Knee high by the Fourth of July, or something like that.
We are nearing what is basically the halfway point of the Minor League season. All six of the Reds farm league teams are playing, and there is a little over two months of prospect-loving baseball to go. It's time to check the crops.
1. Robert Stephenson, SP - The Bob Steve Cometh has had a rough go of it in his first full season of AA. He's put up a 3.97 ERA in 77 innings. He isn't giving up many hits (6.9 H/9) and is striking out a ton of guys (9.4 K/9). However, he is giving up a lot of wangers (1.1 HR/9) and putting on quite a few free base runners (4.6 BB/9). I still expect him to get a AAA promotion at some point. He hasn't been horrible, but seems to be struggling with the small things. There is tons of talent here, and a hiccup along the road isn't a bad thing. The hiccup may have slowed his call up time, though.
2. Billy Hamilton, OF - I don't think I really need to remind you what Snax is doing this season, but I will. He is putting up a slash line of .276/.310/.398 line. That's good for a .708 OPS. Who'dathunkit? Couple that with 4 HR, 31 SB to 9 CS, and arguably the best center field defense in the league. We got a player on our hands. As of Wednesday morning he was sitting at 2.0 bWAR and could be a coach pick for the All Star team.
3. Phil Ervin OF - The Slammer from Samford had a rough start to the season. Hopefully, most of it is from his double secret wrist surgery in the off season. I don't have exact statistics, but in the past month I feel like he has been putting up close to a .900 OPS. His extra base power has returned, and so has his plate discipline. On the season, Ervin is slashing .237/.309/.381 for a .691 OPS. Seriously, I think his batting average was below .200 for the first six weeks of the season. While all of that was going on he has stolen 18 bases and only been caught once. I'd hope a promotion to Bakersfield would be up coming to push the envelope and challenge Phillip.
4. Yorman Rodriguez, OF - GAG. BARF. BLARG. Ourman has been awful this year. He has been pretty good over the last week or so, but a good day doesn't make a good year. Rodriguez is hitting .243/.284/.347 for a .631 OPS. You could say, "Hey! Why doesn't he get the credit Ervin does?" Ervin was drafted last year, and we've been waiting for years for Yorman to show his tools. This is his second season in AA and he's regressing. Not to mention, his BB/K ratio is 13/60 in 237 PAs.
5. Jesse Winker, OF - Uncle Jesse is an ice cold beer on a hot Saturday afternoon. You're sitting at the pool, you have your shades on, your blasting some cool tunes, and you're about to wreck shit. That's Jesse Winker. He absolutely destroyed the California League this year to a tune of .317/.426/.580 for a 1.006 OPS. That's some Vottoian shit, or minor league Jay Bruce shit. He also won another minor league All Star game home run derby. Winker was recently promoted to AA where he has hit .158, but with a .370 OBP in 27 PA's. If you pay attention to prospects, it will be hard to not vote him #1 next year even with Stephenson on the ballot.
6. Nick Travieso, SP - Krampus has started his year in Dayton, trying to improve on a mediocre season from last year. He has only impressed and done everything to warrant a #6 voting. Naughty Nick has put up a 3.31 ERA in 70.2 innings. He has a 4.50 K/BB ratio based on a 1.5 BB/9 and a 6.9 K/9. I'd like to see the strikeout rate rise, but his control is awesome. He's been about average when it comes to giving up hits, but he's really kept down the long balls (0.5 HR/9). Since this is his second season in Dayton, I'd expect to see a promotion to Bakersfield within the month.
7. David Holmberg, SP - EEEEEEK. This is not what you want to see from the guy you traded Hanigan for. Mongo has been struggling with injuries all year and has had two different trips to the DL. That's how you get a 6.88 ERA in 34 innings. I'm not even going to bring up his peripherals because they are bad. His last couple outings have been solid, though. As much crap as we could give him, if there were a rash of injuries he's still one of the top guys to get the nod if healthy.
8. Tucker Barnhart, C - The Barn of my Hart has seen two different stints with the Reds this year. Both of them coincided with the DL trips of Devin Mesoraco, which probably means the end of Corky Miller appearances in Cincy. :( We ended up replacing offensive production with stellar defense. Opposing team commentators were drooling over his handling of the pitching staff and his arm. The only problem is the bat. He didn't hit with Cincinnati and his OBP is below .300 in AAA and his OPS is .644. The defense is still there, and will keep him on major league teams. However, he needs to work on his offensive game. WE STILL LOVE YOU BARNEY!
