Last year's top spot went to Cool Papa Billy, as he ran away (get it?!) with 74% of the vote. It's another two-horse race this year between Billy Hamilton and Robert Stephenson, but with Billy struggling in his first AAA season and Bob Steves having a breakout year, it should be a lot more interesting this time around. There aren't any other candidates yet, because with Cingrani graduating, there isn't really an argument for anyone else taking the top spot at this point.
BILLY HAMILTON, CF, 23
Highest 2013 Level: MLB (Cincinnati Reds)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: After breaking the professional record with 152 stolen bases in 2012, Billy swiped 75 bags in 123 games with the Louisville Bats and had 13 steals in 13 games with the Reds in September.
Most Worrisome Fact: 102 K with 38 BB in AAA
Aliases: Cool Papa Billy, Snax, Billy the Quick, Sir Quix-a-Lot
Billy followed up his incredible 2012, by stumbling out of the gate in 2013. A solid second half of the season, buoyed his numbers to a not completely terrible .256/.308/.343 line in Louisville, but still not what you would expect from the #11 prospect in all of baseball. The most troubling aspect of Billy's 2013 was that it seemed like he kind of forgot how to take a walk. His 6.9 BB% last season was by far the lowest of his career, with his 18.6 K % staying right around his career norms. Billy did get a cup of coffee in September with the Reds where he was pretty damn endearing, stealing 13 bases and slashing .368/.429/.474 in 19 ABs. Granted, the competition in those ABs was not particularly stiff, but he did manage to rack up 0.7 bWAR in just 13 games. That's a completely meaningless tidbit, and not at all predictive, but it's pretty neat nonetheless. It's looking more and more like Hamilton will be the starting CF in 2014, and if he can get on base, he should be able to help the Reds win some games next season. Unfortunately, that's looking like a bigger if right now than it did this time last year.
ROBERT STEPHENSON, SP, 21
Highest 2013 Level: AA (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 136 K in 114 innings across three levels in 2013.
Most Worrisome Fact: 7.0 BB/9 in 4 AA starts
Aliases: Bob(by) Steve(s), Treasure Island, the Steves
The Reds have a legitimate ace-level starting pitching prospect here. In 14 starts in Dayton, Stephenson put up eye-popping numbers all around: 77 IP, 2.57 ERA, 96 K, 20 BB, .987 WHIP, 2.45 FIP. After 4 starts in the high run-scoring environment of Bakersfield where he had a 3.05 ERA, he made his last four starts in AA Pensacola. His innings total of 114 in 2013 was nearly double what it was in 2012, so you can excuse his poor numbers in the Southern League, which were likely due (at least somewhat) to fatigue. I would expect Stephenson to start the year back in Pensacola before moving to Louisville, and if all goes well, a September call up with a chance to break in to the rotation in 2015. Stephenson is currently one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball, let's just hope he can stay healthy.