Having a bad (read: rebuilding) big league club often dovetails with a burgeoning farm system. When veteran players are dealt away, it’s with the future in mind - cashing in trade chips that other teams want for the now while plucking the future from them in return.
It’s what the Cincinnati Reds have been up to lately, acquiring and stashing prospects with aplomb while also doing some pretty well-regarded draft work. Their efforts have landed them a pretty applauded overall farm system, too - MLB Pipeline ranked them as the 4th best overall system in the game last August, while also congratulating them on the 2nd best development during calendar year 2022.
That’s good! That’s awesome! There’s no law that says you can’t try to compete at the big league level while also stocking the farm, of course - each of the Dodgers, Orioles, and Rays have Top 10 farm rankings while also having eyes on the playoffs next fall - but it’s something, and that’s not nothing!
The time has come for our own introspection, however, as the 2023 Red Reporter Community Prospect Rankings begin today. We do the ranking. You do the ranking with your votes. Over the next four weeks, we’ll identify a plethora of qualified candidates, y’all will vote your hearts out, and the rankings will assemble themselves for all the Googles to view.
Today, voting begins on the #1 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system, with options provided in no particular order (so as to not, y’know, put too much bias into the already semi-scientific process). Poll is at the bottom of the article - don’t forget to cast your votes!
Noelvi Marte, SS/3B - 21 years old
2022 at a glance: .279/.371/.458 with 19 HR, 23 SB in 520 PA split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League) and Everett AquaSox (High-A Northwest League)
Pros: Broad-shouldered, muscular build with still-emerging power; great athlete; potential middle of the order bat with good lateral mobility, solid arm
Cons: Already growing out of the shortstop position, glove still a work in progress
One of the prizes of the deal that sent Luis Castillo to the Seattle Mariners last summer, Marte lands universally among the Top 20 overall prospects in the game by those who ply that trade. He’s added plenty of bulk in the last year and a half, and while that has likely reduced his speed and mobility a tad, it has also helped him tap into the kind of power he’s long been projected to own.
With an open stance and decent leg-kick, he’s drawn comparisons from the most optimistic of us to a young Manny Machado, a former shortstop who moved to 3B before emerging as one of the best two-way players in the game. There is still a lot that would have to improve for Marte to fully deserve that comp, but you don’t have to squint too hard to see it as at least a semi-plausible outcome.
His advanced approach shouldn’t be overlooked simply due to his power potential, either - once he landed in Dayton last summer, he posted a 13.5% BB% against a 18.5% K% showing excellent command of the zone. He’ll likely begin the year with AA Chattanooga.
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.
Cam Collier, 3B - 18 years old
2022 at a glance: .370/.514/.630 with 2 HR in 35 PA in the Reds Arizona Complex League
Pros: Excellent bat to ball skills from the left-side of the plate; excellent arm that profiles perfectly as a 3B
Cons: Cons?! Get outta here with your Cam Collier Cons!
Rafael Devers just signed a $332 million extension with the Boston Red Sox, and when you watch Cam Collier hit, the optimist in you says ‘wow, there’s a lot of Rafael Devers there!’ That’s the kind of potential that made him in the mix for the top overall pick in last summer’s draft, and is why the Reds were giddy to land him so late (and doled out an over-slot bonus to sign him).
There’s just so, so little on which to bank just yet, and he’s still years away from the big leagues even in the most aggressive of promotion plans. Still, if he takes to Daytona this spring the way he did to pro play in the Complex League last year, he’s going to rocket up every list imaginable in a hurry given how toolsy he is already.
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.
Elly De La Cruz, SS - 21 years old
2022 at a glance: .304/.359/.586 with 28 HR, 31 2B, 47 SB in 513 PA split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League) and Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League)
Pros: Power, speed, arm, hit, glove, height, smile, probably knows like 13 awesome bands that you’ve never heard of and will give you his Spotify login so you can listen to them for free
Cons: Strikeouts, if you have to nitpick, and doesn’t walk a ton
If you’re around my same age, and you watched the Cincinnati Reds as a kid, you watched Eric Davis, and you watched him run circles around and sock bombs over any and all opponents he faced. When you watch Elly De La Cruz, you watch him do almost the same exact things.
Davis was once a shortstop, too, before he took his tools to the outfield to ply his trade, and while Elly shows ample instincts at shortstop right now, his 6’5” - 6’6” frame suggests that a move to CF might well be in order, too. Wherever he ultimately lands on defense, though, the switch-hitting phenom looks offensively like a combo of Francisco Lindor, Lance Berkman, Davis, and Roberto Alomar spliced together in a beautiful baseball blend we’ve rarely, if ever, seen.
Yeah, he’ll strike out a bit. Who doesn’t? What he can do, though, very few others ever have.
Who is the #1 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
This poll is closed
Elly De La Cruz