organization since that list came out and the other one showed big improvements during the spring.

Overall, four players jump onto the list since the November update. Two players from the draft, and then two others. Let’s take a look at the new list before talking about why the new additions fit in where they do. If you support the site over at Patreon, well, you’ve already seen all of this. If you aren’t supporting the site over there, you missed out on all of this several weeks ago.

Old List

New List

Rank Player Pos Rank Player Pos
1 Hunter Greene RHP 1 Hunter Greene RHP
2 Nick Lodolo LHP 2 Nick Lodolo LHP
3 Tyler Stephenson C 3 Tyler Stephenson C
4 Jose Garcia SS 4 Jose Garcia SS
5 Tony Santillan RHP 5 Austin Hendrick OF
6 Jonathan India 3B 6 Tony Santillan RHP
7 Stuart Fairchild OF 7 Jonathan India 3B
8 Jose Siri OF 8 Stuart Fairchild OF
9 Rece Hinds 3B 9 Christian Roa RHP
10 Tyler Callihan 2B 10 Rece Hinds 3B
11 TJ Friedl OF 11 Tyler Callihan 2B
12 Michael Siani OF 12 TJ Friedl OF
13 Joel Kuhnel RHP 13 Michael Siani OF
14 Vladimir Gutierrez RHP 14 Joel Kuhnel RHP
15 Noah Davis RHP 15 Tejay Antone RHP
16 Ryan Hendrix RHP 16 Vladimir Gutierrez RHP
17 Lyon Richardson RHP 17 Noah Davis RHP
18 Mariel Bautista OF 18 Ryan Hendrix RHP
19 Braylin Minier SS 19 Lyon Richardson RHP
20 Jameson Hannah OF 20 Mark Payton OF
21 Michel Triana 3B 21 Mariel Bautista OF
22 Miguel Medrano RHP 22 Braylin Minier SS
23 Brian O’Grady OF 23 Jameson Hannah OF
24 Packy Naughton LHP 24 Michel Triana 3B
25 Ivan Johnson SS 25 Miguel Medrano RHP

Now, the old list included two players who are no longer in the organization. Jose Siri, who was rated as the #8 prospect was claimed on waivers by Seattle in early February. In mid-March he was then claimed on waivers by the San Francisco Giants. Brian O’Grady, who was the #23 prospect, was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in late November.

That opened up two spots on the list, but four additions overall were made – pushing two players off of the list. Let’s take a look at which additions came onto the list, and why they were placed onto the spots that they were.

Austin Hendrick

The top prospect for the Reds according to Baseball America, coming in at #84 overall on their list, the 2020 1st round pick has a lot of things to like about his game. His power potential might be the best in the entire draft class, with at least some reports suggesting there’s 40-homer upside here. On top of the power, he’s also got an above-average hit tool, an above-average arm, and good defense to go with solid speed. But there’s some concern about how much swing-and-miss he may have in his game, too – which could put a limit on his hit tool.

For me, the top four prospects in the Reds organization are going to remain unchanged. Hunter Greene stays at #1, and after seeing that he’s throwing 102 MPH again after Tommy John surgery, it’s an absolute lock for me. I felt it was a lock back in November, but it’s even more so now. Nick Lodolo was the 1st round pick in 2019, is advanced, had 30 strikeouts with no walks as a professional in 2019, has a high ceiling – even if it’s not quite as high as that of Hendrick – and has a very high floor as an advanced college arm.

Behind the two pitchers are the top two position player prospects. Tyler Stephenson and Jose Garcia are basically neck-and-neck in terms of prospect status. Stephenson has a higher floor – the catcher has a better plate approach currently, and has experienced success in both Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. Garcia was a guy that I repeatedly called the most underrated prospect in baseball all offseason as list after list kept him out of their Top 100 prospects, while I was essentially screaming about how good he was. Then spring training began and he started opening up eyes in the greater Phoenix area with the Reds big league club – showing off power, speed, and defense. A strong defender with plenty of offensive tools, he’s got tons of upside. His floor is a bit lower than that of Stephenson simply because of the position difference and the fact that Stephenson is arguably closer to being ready for the big leagues. If you want to argue that Garcia’s the better prospect, it’s an argument that holds plenty of water.

