There’s something about 44 inning scoreless streaks that makes the spotlight on a pitching prospect just a little bit brighter. Such was the case with Graham Ashcraft of the Cincinnati Reds during the 2021 season, and his rise from High-A Dayton into AA Chattanooga allowed him to show just how much his heavy heater and groundball prowess looks to be an excellent fit at the big league level as soon as 2022.
It was also good enough for him to eek out the victory in the voting for the #5 spot in the 2022 Red Reporter Community Prospect Rankings, folks. Congrats to Graham, and on to voting for spot #6!
Jay Allen - OF (19 years old)
2021 at a glance: .328/.440/.557 in 75 PA with AZL Reds (Rookie League)
Pros: Standout athlete played three sports in high school, with college offers for both football and baseball on the table
Cons: Some swing and miss with his approach, still quite raw
Jay Allen and Elly De La Cruz.
Elly De La Cruz and Jay Allen.
There’s both a very intriguing similarity between the two youngest members of this particular CPR ranking round and an ability to dream on just what could be for the Reds if both manage to materialize at anywhere near their particular ceilings.
The Reds swung big to land Allen with their comp pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, taking the John Carroll HS OF with the 30th overall pick. It was a pick based very much on long-term upside, however, as they spent the requisite amount necessary to ink him when he had college options in varying sports on the table, too.
Allen offers a power/speed combo that profiles as the almost ideal CF of the future should things all play perfectly, though a move to RF at any point might also be both more realistic and still a feasible path to the bigs in short order. Honestly, he’s a legit five-tool prospect who could shape the Reds OF of the future in his own likeness, and while we’ve only just glimpsed his pro career to date, buy some tickets for Dayton games this summer to watch him dazzle.
Christian Roa - RHP (22 years old)
2021 at a glance: 3.53 ERA in 58.2 IP split between ACL Reds (Arizona Rookie League), Daytona Tortugas (Low-A Southeast League), and Dayton Dragons (High-A Central League); 67/26 K/BB
Pros: Fastball up to 98 mph, impressive four-pitch mix, primary fastball/slider combo features two plus pitches
Cons: Injuries have kept him something of a mystery
The 2nd round pick of the Cincinnati Reds back in 2020, Roa paired with Royals 1st rounder Asa Lacy as the backbone of Texas A&M’s rotation up until the pandemic shut down their promising 2020 season. Of course, said 2020 shutdown included the minors, too, so we didn’t get to see him on display for the rest of that season, either.
Since then, Roa has battled through a flexor mass strain in his right (throwing) arm as well as a hernia, and as a result will turn 23 years old in early April with just 78.2 total IP between college and the pros since the start of the 2019 season. It’s hard to truly know what to make of a pitcher with such limited exposure, but what we do know with that limited sample is that he truly can miss bats with an arsenal varied enough to project as a big league starter.
It’s the fastball/slider pairing that’s truly his hallmark, though a developing curve and change appear good enough to keep hitters honest, too. His 6’4” frame also fits the classic mold of a durable starter, at least in an archetypal sense that’s prompting me to continue typing until this section looks as long as the other candidates here.
A mystery, yes, but one with loads of promise.
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.
Rece Hinds, 3B (21 years old)
2021 at a glance: .259/.332/.542 in 226 PA at ACL Reds (Arizona Rookie League) and Daytona Tortugas (Low-A Southeast League)
Pros: Incredible power, absolutely mashes the ball when he makes contact, strong arm, decent runner.
Cons: Has struggled to stay healthy early on, struggles with off-speed pitches, swings and misses a lot (28% strikeout rate with Daytona).
The Reds took Rece Hinds in the second round of the 2019 amateur draft. Built with some incredible raw power, the Reds were unfortunately unable to see that put to use as he sustained a season ending injury just three games into his minor league career. After a 2020 season in the instructional leagues, Hinds came back and showed some improvements as a hitter. He showed that he’s already able to use his power, mashing 22 extra-base hits, including 10 home runs. He still leaves a bit to be desired elsewhere at the plate, as he still struggles to make consistent contact and swings and misses a lot.
Defensively, it’s still hard to figure out if he will stay in the infield or move to one of the corner outfield positions. He has a strong arm but his defense is one of his worst tools. He has also struggled to stay healthy, as he missed about 8 weeks with a torn meniscus in 2021 to go with the quad injury he sustained in 2019. Hopefully he gets a full, consistent season in 2022 to make the improvements at the plate that the Reds are hoping to see.
Who is the #6 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
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