If lanky 6’6” left-handers from Texas Christian University are the new market inefficiency, well, the Cincinnati Reds have the upper hand on their rivals in that new normal. After watching Nick Lodolo put up a 2.8 bWAR season in barely 100 IP in 2022, the Reds are counting on him to help anchor the pitching staff as they emerge from their most recent rebuild, and the hope is that his former TCU teammate - Brandon Williamson - will help lead that charge as soon as this year.
Acquired from Seattle in the deal that sent Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker west, Williamson sputtered a bit in his first year in the Cincinnati system. The tools are all still there, however, provided he finds a way to hammer the zone more often than he did in 2022. The moment he does so, he’ll likely find himself on the other end of a call from the Reds front office telling him he’s getting a chance to start in the big leagues, especially given the team’s lack of investment in proven spots at that level all winter.
On to the voting for spot #10 on the list!
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.
Ricardo Cabrera, SS - 18 years old
2022 at a glance: .253/.363/.380 in 180 PA with the Dominican Summer League Reds
Pros: Chance to be a five-tool player, plus contact skills, emerging power, ability to stick at shortstop
Cons: He just turned 18 years old, and we’ve not seen him play in the states just yet
Signed for $2.7 million during last year’s international signing window, Cabrera was pretty universally considered to be one of the top players in his class. Owning the ability to use all fields with his bat and generate projectable pop already, his offense sure looked the part - and his .363 OBP in DSL play suggests he’s got a good eye at the plate, too.
Pair that with good movement on the infield, a plus glove, and a solid arm, and the Reds might have another young shortstop on their hands along with [/checks notes] the other 27 talented young shortstops on their hands.
Of course, we’re still a ways away from finding out just how projectable any of this is in the states, as he’s yet to even tackle Arizona Complex League play. There’s the chance he could skip that and head straight to Daytona in the Florida State League, of course, but I’d wager that’ll be more a late-2022 target than one to look for in April. Once he gets that platform to further show us how he stacks up against his peers, however, there are a good number of scouts to expect him to excel there quickly.
Who is the #10 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
This poll is closed