This time of year, prospect lists are just about the best thing going in the baseball world. Spring training is still two weeks away, the winter meetings were months ago, and the hot stove is really more like a crock pot set on warm. Nowadays, there are a number of high-quality outlets compiling these prospect lists, too. You got the ol’ battleship, Baseball America, you have one of our cousin blogholes in the SBN network at minorleagueball, you have the kind-of-unpredictable but never-not-interesting Keith Law at ESPN, the state-sanctioned agitprop of MLB.com, and the sabr pioneers over at Baseball Prospectus. But of course, the most important and best and coolest of them all is our community prospect rankings.
All of thems is way cool and all, and I earnestly recommend reading and digesting all of them. The general consensus around baseball is that the Reds rebuild of the last few years has stocked the farm with a pretty impressive crop of prospects. Most folks rank them as a top-ten system. In order for a player to be eligible for consideration, he must still have rookie status for the upcoming season. That is calculated by time on the big league roster or number of innings pitched or number of plate appearance or something like that. But that gives one a somewhat incomplete picture of system-wide young talent. I think that doubly applies to the Reds this year.
See, the Reds right now have an unusual number of young players who have spent a bit of time in the majors, at least enough time to make them ineligible for these lists, but still are plenty young enough that they will conceivably be around and cheap and in their primes the next time the Reds are ready to compete for the division. So I figured it would be a good idea to run ‘em down.
I will never get used to how young some of these fellas are. Finnegan came to the Reds in the Johnny Cueto deal of course, but he was all of 22 years old at the time. He’ll turn 24 a few weeks after Opening Day this year. He is just a day older than Cody Reed and six months older than Sal Romano.
But while other dudes his age were working on their secondary offerings in AA ball, he pitched a full season in the Reds rotation and established himself as a solid contributor. He posted 2.3 bWAR last year, which is totally fine for a mid-rotation starter. But his youth and upside give me reason to believe he can yet do even better.
Michel Lo Ultra has spent two full years as a regular with the Reds and he just turned 25 last month. He dealt with some injuries last year and ended up throwing only 50 innings out of the bullpen, but they were 50 really, really good innings. The Reds seem to want to try using him as a throwback bullpen fireman this season and that piques my curiosity to no end. Who knows how that might end up, but I’mma make some popcorn.
Peraza will turn just 23 years old at the end of April. He played almost half a season with the Reds last year, but he is just about a year older than top prospect Nick Senzel. For context, Senzel got about the same number of PAs playing for the University of Tennessee as Peraza had with the Reds last year. And for giggles, Senzel hit .352 with the Vols while Peraza hit .324 with the Reds.
Who knows where Peraza will play on the diamond, but I’m hopeful and confident that Bryan Price will figure that out. If you wanna fold all of these guys into the top prospect list, Peraza is the #1 young talent in the system.
Our man Wick Terrell, the Boat Dog himself, has already written a definitive piece on Suarez this off-season, so I won’t spend too much time on it here. I’ll simply encourage you to go back and read what he said. Suarez will turn 26 this July.
Herrera will turn 23 next month, but he surpassed the rookie-status threshold back in 2015 with the Mets. He has always been very young at every level of competition and he has always hit the tar out of the ball. Just like Peraza, finding him playing time in Cincinnati is gonna be a job, but the more I get to know this kid the more I like him.
Boat Dog already wrote some good stuff on this fella, so check this one out, too. He won’t turn 26 until the World Series this year, but he has bounced around a bit the last few years. He hasn’t produced at the big-league level, but he has a pedigree like few others and enormous talent, so don’t sleep.
If you are just looking at the prospect lists, you are probably tugging at your collar a bit and saying “I don’t know if the Reds have enough talent stocked up to really compete in 2018 like they say.” And that wouldn’t be an illogical conclusion, to tell the truth. But again, I think the best Reds talent isn’t on the prospect lists anymore; it is already on the big league squad. There is more reason for hope than you might think otherwise.