The Reds battled with the Phillies for the worst record in baseball and came away with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft. Another thing they had in common with the Phils was dealing their ace. Johnny Cueto netted the Reds three left-handed pitching prospects from the Royals, with Brandon Finnegan the centerpiece of the return. Raisel Iglesias had a solid rookie year, and the Cuban import will look to build on that in 2016. We should also see the Reds’ two best prospects (Winker/Stephenson) in Cincinnati at some point this year. Adam Duvall, the return when the Reds traded Mike Leake, will presumably get a long look and has enough power to be on fantasy radars. It probably won’t be a competitive year for the Reds, but they’ll have some interesting young pieces surfacing.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Jesse Winker, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 526 PA, .282/.390/.483, 13 HR, 8 SB, 14% BB, 16% K
Winker’s a no-brainer in OBP leagues, but he’ll be useful in standard formats as well. He’s not as flashy as some of the other top 50 prospects out there, but he has a high floor, a plus hit tool, and good plate discipline. That makes him one of the safer bets as far as prospects go. He should get to 20 homers in the majors, and maybe more at Great American Ballpark. He was a bit inconsistent in Double-A and it’s not a lock that he’ll start the year in the majors, but I would expect to see him in Cincy by the end of July.
Robert Stephenson, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 134 IP, 3.83 ERA, 4.7 BB/9, 9.4 K/9
Stephenson has maintained his top prospect status thanks to two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. That combination should lead to some good strikeout numbers, making him a fantasy asset. The biggest blemish is his control, which is still inconsistent at best and something to keep in mind if a trade partner is selling him as a “future ace”. Realistically, it’s probably more of a #2 starter ceiling, but the strikeout potential of his stuff will make him interesting even if he never puts the polish on it.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Alex Blandino, SS | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 480 PA, .278/.364/.420, 10 HR, 9 SB, 10% BB, 16% K
Blandino’s statline from 2015 probably isn’t too far off what you can expect from him once he reaches the majors. He has solid average or better tools across the board and will likely stick in the middle infield. Blandino was a college bat that followed the normal college player assignment in 2015 and should spend most of 2016 in Double-A. That would put him in line for a call-up sometime next year, and although he’s not really a sexy name right now, he profiles as a very useful fantasy middle infielder with a relatively high floor.
Yorman Rodriguez, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA
2015 Stats: 326 PA, .269/.308/.429, 10 HR, 4 SB, 5% BB, 25% K
The plate discipline numbers don’t make you want to run out and grab him, but Rodriguez is a big, toolsy player that could put up some nice fantasy numbers if things click. There’s plus raw power and at least average speed in his profile. Rodriguez should get a look in the majors in 2016 after spending most of 2015 with Triple-A Louisville, and based on how he’s developed kind of slowly to this point, I could see him being the type of prospect who rides the struggle bus the first year or two but then settles into a major league role.
Phil Ervin, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 541 PA, .241/.346/.379, 14 HR, 34 SB, 12% BB, 18% K
Ervin improved upon his struggles in 2014, doubling his home run output from the year before. He’s a good fit for this tier with average tools across the board, except for his speed, which is a plus tool and has translated into 30+ steals in each of his past two minor league campaigns. With only a 17-game taste of AA in 2015, expect Ervin to head back to the Southern League for the 2016 season. His fantasy ceiling probably falls in the 15/25 range, which is nothing to sneeze at – he’s just been a slower burn to this point.
Keury Mella, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 103 IP, 3.23 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 9.3 K/9
I ranked Mella #1 in last year’s San Francisco preview, so I’ve already drunken(ed) the Kool-Aid. Mella seemed to lose his typically good control after the trade to the Reds, although it was in a tiny four-game sample. The 22-year-old’s best pitch is his fastball, but he’s got a good enough curveball and changeup to stick as a starter. The ceiling isn’t going to be all that exciting, as he probably tops out as a #3 starter, but I’m comfortable ranking him as the second-best arm in this system after Stephenson.
