For as enjoyable as it is to cruise through these rankings and marvel at the talent the Cincinnati Reds have assembled on their farm, it’s certainly a vibe-check to realize we’ve reached spot #8 on the list before finally getting to a player projected to break camp with the big league club after spring training.
Being a bad club at the big league level while also having to wait another season for much of the upcoming talent is a tough, tough spot in which to be. Hopefully, Spencer Steer is part of the first wave to stem that tide, and he checks in 8th on this year’s Red Reporter Community Prospect Rankings.
Steer’s versatility is one of his calling cards, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that he just might have enough skill to claim one position outright with a solid showing early in 2023. All signs point towards him getting the chance to be the team’s everyday 3B, and if more of his minor league numbers translate in the upcoming season than did in his 108 PA cameo last year, that might be just fine.
On to the voting for spot #9!
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.
Connor Phillips, RHP - 22 years old
2022 at a glance: 3.78 ERA, 12.3 K/9, 5.4 BB/9, 1.17 WHIP in 109.2 IP split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League) and Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League)
Pros: Elite stuff, Trackman darling; Swing and miss stuff with three-pitch mix
Cons: Control issues, especially once he reached AA
The late-announced piece that made the trade of Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to Seattle slightly more palatable, Phillips certainly is the exact kind of arm that makes teams invest in pitching coaches. Arms like his simply don’t come along super often, but carving his precision down to being measured in centimeters instead of meters seems to be the work in progress.
His fastball can touch 98 mph, he’s got a big bender of a curve that’ll freeze anyone on its day, and a slider that’ll tempt even the best hitters to swing over it and out of their shoes. Of course, there are also days where it’s obvious early that he’s missing his spots, at which point opposing hitters know to simply take their pitches and eventually first base.
Keep in mind that Phillips just turned 21 years old a month into the 2022 season, and after switching organizations and earning a promotion to AA Chattanooga was nearly 3.5 years younger than the average batter he faced there. The hope is that the Reds and their pitching gurus can harness his ability, and if so they’ll have a gem of a pitcher for the future of their rotation.
Sal Stewart, 3B - 19 years old
2022 at a glance: .292/.393/.458 in 28 PA with the Reds Arizona Complex League (ACL); drafted 32nd overall by the Reds in the 2022 MLB Draft
Pros: Advanced RH bat with plenty of power projected; good arm at 3B
Cons: Might end up a bit too big and lumbering to stick at 3B
Cincinnati Reds pitching guru Derek Johnson spent a ton of time working as the pitching coach for Vanderbilt under head coach Tim Corbin, who’s still running the show there today. The work there by the two turned the program into a perennial national title contender and formed bonds between Johnson and many of his players - many of whom have swung through Cincinnati since Johnson joined the Reds with success in varying roles. Sonny Gray has pitched at an All Star level, Curt Casali has been here for two stints now, and Caleb Cotham rose through the coaching ranks to land the Phillies pitching coach job, for instance.
So, when the Reds drafted Sal Stewart 32nd overall last summer and gave him enough money to forgo his commitment to play at Vandy, I’m guessing there was a good bit of information exchanged on the kid. That his reputation as perhaps the best HS bat out there preceded him was obvious; I’m simply hypothesizing that the Reds leveraged that kind of relationship to know as much as they could about Stewart, and that all they heard was positive, positive, positive.
That makes his skillset of being big with both plus pop and contact ability incredibly intriguing, even if defense isn’t his calling card. The bat, folks, will make him move through the ranks incredibly fast, beginning in Daytona this spring.
Andrew Abbott, LHP - 24 years old
2022 at a glance: 3.81 ERA, 12.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.25 WHIP in 118.0 IP split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League) and Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League)
Pros: Pounds strike zone; deceptive delivery on mid-90s fastball; plus curve
Cons: Still working on a changeup as a third pitch; struggled when he reached AA
The Andrew Abbott that toed the rubber for five games in Dayton last season was positively untouchable. In 27.0 IP at High-A, he allowed only 16 hits and 7 walks, his 0.85 WHIP nearly matching his absurd 0.67 ERA. That’s right, he allowed a grand total of 2 ER in those 27.0 IP, and promptly earned a promotion to AA Chattanooga.
That’s where things went a bit awry.
On the whole, he pitched to just a 4.75 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 91.0 IP at the higher level, his walk rate nearly doubling from his Dayton days while seeing a slight dip in his K-rate, too. A big chunk of that came in a four-start stretch in late June, however, when he was barraged for 20 ER in just 14.2 IP - in his 10 starts after that to finish the year, he pitched to a 3.38 ERA. That included a trio of starts to actually wrap his season in which he didn’t allow a single earned run, showing that he certainly began to figure out how to dominate again at that level while also finishing the year on a high-note, a good sign for a potential starter down the road.
Given what he showed at his best during 2022 and the Reds lack of investment into their big league rotation, I’m still of the opinion that we’ll see Abbott make his big league debut this summer. The only question will be if it’s due to attrition ahead of him on the depth chart or because he simply continues to pitch too well to keep down any longer.
Carlos Jorge, 2B/SS - 19 years old
2022 at a glance: .261/.405/.529 in 154 PA with the Reds Arizona Complex League (ACL)
Pros: “bodybuilder’s physique,’ per FanGraphs; power driven by athleticism despite short build; good walk rate
Cons: Some swing and miss issues; lack of true defensive position at this point
After ripping his way through the Dominican Summer League in 2021, Jorge kept right on mashing in Goodyear in 2022, too. He has coaxed 49 walks through his first 342 PA as a pro in the Reds system, though his K-rate did spike to 26.6% there last season. If he can corral that, though, he’s got the kind of hit tool that could carry him to the bigs.
Of course, where he’ll play might be the issue. There are some worries that his lack of defensive prowess could see him moved to a corner outfield spot, and given his stature (listed at 5’9”, likely shorter than that) that draws into question whether he can pack enough pop to be an effective force there. For now, though, his power looks like it should hopefully continue to play, though he’ll face a stout test in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League for his next stop in Daytona.
Who is the #9 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
This poll is closed