Chris Okey makes his second appearance on the CPR, coming in at #19 in 2018. He looks to bounce back from a terrible season where he was hampered by a wrist injury. Another hitter gets added to the ballot today to round out the top 20.
Tanner Rainey, RHP, 25
Highest 2017 Level: AA (Pensacola)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: 40% K%, 15.1 K/9
Most Worrisome Fact: Control: 4.8 BB/9
Alias(es): Have You Ever Seen the Rainey, Tanner “Mount” Rainey, Purple Rainey
2017 saw the West Alabama prospect move to the bullpen full time since being drafted during the Competitive Balance Round B portion of the 2015 Draft, where it was hoped his plus-plus fastball would play up in shorter stints. Guess what: it did.
Rainey struck out 40% of the batters he faced in 2017 between A+ Dayton and AA Pensacola, and now that he’s a full time member of the bullpen, he’s got an easier and maybe even a fast track to the major league squad. You may have heard this before, but the Reds could use quality bullpen arms.
Rainey still walks too many batters, but his fastball is legit, reaching up to 99 MPH, while his filthy power curve has the ability to make batters look foolish when they swing at one in the dirt. He’s got high-leverage usage upside here, and is already one of the higher ceiling strictly bullpen prospects in the system. However, the Reds have several arms they have to figure out how to use for this season, so others will get the first crack. Regardless, don’t be surprised to see Rainey see spot usage as early as this season.
Keury Mella, RHP, 24
Highest 2017 Level: MLB (Cincinnati)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: Made progress limiting walks; cut his BB% by 2% from 2016
Most Worrisome Fact: Command; is still missing within the strike zone, and getting punished for it; still walks nearly 3 per 9 IP
Alias(es): Mella Yella, Numma Numma, Hella Mella
So, this is what we wrote about Mella last year:
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.
A lot of the sentiment here is still true. His SO/BB ratio jumped back into the 2.5 range in 2017 because he was successful cutting into his astronomical walk rate from the previous year. However, the strikeouts were still down from their peak 9+ per 9 IP days within the Giants organization. And, as it showed in his cup of coffee at the MLB level, without being able to get the pitch by guys, his lack of command got pummeled.
Still, Mella is only still 24 years old and hasn’t really even had the opportunity to crack AAA in his career. The ball jumps out of his hand, his fastball clocking in at 94-97mph and touches 98mph, and he has a good breaking ball that he can throw for strikes.
Every year it looks more and more likely that he’d be better suited focusing his talents in the bullpen, but we said last year there was no rush to do so. Even one year later, there’s really not a rush to move him if they think there’s another stride he can make with his control. But he’s been in the organization for 2+ years now, and the book remains largely the same. Several guys will have to fail in front of him for it to matter in 2018 so we’re not exactly running out of time. But this year will go a long way in telling us what the Reds have for the future.
Phil Ervin, OF, 25
Highest 2017 Level: MLB (Cincinnati)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: SLG’d higher in 64 MLB PA than he had since his rookie year, actually basically healthy for a full season.
Most Worrisome Fact: Took a long time to get back into it after his first cup of coffee with the Reds (.431 OPS in 22 May games at AAA).
Alias(es): Uncle Phil, Phlerv,
You’ll remember Phil Ervin as the Reds first round pick in 2013 out of Samford University. His pro career got of to a big start, mashing a healthy .989 OPS through his first 200 plate appearances, and basically doing exactly what a somewhat advanced college bat should do in those leagues. He parlayed that into the 63rd overall spot on Baseball Prospectus Top 101 prospects going into 2014.
However, his second season was somewhat of a sophomore slump. He injured his wrist that season, which seemed to sap most of the power we’d seen the previous year. But ever since, he hasn’t really been the same player, while also dealing with a nagging injury here and there.
If Phil and the Reds had their druthers, I’m sure he would’ve made his impact at the Major League level before last season. That said, it was mostly a successful season for the former first rounder. He acquitted himself nicely at the MLB level, his .259/.317/.448 slash clocked in at a 99 OPS+, which is perfectly okay for your first shot at the Show. His overall line at Louisville was severely marred by a disastrous month of May, where a .176/.231/.200 line basically tanked his season long numbers.
Looking at the season as a whole, though, that particular split seems to be the outlier. Plus, he still has the same physical gifts that he had when the Reds chose him out of Samford in the summer of 2013. I’m sure they wished that some of his rawer tools would’ve developed more or quicker, but he does show flashes of what made them take him so high.
As the Reds outfield is currently constructed, he’s going to find it difficult to carve out regular playing time in Cincinnati. Even then, he seems well suited to be a 4th outfielder right now. Will his ceiling develop higher than that?
Gavin LaValley, 1B, 23
Highest 2017 Level: AA (Pensacola)
Eye-Poppingest Fact: Solid power hitter, hit 18 dingers and 30 doubles in 2017.
Most Worrisome Fact: 24.6 K%, .101 ISO in Double-A.
Alias(es): Gavin “As I walk through” LaValley, Lily of LaValley, Mountains and LaValleys
Although he was drafted as a third baseman in the 4th round of the 2014 draft, Gavin LaValley made the switch to first base full-time in 2017. While the good news is that he found a position where he can stick, the bad news is that he is blocked by a guy named Joey Votto. LaValley started the first half of the year in High-A Daytona where he put up solid numbers. He hit .288/.322/.538 with 15 dingers and 14 doubles in Daytona, which was by far his best start to a season. That earned him a call-up to Pensacola in June where he saw his power drop off, as he had a meager .352 SLG% for the second half.
While LaValley has the ability to spray the ball all over the field, his best tool is his power. While he struggled in that department in his first two minor league seasons, balls started leaving the yard and finding gaps at a much higher rate in 2016 and 2017. He has also shown solid pitch selection over his four minor league seasons, posting a career BB% of 8.4%. While his defense wasn’t good enough for him to stick at third, he is capable of staying at first base in the long run. Look for him to start the year in Double-A Pensacola.
Up to date Community Prospect Rankings for 2018:
- Nick Senzel
- Hunter Greene
- Taylor Trammell
- Jesse Winker
- Tyler Mahle
- Jose Siri
- Shed Long
- Tony Santillan
- Vladimir Gutierrez
- Jeter Downs
- Tyler Stephenson
- Alex Blandino
- Jose Israel Garcia
- Stuart Fairchild
- Jimmy Herget
- Jose Lopez
- TJ Friedl
- Scott Moss
- Chris Okey
Who is the Reds’ #20 prospect?
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