With roughly 2/3rds of all votes cast overnight, Cam Collier has been named as the #3 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system in this, the 2023 Red Reporter Community Prospect Rankings. Congrats, Cam!
It’s rare that a player who just turned 18 years old two months ago gets this kind of dap, especially when a hitter and not a pitcher, but that’s a testament to just how advanced Collier is already. His decision to graduate high school early, move to JUCO, hit with wooden bats in the Cape Cod League, and not just hold his own, but truly flourish is indicative of the kind of fuel he’s got for the game of baseball.
I look forward to seeing just how well he rips Florida State League pitching with the Daytona Tortugas to begin the 2023 season, and for all he’s got in store thereafter.
On to voting for spot #4!
Edwin Arroyo, SS - 19 years old
2022 at a glance: .293/.366/.480 with 14 HR, 27 SB in 528 PA split between Daytona Tortugas (Class-A Florida League), Modesto Nuts (Class-A California League), and the Reds Arizona Complex League
Pros: Prototypical shortstop defense with good arm, range, and glovework; wiry athleticism; line-drive power with potential for more from the switch-hitter
Cons: Struggled in Reds system play post-trade (.227/.303/.381 in 109 PA with Daytona); 28.4% K% while with Daytona
If you looked closely at the Reds incredibly deep options at the shortstop position, it’s Arroyo who would, defensively, catch you eye most and have you muttering ‘that’s a shortstop.’ He’s a natural there, with fluid movement, good instincts, quick glovework, and a potent arm, all of which looks like it will translate well.
Offensively, he stood out tremendously while with Seattle and, as Doug Gray noted at Reds Minor Leagues, that wasn’t purely due to the league’s notorious offensive environment - his home park in Modesto was actually hell on power hitters! It’s what we saw from him in Daytona post-trade that has us wanting to see more before truly anointing him, however, as there was much more swing and miss there than anyone had hoped to see.
That said, he was over 3 years younger than average there as just an 18 year old, and the sky is still very much the limit for the former 2nd round pick.
Brandon Williamson, LHP - 25 years old
2022 at a glance: 4.11 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 1.56 FIP in 122.2 IP split between Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League) and Louisville Bats (AAA International League)
Pros: Four-pitch mix with deceptive fastball that works well up in the zone to 96 mph; lanky lefty delivery; sweeping 12-6 curveball
Cons: Lost command in a bad, bad way in 2022, with walks an issue as he failed to find the strike zone with consistency
The most visible piece of the deal that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to the Seattle Mariners, Williamson comes with all the tools in the world. He’s a 6’6” lefty who was teammates at TCU with Nick Lodolo and, if you squint, there are plenty of comps between the two.
While Nick is already excelling in the bigs, however, Williamson is in need of refining his delivery and command, as that’s what has held him back so far. If he gets it back, though, he’s got all the makings of an impact starter for the Reds as soon as this year, and is the most ready-made big league arm in the system at the moment.
Matt McLain, SS - 23 years old
2022 at a glance: .232/.363/.453 with 17 HR, 27 SB in 452 PA with Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League)
Pros: Natural defender with good instincts, and enough athleticism to stick at short for now; solid hit tool with more gap power than outright; advanced approach at the plate
Cons: Tools and performance didn’t exactly line up in 2022; posted just a .697 OPS in Arizona Fall League showcase
Matt McLain came to the Reds as a 1st round pick out of UCLA, and did so with the reputation of a pretty well-formed product: good hitting, advanced approach at the plate with good strikezone recognition, doubles power, and polished defense. That was all on display in his brief 2021 stint with High-A Dayton, and the stage was set for him to move quickly from there.
2022 was different, however. Not bad, per se - he walked 70 times in 103 games and showed much more pop than many expected with 17 HR - just different. He seemed to abandon some things in search for more pop, and hit just .232 with 127 K in that time - a K-rate spike of nearly a full 8%.
With it, I think he gave a lot of folks the uncertain thought of wait a second...who is the real Matt McLain? For someone who’d been such a purported ‘known quantity’ for so long, that’s tough for many to digest, hence why he’s in a bit of prospect-ranking limbo. How he turns the corner in a 2023 season that will begin with AAA Louisville will shed a ton of light on what the Reds really have in him.
Chase Petty, RHP - 20 years old
2022 at a glance: 3.48 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.17 FIP in 98.1 IP split between Daytona Tortugas (Class-A Florida State League) and Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League)
Pros: Rare combo of fastball that flirts with triple-digits and the ability to still hit the strike zone; developing slider with potential to be a devastating secondary offering
Cons: Third pitch (changeup) needs improvement; ‘max-effort’ delivery potential might limit his workload
Petty, the prize of the deal that sent Sonny Gray to Minnesota, was a 1st round pick of the Twins back in 2021 and has the talent to warrant it, in hindsight. He topped out at 102 mph in high school with his heater, and while he has scaled that back a bit as a professional the arm talent is clearly there.
On top of that, the impressive overall first season he produced in the Reds system came as a 19 year old, and while in High-A Dayton for the final third of the season he was over 4 years younger than the average player in the league. Clearly, the Reds trust his stuff, and while he’ll need a better third offering to truly convince us he’ll be able to stick it out as a starter long-term, the idea that he’ll be able to further refine that pitch given time is absolutely there. Honestly, his proximity to the big leagues - 2025 is likely the earliest we’ll see him - is the only thing that’s denting his overall status, in my mind.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B/1B - 23 years old
2022 at a glance: .304/.368/.587 with 32 HR, 114 RBI, 31 2B in 538 PA split between Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League), Wichita Wind Surge (AA Texas League), and Cedar Rapids Kernels (High-A Midwest League)
Pros: Power, and plenty of it, though he’s got contact ability as well (.317 average in his professional career, to date)
Cons: Glovework is not his strong suit, though it’s getting better; 137 K in those 538 PA this year (25.7% K-rate in 148 PA after coming to the Reds)
Despite being a respectable 4th round pick out of Oklahoma State University and hitting a potent .391/.424/.598 in 92 PA in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League in 2021, CES didn’t even get a spot in the Top 40 prospects within the Twins system by FanGraphs prior to the start of the 2022 season, only earning mention in the ‘Other Prospects of Note’ section as a guy with ‘plus power and approach-drive strikeout issues.’
It’s pretty safe to say he’d be higher on that list right now through the benefit of hindsight, though he’s obviously no longer a Minnesota Twin - he came to the Reds as part of the deal that sent Tyler Mahle north. Instead, he’s in the mix here as a potential Top 5 prospect in the stacked Reds system, his bat doing nothing but crushing minor league pitching every chance he gets, his ‘prospect pedigree’ be damned.
While he’s got a chance to stick at 3B with his glove, there’s a pretty clear path in a post-Votto world for work at 1B within the Reds organization, and he’s atop the depth chart there right now. If his bat continues to smoke AA pitching to start 2023, he could even be in the mix for his first big league call-up this season. Dingers do that, folks!
Who is the #4 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
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