It’s hardly surprising that a former #2 overall draft pick with a 105 mph fastball landed as the top prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system, but it’s been an admittedly long road for Hunter Greene despite still just being a 22 year old.
A forearm strain, Tommy John surgery, and an entirely lost 2020 minor league season have been hurdles for him to clear during his early pro career, but his 2021 campaign finally gave us all a chance to see what he’s capable of when healthy. What he’s capable of, by the way, is a helluva lot, and he’s again worthy of the top prospect spot in the system.
Voters agreed in overwhelming fashion, and he’s the #1 prospect in the 2022 Community Prospect Rankings.
On to the voting for spot number two!
Elly De La Cruz - SS/3B (19 years old)
2021 at a glance: .296/.336/.538 (.874 OPS) in 265 PA split between AZL Reds (Rookie League) and Daytona Tortugas (Low-A Southeast League)
Pros: Legit five-tool upside, elite power/speed combo with chance to stick at SS, switch-hitter, plus fielder
Cons: Swing and miss concerns (31.0% K-rate at Daytona), low walk rate (4.8% at Daytona)
There were few prospects at any level in any system that had a rise up future depth charts the way that De La Cruz did last year. After a promising (yet mostly punchless) debut in 2019 as a 17 year old in the Dominican Summer League after signing for a modest $65K, his entire 2020 campaign was lost as the pandemic shut down all minor league games. When he made his debut in 2021 at the Reds Goodyear complex, though, he quickly began to turn heads with his tremendous physical skills.
He’s got an incredibly long way to go to fine-tune those skills, of course, but remains one of the best young, raw talents to come through the system in years. The Reds decision to promote him to Daytona early on in 2021 suggest they’re willing to move him quickly, though, and I fully expect him to electrify the crowds in Dayton to begin 2022 in a fashion that could even see him reach Chattanooga by year’s end, too.
(Also, his birthday is January 11th, so happy birthday, Elly!)
Nick Lodolo - LHP (23 years old)
2021 at a glance: 2.31 ERA in 50.9 IP (13 GS) split between Chattanooga Lookouts (AA South) and Louisville Bats (AAA East), 78/11 K/BB, 0.967 WHIP
Pros: Three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, change), elite control of the strike zone, unique release point with 6’6” frame
Cons: Just 69.0 total IP as a professional, blisters and shoulder fatigue shut him down in 2021
As the ‘Cons’ mention above, it feels as if we’ve rarely actually seen Lodolo despite knowing him as the club’s 1st round pick. That’s an odd backdrop considering he’s been so well regarded for so long - he was an unsigned 1st round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 2016 before opting to attend TCU for college, showing he’s been very well on the radar for many teams for 6+ years already.
That’s what happens when you’re a long, lean lefty with a 96 mph fastball and the ability to locate it, and other pitches. So despite his limited showings at all levels of the minors, he’s continued to put on display all of those traits, along with some elite-level swing and miss stuff, too.
He’ll be 24 years old in February, and all signs point to him being a big part of the Reds plans at the big league level early and often in 2022, especially given the departures in the rotation since the end of the 2021 season.
Graham Ashcraft - RHP (23 years old)
2021 at a glance: 3.00 ERA in 111 IP split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Central) and (Chattanooga Lookouts (AA South), 129/37 K/BB, 1.10 WHIP
Pros: Sinking fastball that flirts with triple digits and induces an astonishing (astonishing!) rate of groundballs
Cons: Mainly successful with just a fastball/slider, lack of third pitch
Ashcraft was a 6th round pick out of UAB in the 2019 MLB Draft, and had a debut 2019 season with Greenville of the defunct Appy League that one could pretty aptly describe as mediocre - a 1.34 WHIP and 4.53 ERA in 53.2 IP despite being a tad old for the level.
Perhaps the 2020 off-year was just what he needed, however, as he reemerged in a 2021 season that saw him rip off a tremendous 44 inning scoreless streak as he moved from High-A Dayton to AA Chattanooga. All told, he impressed across both levels enough with his ability to miss bats (10.5 K/9) and keep the ball in the park (just 4 HR allowed) to rocket up the rankings by All Those Who Rank.
If all continues to plan, he’ll reach AAA Louisville at some point in 2022, and as we all know, if you’re at AAA, you’re a snap away from reaching the big leagues, something that’s not at all out of the question to see from the 24 year old this year.
Matt McLain - SS (22 years old)
2021 at a glance: 1.013 OPS in 47 G with UCLA prior to being drafted, .283/.389/.462 in 126 PA split between AZL Reds (Rookie League) and Dayton Dragons (High-A Central)
Pros: Strike-zone recognition, high-contact, improved fielding paired with solid arm that should let him stick at SS long-term, plus speed
Cons: Average power, last name is spelled with only one ‘c’ which I screw up absolutely 100% of the time I try to write it
McLain is the latest 1st round pick by the Reds, and is also the latest 1st round pick by the Reds who was formerly a 1st round pick by someone else - this time, the Arizona Diamondbacks, who selected McLain 25th overall in 2018 only to see him choose to attend UCLA instead.
Though there are often iffy connotations when calling someone a ‘high floor’ prospect, if you ascribe to that kind of label, McLain is pretty much it. He’s a known quantity at this point, and is very good at the aspects of his game that are his focal points. He is not a power hitter now, nor will he ever truly be one, and that’s a fault that he’s managed to make moot with his ability to hit the ball gap to gap, take balls when thrown them, and make play after play at SS.
That’s got great value, of course, and the Reds will likely move him quickly through the ranks in expectation of it continuing.
Austin Hendrick - OF (20 years old)
2021 at a glance: .211/.380/.388 (.767 OPS) in 266 PA at Daytona Tortugas (Low-A Southeast League)
Pros: Patience (51 BB, 19.2% BB-rate), bat speed, how damn far he socks the baseball when he makes contact
Cons: Making contact (100 K, 37.6% K-rate)
There might, might be one other player in the entire minor league system who puts on a more impressive batting practice display than Austin Hendrick. There might not be anyone, in many eyes.
His elite bat speed and uppercut swing can produce some absolute bombs off the bat, and his plus arm strength and good enough athleticism make him pretty much the prototypical right-field prospect. Pair that with an ability to work counts and take walks, and there’s an almost endless amount about his game to dream on.
There is an alarming about of swing and miss to his game in actual games, however. Like, an almost overwhelming amount of it given he was debuting at the lowest level of the modified minor league system in 2021. Still, there was expected to be a pretty large learning curve with Hendrick when the Reds plucked him out of high school in the 1st round of the 2020 MLB Draft, and at just 20 years of age - he won’t turn 21 until June - there’s plenty of time left for him to bring the swing and miss stuff down to a more palatable level, a level that would then let his ability to coax walks in deep counts shine that much more.
Who is the #2 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
This poll is closed
Elly De La Cruz