A better one-two combination of prospect pitchers doesn’t exist in the minors today, and that’s a great place to start. The departure of Kyle Boddy is a big loss, as I opined in Prospect News: Palace Intrigue in Cincinnati, but the spine of this system looks strong at the moment. 


Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2022 | Highest level played | ETA

1. RHP Hunter Greene | 22 | AAA | 2022

Greene is right there with the best pitching prospects in baseball, and he’s the only guy in the minors who can challenge Jacob deGrom for velocity supremacy across baseball. Sure, a lot of relievers throw hard, but nobody sits 100 across six innings on the regular. Well, nobody but Greene and deGrom, and who knows how the elder’s arm is going to hold up. At 6’5” 230 lbs, Hunter Greene is a large human who used to play shortstop and retains a great deal of the athleticism he had back in high school. He gets down the mound and repeats his delivery well. His slider has been ahead of his change up, but I think it’s the change that will baffle big leaguers over the long haul. After dominating AA, his results were not ideal across 14 AAA starts, but even a 1.29 WHIP, 4.13 ERA and 19.8 K-BB rate ain’t bad for a guy who hadn’t pitched since 2018 and was six years younger than his average competitor.


2. SS Jose Barrero | 23 | MLB | 2020 

The team’s best position prospect found himself blocked by a career-best stretch from Kyle Farmer, so much so that he split time between short and centerfield while he was with the big club in September. That’s okay. Barrero can handle either spot, and while he might not be a gold-glove-level defender in center the way he was on the dirt, his physical gifts will help him improve quickly as he goes along. Cincinnati doesn’t have anyone else there, so Barrero has a good shot to open 2022 as the captain of that outfield. He came into his own on offense in 2021–his fourth season in the states after signing out of Cuba, slashing .303/.380/.539 with 19 HR and 16 SB across 85 games in the minors (40 at AA and 45 at AAA). We’ve long been Barrero believers here at Razzball and can’t wait to see how his power plays in the Great American Drive to Deep Left.


3. LHP Nick Lodolo | 24 | AAA | 2022

Twice a first-round pick (41st overall by Pittsburgh in 2016 and 7th by Cincy in 2019), Lodolo possesses rare physical traits as a 6’6” 205 pounder with plus extension from a three-quarter arm slot. If you had to craft a nightmare match-up for lefties in a lab, Lodolo would be the result thanks in part to a ludicrous slider that helped him post a 0.91 WHIP and 34.1% K-BB rate across 44 innings at AA, where he surrendered just one home run in ten turns. He’s something of a throwback in this sense, preferring to work down and out with a sinker/slider mix rather than perpetually hunting strikeouts atop the zone. He’s got some interesting guys to learn from as a Red. LHP Wade Miley has been avoiding barrels for a while with much less stuff, and pitching coach Derek Johnson tends to get the best out of everyone who crosses his path.


4. SS Elly De La Cruz | 20 | A | 2024

After a pornographic 11 games on the complex, the hyper-athletic De La Cruz went to full-season ball and held his own, slashing .269/.309/477 with 5 HR and 8 SB across 50 games. He was much younger (2.3 years) and less experienced than the average man in A ball, but his opposite field power still stood out among his compatriots, and it’ll be that as much as anything that sets him apart as he climbs the ladder. He’s listed at 6’2” 150 lbs, but the switch hitter looks much bigger than that today. In short, the dynasty arc is angled way up on Elly De La Cruz, who’d be a household name today if he hadn’t lost 2020 to the rona shutdown.


5. SS Matt McClain | 22 | A+ | 2023

The 17th overall pick in this year’s draft, McClain profiles as a classic contact and defense middle infielder at 5’11 180 lbs. His career is off to a nice start after the club sent him to High-A right away, where McClain slashed .273/.387/.424 across 29 games with 3 HR and 10 SB. That’s an aggressive clip. While he’ll likely fall short of 50-steal speed, this is a savvy baserunner with the plate skills to maximize his talents.


