With April in the books and some standout performances (on both ends of the spectrum) from Cincinnati Reds minor leaguers, it’s high time we checked in on where they stand at this particular arbitrary endpoint.
Who’s Hot - Hitters
Infielder Juan Perez had a sparkling April for AAA Louisville, hitting a rather shocking .301/.393/.548 in 84 PA. His 4 dingers are already more than he hit in the entire 2015 season, for instance, and the 25 year old’s .941 OPS is the sixth best in the International League.
Down in A+ Daytona, 1B Gavin LaValley stands out across the team’s collective box score. He’s clubbed 7 homers already - which sits tied for the Florida State League lead - and is hitting .293/.330/.587 overall. His 54 total bases are also tied for the league lead. Considering he spent most of 2016 with the Tortugas - and has hit a combined .279/.333/.495 with 18 homers and 80 runs driven in through those 116 games at that level - it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get the call to Pensacola quite soon.
A pair of Dayton Dragons share the final spot here. Catcher Tyler Stephenson has finally shrugged off the wrist and concussion issues that rendered 2016 a loss and has swung the kind of bat that made him a 1st round draftee a few years back. At .301/.400/.466 he boasts the team lead in OPS, OBP, and RBI - his 19 ribbies ranking 3rd in the Midwest League. Stephenson’s .866 OPS was nearly matched by OF T.J. Friedl, who boasts an .862 one himself (.298/.362/.500). Friedl’s team-leading SLG is impressive from a guy who also has 5 steals to his name, and that’s been driven by a league-leading 8 doubles and an impressive 3 triples already in 2017.
Who’s Hot - Pitchers
The righty tandem of Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo have anchored the Pensacola rotation so far this year, and each has been spectacular. Castillo, the prize of the Dan Straily trade with Miami, owns a 2.08 ERA in 30.1 IP (5 GS), with a tiny 0.89 WHIP and impressive 25 to 4 K/BB ratio. Not to be outdone, Mahle has already spun a perfect game this year, and his 0.52 WHIP is the best in the entire Southern League - relievers included. In all, he sports a 0.55 ERA in a league-leading 32.2 IP, allowing a miniscule 3.0 H/9 while fanning 9.4 hitters per 9 IP. Mercy.
Daytona’s Tanner Rainey has been downright filthy from the Tortuga’s bullpen, and certainly is worthy of mention. He’s allowed just 2 ER in his 11 appearances, and has struck out 20 against a lone walk issued in 12.0 IP. He lays claim to a 0.33 WHIP, too, in case the rest of the stats weren’t good enough for you.
Finally, Dayton teammates Scott Moss and Wennington Romero earn mentions. Moss, Cincinnati’s 4th round pick from last year’s draft out of the University of Florida, leads the entire Midwest League with 41 Ks so far, and he’s logged them in just 26.0 IP - impressive numbers next to a respectable 3.12 ERA from the lefty. He’s joined by Romero, another lefty, for similar reasons: his 33 Ks rank third in the league, and he’s done that in 27.0 IP as the youngest pitcher in the Midwest League. Having just turned 19 in January, that’s killer, as is his 2.33 ERA and tiny 1.7 BB/9.
Who’s Not - Hitters
.479 would be a great individual stat to have for either SLG or OBP. When it’s the two numbers combined, however, that means things largely haven’t gone your way. Such is the case for OF Aristides Aquino in the early going this year, as he’s hit a paltry .163/.233/.256 in 94 PA for Pensacola. Add-in 31 strikeouts in just 23 games and a lone homer, and the 23 year old who bounced back in a huge way in 2016 has had an awful beginning to the season.
At .481, Chris Okey hasn’t had much more success so far. The 2nd round pick from the 2016 draft has stumbled to a .159/.243/.238 start in Daytona, and he has yet to crank a homer in 70 PA. Joining him on the struggle bus is teammate Alfredo Rodriguez, the multimillion dollar shortstop signed out of Cuba last year. He’s hit .218/.277/.230 with just one extra base hit - a double - in his 94 PA. In other words, the fear that he’s a great glove swinging a wet noodle haven’t exactly been allayed yet.
Tyler Goeddel is a former 1st round draftee by Tampa who is still just 24 years old, so it’s feasible to see why the Reds plucked him off waivers when the Phillies left him available. Well, a career rebound hasn’t exactly been in the cards for him so far, as the OF has hit just .190/.209/.214 in 42 PA in Louisville since coming over. He’s K’d 14 times in 12 games against a lone walk taken, which probably gives Joey Votto nightmares just thinking about it.
Who’s Not - Pitchers
Austin Brice was banged up in Spring Training, so it may still be some residual soreness that’s caused his slow start in Louisville. Still, for a guy with MLB experience who figured to play into the Reds’ bullpen plans at some point this year, his start to 2017 hasn’t been too pretty. He owns a 5.40 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in his 5 appearances, with more walks allowed (4) than strikeouts (3).
Remember Carlos Portuondo? He was one of the two arms the Reds received from Atlanta when doing everything possible to get Brandon Phillips moved, a 29 year old product of Cuba with only 34.2 IP of MiLB ball under his belt. Well, he got a whopping one appearance for Pensacola, allowed 5 runs, and he and his 54.00 ERA were promptly released by the organization. Welp.
It’s been a rough start to the year for Jackson Stephens, as the righty has struggled mightily to keep both runners off base and batted balls in the park. He’s yielded 6 dingers in his 25.2 IP, and with 12 walks allowed in that span it’s no surprise his ERA sits at an unsightly 6.66. Factor in the 31 hits allowed, and that’s been
good for bad for a 1.68 WHIP.