So, Jose Peraza jumped out to an early morning lead for the number three spot in our Community Prospect list, but by mid-afternoon, Cody Reed had jumped out way ahead and, in the end, it wasn't much of a contest.
Reed, the unsung acquisition of the Johnny Cueto trade, broke out in a big way in 2015 and is starting to get very serious Top 100 looks from the experts, and it'll be interesting to see if the big left hander will keep up his torrid pace when he, presumably, makes the jump to the International League.
Though, with the glut of upper-minors pitching that the Reds have, it wouldn't be such a surprise if Reed has to take an early season stroll through AA in 2016, while the odd men out of the Reds major league rotation see what they can do in Louisville. Reed has plenty of control and should be in no hurry, but it's a safe bet that Reed will be taking his talents to Northern Kentucky sooner rather than later.
Jose Peraza, SS/2B, 21
Highest 2015 Level: MLB (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .293 batting average, 45 strikeouts, and 33 steals in 521 plate appearances.
Most Worrisome Fact: .316 OBP, 17 walks, 4 home runs.
Alias(es): Marco Polo, LOL WUT, Don't Walk This Way
Peraza was the headliner return from the Dodgers in the trade that sent Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox. He's a high ceiling player that has had scouts very excited for a while now, and has found himself incredibly high on numerous prospect rankings (Top 25's). Peraza can do a lot of things well (handling the bat, defense, and running), but isn't too attuned at taking a walk. He's like the anti-Billy Hamilton as in he is 6'0, 180 pounds, and doesn't get the bat knocked out his hand and still plays infield. His game is putting the ball in the play and letting his legs get him to first base. Kinda of like Ichiro, but he's obviously not Ichiro (at least not yet).
The one big draw back to his game is his complete inability, or unwillingness, to take a walk. He looks to hit the ball, which keeps his strikeout incredibly low. This also keeps his walk rates almost hysterically low. He hasn't had a walk percentage over 5% since 2013, and it's hovered around 3.5% the past two years. To put that in perspective, Billy Hamilton walks almost twice as much in the majors, and posted 10%+ numbers in the minors. So, I'm not really sure how this is going to translate.
Peraza does almost everything else well except for hitting home runs. He has some decent gap power, can steal bases in bunches, and can play either SS or 2B. The only reason the Braves moved him from SS is because of Andrelton Simmon, who is an other wordly defensive shortstop, still played for them.
Amir Garrett, SP, 23
Highest 2015 Level: A+ (Daytona Tortugas)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 140 innings pitched, 2.44 ERA, 3.5 BB/9
Most Worrisome Fact: Not much. 8.5 K/9? Meh, that's pretty good. His age and option situation is sort of worrisome.
Alias(es): Mr. Basketball, Michael Jordan, Amir Cat
Everyone knows the former basketball player turned prospect darling, Mr. Amir Garrett. After screwing around for a few seasons playing an inferior sport, Garrett decided to focus 100% on baseball and it's been very good for his career. The Reds originally spent a boat load of money on Garrett as a 22nd round pick because of his obvious upside. Being a D-I basketball player means that Garrett is an athletic freaking, and has a tall, lean frame that is very conducive to pitching.
Amir pitched 140 innings last year, showing he has some durability, and will be able to continue to go up the ladder. What is even more impressive was his 2.44 ERA, which was just dominate at the A+ level. Boosting him up to AA will present Garrett with new challenges, but he has finally proven himself to be worthy of being high up on the prospect lists. Good for him.
Tyler Stephenson, C, 19
Highest 2015 Level: Rookie League (Billings)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .352 OBP
Most Worrisome Fact: 1 home run in 219 plate appearances
Alias(es): Ty Steve, The Bat Flip, Kennesaw Mountain Stephenson
Tyler Stephenson was the Reds 2015 first round pick, taken 11th overall. He's a big, powerful kid that was being rumored to be the first overall pick in the draft before graciously falling to the Reds at #11. Honestly, it's one of the more exciting picks in recent memory. Scouts love Stephenson for his athleticism, abilities behind he plate, and tremendous raw power.
I love him because of bat flips in State tourney games.
