With April 2019 now officially in the books, let’s take a look at which prospects in the Cincinnati Reds system turned in some stellar performances in the opening month of the season...as well as which farmhands have slogged through the most atrocious month statistically.
Who’s Hot - Hitters
Josh VanMeter - IF, Louisville Bats (AAA)
It’s almost impossible to overstate what a dominant month VanMeter just turned in. While getting reps at each of 1B, 2B, 3B, and DH, the 24 year old Indiana native clubbed 11 homers and drove in 28 runs in just 26 games in April, hitting an absurd .358/.446/.758 across 113 PA. To show just how ridiculous - and unexpected - that power surge was, that .758 slugging percentage is higher than his career .737 minor league OPS in a sample over 2400 PA large.
Ibandel Isabel - 1B, Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
The towering Isabel swings, swings hard, and swings often, and when he actually makes contact, ball go far. Ball go really, really far. Isabel swatted 7 homers in April, which sits atop the Southern League dingerboard to date, and his .573 slugging percentage ranks as the second highest in the league. He still has major contact issues - his 38 strikeouts also lead the league in his 22 games played - but there’s no denying that his power is otherworldly relative to his peers and the rest of the Reds system.
Taylor Trammell - OF, Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
The hope is that Trammell develops into the Reds leadoff man of the future (or near present, really), and so far his 2019 season has shown precisely why that hope is realistic. The speedy OF hit a robust .292/.416/.431 in 89 PA in the month of April, that OBP the best in all the Southern League in that time. A trio of dingers, 15 walks, and 4 steals were also mixed in to that production, highlighting just how many ways the toolsy 21 year old can impact games. It is interesting to note, though, that he played each and every game as a LF in April considering there are many out there who still hope he ends up as a capable CF for the Reds at the big league level.
Who’s Hot - Pitchers
Packy Naughton - LHP, Daytona Tortugas (A+)
The 23 year old Virginia Tech product had a stellar April, fanning 30 against just 4 walks in 27.2 IP across 5 starts, the 9 ER he yielded in that time making for a tidy 2.93 ERA. The lefty usually sits in the low 90s with his fastball, but it’s his ability to locate within the zone that makes him as effective as he’s been thusfar. Considering that he’s already 23 years old - just slightly above average for Florida State League play - and that there isn’t exactly a glut of starters above him at AA, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get a mid-year call-up if he continues at this rate.
Ryan Hendrix - RHP, Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
Speaking of guys who might get a quick call-up, the 24 year old Hendrix may well be one, too. The Texas A&M product has been nails in relief to date, firing 10.1 IP across 8 games and not allowing a single earned run to score yet. He fanned 15 in that span against 5 walks, and that’s on the heels of 51.0 IP of 1.76 ERA ball last year for Daytona. That kind of production paired with big league caliber stuff - his fastball can touch 99 mph - makes you think he could earn a ticket to Louisville at some point quite soon.
Who’s Not - Hitters
Mike Siani - CF, Dayton Dragons (A)
The Reds doled out 1st round money to 4th round pick Mike Siani last summer, knowing that the elite high school prospect was going to be pricey in order to keep him from attending college. Known already as a top-tier OF defender, Siani’s bat showed up early last year, too, hitting .288/.351/.386 as one of the youngest players in the Appy League. So far, 2019 has been a disaster offensively, however, as the 19 year old has looked rather overmatched in Class A play. He hit just .163/.280/.188 across 94 PA in April with just one extra-base hit (a triple), though his 11 walks and 8 steals show there’s still plenty of promise there. Hopefully, his woeful .232 BABIP will normalize soon.
