Minor League Ball's John Sickels thought May 1st was a great time to release the latest edition of his Top 150 Prospects for 2014 list, and when John thinks something, I generally tend to agree with him. Considering where he's got Robert Stephenson ranked, I might as well just change my official name (again) to Thinks John Sickels is Right.
Sickels included five current minor leaguers from the Cincinnati Reds system in this group, lead by Robert Stephenson, who has generally been lauded as the top prospect in the system by every person who takes the time to investigate those things. Stephenson, 21, is currently striking out 11.7 batters per 9 innings for the AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos, and while he's walking guys at a rate that's somewhat alarming, he's still yielding well less than a hit per inning and is flashing the fastball velocity and curveball monstrosity that originally led to him being a 1st round draft pick in 2012. Sickels has him ranked 8th overall, and he's the 3rd highest pitcher on the list behind Masahiro Tanaka and Archie Bradley, and since Tanaka's in the big leagues and Bradley's on the shelf with an elbow injury, it's almost like Bob Steves is the best pitching prospect pitching in the minors right now (said Thinks John Sickels is Right).
Jesse Winker, 20, is the next future Red to check in, as the .333/.413/.551 line he put up to start the season with the A+ Bakersfield Blaze has finally powered him into the Top 50 of a major scouting list. Winker's currently on the minor league DL thanks to concussion symptoms picked up when he ran into an outfield wall, but he's expected back in the next week or so to continue his raking ways. He's at 43.
The current starting CF for the Reds and speed maven extraordinaire, Billy Hamilton, pops in at 73 on John's list, and we've all had the opportunity to see the early returns on how the 23 year old's talents translate to the big leagues.
The Reds most recent 1st round draft pick, Phillip Ervin, is number 80 on Sickels' list. Ervin has struggled to begin the 2014 season for the Class A Dayton Dragons, hitting just .209/.279/.283, but the tools he possesses have him widely expected to improve upon those as the season progresses. Ervin hit like a machine across two levels following being drafted last year before his season was ended early thanks to a wrist injury, and he had surgery on said wrist this offseason which has undoubtedly set him back a bit. He'll get healthier, and he'll hit when he does.
Bakersfield pitching phenom Ben Lively is the last player in the organization to crack the list, as he checks in at 134. The Farmer's Only crew has dutifully tracked the ridiculous start to Lively's 2014 season, and the numbers he has posted are pretty hard to fathom. He's sporting a miniscule 0.48 WHIP through his first 29 IP while striking out over 12 batters per 9 innings, and I'd call his 40/1 K/BB ratio video-game like, but even video-games don't come up with numbers like that. Lively's doing this in the Cal League, too, which is somewhat akin to what Johnny Cueto has done while pitching in GABP, and if Lively keeps this up, he'll shoot up this list faster than an Aroldis Chapman fastball.