After those four guys is where you start to, at least for me, reach the point where Austin Hendrick fits in. Tony Santillan didn’t quite show off the same stuff in 2019 as he did in 2018 as he battled several non-serious injuries during the year and saw his control also take a step back from the big step that it took in the right direction the year prior. Behind him is Jonathan India, the 2018 1st round pick who has flashed some tools, but hasn’t exactly stood out statistically anywhere he’s been since being drafted.

Perhaps it’s the old conundrum of “we’ve seen the warts on the older guys and we haven’t on the newer, younger guys yet”, but I’d slide Austin Hendrick in at #5 on the list, just ahead of Santillan and India.

Christian Roa

The Reds 2nd round pick out of Texas A&M has live stuff, with a potential plus pitch, two above-average offerings and a solid 4th pitch. But he’s yet to really put it all together, too. He made just 15 starts in college, with 20 appearances in relief – he started 14 games over the last two seasons after nearly all of his freshman year was out of the bullpen. He was solid, but unspectacular as he posted a 4.25 ERA in 82.2 innings with 24 walks and 93 strikeouts for the Aggies. The upside is certainly there, but there’s some unknown when it comes to starting, too.

The unknown and inconsistent performance is going to immediately put him behind former 2nd round pick Stuart Fairchild, who took a big step forward in 2019 while splitting time between Daytona and Chattanooga before getting a handful of at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. Fairchild’s ceiling is that of a quality starter, perhaps not an All-Star, but he’s also got the feeling of a safe big leaguer even if that floor is a 4th outfielder.

It’s that next group where Christian Roa seems to fit in. Rece Hinds and Tyler Calliahan were rated 9th and 10th, and were last years 2nd and 3rd round picks. The upside is quite high for both of them, with Hinds having plus to plus-plus raw power, and Callihan showing above-average to plus raw power along with an above average hit tool at second base – but both are young and a bit raw at the plate still, needing to work on their pitch recognition skills. Roa has the much higher floor, assuming he stays healthy, as a guy who could pitch out of the bullpen if starting doesn’t work out for him. But the ceiling is pretty high, too, as a starter who could show solid control with four pitches – three of which could be above-average. For that reason he slides in behind Fairchild, but ahead of Hinds and Callihan.

Tejay Antone

When the season ended in 2019, Tejay Antone had put together a solid year. In his second season back from Tommy John surgery (he missed all of 2017 and some of the first half of 2018), Antone posted a 4.00 ERA between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville with 133 strikeouts in 146.1 innings. His strikeout rate improved with a promotion to Triple-A as his slider improved. While his slider improved to an above-average offering, the fastball working 89-92 – while showing good sinking action – just didn’t inspire enough confidence on my end to rate him in the Top 25 at the time. There was too much risk that he was going to wind up in the bullpen, and while that outlook probably made him a big leaguer of some sort, he didn’t resemble a reliever who would be pitching in the 8th/9th innings, either.

But then he showed up to big league spring training and was sitting 96-97 MPH and touching 98. The outings he had were shorter, but he’s never been there as a professional when it comes to velocity. I even got a report from a scout who saw him before spring training was shut down that graded out his slider as a plus offering.

With that kind of velocity, even in short stints, along with a potentially plus slider and big time ground ball rates (55.3% in 2019, which is also his career rate in the minors), the upside as both a starter and a reliever jumps up quite a bit. The fallback as a reliever could see him move to a potential late-inning guy if he’s going to bring 98 and a plus slider. As a starter we don’t quite know what the velocity will be like in 5-6-7 inning outings, but the uptick certainly moves him from #5/swingman profile to something a bit higher than that.

