While the Reds’ 2019 third-round pick just missed the top 10 of our prospect rankings, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to be excited about for the youngster. He was considered to be one of the better all-around high school bats in his draft class and held his own against mostly college competition in Greeneville. Hopefully we can get an even better look at him in 2021.
Ivan Johnson, SS/2B, 22
Where he spent 2020: Alternate site/instructs
What excites you: His offense. Has a little power in the bat and showed a willingness to walk in his first stint.
What concerns you: His hit tool a bit and ability to stick at SS, though scouts seem to think he’ll stick there.
Here we go with another guy the Reds drafted in that 2019 draft, which seems so far to be one that scouts liked. Ivan Johnson was taken with a 4th round pick out of Junior College after initially plying his trade at the University of Georgia. In his first stint in pro ball, he did walk at a 8.5% clip and had a .160 ISO but was also playing against some more inferior competition at Greeneville while his draftmate, Tyler Callihan, got a late season promotion to Billings. There is a tiny bit of concern about his age, 22, and not having been advanced farther than that. COVID and 2020 did not help him prove doubters wrong there.
It will be interesting to see if the Reds will try to be a bit more aggressive with these kinds of guys to see what they’re made of with the new minor league structure and the fact that they just didn’t see much live pitching, outside of whatever happened in instructs, last year. For now, Johnson appears to be relatively high-floor type guy who has mostly shown what he is.
Christian Roa, RHP, 22
Where he spent 2020: Texas A&M University
What excites you: A three-pitch mix with starting potential, a history of throwing strikes, and a big frame.
What concerns you: Fastball velocity, which was only just a tick above average, dipped a bit during SEC play in 2020.
The second member of the Reds 2020 draft class, Roa was the 48th overall selection after a brief junior season at Texas A&M that can only be described as odd. His 20.0 IP featured an ugly 14 runs allowed (13 ER), and the 9 walks he issued in that short time left his BB/9 well higher than his command-heavy numbers from previous years, but he backed that with a ridiculous 35 Ks in that time.
The velocity dip was concerning for his production then, but doesn’t appear to be anything structural or worrisome down the line. His fastball sits 93-95 when righty, with potential plus offerings in his breaking ball and changeup. It’s that three-pitch mix that has the 6’4” 220 lb Houston native an arm to watch closely in the coming years, as there’s a chance his potential paired with the ability to throw strikes could have him move quickly through the minors. Kyle Boddy, for one, spoke glowingly of this Trackman data and mechanics in an interview with FanGraphs’ David Laurila las summer, which never hurts.
Jackson Miller, C, 19
Where he spent 2020: Instructs
What excites you: His well roundedness. He can hit a little and play the position
What concerns you: No real exciting tools. He’s just an average guy.
Jackson Miller was selected by the Reds in the limited 2020 draft right out of high school in the 2nd round as a competitive balance pick, making him the highest drafted catcher by the Reds since Tyler Stephenson, I believe. The Reds did their normal business, throwing some money at this kid to get him to not go to college, giving him a cool $1.29 million. Miller is rated as being a good athlete with good plate discipline. He’s not a power guy, but as a lefty, scouting reports glow about his ability to hit the ball back up the middle.
He reminds me a bit of the reports of Tucker Barnhart coming out of high school which is a very good thing. Miller still has some work to do behind the plate but his arm grades out very well and scouts say he has some real good pop time. Unless you’re looking for a big bat from behind the dish, which usually means some kind of college development, getting a guy like Jackson in your farm system has to feel like a win for Cincinnati.
Jacob Heatherly, LHP, 22
Where he spent 2020: Instructs
What excites you: Good velocity, can generate swings and misses with curveball and slider.
What concerns you: Has struggled with command and a high walk rate in the minors.
The Reds selected Jacob Heatherly out of Cullman (AL) High School in the 3rd round of the 2017 amateur draft. He has shown pretty good velocity in his time in the Reds’ system, as he has been able to get his fastball up to 95 MPH after throwing in the low 90s in high school. His curveball and slider are also good swing and miss pitches when he is on.
After struggling in Greeneville in 2018, he started the 2019 season off in Dayton (low-A). He only made 4 starts in that season and put up a 8.31 ERA with a BB/9 of 6.23 in the process. A shoulder injury ended his season early, so that was the last we have seen of Heatherly in the last two seasons. He did, however, show his ability to strike out batters, as he put up a 11.4 and 10.4 SO/9 in 2018 and 2019. Hopefully he was able to improve his command in 2020 and can turn his young career around.
Who is your #12 prospect?
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