Stephenson held his own as a high school draftee starting his career in Billings. His batting average and on base percentage were decent. However, he didn't show much power. I'd say it isn't a super big concern since he was hitting against college age pitchers. Stephenson is already being highly ranked nationally, with speculation of being a Top 100 prospect, and MLB.com naming him their #2 catching prospect in all of baseball.
Alex Blandino, SS/2B, 23
Highest 2015 Level: AA (Pensacola)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .364 OBP through A+/AA, 13% BB% in AA
Most Worrisome Fact: Declining ISO, SLG; Positional questions
Alias(es): The Great Blandino, Alexander the Great, BlandiYES
After a slow start to 2015, Alexxandre Field Blandino tore through A+ for the Tortugas, finishing his stint in Daytona with a .294./.370/.438 line in 342 PA before being called up to Pensacola in August. Overall, the Great Blandino finished 5th in the Florida State League in OPS while playing the vast majority of the time at shortstop.
Blandino consistently shows an advanced approach at the plate, with terrific on base skills and always willing to take a walk. He doesn't have a lot of power (as demonstrated by his declining slugging and ISO percentages as he's climbed through the minor league ranks). His numbers dipped a bit when he moved to AA, and he struggled mightily in the Arizona Fall League (.516 OPS in 69 PA), but he's barely 23, and has shown his ability to adjust quickly in the past (he struggled similarly in 2014 in his move from Billings to Daytona before owning Daytona this past year).
His bat will get him to The Show, but there are questions about whether he will be able to stick at shortstop. He played primarily at third base in college, but doesn't have the power profile to be ideal there in the major leagues. Some scouts see him as a future 2B, which the Reds seem to have the market cornered on (though, to Blandino's credit, he trades the ++ speed with on base ability).
Blandino will almost assuredly take another hack at AA, at least initially, but if he continues to get on base, he could see time in Cincinnati as early as 2017.
Keury Mella, RHP, 22
Highest 2015 Level: A+ (Daytona)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 9+ SO/9, 106 K in 103 IP
Most Worrisome Fact: control/feel issues may limit to bullpen
Alias(es): Mella Yella
No offense to Adam Duvall, but Keury Mella was the big get in the Mike Leake trade. At six foot two inches, 200 pounds, the right hander is a presence on the mound, who features an electric fastball that sits 93-95 mph, hits 97 mph, and moves all over the place. In case that wasn't imposing enough, Mella also features a power curve that feels pretty slurvy. There's also a changeup that freezes opposing batters when it's there. All told, the stuff is real.
The concern comes with the secondary offerings. Neither the curve nor the change are anything resembling consistent right now, and that fact reared its ugly head in 2015. In 80+ IP with San Jose, Mella walked nearly 3 per 9, and that only got worse when he moved to Daytona. I don't think it's fair to call Mella "wild", but he's been described as "rough" by many scouts, and there are concerns that feel issues will relegate him to the bullpen in the major leagues.
But, as mentioned with Reed, the Reds have zero need to try and rush Mella. He could start in AA for 2016, but if the Reds want to stash him in A+ and have him work on his control and secondary offerings to ensure they consistently find the strike zone, they're totally free to do so. Mella's got considerable upside, but he's still very raw.
Nick Travieso, RHP, 21
Highest 2015 Level: A+ (Daytona)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 2.70 ERA in 93.1 IP
Most Worrisome Fact: 7.3 SO/9 could stand to rise
Alias(es): Naughty Nick, Krampus
So speaking of presence on the mound, Travieso stands 6'2" and 225lbs and looks down right portly. But his command of his pitches is legit, featuring a fastball in the 93-95 mph range, a good slider and a passable changeup. He throws strikes and, despite the lowish strikeout totals, consistently induced weak contact and a lot of ground ball outs.
2014 saw Travieso repeat A ball to great success, but he had no problems in his full season at A+ in 2015. Posting a 2.70 ERA, 1.200 WHIP in 93.1 IP, Travieso acquainted himself just fine. That showing convinced the Reds to send him to the Arizona Fall League, where all he did was own fools in 22 IP, posting a 2.05 ERA and 1.000 WHIP.
As the 14th overall pick in 2012, Travieso has kept learning and kept building and kept getting better and has not at any point made the Reds regret taking him that high. He's already got 3 pitches that look like they'll play at the major league level, and he's gotten better in every season as a professional. Because of that, he's a rapid mover up the Reds prospect lists.