Next on our list comes a Cuban prospect that is similar to another Cuban pitcher we have been able to watch over the last couple of seasons. Signed last August, Vladimir Gutierrez brings a great curveball with a fastball that sits in the low 90’s. While he has mainly pitched out of the bullpen, the Reds will hope to turn him into a starter, like they did with Raisel Iglesias after they signed him. Even though there is risk that he ends up in the bullpen, his high upside was enough for him to crack the top 10.
Up next is #9. Onto the list comes a pitcher who has impressed everyone with his performance since he was drafted into the system back in 2015.
Tyler Stephenson, C, 20
Highest 2016 Level: A (Dayton Dragons)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .356 OBP in his first season of professional ball.
Most Worrisome Fact: Only 8 extra-base hits in 39 games last season.
Alias(es): Ty Steve, The Bat Flip
Taken 11th overall in the 2015 draft, Tyler Stephenson was hoping to build off a mostly successful first professional season. He came into 2016 with plenty of hype, as MLB.comranked him as their #2 overall catching prospect heading into the season. Unfortunately for Ty Steve, concussions and wrist injuries pretty much derailed his 2016. He was limited to only 39 games in Dayton, hitting only .216/.278/.324. Considering how well he hit in 2015 against mostly college pitching, we can probably chalk up his poor performance to his poor health. The one thing that is worrisome is that he hasn’t shown much power since he was drafted. He only hit one home run in Billings in 2015 and followed it up with three in Dayton in 2016. Again, it is hard to read much into his 2016 numbers due to the injuries. Hopefully a healthy Stephenson in 2017 gives us a much clearer picture of what we should look forward to down the road.
Sal Romano, 23, RHP
Highest 2016 Level: AA (Pensacola)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 8.2 K/9, 2 BB/9 in 2016 was a career best.
Most Worrisome Fact: Still lacks a 3rd pitch, the bullpen looms
Aliases: Sloppy Sal, Mad Man, The Real Salvatore
Romano reached Pensacola late in 2015 and got crushed, and it looks like because of that we left him off of our rankings last season. Sal took note, because he came back with a vengeance in 2016, limiting AA batters to a 3.52 ERA through 156 IP, leading to a career best K and BB rate.
Romano’s a big dude that throws a good mid-90s fastball, and compliments it with a hard breaking slider. Sal’s started nearly every professional game in his career, and he’s done well, once he adjusted to each level. Problem is, he lacks a sufficient third pitch needed to be a top level starter, despite having a bulldog work ethic.
Perhaps he’ll find a good changeup in Louisville. Perhaps not. Scouts believe he has the capability of being a shutdown late inning reliever, when he’s able to run the fastball up into the triple digits.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Alfredo Rodriguez, SS, 22
Highest 2016 Level: DSL Reds
Eye-Poppingest Fact: Defense! Cuba's Rookie of the Year in 2014-2015
Most Worrisome Fact: The hit tool is, uh, lacking
Alias(es): Alf-Rod, Pasta-Rod,
The Reds spent a long time to make this deal official, but finally got this signing done in early July 2016. The Reds gave him upwards of $7 million to sign, the largest in the class, but will actually cost around $9 million since the Reds exceeded their pool money to pull it off.
Rodriguez is raw with a flashy glove. He was honored with the Cuban League's Rookie of the Year award in 2015, and the Reds value him as a future everyday SS in MLB. The bat is still a major question, however. Rodriguez spent all of his time in the DSL after having visa issues last season, and he didn't exactly light up the scoreboard despite playing against less-experienced talent.
The Reds did a lot of scouting here and are very confident in Rodriguez's ability, but he's very much a question mark in the organization. His glove is going to give him a leg up, but he still has a lot to prove once he comes stateside.
Phil Ervin, OF, 24
Highest 2016 Level: AA (Pensacola)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .362 OBP in 2016
Most Worrisome Fact: .399 SLG; has lacked the power stroke since his debut
Alias(es): Uncle Phil, Phlervin, Mr. Magic
It seems like one hundred million years since Phillip Ervin was 1) a first round pick and 2) a fringe top 50 prospect, according to some prognosticators. A wrist injury tanked his first full season in as a pro, and it’s questionable whether he’s ever fully recovered from it. After slugging over .500 in 2013 (albeit against much inferior competition), Phlervin hasn’t cracked .400+ in any full season sense.
Ervin’s background as a small school, one plus season standout makes it questionable whether he ever had the ability to mash at this level, but one thing he has consistently done since becoming a professional is get on base. His .362 OBP comes in spite of his good speed only netting him a .271 BABIP. That speed did allow him to steal 36 bases last season, however.
Ervin plays a decent outfield, but he’s better in the corner than up the middle. However, if he’s going to ultimately stick in right field, he’s going to have to figure out how to raise the .160 ISO.
Antonio Santillan, RHP, 19
Highest 2016 Level: A (Dayton)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 11 K/9, Tony blows people away
Most Worrisome Fact: 5.2 BB/9, Tony is dangerous
Alias(es): il Stanto, Guns Up Tony,
The Reds selected Santillan with their second round pick in the 2015 draft. The fireballing right hander comes from Seguin, TX.
Tony’s been absolutely electric in his time with the Reds, for both better and worse. Santillan runs up a plus fastball to the high 90s, while sitting in the mid-90s throughout, while also mixing in a hammer curve as an out pitch. Problem is, he only knows where it’s going approximately 10% of the time, illustrated by his 1.681 WHIP and 5.2 career BB/9.
Only 19, the Reds knew what they were getting when they pried him away from Texas Tech in June 2015. Santillan is a million years away from Cincinnati, seemingly, but that also means there’s plenty of time for him to iron out his control issues. If he does that, he’s as good as anyone they have in the system.
UP-TO-DATE COMMUNITY PROSPECT RANKINGS FOR 2017:
1. Nick Senzel
2. Jesse Winker
3. Cody Reed
4. Amir Garrett
6. Taylor Trammell
7. Aristides Aquino
8. Vladimir Gutierrez