Alfredo Rodriguez finally cracks our prospect rankings at #17. The signing, which cost the Reds $7 million last July, was somewhat controversial among fans considering his ability to hit the ball is somewhat lacking. He does display some tremendous defense so that does provide some encouragement for the Reds. After struggling through the Dominican League last season, the Cuban shortstop hopes to correct his offensive issues in 2017. Another righty joins the ballot today.
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.
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.
Keury Mella, 23, RHP
Highest 2016 Level: Triple A (Louisville)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: Great velocity on his fastball with a solid curve.
Most Worrisome Fact: 1.70 K/BB, 1.565 WHIP in 2016.
Alias(es): Mella Yella,
Keury Mella was supposed to be the highlight of the Mike Leake, up until Adam Duvall won the everyday left field spot with the Reds and then smacked a bunch of dingers and earned an All-Star spot. So what do any of us know, really?
Mella is still big and he still throws hard, but he went from having a 2.59 SO/BB in 2015 to having a 1.70 SO/BB in 2016, along with a 1.565 WHIP and, well, it’s hard to project a successful future for the big right hander if he’s not going to strike anyone out.
It was kind of a one year blip at this point, I guess, but Mella’s future as a starter is in doubt. And that’s not necessarily such a bad thing, as Keury’s velocity was able to increase in shorter outings. Meaning the Reds could have another multi-inning hammer that the league is currently coveting.
The Reds have no reason not to give Mella a long starter’s leash in Pensacola in 2017.
Rookie Davis, 23, RHP
Highest 2016 Level: Triple A (Louisville)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 2.94 ERA in Pensacola
Most Worrisome Fact: 5.5 K/9, hasn’t struck anyone out since A+ Tampa
Alias(es): Rookie of the Year, the Rook, Rookie "Miles" Davis, Charlize
Rookie Davis seems like the last front to try and salvage the Aroldis Chapman trade, whatever burning wreckage is left to salvage. Davis brought the results in AA Pensacola, with a sub-3.00 ERA and 10 wins to 3 losses. It’s just… the other stuff. He struck out less than 6 per 9 to do it, while stranding nearly 80% of batters that reached base. I’d like to believe that the .254 BABIP allowed is sustainable, and maybe it is! But, you know.
Davis wasn’t good in Triple A, but he probably wasn’t really ready for it anyway, and he got very little time there. He was bussed back down to Pensacola for the playoffs. Rookie is a big dude, standing 6 foot 5 inches, 255 lbs. He can reach the high 90s with no problem, though scouts weren’t particularly impressed with him this year. He didn’t particularly wow anyone, anywhere.
He was #9 on this last year and, damnit, nothing in his results suggested that he’d lost anything. But, it’s all the other stuff (4.42 FIP, etc.) that have scouts down on his ceiling. With his good fastball movement and ability to induce weak contact, he might be able to succeed. He’s got a future with MLB, but I think it’s shrunk from his mid-rotation ceiling from a year ago.
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
16. T.J. Friedl
17. Alfredo Rodriguez