Julian Aguiar fired 70.1 IP of 1.92 ERA ball for the Dayton Dragons last year, ripping through Midwest League opposition with a tidy 0.97 WHIP. Sure, he got knocked around a little bit once he reached AA Chattanooga, but his work on the whole - 2.95 ERA, 1.10 WHIP in 125.0 IP - represents quite the year for a pitcher who still won’t turn 23 years old until June.
That’s your #16 ranked prospect in this year’s Community Prospect Rankings, a mark that’s well deserved by Aguiar, who’ll presumably begin the 2024 season with Chattanooga again.
On to the voting for spot #17!
Sammy Stafura, SS - 19 years old
2023 at a glance: .071/.212/.191 with 1 HR, 0 SB in 53 PA with the Arizona Complex League (ACL) Reds; drafted in the 2nd round out of Panas HS (NY) in the 2023 MLB Draft
Pros: We don’t know!
Cons: We don’t know!
Both Devin Mesoraco and Austin Hendrick fall into a similar category as Stafura in that all three were drafted out of northern high schools with high draft picks. The wild card there, of course, is that the seasons are usually plagued by cold, dank weather, and it’s really hard to show out in those conditions - especially when the quality of competition up there isn’t as hyper-aggressive as it is in more temperate climates.
Contrary to the pros and cons listed above, we do know that Stafura is an excellent athlete with developing power, and a hit tool that looks like it should let him smack doubles all over the outfield. His defense is such that he’s projected to stick at SS, too, something that tends to keep guys with more question marks elsewhere higher on these kinds of list. What we also do know, however, is that his extremely small sample of pro ball last fall after being drafted was abysmal, and he’s got a lot to prove heading in to 2024.
For now, we’re trusting that the Reds know what they’ve got in Stafura, and hope that his upside track follows more of the Mesoraco path than that of Hendrick.
Leonardo Balcazar, SS - 19 years old
2023 at a glance: .324/.427/.471 with 1 HR, 2 SB in 81 PA for Daytona Tortugas (Class-A Florida State League)
Pros: Plus hit-tool with ability hit spray the ball to all fields; .392 OBP since signing with the Reds indicative of solid plate discipline
Cons: Tore ACL after just 18 G last season; glovework leaves a little to be desired at short despite good range and a solid arm
In just 380 PA since signing with the Reds, Balcazar sports a tidy .300/.392/.495 line with 11 HR and 23 SB, doing so while flashing enough defensively at short to suggest he’s got a chance of staying there - or at least in the middle infield - long term. He doesn’t project to have plus power, however, and if he’s forced to move down the defensive spectrum that could become a bigger issue.
He showed plus athleticism prior to his ACL injury, and all eyes will be on him in 2024 as he attempts to show that’s fully returned. Given that he injured the knee on the final day of April 2023, there’s a chance he could be eased back into games this upcoming season, so we may have to wait just a little bit longer to see just how well he has recovered.
Victor Acosta, SS - 20 years old
2023 at a glance: .254/.361/.355 with 2 HR, 12 SB in 411 PA for Daytona Tortugas (Class-A Florida State League)
Pros: Switch-hitting SS with average to above-average tools across the board
Cons: Down year in 2023 in terms of power; speed/defense reputation didn’t show up in the 2023 numbers
Victor Acosta was signed by the San Diego Padres for $1.8 million out of the Dominican Republic, but he barely got much time at all within their system before being dealt to the Reds in a deadline deal for Brandon Drury in 2022. He came to the Reds with a reputation as an athletic, defensively gifted SS who could hit from both sides of the plate and carried great plate discipline, and if you squint, you can still see that in there somewhere.
Admittedly, he spent 2023 in the Florida State League, where hitting statistics go to die. Still, his numbers there barely stack up against the rest of the group that plied their trade there, and as Doug Gray of Reds Minor Leagues noted, the numbers tracking his arm strength and sprint speed weren’t exactly stellar, either.
Where does that leave Acosta in the mix, then? Was it simply a down year, or will the glut of SS-capable prospects around his age render him pushed off the position before he can re-establish himself there? Needless to say, it’s a big, big year for him within this organization, and the hope is that his tools will be on display more in a more hitter-friendly environment in Dayton.
Mat Nelson, C - 25 years old
2023 at a glance: .229/.340/.437 with 21 HR, 6 SB in 413 PA split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League) and Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League)
Pros: Plus power and control of the strike zone; solid receiver behind the plate with plus arm
Cons: Not exactly a polished defender; still ample swing and miss at the plate
Nelson’s a wild card add here as the position he plays might deserve to be higher on the rankings than the prospect himself.
Wait a minute. Did Mat Nelson, a former 1st round pick, hit .295/.386/.549 with 9 homers over his final 140 PA last year, a stretch that included a promotion to AA Chattanooga?
He did! He really did!
Nelson’s overall body of work at the plate showed a much needed advancement last season, and if you’ll recall, it’s not at all odd for catcher development through the minor leagues to take a lot longer than for other positions. They are asked to do so damn much more than just hit, after all, and you may remember that Tyler Stephenson slugged .385 at A-ball, .392 at High-A, and just .410 at AA before finally busting into the big leagues, too.
Nelson may not have the upside that he once did at age 25, but he pretty well hit his way into being the next catcher up if things go well, or go sideways elsewhere, on that depth chart this year. If his breakout continues, that may even be a good thing.
Cole Schoenwetter, RHP - 19 years old
2023 at a glance: Drafted in the 4th round of the 2023 MLB Draft out of San Marcos HS (CA)
Pros: Signed for $1.9 million, which was more than three times the slot value (so he can buy you a cheeseburger if you ask for it); fastball that sits ~95 mph and can hit 98 mph
Cons: Yet to pitch as a professional
The Reds doled out a big bonus to sign Schoenwetter away from his college commitment to UC Santa Barbara, the longtime baseball powerhouse that produced big leaguers like Barry Zito, Michael Young, Shane Bieber, and Reds legend Skip Schumaker. We haven’t seen him since.
Cole reportedly carries an impressive three-pitch mix as his arsenal, and his 6’3” frame has the kind of long, lanky delivery that mostly fits the prototype of starting pitchers. It’s a 12-6 curveball that is currently his second best delivery, with a changeup that’s getting better by the toss.
That’s what we know! Maybe he should be #1! Maybe he shouldn’t be on this list altogether! Hopefully, we finally get to find out in the coming months.
Who is the #17 prospect in the Reds system?
This poll is closed