Hey, two prospect lists came out last week. That’s pretty cool, but you know what’s wrong with them? They weren’t picked by you! I hold Red Reporters to a higher standard (even if many of you are wrong and dumb) mostly because every knows if you want something great don’t pay money for it. Both of those lists hide stuff behind dumb and stupid paywalls. SBN is cheap as hell and has annoying ads to keep you coming back, and we also expect you to figure out your own prospect rankings. So, for the next several weeks, and almost every day, we’ll ask you to vote for prospects. All you have to do is find the comment from our nice, friendly, roomba-like CPR Voting Bot and give it a hearty rec in support of your favorite prospects. Your vote will probably be wrong and misinformed, but much like the 2016 Presidential Election we’ll allow you to do it anyway. Just a little voting humor for all the sticks in the mud out there. If that joke upsets you then you probably wear cowboy hats. Anyhoo, enjoy making this list. It’s usually fun for the first week, but we plan on making a Top 30 list to annoy you every single day until baseball starts again.
Nick Senzel, 3B/2B, 21
Highest 2016 Level: A (Dayton Dragons)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 2nd overall pick in 2016, .982 OPS in 251 plate appearances in Dayton.
Most Worrisome Fact: None. Maybe he doesn’t have Jay Bruce hair?
Alias(es): Senzinnati, Nick Senzational, Saint Nick
If you don’t know who Nick Senzel is at this point then I’m not sure if you should be voting on this list. Nicholas Peter Senzel was the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft out of the University of Tennessee. He is heralded as being the best bat in the draft and the closest position player to making a major league team. Some players in the past have made quick jumps, some out of necessity and some because of straight talent. If Senzel makes a quick jump it will be because of the latter. Senzel has tools that grade out above average across the board. He can field his position, he can run the bases, he’s got a good arm, he has some power, but what really sets him apart is swinging the stick in his hand and not making outs.
That’s why the Reds picked Nick Senzel. He has the potential to hit .300. In all, he looks like one of those rare players that has the potential to hit .300/.400/.500 while playing a premium position in the field. Plus, if you watch any videos of him hitting you’ll start to drool. It’s baseball porn. Overall, Senzel hit .329/.415/.567 in 251 plate appearances. He walked 32 times, struck out 49 times, hit 23 doubles, 3 triples, 7 dingers, and stole 15 bases. Basically, he was a line drive machine. Senzel looks to make his start at A+ Daytona to begin the 2017 season, but expect him to be a fast mover.
Amir Garrett, SP, 24
Highest 2015 Level: AAA (Louisville)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 144 innings pitched, 2.55 ERA, 3.7 BB/9
Most Worrisome Fact: BB/9 and K/9 took a slide after his jump to AAA. It’s worrisome, but probably not a big deal.
Alias(es): Mr. Basketball, Michael Jordan, Amir Cat
Outside of stupid nicknames, I think we can be done with making fun of Amir Garrett for being a basketball player. Sure, it slowed his overall development, but once he committed himself to baseball you could really see his potential. He’s turned himself into one of the best, and most likely one of the more coveted prospects in all of baseball. He’s an athletic freak. Garrett sits in the low to mid 90’s with his fastball, and has what scouts consider to be a pretty good slider. Like most prospects, he’s trying to put some polish on a third pitch to make him a reliable starter. Unlike most prospects, Garrett seems to have some semblance of control to go with great stuff. His peripherals aren’t eye popping, but there is something about him that keeps batters for making good contact with his pitches.
Garrett pitched in AA and AAA in 2016, is on the 40 man roster, and will get to prove to everyone this spring training he should start the season in Cincinnati. Realistically, the team will make him take some more lumps in Louisville before a probable midseason call up. In 2016, Garrett pitched 144 inning split between AA and AAA. He had a 2.55 ERA, 1.092 WHIP, 6.2 H/9, 0.4 HR/9, 3.7 BB/9, and 8.2 K/9. His AA numbers were much better than his AAA numbers, but that is to be expected. Plus, his AAA numbers really weren’t bad for his first stint at that level.
Jesse Winker, OF, 23
Highest 2015 Level: AAA (Louisville)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 59 walks and 59 strikeouts in 448 plate appearances. .303 batting average and a .397 on base percentage.
