Shed Long came a bit out of nowhere this season, and the sample size is rather limited, but the former catcher turned infielder certainly opened some eyes this season and it was enough for you, the smart voters of Red Reporter, to vote him number 13 on our list.
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.
Tyler Mahle, 22, RHP
Highest 2016 Level: AA (Pensacola)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 141:37 K:BB between A+ and AA
Most Worrisome Fact: Hit a roadblock at Pensacola, 4.78 FIP
Alias(es): Poppin' Mahle, Darth Mahle, Good Golly Miss Mahle
Mahle ran into his first bit of real trouble in his pro career in 2016, when he reached AA Pensacola, with a 1.374 WHIP and 4.92 ERA through his first 71.1 IP as a Wahoo. That's concerning, considering he's never had any trouble before, but what he did in Daytona was vintage Mahle (2..50 ERA, 4.47 K:BB).
Mahle doesn't have the top level stuff that the upper tier pitchers in this system have, but gosh darnit if he doesn't know how to use it. His fastball sits in the low 90s, touching 96mph. More interestingly is his secondary offerings, of which he has three. All of them are average or better, and he can throw them all for strikes at will.
The Reds brass probably wish they could morph Tyler Mahle and Robert Stephenson into one, superfreak pitching prospect. If Bob Steve had the pitchability and feel that Mahle has, or if Mahle had Bob Steve's stuff, we're talking about the cream of the crop. Alas, they are two separate pitching prospects, both of which could be fixtures in the Cincinnati rotation in the not-so-distant future.
Chris Okey, 22, C
Highest 2016 Level: A (Dayton)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .436 SLG, 6 HR in 169 PA at A
Most Worrisome Fact: 29.0% K% at A
Alias(es): Annie R. U. Okey, Okey Dokey, Okey & Peele
The Reds selected Okey with their second round pick in 2016, number 43 overall. The well-rounded college catcher had a very fine career at Clemson, but struggled once he hit the Pioneer League, stumbling out of the gate with a .369 OPS through nine games.
Didn't matter much to the Reds, though, as they moved him along with second overall pick Nick Senzel to Dayton after only a couple of weeks. Once there, Okey played well, slashing .243/.323/.432 with eight doubles and six home runs.
Okey doesn't necessarily have eye-popping crazy talent, but he's nearly a lock to stick behind the dish (and play it well), he's athletic as far as catchers go, and there isn't anything about his tools that is particularly bad. He likely won't be a perennial All-Star, but with there's no reason to believe he can't serve a valuable purpose on as catcher on a good MLB team.
If you're into this sorta thing, scouts and the team seem to rave about his "makeup" and "intangibles." He's apparently a very hard worker that is willing to learn, and was very receptive to the teachings of Reds catching wizard and all-around-suave Corky Miller at instructional league.
TJ Friedl, 21, OF
Highest 2016 Level: Rookie (Billings)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .423 OBP
Most Worrisome Fact: College bat in Rookie League, .419 BABIP will regress
Alias(es): TJ "Land of the" Friedl, Teej, Friedl Pie, TJ "Not Antone" Friedl, Friedl-Dee Friedl-Dumb
The Reds practically stole TJ Friedl this summer, because no one knew that he was actually eligible for the Amatuer Draft as a red-shirt sophomore from Nevada-Reno. Not even Friedl himself, initially. It wasn’t until after his fantastic showing with Team USA that MLB teams started seriously inquiring about the 20-year-old. The Reds, helped by their ample pool money and scout team’s due diligence, were the benefactors of everyone’s oversight.
In Friedl, the Reds got a speedy outfielder that’s capable of playing center field long term. If he’s capable of hitting his ceiling, Friedl’s advanced batting approach and line drive swing from the left side could spot him at the top of the Reds lineup down the road. TJ doesn’t have a ton of raw power to speak of (despite his .500+ SLG in the Pioneer League), and his body type figures to have him be more of a Ryan Freel than an Andrew McCutchen.
Regardless, the Reds got Friedl, seemingly a top five talent, without using a top five pick on him. Through some serious scouting effort and a bit of luck, they found themselves a talented, hardworking outfielder that should pay off for years to come.
UP-TO-DATE COMMUNITY PROSPECT RANKINGS FOR 2017:
1. Nick Senzel
2. Jesse Winker
3. Cody Reed
4. Amir Garrett
6. Taylor Trammell
7. Luis Castillo
8. Aristides Aquino
9. Vladimir Gutierrez
10. Tyler Stephenson
11. Antonio Santillan
12. Sal Romano
13. Shed Long