With the departure of Nick Castellanos to free agency and the status of Nick Senzel seemingly always in question, it goes without saying that TJ Friedl would have a big league roster spot if the Cincinnati Reds season began today. Hell, he might have a starting spot, especially if the presumptive addition of the Designated Hitter to National League play took Jesse Winker out of the outfield.
Friedl doesn’t often dazzle, but he’s quite good at the things he’s good at, if that makes any sort of sense. There’s value in predictability and dependability, too, and that’s what has helped him reached the majors and put him in precisely the roster position I just described. And for that, he was tabbed the #16 prospect in the 2022 Community Prospect Rankings.
On to spot #17!
Lyon Richardson - RHP (22 years old)
2021 at a glance: 5.09 ERA in 76.0 innings for the Dayton Dragons (High-A Central League); 91/38 K/BB.
Pros: Mid-90’s fastball, average slider and curve ball that he can throw for strikes when he’s on.
Cons: Velocity has never hit the reported 98 MPH that he threw in high school at the professional level. Has struggled to get batters out in the minors.
Things have been pretty difficult for Lyon Richardson since the Reds took him in the second round of the 2018 draft. He was an athletic, two-way player committed to the University of Florida when the Reds paid over slot value to get him. Mainly known as an outfielder, he was relatively new to pitching when he was drafted and his upper-90’s fastball really impressed scouts. Unfortunately that raw talent hasn’t translated at the professional level.
Richardson has a career 4.88 ERA in three minor league seasons since getting drafted back in 2018. There were some signs of improvement last season, but he still struggled mightily with his command, walking 4.50 batters per 9 innings in 2021. He did improve his strikeout totals, fanning nearly 11 batters per 9 last season, so the stuff is there when he’s on. Hopefully another full season on the mound will help things start to materialize for Richardson in 2022.
Ivan Johnson - SS/2B (23 years old)
2021 at a glance: .264/.367/.451 with 10 HR and 19 2B in 330 PA split between Daytona Tortugas (Low-A Southeast League) and Dayton Dragons (High-A Central League).
Pros: Decent hit tool from both sides of the plate and has some raw power. Defense plays well at both shortstop and second base.
Cons: Strikeout rate of 28% in Daytona and 34% in Dayton after showing a strong ability to make contact in Greeneville.
Ivan Johnson is a 23 year-old switch-hitting infielder who the Reds drafted in the 4th round of the 2019 draft out of Chipola Junior College. After a solid season in 2019, he had to play in the instructional league during the canceled 2020 season. While he showed some upside at the plate with his power and ability to draw a walk, he also struck out a ton. He struck out 100 times in 330 PA (30.3%), up from a K% of 22% in 2019.
Johnson definitely has some upside at the plate, as well. He showed off some decent power numbers, mashing 10 dingers and hitting 19 doubles in those 330 PA. He hits slightly better from the left side, hitting .274/.362/.471 from the left side while hitting .230/.382/.377 from the right side. Interestingly, he put up a BB% of 18.4% from the right side against a 10.8% BB% from the left. He’s an average defender with an arm that can play at both positions, but his range is a little questionable so he may end up at second base in the long term.
Michael Siani - CF (22 years old)
2021 at a glance: .216/.321/.327 with 30 SB in 408 PA with Dayton Dragons (High-A Central League); .300/.451/.450 with 10 SB in 51 PA with Surprise Saguaros (Arizona Fall League)
Pros: Elite CF defense, with both the glove and arm to show for it alongside his plus range, elite baserunning
Cons: Lack of power, with contact skills having faltered during a rough 2021 season
Tampa Bay Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier has been valued at 9.9 bWAR since the start of the 2018 MLB season, in which time he’s hit just .232/.298/.384 in nearly 1400 PA. That’s what being a completely elite defensive CF can hide and provide for a big league club, something that Mike Siani has been at every stop so far in his professional career.
So, there’s still some hope there, even if Cincinnati Reds fans already went through the Billy Hamilton years constantly wishing there was just a little bit more there, too.
Siani’s going to need a bounce-back year in 2022 to convince me, and pretty much anyone else that he’s got the ability to bust the mold he’s set in right now and truly take his talents to another echelon, but the fact remains that he’s got a pair of elite skills right now that will probably continue to put him on the radar for big league work down the line. Teams will always desire situational defenders and baserunners, and he’s already put himself in position to be one of those if nothing else.
Jared Solomon - SP (24 years old)
2021 at a glance: Same as his 2020 at a glance, which is to say...nothing. Solomon missed all of 2021 after a lack of a 2020 MiLB season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery
Pros: High-spin fastball that runs up to 99 mph, plus slider
Cons: The injury, obviously, and that he’s not pitched in a game since 2019; questionable change-up puts his ability to stick as a starter in question, as does control
Solomon yielded just 5 HR in over 115 IP during the 2019 season, the last season in which he posted any sort of stats for us to break down. It was a season that mixed in early struggles with command, some brilliance in the middle, and some shoulder issues he managed to pitch through while progressing from (then) Low-A Dayton to (then) High-A Daytona. On top of that, his ability to spin the ball was highlighted specifically during the early days of the Driveline revolution around Spincinnati, and it looked like he was precisely the kind of in-house prospect the new pitching gurus would perfectly mold.
The unfortunate followed, of course, and Tommy John surgery was then required, meaning we’ve not seen him since those 115.1 IP of 3.98 ERA, 8.7 K/9 ball. Still, there was enough that Solomon showed to prompt the Reds to add him to their 40-man roster last winter and keep him away from any would-be Rule 5 Draft selection, and it’s clear they think his upside is still pretty damn promising. Not bad for a former 11th round draftee out of Lackawanna College (PA).
Which Cincinnati Reds prospect is deserving of the #17 spot in this year’s Community Prospect Rankings?
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