As for sliding him into this spot it was kind of simple for me. As a reliever it’s tough to sell that he’s a better option than Joel Kuhnel right now. Kuhnel’s been in the big leagues and had a little bit of success, and his minor league success as a reliever is quite strong. That’s not to say the upside as a reliever can’t be as high or higher for Antone, but the track record isn’t there for it and Kuhnel’s not exactly hurting for stuff to match up, either.

But the next guy on the list is Vladimir Gutierrez. The secondary stuff for Gutierrez is better overall than it is for Antone. But the fastball is a big question mark for him, too. The pitch can be a bit straight, and it doesn’t have the velocity to just put it by guys. There’s still an outside chance he can start in the long run if he can make the fastball work because the secondary stuff is pretty good across the board – but there’s a lot of “going to wind up in the bullpen and you hope he finds extra velocity on the fastball if he does” vibe here. And if that’s the case, Antone’s already showing a much better fastball and his slider matches up well, too.

Mark Payton

When the original list was published, Mark Payton had not yet been acquired in the Rule 5 draft. On one side of the ledger, Mark Payton absolutely destroyed the baseball in 2019. He hit an absurd .334/.400/.653 on the season in Triple-A with 45 walks and just 76 strikeouts. That’s an OPS of 1.053. It did come in Triple-A where the baseball, like in the Major Leagues, was juiced to the gills. The team that Payton played on had an OPS of .902 on the season – which is crazy. Of course, Payton was much better than that.

The baseball was certainly a part of the outburst. Nearly everyone who played in Triple-A last year saw a big improvement in their offensive output as the baseball just flew like crazy. But there was likely more to it than that for Payton, who started hitting the ball in the air far more than he had ever done before. His ground ball rate went from 44% in his career to 34.7% in 2019. Even when the ball isn’t a superball it’s beneficial for almost any hitter to get the ball in the air more.

He’s a lefty who crushed right-handed pitching to the tune of .357/.417/.697 with 33 walks and 50 strikeouts in 339 plate appearances. He makes a lot of contact against opposite handed pitchers, draws walks, and shows off some pop. All of these things are good.

The flip side of that, though, is that he’s now 28-years-old and has no big league experience. His breakout happened in a year where we absolutely know the baseball was different. And he’s listed at 5′ 8″ and 190 lbs. He’s got some strength in that frame, but he’s not exactly your prototypical size for a big leaguer, either.

His future role might not be that of a starting player on an every day basis, and with the Reds he’s certainly facing an uphill battle to find playing time given the amount of depth they have in the outfield. But prospect rankings aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be) based on opportunity in front of a player, but how they’d be valued in a vacuum because circumstances can change in an instance. There’s some solid value for a left-handed hitter who crushes right-handed pitching. Toss in that Payton can handle center field on the defensive side, as well as the corners, and he starts to look like a rather useful utility player. His age works against him, for sure, but the profile feels safe-ish for a future utility guy with a little bit of upside.

Coming in at the #20 spot, it was an interesting place to try place him on the list. Mariel Bautista, Braylin Minier, Jameson Hannah, and Michel Triana were all right behind there as position players. Bautista, Minier, and Triana likely all have higher upsides for various reasons. What they don’t have is the same kind of floor – Minier and Triana have never taken a swing in a professional game yet, while Bautista shows all of the right tools, but also struggled to hit for much of the year in Low-A last season. That “safeness” for Payton put him just ahead of that group for me.

Jackson Miller

The Reds 2nd round compensation B pick, Jackson Miller doesn’t jump off of the scouting page at you. The catcher doesn’t have a truly above-average tool to work with. But he does have average to fringe above-average tools nearly across the board. And when that comes with a catcher, that could ultimately lead to an above-average player down the road given the expectations for the position.

