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ESPN’s Keith Law releases his top 10 Reds prospects for 2017

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We’re still in the thick of prospect ranking season, with Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus each releasing their respective lists in in the first week of the new year. Now, nearly a month later, we’ve hit the season’s second wave, with ESPN’s Keith Law releasing his (paywall guarded) top 10 prospect list for the Reds, as well as all other NL and AL Central teams today.

For those without an ESPN Insider subscription, the list follows a similar path as others we’ve seen this year, with just a surprise or two toward the bottom:

1. Nick Senzel, 3B

2. Amir Garrett, LHP

3. Jesse Winker, OF

4. Luis Castillo, RHP

5. Robert Stephenson, RHP

6. Tyler Mahle, RHP

7. Taylor Trammell, OF

8. Vlad Gutierrez, RHP

9. Tyler Stephenson, C

10. Jimmy Herget, RHP

The top of the list is hardly a shock, with last season’s second overall pick leading yet another list, with the well-regarded Garrett and Winker picking up the next two spots and the newly-acquired and hard-throwing Castillo landing at fourth. The second half of the list features a couple of surprises, however, with Mahle receiving what previous lists would consider a generous sixth ranking, and Advanced-A closer Herget cracking the top ten.

The top five on that list are also featured on Law’s top 100 prospect list, with Senzel receiving the highest spot at No. 15. Says Law on Senzel:

“Senzel is a 60 runner who might end up swinging a 70 bat, and in a neutral park should be good for 15-20 homers a year, maybe 20-25 if his home park in the majors is Cincinnati’s. Even average defense at third would make him a potential All-Star, and if he’s got the hit tool, he should be on track to reach the majors by September.”

The rest of the top five appear in order at No. 39, No. 49, No. 94, and No. 99, respectively. It seems fair to say Law is higher on Mahle than just about any other major prospect evaluator, going as far as to include him on his “Just missed the top 100” post. Mahle’s placement here clearly has less to do with his potential, however, than it does the relatively high floor that his pitchability gives him.

The rest of Law’s top 20 Reds prospects is a bit of a mixed bag. He’s pretty forgiving of the injury-plagued 2016 that INF Alex Blandino (his No. 11 prospect in the system) had, and seems awfully optimistic about the hit tools of glove-first infield prospects Alfredo Rodriguez (No. 14) and Calten Daal (No. 15). He’s also high on RHP Jackson Stephens (No. 12), while being awfully low on OF Aristides Aquino (No. 13) and RHP Sal Romano (No. 17), despite both of the latter coming off of very successful 2016 seasons. He remains skeptical on teen fireballers Ian Kahaloa (No. 16) and Tony Santillan (No. 18), critiquing the former’s lack of command and the latter’s ability to throw strikes. INF Shed Long (No. 19) and RHP Nick Travieso (No. 20) round out Law’s list.

As usual, Law’s rankings for the Reds in 2017 are as much predictable as they are head-scratching. Valuing an A-ball closer like Herget far higher than a AA starter in Romano, when his main criticism of Romano seems to be “What if he turns into a Jimmy Herget” just doesn’t really make a lot of sense. He also seems pretty aggressive to cap young and exciting players like Santillan and Long as having “closer upside” and being “an extra at best.”

Regardless, it’s another chance for Reds fans to see how their best farmhands stack up against the rest of baseball, and another ranking to argue and bicker over, which a month from Spring Training is all we can ask for. John Sickels posted the Reds preliminary prospect list over at Minor League Ball today as well, so be on the lookout for that ranking in the coming days as well.