6. OF Jay Allen II | 19 | CPX | 2025

A 6’3” 190 lb centerfielder with a football build (he also played football in high school), Jay Allen is among my favorite bats in this year’s draft class. He was a gift for the Reds at the 30th overall pick, and as long as his price in First-Year-Player Drafts is even loosely connected to that real-life draft slot, I’ll be scooping him up on all my teams. In 19 games on the complex, Allen II slashed .328/.440/.557 with 3 HR and 14 SB. He was caught stealing once. This is what future roto studs look like at the lower levels. In a lesser system, Allen II would already be nudging toward the top.


7. 3B Rece Hinds | 21 | A | 2024

Hinds brings double plus power and made more consistent contact than I expected in his first real run as a pro. He spent only eleven games on the complex before graduating to Low A, where the 6’4” 215 lb muscle man slashed .251/.319/.515 with 10 HR and 6 SB in 43 games. That’s good enough to send him to High-A to open 2022, and if he does similar damage there, he’ll start scaling the prospect lists like that dude in Free Solo.


8. RHP Graham Ashcraft | 24 | AA | 2022

The name Ashcraft isn’t just window dressing for the 6’2” 240 lb ground ball artist with a four-pitch mix. Employing that worm-burning arsenal, Ashcraft allowed just four home runs in 22 starts across two levels. He induced 54.8 percent grounders at A+ and 60.5 percent at AA while maintaining a solid strikeout rate at both levels: 34.2% and 25.3%, respectively. He’s around the zone so much it’s tough to tell against older hitters who are ready to pounce, but I am eager to see it. He’s probably still a borderline free-agent-level piece in 15-team dynasty leagues, but I’ll be scooping him up at the first sign of daylight in a crowded rotation.


9. OF Austin Hendrick | 20 | A | 2025

The 12th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Hendrick struck out 37.6 percent of the time in his first taste of full-season ball. He also walked a whopping 19.2 percent of the time. What the what? Swing the bat, dude! How else are you gonna learn to hit some of this stuff? He somehow got worse throughout the season, striking out 40.9 percent over his final month. It was only 63 games, and it was Hendrick’s first look at professional pitching in a game setting, but yikes, is a decent word for how his season played out. I have never liked his mechanics for what it’s worth. Torque is a good thing for hitters. Too much torque is a problem. Henrick looks like a wind-up toy imitating a high-school age Bryce Harper. If he shortens up, trades some thump for some contact and starts swinging a little more often, he could be dangerous. A Tyler O’Neill type is the hope, but that’s on the really high-end for Hendrick, and it took O’Neill a long time to get where he was this season.


10. LHP Reiver Sanmartin 

Here’s what I wrote about Sanmartin back on September 29 in Prospect News: Pirates Follow Secret Treasure Map to Roansy Contreras:

Cincinnati LHP Reiver Sanmartin has an interesting pitch mix. His fastball is not that. By which I mean it’s slow, averaging 89.5 mph in his big league debut. But it works, dropping 21 percent less than league average and breaking horizontally 85 percent more than average. His fastball has 13.7 inches of horizontal break according to statcast. The plate itself is 17 inches wide. This pitch is a real-life reaver like those space-pirate cannibals in Firefly

Except that those things were fast, if I remember right, and this pitch is not. His changeup, on the other hand, is pretty quick at 84.6 mph and was his weapon of choice in his debut, when he threw it at a 33.3 percent clip. His slider is also a little weird. Would be among the league’s slowest at 79.9 mph. His sinker (89.4 mph) pairs with the slider, and the heater makes scenes from a marriage with that quirky change. 

I like how the ingredients come together, and I like the idea of pitching coach Derek Johnson mixing this guy in with the flamethrowers they’ve been fueling down in the minors, but hurdles remain. The club will almost certainly pick up LHP Wade Miley’s option in 2022, and I’m not sure the rotation has room for two soft tossing lefties alongside RHPs Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray and Vladimir Gutierrez with rookies RHP Hunter Greene and LHP Nick Lodolo coming up early next year.”

And that’s me quoting me a few days before Reiver Sanmartin picked up a Win by allowing one run over six innings in his second straight start against the Pirates. On the one hand, yarrr, it’s just the Pirates. On the other, it says something anytime you can shove a team around twice in a row. I’m keeping close tabs on this guy. 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.