For me, Miller falls behind the next group of players that features TJ Friedl, Michael Siani, Joel Kuhnel, Vladimir Gutierrez, Noah Davis, and Ryan Hendrix. The upside, high floor, proximity to the Majors – or in some cases, multiple of those things are in play that put those guys a notch above Miller. It’s that next group that includes Lyon Richardson, Mariel Bautista, Braylin Minier, Jameson Hannah, Michel Triana, Miguel Medrano, Packy Naughton, and Ivan Johnson – the rest of the list, where it feels like Miller could slide in.

Richardson doesn’t look like the same guy that was drafted out of high school who was hitting 98 MPH as a senior. He’s topped out just under 95 MPH as a professional in 2 seasons and routinely throws in the 89-92 MPH range. But after struggling in 2018 after the draft, he more than held his own in 2019 with Dayton. The stuff is solid, and there’s upside within if he can get back some velocity that disappeared after being drafted. Mariel Bautista’s got all of the tools, but his pitch recognition held him back in 2019 against full-season pitchers – but his upside is very high. Braylin Minier and Michel Triana were 7-figure international signings last summer. Minier is just 17-years-old and hasn’t played yet, while Triana is 20 and coming out of Cuba where he played a few years ago but hasn’t played any official games yet – but was in Goodyear for spring training this year. Big upsides with both guys, but no real track record to go on.

Miguel Medrano has quality stuff and pitched well in 2019 for the Billings Mustangs. Packy Naughton broke out in 2019 with Daytona before a quick promotion up to Double-A Chattanooga where he barely slowed down. And then there’s Ivan Johnson, the 2019 4th round pick out of Chipola Junior College. The shortstop was solid in his debut for Greeneville, but showed a bit more upside in my opinion than his draft position may reflect.

Exactly where do you place a solid, but unspectacular prospect within this group? His upside can’t match that of Bautista, Minier, or Triana – and Bautista tore up Billings, though he did struggle in Dayton. For that reason he’s at least going to be behind those three. The “not a huge upside, but could be a solid starting option” feels a lot like what you could say about Packy Naughton. But of course, Packy Naughton has had success in Double-A, so it’s tough to make the argument that Miller should be ahead of him. That brings you down to Ivan Johnson versus Jackson Miller. Slightly older shortstop versus a slightly younger catcher. I’d call it a toss up, but with Johnson having a little bit of professional experience under his belt, I’m going to give him the absolute slightest of edges here.

35 Responses

  1. Michael Smith

    Great write up Doug. Appreciate all ur hard work

  2. James K

    Theoretically, a rookie this year who was on the roster for fewer than 45 games might nevertheless win the rookie of the year award. If so, he would still be considered a rookie next year, and eligible to win the rookie of the year award again. Right?

    • MK

      It is 45 days on active roster not games. It said on 25-man roster but that will need to be changed

      • James K

        Okay, 45 days instead of 45 games. The point remains.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t really have an answer for this, but I’ll guess that whoever wins it won’t be eligible next year because they’ll surpass the IP/PA threshold.

      I do wonder though if it won’t be “prorated” for eligibility next year?

  3. SultanofSwaff

    Great list. I’m not sure there’s been a better one in like 10+ years. Exciting!

    I wonder what kind of ball will be used in the majors this season. You might think they’ll keep the same one to juice offenses for more exciting games.

    • Billy

      That doesn’t seem to align with the industry perspective. For instance, at Fangraphs, they’ve got the Reds ranked 25th among all teams in their organization rankings right now. I think the top talent on the list is better than what people give them credit for, but I still hope that we’ve had better lists in the past 10 years.

      • Doug Gray

        While I think the system is better than 25th based on historical precedent, it’s not nearly as strong as it was even a few years ago. 1-5, the talent stacks up for the most part. But it’s the next few tiers where the big gap is from today’s farm system and some of the stronger ones from the past decade.

