Following up on yesterday’s preview of the Dayton Dragons, we now head south to the Atlantic coast of Florida to check out the Daytona Tortugas of the Florida State League. The Tortugas have carried the banner for the Reds down in High-A since 2015, playing in the respectfully named Radiology Associates Field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. That’s swell.
Like the Dragons, these Tuges are loaded with exciting young baseball players to whom you should pay attention. Let’s look at a few of them.
The Headliner: Taylor Trammell
Trammell is the most prominent name on the team this year, ranking #3 on the RRCPR. He had one hell of a season in Dayton last year, slashing .281/.368/.450 with nearly 50 extra-base hits in 570 plate appearances. Most notably, he was just 19, more than two full years younger than the league average. He mostly played in left field with fellow stud muffin Jose Siri patrolling center. With Siri injured to begin the season, Trammell is likely your starting CF. He’s your headliner here because that refined approach at the plate is supplemented by five legitimate tools. He has superstar potential.
Other Top Prospects: Tyler Stephenson and Tony Santillan
Stephenson and Santillan were the top picks of the 2015 draft for the Reds, with the catcher Stephenson selected with the 11th pick and the pitcher Santillan taken at 49. They ranked 11th and eighth in the CPR, respectively.
Stephenson still boasts tremendous tools, but he will have to shake off some pestery injury concerns this season to take some major steps in the right direction. He has missed time in his first two seasons in pro ball due to a thumb injury, a wrist injury, and some concussion stuff. You may not have known this, but the hands and the brain are both in the top ten most important body parts for baseball players. Stephenson has impressive power and good strikezone judgment to match his cromulent catching talent, so health is probably the only thing in between him and the big leagues.
Santillan is one of my personal favorites in the Reds’ system. At 6’3” and 240 he has a burly pitcher’s frame and a Manwich fastball to match it. He posted an impressive 3.38 ERA at Dayton last season and struck out a batter per inning. With a strong start in Daytona, I could see the Reds moving him quickly up through the system.
Blast from the Past: Nick Howard
Nick Howard is the protagonist of the only baseball story Franz Kafka ever wrote. One day, Howard woke up from unsettling dreams to find his right arm had fallen off and rolled under the bed. It only got worse from there.
Drafted in the first round in 2014, He was a dominant closer for UVA’s national runners-up in the College World Series. He had a refined repertoire and a good bit of polish, so he looked like he could move quickly through the system. Instead, he kinda caught some yips and then he got hurt. Then he got hurt again. And again. All told, he has thrown only 91.2 innings as a professional. He didn’t throw a single pitch in the 2017 season.
He appears to finally be healthy and ready to roll for the season, so please let us all say a little prayer for him. Baseball can be such a cruel mistress and this kid needs a break to go his way. Here’s hopin’, my man.
Other Notables: Scott Moss and Dilson Herrera
Moss was a fourth-round pick back in 2016 out of the University of Florida. He was drafted as a polished, left-handed college arm from an elite program with all the talent of a first-round selection. But he dropped down to the fourth because he missed two whole seasons at Florida while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made his full-season debut last year at Dayton and was very impressive, pairing his mid-90s fastball with a wipe-out slider to scratch more than ten strikeouts per nine innings. He’s another dude who could move quickly.
Dilson Herrera’s story is more like Nick Howard than Scott Moss. He’s a very talented hitter with superior tools, a solid approach, and the ability to play all around the infield. He came to the Reds in August of 2016 in exchange for Jay Bruce, but he has played fewer than 100 games since then. He has dealt with near-constant shoulder pain that has more-or-less disqualified him from The Great Reds Infielder Derby that remains ongoing. He won’t stick around Daytona for long as this is just a rehab assignment, but after being outrighted off the 40-man roster and passing through waivers unclaimed, I bet it makes him feel awful low all the same. Chin up, fella. Go get ‘em.