The former 5th-round pick out of Hawaii had another solid performance in his second year in the minors, with a 2.11 ERA over 59.2 innings. The 19 year-old righty is another solid addition to the long list of encouraging pitching prospects in the Reds’ system right now. Another middle infielder joins the ballot today after having a breakout season in 2016.
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.
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.
Highest 2016 Level: High-A (Daytona)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .337 career OBP over 2 seasons. 25 SB in 2016.
Most Worrisome Fact: Power, .360 career SLG% over 2 seasons.
Alias(es): Blake Tree-hee-han, Kinder Kid
Blake Trahan was drafted by the Reds in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. After smoking the ball in 47 games in Billings, the Reds promoted him to High-A Daytona where he really struggled. Going into 2016 the Reds kept him in Daytona and he initially struggled, hitting .128/.198/.186 over the month of April. He finally turned things around and had himself a solid year at the plate, slashing .263/.325/.321 in his first full season in Daytona. He is a high floor player who relies on speed, defense, and plate discipline as his biggest assets, demonstrated by his 25 steals and 49/73 BB/K in 2016. His biggest issue is his power, as he only has 5 home runs in his 2 seasons. He should see time at Double-A Pensacola in 2017.
Highest 2016 level: Double-A (Pensacola)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: .309/.353/.434 after June 1 in 2016. Only 4 errors in 105 games at shortstop in 2016.
Most Worrisome Fact: Turns 26 in May and has not played higher than Double-A
Alias(es): Soft J, Cincy
Always known for his defense, the former 37th-round pick out of Pepperdine finally had his breakout season in Pensacola in 2016. After hitting just .207/.270/.234 through May, he went on a tear starting in June, going .309/.353/.434 the rest of the way. He would follow that performance up by slashing .352/.425/.676 in the Arizona Fall League, good for the third-highest batting average in the league. Vinej has always made consistent contact and showed great plate discipline throughout his career, but his power was always lacking. While his strikeouts increased last season, he showed more power at the plate, doubling his extra base-hits from 15 in 2015 to 30 in 2016. He is getting up there in age (he turns 26 in May) so time is starting to run out for the shortstop, especially with the crowded infield situation in the Reds system at the moment, but the improvement at the plate combined with his exceptional defense is certainly encouraging for the Reds.
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
18. Chris Okey
19. Ian Kahaloa