The track record, lately, of the Cincinnati Reds developing international prospects into star-caliber big leaguers is not good. Aside from adding established stars out of the top league in Cuba, the Reds have struggled to see their invested dollars overseas turn into WAR at the big league level - and not all of those signings have panned out, either.
The hope around these parts is that Ricardo Cabrera, signed out of Venezuela with impressive gap to gap hitting ability and a glove that sticks at shortstop, will begin to change those impressions. There’s a ton of talent there, and he’s still incredibly young, and the 19 year old will finally get his opportunity to show what he’s got in full-season ball in the states in 2023.
On to the voting for spot #16!
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.
Jay Allen II, OF - 20 years old
2022 at a glance: .225/.347/.324 with 3 HR, 43 SB in 383 PA split between Daytona Tortugas (Class-A Florida State League) and Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League)
Pros: 13.4% walk rate with Daytona; elite base-stealer (43 SB in just 91 total games); ability to play CF
Cons: Lack of pop
Allen hit the ground running in 2021 after being selected by the Reds with the 30th overall pick in that year’s draft, slugging .557 with a .440 OBP in a small-sample of work with the ACL Reds. While the walking ability stuck around in his first trip through full-season ball in 2022, however, the punch in his bat completely dried up.
Thing is, his power reportedly exists - it’s just that he had a difficult time putting that to work in-game during 2022. The hope is that since the bulk of his efforts last year came in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, we might get the chance to see it play a bit more as he advances. That’s the hope, at least.
Of course, it’s extremely worth noting that Allen was just 19 years old during his 2022 season, much, much younger than the averages in the leagues in which he plied his trade. There’s still a ton of time for him to figure out how to put his power into play in-game, even if it comes at a development rate that’s a bit less aggressive than the one the Reds put him on during last season. The tools there, after all, are aplenty.
Rece Hinds, OF - 22 years old
2022 at a glance: .233/.304/.428 with 12 HR, 15 SB in 322 PA split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League) and Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League
Pros: Power. Power. The kind of power that needed to be said twice and emboldened. His exit velocities are some of the best in all of baseball at any level. He’s also got plenty of arm to profile as a pretty prototypical RF.
Cons: An alarming amount of swing and miss, as he struck out at a 38.8% clip during the 2022 season. Perhaps I should have emboldened that, too.
Hinds, the 2nd round pick of the Reds from back in 2019, is the kind of slugger you can simply marvel at in the right circumstances. Batting practice, for instance, or when you see a highlight video - he owns the kinds of ‘peaks’ in his game that would stand out among any crowd of players, big leaguers included.
It’s that upside and promise that has him continually ranked among the best prospects in the system despite his flaws, as he has the kind of talents no coach can teach. It’ll come down to whether or not those flaws can be coached out of his game, however, and making enough contact will be first among those. As things stand right now, he chases far too many pitches, and working that out of his game without completely overhauling his approach at the expense of his power will be the task at hand for the coaches with AA Chattanooga to begin 2023.
Rece just turned 22 in September, so there’s still ample time for him to figure it out. If he does, I fear for 3Bs across the league when he starts turning on inside pitches and launching them at 120 mph.
Lyon Richardson, RHP - 23 years old
2022 at a glance: Richardson missed all of the 2022 regular season while recovering from Tommy John surgery
Pros: A fastball that reaches the upper 90s with a slider/curve/change secondary mix
Cons: Has he ever really been healthy as a pro?
Here’s a way I made myself feel old: despite it seeming like I’ve written about Lyon Richardson forever, he was born in January of 2000. He’s still barely 23 years old.
The former 2nd round pick has thrown a grand total of 76 IP since the end of the 2019 season, however, with Covid first shutting things down for him before a 2021 season with decreased velocity eventually revealed the need for Tommy John surgery. That knifing left him on the sidelines for all of 2022, though as Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs noted, Richardson returned for instructional league play at the end of 2022 with velocity that was better than it’s ever been before.
Richardson checked in 21st on last year’s list, doing so before the influx of lots of other talented arms, but if he’s a) truly back and b) perhaps better than ever, that’s a large amount of arm talent in a guy on whom the Reds have been very, very high for quite some time. Ranking him here is by no means because of what he’s done on the diamond of late, but on what the renewed, healthy version of him might well begin to do when pitchers and catchers report in just a couple of weeks.
Victor Acosta, SS - 19 years old
2022 at a glance: .237/.348/.360 with 2 HR in 165 PA in Arizona Complex League (ACL) play split between the Cincinnati Reds organization and San Diego Padres organization
Pros: Solid walk rates, rangy infielder with plus run and plus glove ability, plus arm, developing switch-hitter
Cons: Production took a significant step back from his 2021 work in the Dominican Summer League
Victor Acosta went from being a prized signing of the Padres during the 2021 international signing period to the player sent to the Reds in exchange for Brandon Drury’s breakout last summer. It was something of a high price to pay for the Padres given Drury’s longer track record, but they were clearly in ‘win now’ mode last year and made the move.
For the Reds, it adds a piece that’s still very far off, but who has shown glimpses of being an infield stalwart for years to come. The glove is still very much ahead of the bat, but Acosta has shown acumen to suggest he’ll end up a switch-hitter with good plate recognition in due course. That he won’t turn 19 years old until this summer is both a good thing in terms of ignoring his current iffy stats and also in terms of setting your expectations for far, far down the road.
Plenty of tools possessed, plenty of patience needed.
Who is the #16 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
This poll is closed
Jay Allen II