With plus-plus speed and an arm that touched 99 mph on the mound, Sheng-En Lin brings a pair of already elite tools to the table on the Cincinnati Reds farm. If his bat - which is reportedly a plus tool, too - begins to round into form in his first full season in the states, we could see him rocket up the 2025 Community Prospect Rankings from this, his spot at #18 on this year’s list.
We haven’t even touched on the idea that he may well pitch, too. That two-way ability on the mound and as a SS during his amateur days was a big reason why he eventually landed a $1.2 million signing bonus from the Reds last year.
On to the voting for which Reds prospect deserves spot #19 - the penultimate spot on this year’s list!
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.
Jay Allen II, OF - 21 years old
2023 at a glance: .164/.320/.250 in 129 PA split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League) and Arizona Complex League (ACL) Reds
Pros: Plus speed, plus defensive prowess in CF; strong arm
Cons: The hit tool simply has not shown up for him yet (nor has a clean slate of health)
Jay Allen played just 3 games in 2023 before tearing a ligament in his thumb while diving into a base. The severity of the injury kept him sidelined all the way until the end of June, and when he returned the promise that made him the 30th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft simply didn’t show up with him.
Thumb injuries when your job is to swing a wooden bat at a ball travelling 100 mph and hit it with aplomb somewhere can be a severe pain in the butt, and it’s clear that Allen wasn’t right after returning. The Reds did shut him down for good some 5-ish weeks after his initial return, after all. The reality, though, is that Allen’s lost 2023 season came on the heels of a year in which he didn’t exactly hit well, either.
He’s hit just 8 homers in 587 PA as a pro, and 4 of those came in ACL play. While his speed and defense are legit calling cards, 2024 might well be a make or break year for him at the plate to show that he’s anything more than that. The tools are there - will he stay healthy enough to let them translate?
Who is the #19 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
This poll is closed
Jay Allen II