  4. MK

    The old adage that size doesn’t matter does not translate to baseball players. In the Jim Bowden era he was bent of accumulating 5- tool outfielders. The problem was they had tools but couldn’t play baseball. Now it seems they are accumulating undersized guys who can play but fall short (no pun intended) of the physical size to stand up to date he demands and rigors of a 162-game schedule. Friedl, Fairchild, Payton, and Hannah all fit this mold. These guys are artificial turf players unfortunately there is no longer much artificial turf.

  5. Norwood Nate

    I agree with the placement of Hendrick. Although I’m certainly much higher on both Richardson and Siani, but have been for a while. I’d rank Siani 9 and Richardson 10.

    • Doug Gray

      I definitely seem to be the “low guy” when it comes to Richardson. I just need to see more to move him up.

      • Norwood Nate

        You have a much more informed opinion than me, and I tend to defer to your rankings over others. But I’ve noticed for whatever reason I have been higher on Richardson. It may be a combination of Richardson’s size my faith in Boddy and company being able to to get the velocity back up to previous levels.

    • Stock

      I have Richardson 8 and Siani 9. It appears we are pretty high on these two.

  6. ClevelandRedsFan

    I love moving away from the “toolsy” athletic prospects and more toward guys who can actually play the game. We’ve seen way too many Drew Stubbs and Josi Siris never really make it or perform well in the bigs. I’ll take a guy who can hit with no arm and no speed over a “toolsy” strikeout king.

    That’s why we have second and first basemen.

    • Doug Gray

      To back up what Stock said…..

      Stubbs was a success, both as a draft pick and as a prospect.

  7. Stock

    Right now two players really stand out for me. Greene and Garcia. I have them ranked 1/2. Garcia has come alive since August 2019 having an OPS of .997 his last 25 games in Daytona. Was on fire in ST and remains so now. Greene hit 102. According to Boddy he now has a plus slider. Really 1 and 1a but I put Garcia at 1 and Greene at 2.

  8. Stock

    Antone vs. Santillan

    I don’t understand this.

    Antone is a GB pitcher/Santillan FB pitcher. Advantage Antone
    Antone was walking less than 2/9 IP his last 314 innings prior to TJS. They say it takes a while to get control back. They say some pitchers also come out with the ability to throw harder.

    3 SP (minimum 100 IP) struck out more than 9/ 9 IP last year and had a GB rate north of 50% (Castillo, Strasburg, Fried). That would be good company. Antone just dominated rusty big league hitters the other day. Other pitchers are struggling vs. these same hitters.

    Antone has clearly passed Santillan on my list.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s pretty simple for me: Antone has shown that he can be near Santillan’s velocity in short stints, while Santillan’s shown he can do it for 6+ innings (prior to an injury riddled 2019). Santillan’s secondary stuff is better overall when it’s at it’s best, too.

      Can Antone pass him up? Sure. But I need to see a lot more than 1-inning stints, or a scrimmage appearance where he looked really good in order to push him ahead of guys who have gone out and shown big time stuff over a full season of starting.

    • Stock

      A comparison to Antone vs. ML RP (min 40 IP last year).

      5 pitchers had at least 7 K/9 IP, less than 3.5 BB/9 and a higher GB% than Antone last year. These 5 pitchers combined for a 3.21 ERA (311 IP).

      Carlos Martinez and Mark Melancon were Closers.
      Bummer was the 8th inning man and could close this year.
      Luke Jackson was a former SP and could very well be the closer by the end of 2020.
      Adam Kolarek struck out only 7.36/9 IP but he did have a 66.3 GB%.

      I think worst case scenario Antone is an 8th inning man. Not many in the majors 97 and get a GB rate of 50%.

      Castillo, Strasburg, Fried, Melancon, Carlos Martinez and Luke Jackson.

      That tells me that whether a SP or a RP Antone projects to be a stud in the majors. I don’t think Santillan has Antone’s ceiling. Santillan’s floor is a career minor league pitcher.