9. Michael Lorenzen, SP/RP - Stretch has made the conversion from a full time college position player to a professional starter look easy. He has a 2.61 ERA in 76 innings. Lorenzen isn't striking out a ton of guys (6.4 K/9), but he has been better with the walks (3.0 BB/9). The story on Lorenzen is that he throws hard, and his fastball is heavy with a lot of movement. That is evident in his H/9 (7.8) and HR/9 (0.4). Maybe it is some luck, but it is pretty awesome to see a guy start for the first time in AA and dominate the league. I do wanna see more strikeouts, though. I think he'll spend the entire season in AA, but might see one month in AAA.
10. Ben Lively, SP - Ben Schnievely is "rocking" the world and has "schooled" everyone. He is the most surprising prospect of the season, and that is why he is no longer pitching in Bakersfield. The pride of the University of Central Florida (No, not Blake Bortles) has been putting up video game numbers. He put up a 2.28 ERA in 79 innings. That's not so video gamey. A 5.94 K/BB ratio, a 10.8 K/9, and a 1.8 BB/9 are video gamey. That's Greg Maddux cheater stuff. I know it's only A+ ball, but he's a guy to keep an eye on. He didn't fare well in his first start in AA, but how about we chalk it up to first game jitters? He was basically pitching in his hometown in front of friends and family, and his usual pinpoint control failed him. He doesn't have a high ceiling, but fits the mold of underrated pitchers the Reds turn to gold.
11. Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B/INF - The Seth Mejias Band has made a mean 3Brean Salad this year. A .300/.396/.476 line with 44 walks against 49 strikeouts will get anyone giddy. I hope he'd share that salad with some of our other minor leagues (I'm looking at you Yorman). His power has been about the same, which is to say average. That's ok because his glove is already being called gold glove caliber. He has recently been promoted to AA and has 8 walks to 1 strike out in 26 PAs. What? Woah.
12. Daniel Corcino, SP - 'Lil Cueto took a demotion to AA this year to try and raise his sunken ship. Early on it seemed like he was getting the job done. He was walking a lot guys, but was keeping the runs down. Lately, that hasn't been the story. Corcino has a 4.19 ERA in 86 innings. His BB/9 is 5.0, and his K/9 is 6.9. That isn't good. It would sound better if his H/9 and HR/9 were below average, but they have been merely average. It makes you wonder how long the Reds let him start. The scouts may have had this one right.
13. Jose Ortiz, C - He's a mystery, but he's a good mystery. The 17th round pick in the 2012 draft has shown some good offense for a catcher. I don't know much about his defensive prowess, but offense from a catcher is awesome. His first professional season he showed off some plate discipline. He didn't follow up with that last year, but he had a 232 ISO. Everyone thought he'd start the year with Dayton. Technically, he did, but he just started his first game. Keep an eye on him.
14. Carlos Contreras, SP - Mary Mary Quite Contreras has had a weird season. He started the year starting and was looking good. He was still walking people, but striking out everyone else. Then, he hurt his back. He came back as a reliever and was awesome. Then, the Reds sent down Cingrani, called up Jumbo, DFA'd Bernadina, and called up Contreras to fill an extra spot in the pen. In AA, he has pitched 20 innings (3 starts) with a 2.70 ERA, 5.0 BB/9, and a 12.2 K/9. He's kept batters from making consistent contact with a 6.8 H/9 and has given up no home runs. In his one appearance with Cincytown, he's pitched a scoreless inning with a strikeout.
15. Chad Rogers, SP - Shark Bait has been Shark Fodder this season. He's been used in the bullpen or inning eating situations. The peripherals have been bad bad bad, and that has lead to a 4.69 ERA in 40.1 innings. Rogers has almost walked as many guys as he's struck out, and he's giving up a ton of hits and home runs.
16. Jon Moscot, SP - The Moscoteer may be the most underrated starter on the Wahoo's staff right now. He has a 2.82 ERA in 89.1 innings. He's still only 22, mind you. Moscot was drafted as a guy that had good command of all his pitches. He isn't suppose to be anything overwhelming, but hasn't stopped him from moving up the ranks. Everything he has done this year looks mightily average. 2.6 BB/9 (Ok, that's really good), 7.2 K/9, and a 8.0 H/9. He is limiting the home runs pretty well with a 0.6 HR/9. There are a lot of young exciting pitchers on this team. If Walt is still around next year, he'll have some big decisions to make.
17. Kevin Franklin, 3B - Mr. Franklin was the 2nd round pick by the Reds in 2013. He is heralded for his high ceiling, unlimited power, strong arm, but lack of plate discipline. He didn't show much in Arizona last year with a .260/.326/.364 line, but everyone knew he was a project. He went to Billings this year and hasn't shown much in 24 PA's, but don't turn your back on him.
