Doth mine eyes deceive me?
No, no they doth not.
With a show-stopping 89% of the vote (as of the time of writing), Elly De La Cruz has run away with the #1 ranking in the 2023 Red Reporter Community Prospect Rankings with the same fervor with which he socked all those homers and swiped all those bags against his opposing pitchers last year.
Even if half of his talents fail to pan out, he’ll end up an MLB regular who can run circles around you, field any position, and run into 20+ monster bombs a year. If it all truly comes together, though, we’re talking a generational talent here - the kind of guy your kids will tell their kids about in 25 years.
Props to Elly, his absurd .586 slugging percentage last season, his 28 homers, his 47 steals, and his ability to captivate us all despite the major, major failings of the franchise ahead of him.
On to the voting for spot #2!
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.
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.
Who is the #2 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
This poll is closed