      • Doug Gray

        We have no idea what Antone’s ground ball rate with 97 will be, though. Is his 97 moving like his 90? That matters, and really, it’s not a question I have an answer for right now.

        As far as Santillan’s ceiling – I’ve had scouts tell me he’s got 3 plus pitches. That’s a crazy ceiling. His floor, of course, is a minor league pitcher. So is Antone’s because he’s never pitched in the Majors. I feel pretty good that baring injury, both are big leagues of some sort.

  9. Stock

    3-5

    Lodolo and Stephenson are clearly on the list. I also have Antone in this group. Again, like 1/1a. you can put these in any order.

  10. Stock

    6-10

    Hendrick, India, Richardson, Siani and Payton.

    Gray and Richardson were 1st/2nd year pitchers the year we drafted them. The Reds gave up on Gray and look what happened. I was thinking this was the year Richardson put it together. I am hoping India’s lack of power is due to injury. I really like Payton and think the Reds will keep him in the majors all year.

    • John

      India has had several nagging injuries throughout the minors, with a concussion being a big one from being beaned in forehead, in last series of double A. Was in concussion protocol when he arrived at AZFL. He started to rake once he fully recovered and then he dislocated his wrist, which he played through for days before finally shutting it down. No excuses but he’s had some tough luck!

  11. ClevelandRedsFan

    Doug, I prefer my knives twisted, so I have to ask.

    Would Trammell be #1 on your list?

    • Bred

      Not to twist the knife twice, but how about Josiah Gray. He made the Dodgers 60 man, but I did not see him on the 40 man roster. After what he did last year, I think he would be #2. 3 teams last year 11 – 2, ERA 2.28 WHIP 0.99. Doug’s write ups about him were MONEY!

      • Doug Gray

        No need to put him on the 40-man yet, so he’s not there.

    • Doug Gray

      No, he wouldn’t. He’d be somewhere between 5-6-7 depending on exactly how the reports I got on him were from the spring.

  12. Tom

    With Lodolo, Greene, Garcia, Stephenson and India all factoring into Cincy by 2022, Hendrick may hold the top spot for 3-4 years. Lots of unknown prospects from this point forward. As always, going to need a strong international and domestic draft each year.

  13. ClevelandRedsFan

    This offseason for the Reds was completely different than years past. Last year: trade solid to great prospects for 1-year solid players in Puig, Alex Wood, Bauer (mid season), and even Kyle Farmer. The Reds lost Trammell, Josiah Gray, Shed Long, Jeter Downs. Those first 3 are all probably top 10 in the farm system. Trammell/Gray likely even top 5.

    This year: keep prospects and plug in solid free players through free agency. Now the Reds have Miley for 2 years, Moose for 4, Castellanos for 1,2, or 4.

    Feels like the first time the Reds actually went after free agents. The salaries aren’t that much higher compared to 2nd and 3rd year arb eligible players.

    I much prefer the free agency market approach. Most of the solid MLB teams rely on developing talent, even big market clubs like the Dodgers.

    Walt always viewed prospects as trade chips.

  14. DaveCT

    Doug, great list. While Mac Wainwright is not a a certain add to the top 25, I would not be surprised to see him soon. Sounded like the Reds have lots of info on him and like his possibilities very much. To me, he may slide in next to Rece Hinds as a comp. if nothing else at some point.

    • Doug Gray

      From a tools perspective, I like Wainwright. He’s got size, strength, some bat speed, and while I haven’t seen him run much – I’ve gotten reports that there’s some speed there, particularly for his size. I would not be surprised at all if he gets on the field next year and busts the heck out.

      • DaveCT

        I think we might assume Hinds moves to 3B and possibly right field. If so, having both Hinds and Wainwright at similar levels in RF. Yikes! All of a sudden, there’s some sweet depth at the corner OF.

    • Oldtimer

      I agree on him. Maybe not 2020 but a year or two down the road, he will be on this list.

      • DaveCT

        It the reports are accurate, this was some excellent scouting work.