Most Worrisome Fact: 3 dingers, 81 ISO, and questions about defense.
Alias(es): Uncle Jesse, Funky Winkerbean, Rip Van Winker
Jesse Winker is one of the weirdest prospects in the system. Everyone loves him, but everyone questions him. There is no doubt that Winker is one of the smartest and most patient hitters in the system and in minor league baseball. He’s been all over prospect lists. He doesn’t strikeout, and he knows what is valuable. If you don’t, it’s getting on base. However, he’s either a left or right fielder. You’d expect some pop from his bat. He’s shown some power in the past, but as he’s risen up the ranks that power has diminished. Much of that has to do with past wrist injuries, and he’s shown some Bruce-ian hot streaks where he starts hitting extra base hits everywhere.
Honestly, one of his biggest issues have been slow starts. He started slow in 2015 and he didn’t fair too well in May of 2016. In that month he hit .231/.349/.265. That’s bad, but we can assume it was caused by injury because he went on the DL in June. There was no other month that his batting average dipped below .300, and his lowest monthly OBP after that was .388. Winker has a good shot of breaking the roster with Cincinnati following spring training. However, there is an issue of where he would play with Duvall in LF and Schebler in RF. So, I’m thinking Winker will probably start the year in AAA where we’ll hope he shows some power. Given his skill set there is no reason not to expect him to develop 15-20 HR kind of power. That would be nice. Though, I think many of us would be happy even if he just turns into a .300/.400/.420 kind of hitter.
Robert Stephenson, SP, 24
Highest 2015 Level: MLB (Reds)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: Showed flashes of brilliance and still has a big arm.
Most Worrisome Fact: 1.316 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, and 7.9 K/9 in AAA.
Alias(es): Bob Steve, Treasure Island, Bobert
What else is there to say about Robert Stephenson? He arguably has the most talent and the best arm in the system. He’s tall, he’s strong, and from everything I’ve read he’s a hard working and smart kid. The problem? Once he got to AA he couldn’t find the plate, and his secondary pitches couldn’t support his fastball against advanced hitters. He’s still on these lists because he has the potential to be a #1 or #2 pitcher, but the older he gets the less likely it looks like he’ll put it all together. If you don’t look at his ERA and remember some of the games he pitched for the Reds, you’ll remember that he held his own. He didn’t embarrass himself. Not that that is a glowing recommendation for a top pitching prospect. That’s something you say about a Tim Adleman type pitcher.
That’s a mean comparison because Tim Adleman pitched better than Robert Stephenson in 2016.
It was a rough year for Robert. He didn’t show us what we needed. He was called out publicly by his manager (though, I think he pitched better after), and he’s getting to the point where he needs to put up or shut up. A lot of scouts are thinking he’s taking the Homer Bailey route, and eventually he’ll just figure it out. With the abundance of pitching prospects we can afford to be a little patient, but Stephenson is quickly being overshadowed by his peers.
Cody Reed, SP, 23
Highest 2015 Level: MLB (Reds)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 3.08 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 in AAA
Most Worrisome Fact: Watch his major league debut.
Alias(es): Big 'Un, Squints, Four Eyes
Cody Reed has Robert Stephenson type stuff, and he’s left handed. He can also hit the plate on a more reliable basis. There wasn’t much that Cody Reed did wrong in the minor leagues. If you look back at his numbers you can argue that he was a tad bit hitable. But, you can’t argue why the Reds called him up. He’s got a live arm. He sits in the mid 90’s, and like most top prospects he can dial it up to 98. His slider is one of the nastiest I’ve seen and his change up isn’t half bad. There is a lot to like right?
Go back and watch his major league debut.
It is one of the worst in recent memory, and it had nothing to do with his stuff. It had to do with something between the ears. He was too cute. He wasn’t aggressive enough. He nibbled around the corners and put himself in bad situations. When he wasn’t off the plate he lived right in the middle of it, and he was crushed for it. The Reds had planned for Reed to take his lumps and just play out the remainder of the 2016 season with the Reds. But, his pitching eventually became embarrassing, and to save the young guy’s mental health they let him get some more reps in AAA. Even with his bad showing with the Reds in 2016. Don’t be surprised to see him get a spot in the rotation out of spring training.