Amir Garrett, LHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 140.1 IP, 2.44 ERA, 3.5 BB/9, 8.5 K/9
Garrett is a name you might remember from the Futures Game. He’s a tall glass of water, a southpaw, and lowered his ERA by over a run with the move to the Florida State League in 2015 while maintaing his walk and strikeout rates. Garrett played basketball, but is now focusing solely on pitching, which partly explains why he was still throwing in High-A as a 23-year-old. He could go either way in 2016 with the move to Double-A, so to me he’s more of a “watch” at this point.
Taylor Sparks, 3B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 493 PA, .247/.302/.401, 13 HR, 14 SB, 6% BB, 33% K
When you peep Sparks’ power and speed numbers he looks like a great fantasy prospect at the hot corner, but then that 33% strikeout rate sticks out like a boner in boxers. He’ll obviously have to tone that down and show scouts that he can hit enough to stick, but everything else is in place for him to be interesting in fantasy – plus raw power, double-digit speed, etc. You can probably get him for nothing right now and if he can make some adjustments he could be a quick riser.
Kyle Waldrop, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016| 2015 Level: AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 472 PA, .235/.267/.338, 7 HR, 2 SB, 4% BB, 24% K
Like Rodriguez, Waldrop should get some major league at bats in 2016. He doesn’t have the upside of Rodriguez or the power/speed tools, so it’s hard to recommend him as anything more than a depth piece or backup in dynasty leagues. He could run into 6-8 homers even as a semi-regular though, given that he clubbed 14+ dingers in both 2013 and 2014.
Nick Travieso, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 93.1 IP, 2.70 ERA, 2.9 BB/9, 7.3 K/9
Travieso profiles as a #4/#5 starter, which ends up being basically a depth piece in most fantasy leagues. He’s shown good control at every stop in the minors so far though, and he pairs a plus heater with an above-average slider. A line drive cost him almost two months of the 2015 season.
John Lamb, LHP | Age: 25 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 111.1 IP, 2.67 ERA, 2.9 BB/9, 9.5 K/9
Lamb was part of a trio of lefties the Reds got in return for Johnny Cueto. He’s a tough one to crack, with a long up-and-down history in the minors, TJS on his resume, some stellar MiLB numbers in 2015, and then a 5.80 ERA in 49.2 innings with the big league club. There’s probably nothing to see here, but I can’t help but keep an eye on a southpaw who can rack up some strikeouts.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs.
Aristides Aquino, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: Rk/A
2015 Stats: 303 PA, .247/.290/.399, 7 HR, 6 SB, 4% BB, 20% K
I fell in love with Aquino’s tools heading into last year, and while all that upside is still there, this one looks like it could take some time. Aquino hit .226 in the Midwest League before getting injured and heading down to the rookie-level Pioneer. That’s the wrong direction, but the bright side is he found his stroke there, hitting .308/.333/.558 with a pair of homers. He returned to the Midwest League and should be back on track now. If you can stay patient, there’s 20/20 upside here.
Gavin LaValley, 3B | Age: 20 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: A
2015 Stats: 530 PA, .267/.343/.358, 4 HR, 4 SB, 9% BB, 22% K
Unlike Sparks, LaValley probably doesn’t stick at third and will make the move across the diamond to first base. He’s a former offensive lineman with plus raw power and a chance for a plus hit tool down the road as well, so he’s one to keep an eye on in fantasy leagues. It might be a worthwhile gamble to grab him now on the cheap, before his power starts to show up in the stat lines.
Tyler Stephenson, C | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 219 PA, .268/.352/.361, 1 HR, 0 SB, 10% BB, 19% K
The Reds used their first round pick on Stephenson in last year’s draft, making him the first catcher selected in the class. There’s above average power, and while that’s going to be tempting to invest in, catchers just seem to take forever. He’s a good example of why you don’t blindly follow the MLB draft results when you do a dynasty first-year player draft.
Antonio Santillan, RHP | Age: 18 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 19.2 IP, 5.03 ERA, 5.0 BB/9, 8.7 K/9
He’s forever away, but Santillan has some nasty stuff that’s fun to dream on. The 18-year-old already sports a double-plus fastball and a plus curve. The road ahead will include harnessing that stuff and improving his command/control against better hitters in the upper levels. It’s probably still too early to run out and grab him in most dynasty leagues.