Tyler Mahle's 2016 season was very strong but ended on a note that probably irks him. Expectations are that Mahle will start the year in AA to work out some kinks and start fresh and then move on to AAA. Depending on how well he does a September call up isn't outside the realm possibility. That would be awesome.
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
The newest addition to the RR Community Prospect Rankings should be a familiar face to many, as outfielder Phil Ervin has been voted the No. 14 prospect by the people of Red Reporter Dot Com.
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.
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.
This Jerry Crasnick piece is a helluva outline of Friedl’s rise.
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.
Jackson Stephens, 22, RHP
Highest 2016 level: AA (Pensacola)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 3.16 ERA over last two seasons
Most worrisome fact: Lack of standout pitch, lack of prospect recognition around baseball.
Alias(es): "Stonewall" Jackson Stephens, "Miss" Jackson Stephens, "Jack Steve"
Jackson Stephens has been under the radar from the time he joined the Reds’ organization as an 18th round pick in 2012. His performance throughout the first couple of years of his pro career reflected that of an 18th round pick, but Stephens turned a corner in 2015, turning in a 2.97 ERA in 145.1 innings of work in Daytona in 2015. His 2016 continued right on track, posting a 3.33 ERA in 151.1 innings of work at AA Pensacola as just a 22-year-old. He also improved his strikeout rate from 6.0 K/9 to 7.8 K/9 over the last two seasons, while also cutting down his home run rate.
Stephens has never particularly dominated at any level, but he’s moved quickly through the Reds’ system while continuing to improve against what has always been older competition. He doesn’t have the raw stuff of a Sal Romano or the pitchability of a Tyler Mahle, but he’s found a way to make things work to this point, and could very well find himself debuting at AAA Louisville this April before his 23rd birthday. Stephens isn’t among the first names many think of when it comes to the future of the Reds’ pitching plans, but if he continues to improve in 2017 the way he did in 2016, he won’t continue flying under the radar for long.
Ian Kahaloa, 18, RHP
Highest 2016 Level: Rookie (Billings)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 1.025 WHIP
Most Worrisome Fact: Youth? Some injury concerns?
Alias(es): Mele Kalikimaka, King Kahaloa, Lei Her? I hardly knew her!
Ian Kahaloa was a Reds 5th round draft pick in 2015 out of the great, beautiful state of Hawaii. Kahaloa was very strong in his limited professional debut, posting a 2.25 ERA in 24 IP.
Kahaloa didn't miss much of a beat in 2016 once he kicked a lingering oblique injury and advanced to Billings. This time around he pitched 44.2 regular season innings for a 2.82 ERA. Including the playoffs, Doug Gray had him 59.2 IP, 2.11 ERA, with 62 K to 15 BB.
Ian has a strong, live fastball that sits in the mid-90s to go along with a power curve and a change that still needs work, but, regardless, he can pound all three for strikes, though he struggles with command at times, too often living up in the strikezone. He's 6'1", 185lbs, so he's got the size to be a starter and is considered to be plenty athletic. At only 19-years-old, there's still a bit of physical maturation that could do a number of positive things for his stuff.
Kahaloa will pitch all of 2017 at age 19, and should start it at single A Dayton. If he keeps coming up with these kinds of results, he could reach A+ Daytona by the end of the season, but the Reds have no reason to rush things.
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
14. Phil Ervin
15. Tyler Mahle