Stuart Fairchild - OF, Daytona Tortugas (A+)
Perhaps the player immediately ahead of Siani on the farm’s CF depth chart is Fairchild, though the Wake Forest product is having an even more miserable season to date. He’s recently been dealing with a bum hamstring, but even before that popped up his 2019 had fallen totally flat at the start. In 59 PA in April, he picked up just 7 hits, leading to a miserable .130/.203/.167 line to date. Unlike Siani, though, even his base stealing has vanished, as he’s yet to even attempt to swipe a bag yet this year. Considering Fairchild is back in A+ after struggling to a .656 OPS there last year in 242 PA, the hope was that he’d start quick there this spring before motoring up to AA, but that seems a world away at this point.
Hendrik Clementina - C, Daytona Tortugas (A+
Clementina’s big 2018 season saw him rocket up prospect lists, and rightfully so. The 21 year old slugged .497 in A-ball last year with 18 dingers, which led to him landing at #17 in our own Community Prospect Rankings earlier this year. That has not translated at all in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, unfortunately, as he’s socked just a lone homer as part of his woeful .186/.213/.288 line in 61 PA. Obviously, there are still high hopes for the former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect, but he’ll have to heat up quick to show that 2018 was more than a fluke.
Who’s Not - Pitchers
Vlad Gutierrez - RHP, Louisville Bats (AAA)
You may have noticed that the Who’s Hot - Pitchers section only had two players while the rest have had three. That was on purpose, unfortunately, since so far the collective pitching on the farm has been a butt sandwich. Gutierrez certainly falls into that group, as his first foray into AAA work has been brutal to date. He was tagged for 19 ER in his 21.0 IP, and owns a brutal 14/11 K/BB in that time, too. If there’s a lone consolation, it’s that he’s only allowed a .407 slugging percentage so far with just one homer yielded, so perhaps he’s just been getting some awful, awful luck, but nothing else about those numbers looks anything close to good.
Scott Moss - LHP, Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
Moss’s 6.35 ERA in April was actually worsted by four of his Lookouts teammates, but none of those four entered 2019 as the #11 prospect in our RR CPR. Moss, to his credit, has backed up his solid 2018 season with a flurry of strikeouts, fanning 25 in 17.0 IP for an impressive 13.2 K/9, well up from the 7.6 K/9 he posted last year with Daytona. Unfortunately, he’s walked 17 in those 17.0 IP, too, and that paired with 15 hits and 3 dingers surrendered has undone him so far. Hopefully, the K numbers are indicative that he’s still got the kind of stuff to make hitters look silly again.
Lyon Richardson - RHP, Dayton Dragons (A)
Richardson was born in the year 2000, which almost hurts to type. The 19 year old was the Reds 2nd round pick in last summer’s draft, and obviously has a ton of potential. That potential, though, has gotten hit in every which way possible so far in 2019, as the righty has been tagged for 24 hits already in just 15.1 IP. A lot of those have come around to score, too, as his 5.87 ERA to date shows, too. His 16/5 K/BB in those innings suggests that he’s still got plus stuff, but he certainly hasn’t been fooling too many hitters in the early going.
Sal Romano - RHP, Louisville Bats (AAA)
It’s been a rather rapid fall for Sal, unfortunately. He opened the 2018 season in the Cincinnati Reds rotation, allowing 3 ER in 6 IP on April 1st against the Washington Nationals, and even held on to his spot there until mid-August despite an ERA in the mid 5.00’s. His final 13 appearances of 2018 all came in relief, though, and that’s the role he was again tasked with filling this spring, with results that were bad enough to not make the active roster at all. So far, his dealings back in AAA have been just as rough, as he’s allowed more than a hit per inning to go along with 10 ER in just 13.1 total IP. That’s a 6.75 ERA, which is bad, but ERA isn’t always the best way to look at relievers in small samples since one bad outing can skew things terribly. So, a slightly deeper dive with Sal shows that nope, that’s not the case, and that he’s allowed multiple runs already in 4 appearances. Dang. Hopefully, he can turn it around, since he’s obviously still a solid depth piece for the bullpen should someone ahead of him falter, or should he begin to slice eyeballs once again.