18. Henry Rodriguez, 3B/2B - DON'T READ, IT'S SAD. H-Rod was cut from the Reds in Spring Training. Everyone thought he'd be a viable bench bat, but something went wrong. He hasn't signed with anyone else, either.
19. Drew Cisco, SP - Cisco Fever is a guy I've been pretty high on since he was drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 draft. He had Tommy John surgery, which set him back, but he was still a polished pitcher. His game has always been don't walk guys and do the small things. That's what he is doing in Bakersfield, but it isn't panning out. He has a 5.82 ERA in 89.2 innings. His BB/9 is 1.5 and his K/9 is 5.7, which is pretty damn good for a 3.80 K/BB ratio. However, he is giving up 12 hits per nine, and 1.2 home runs per nine. He'll never be a guy that will fool batters, but if he can continue to hone his control he should be useful. I'm hoping for better things. He has pedigree on his side. Cross your fingers.
20. Junior Arias, OF/INF? - Where was Junior Arias all year? I'll assume he was hurt, or working on something super secretive that will change the face of baseball. Probably the latter because he's hitting .394/.459/.606 in 37 PA's in Bakersfield. He has also stolen 8 bases, which is kind of awesome. SSS awesome. We could probably take off the INF? tag. He hasn't played in the infield since 2012.
21. Ismael Guillon, SP - Izzy McGuizzlecutty started this year in Dayton for the third straight year. That's worrisome because he's on the 40 man and options are becoming a problem, and the fact he was atrocious in Dayton last year. This year he was better. He limited the walks (3.7 BB/9) and was still striking tons of batters (9.5 K/9). Guillon was giving up very few hits and was stingy with the home runs. That was good for a 3.17 ERA in 65.1 innings. He was promoted to Bakersfield and has made one start where he got embarrassed.
22. Donald Lutz, OF - The Mayor of Luxembourg and Ser Mustache of Heartmelt Mountain has had a weird year. He was killing AA to the tune of a 1.100 OPS, then he was called up to AAA, and then he was called up to the Reds to fill in when Votto was hurt and Soto sucked. He was given roughly 15 PA's in 2-3 weeks (I guessed and if that's right you own me a dollar). When Votto came back Lutz went back to AAA, where he has yet to get back on track. I wonder why? Stick with it @BraunerHulk.
23. Jeremy Kivel, SP - Evil Kenevil was a guy that the Reds drafted in the 10th round in 2012. He was a flamethrower out of high school that was consider a much higher draft pick until he tore up his knee. Instead, he fell to the 10th and the Reds swiped him up, threw some money at him, and now he's a pretty cool guy. He pitched last year in Arizona, where he was a bit wild, but fooled a lot of batters. He's started twice in Billings this year and has a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings. Kivel hasn't shown much on the peripheral side, yet, but it's early. It's hard to judge the young guys because they've only played a handful of games this year. Kivel does like kicking people in the face, though. He's an amateur MMA enthusiast.
24. Juan Silva, OF - HOW DARE YOU? I MEAN SERIOUSLY! HOW DARE YOU? Juan Silva is good, and he's been good. You ranked him 24th!? Ok, I'll stop complaining. Juan Silva has been, probably, the most impressive OF in the system outside of Jesse Winker. We could talk up Kyle Waldrop, but I think his season has been a bit BABIP driven. Juan Silva has been awesome. Not much power, but awesome. He's hitting .311/.422/.438 in Bakersfield. He also has 34 stolen bases. Remember when Billy Hamilton did something like that two years ago?!? I'm getting ahead of myself. He isn't that good, but he can play all three outfield spots. Silva should be promoted and soon. Did I mention his 48 walks to 49 strikeouts?
25. Ryan LaMarre, OF - Ryan LaMarre how far you have fallen. It's been a struggle for LaMarre the last two seasons, whether we are just talking about injuries or poor production. He was a 2nd round pick from the 2010 draft out of Michigan, and was considered a steal at the time. He is OPSing .610 in Louisville this year, and your guess is as good as mine when he last played. I hope he can turn it around, but he is 25 and in his second season in AAA.
Guys to continue to watch: Sebastian Elizalde, Kyle Waldrop, Ryan Wright, Daniel Wright, Carlton Daal, Tyler Mahle, Dan Lanfield, Aristedes Aquino, Gavin LaValley, Nick Howard, Ty Washington, Cory Thompson, Alex Blandino, Taylor Sparks, Wyatt Strahan, Shane Mardirosian, among many others.
We should be very excited about what these players are doing in the minor leagues. There have been many more good stories than there have been bad. Here is to an even better second half!