As the last remaining free agents find their new homes and the once-posed blockbuster trade ideas fall into the nether regions of our minds, the last remaining dance of the long, cold, baseball-less Winter is the annual two-step between prospect mavens and the unproven athletes they know by heart. Winter ball in the Caribbean has showcased skillsets either overlooked or underappreciated, everyone has done a thousand pushups and is in "the best shape of their life," injured players have resumed working out for upcoming seasons, and a few prospects have changed organizations altogether, sending gurus everywhere to their keyboards to compile, break down, and make a lot of lists.
Tons of lists. Endless numbers of lists. Lists on lists on lists on lists, by 10s, 20s, 100s, by age, by league, by current position, by projected position, by ETA, by handedness. By a number we don't even truly comprehend ostensibly placed only between 20 and 80 - but not above or below. We'll be bombarded with who throws a cutter versus who can throw a cutter versus who may develop a cutter, we'll hear about hit-tools and which position a 17 year old kid has already been pigeon-holed into for his age 25 season.
It's at this time of year Cincinnati Reds fans have drooled over Homer Bailey's ranking as the top RH starter in the minors, or Jay Bruce being tabbed the #1 overall player by Baseball America. It's when we really began to imagine what Billy Hamilton could do to the big league basepaths once MLB.com ranked him as the #11 overall prospect in the game following his 155 stolen bases in 2012.
The talking heads are talking again (rather, the typing fingers are typing, again), so let's take a look at what they've got to say...
- Jason Parks and the Baseball Prospectus crew released their 2014 Top 100 list yesterday, and the Reds are fairly well represented. Robert Stephenson checks in at 22nd overall (up from 28th on last year's list), Billy Hamilton just makes the Top 50 at 49th (down from 14th in 2013), and Phillip Ervin joins them as the third and final Red represented at 63rd overall.
- Johnathan Mayo and Jim Callis put their heads together to compile MLBPipeline's Top 100 prospect list for MLB.com, yet only Stephenson (19) and Hamilton (37) made the cut. Both were also included in last season's list - Hamilton at 16th and Stephenson at 17th - so it's interesting to note that while they're still high on Bob Steves, they actually dropped him on their list a bit. Callis offered up a few addenda to his decisions, giving high praise for the skills of both Hamilton and Stephenson in his "Best Tools in the Business" piece while also noting his admiration of both Phillip Ervin and Jesse Winker despite them not quite cracking the Top 100.
- John Sickels, as you know, released his Reds Top 20 last week, and included his individual grades in the process. MinorLeagueBall will release a composite, overall ranking at some point before the season begins, and we'll certainly keep tabs on it. Until then, take another glance at the super cool interview between Sickels and RR's Farmer's Only Bureau.
- Keith Law has yet to snarkily promote his 2014 Top 100 rankings, but he has put together his ranking of the collective farm systems of each of the MLB franchises. You can read about that here, if you're an ESPN Insider, or you can just save yourself some time by knowing that he ranks the Reds 16th by basically saying that it's Robert Stephenson, some good OF prospects, and a bunch of young arms that'll probably end up in the bullpen. For the record, the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals are all ahead of the Reds in Law's rankings. He'll snarkily have his Top 100 prospect list out tomorrow, which we can mutely celebrate briefly before remembering that Law almost left Tony Cingrani off his 2013 list altogether (98th).
- Finally, a former member of every prognosticator ever's Top 100 list agreed to a one year contract with the Reds today. Aroldis Chapman and the Reds' front office reportedly settled on a $5 million salary for 2014, avoiding an arbitration hearing and splitting the difference between what both initially offered/asked. Chapman's contract is complicated, but he'll essentially be making $8 million in 2014 since the original $3 million he was owed was the base salary he would receive should he not have qualified for arbitration (which he did); in the event that he was arb-eligible, that $3 million became a signing bonus due to him on top of his arb-guided salary. Got it? That leaves Homer Bailey as the only unsigned member of the team, as he and the Reds stand a reported $3 million apart in their negotiation process.