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2024 Community Prospect Rankings: Leonardo Balcazar is the #17 prospect in the Reds system!

He’ll be back with a healthy knee in 2024!

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Leonardo Balcazar got off to a rip-roaring start to the 2023 season, posting an .897 OPS thorugh the season’s first 18 games for the Daytona Tortugas. Alas, an awful ACL injury struck, and he was sidelined for the remainder of the year.

There’s a ton to like about Balcazar’s numbers, but he’s got the kind of tools to truly back them up - and that’s got folks even more excited about his progression post-surgery. He’ll be back to 100% this year, and will hopefully hit the ground running (and will run right up this list next year, too).

He earns spot #17 on this year’s Community Prospect Rankings. On to the voting for which Cincinnati Reds farmhand deserves spot #18!

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.

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.

Sheng-En Lin, SS/CF/RHP(?) - 18 years old

2023 at a glance: Signed for $1.2 million out of Taiwan in June; .214/.371/.286 with 1 3B, 2 SB in 35 PA for the Arizona Complex League (ACL) Reds

Pros: Plus speed, advanced hit tool; both hit and pitched prior to signing with the Reds and hit 99 mph with his fastball

Cons: Didn’t pitch at all for the ACL Reds; didn’t hit much there in an incredibly small sample, either

Lin flashed his 99 mph heater as a two-way player while leading Taiwan to a runner-up spot in the Under-18 World Championships back in 2022, firmly putting himself on the international baseball map - holding the eventually victorious Team USA to just a lone run through the final game’s first 4 IP didn’t hurt.

He’s got a cannon for an arm, speed that’s been described as ‘plus-plus’ by Doug Gray of Reds Minor Leagues, and a hit tool that appears to be advanced for his age. I’d go ahead and throw out that limited 35 PA sample from last year after he first signed, and I firmly expect us to see a much more exciting performance from him as 2024 rolls around, likely with the Daytona Tortugas.

Will he pitch, though? Or will we just be limited to seeing that cannon for an arm as a future CF or SS?

Poll

Who is the #18 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Sheng-En Lin
    (35 votes)
  • 20%
    Victor Acosta
    (33 votes)
  • 15%
    Sammy Stafura
    (26 votes)
  • 22%
    Cole Schoenwetter
    (37 votes)
  • 20%
    Mat Nelson
    (33 votes)
164 votes total Vote Now