When the Reds punched their ticket to the expanded 2020 playoffs, I thought they’d be tough on their opponents given their ace-powered pitching staff. 

Atlanta had other plans, and the Cincinnati bats scored a total of zero runs in two games. Very tough to win without runs. 

Nonetheless, the season can be considered something of a success. The team ended a long playoff drought and found some hope for a brighter tomorrow. Life after Trevor Bauer brings new challenges, but a pitching foundation built on Kyle Boddy and Derek Johnson is promising, especially considering the top few arms in the system. 


Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA

1. RHP Hunter Greene | 21 | A | Late 2022

The top spot represents a hopeful ranking for Greene, who gasses it up above 100 mph with relative ease but hasn’t seen game action since 2018 due to Tommy John surgery. With the pitching lab team that Boddy’s built combined with the breaking ball teaching expertise demonstrated by Johnson, Greene is in an ideal setting to add some movement to his heater and maximize his considerable talents. It’s just a cliche for most, but the sky seems like the limit for this former shortstop. 


2. LHP Nick Lodolo | 23 | A | Late 2021

Lodolo might need a little work on repeating his base mechanics, but he could also be so dominant in 2021 that he flies right through the system. He’s 6’6” and incredibly deceptive with a low release point he hides until the last moment, when it comes from a place few releases do and pairs well with his changeup and curveball. He’s among the rare minor league arms worth an aggressive investment in dynasty leagues. 


3. SS Jose Garcia | 22 | MLB | 2020

Though he didn’t hit in his 2020 debut, Jose Garcia remains a true five-tool talent who’s already plus defensively at short. He might wind up a four-tool big leaguer if he can’t make more contact going forward, but I think it would be shortsighted to put much stock in his struggles after jumping straight from high A to the show.


4. OF Austin Hendrick | 19 | NA | 2024

Hendrick features plus plus power with solid speed and defensive upside in an outfield corner. I don’t love the mechanics of his swing, which is geared to trade contact for power, but I suspect he can learn to tone down the all-or-nothing approach if he’s getting dominated at any point in his journey up the development chain. That’s not a change I tend to bet on, but I also feel like we have to see him fail against elite spin before we worry too much about his ultimate contact skills. 


5. RHP Tejay Antone | 27 | MLB | 2020

Bursting onto the scene with new velocity in 2020, Antone looks like a big win for the developmental team here. He increased his K/9 from 8.79 in AAA in 2019 to 11.46 as a big leaguer this season. His slider and curve both lived up to the scouting grades, scoring impressive pitch-value grades via fangraphs, and his fastball checked in at an average of 95.6 mph, and while that was largely in relief, he also started four games and faired fine in that role, albeit in slightly shorter than usual outings. His first-strike rate of 65.2 percent and swinging strike rate of 13 percent are both impressive outcomes that would land him among the league’s top arms if he’s able to sustain something close to that success as a starting pitcher in 2021. 


6. C Tyler Stephenson | 24 | MLB | 2020 

He might not be the everyday catcher entering 2021, but Tyler Stephenson has earned himself at least a share of the backstop job in a park that’s perfect for enhancing power output. The 11th overall pick in 2015, Stephenson has always had enough raw power to entrench himself in our fantasy lineups, but he’s typically traded power for plate skills on his way up the chain. This did not hold in his 8-game stint in the big leagues this year when he slugged .647 while striking out 40 percent of the time, but that’s coming off a 16.5 percent K-rate in AA. If he can pair the contact skills with the power, he’ll be a top ten fantasy catcher sooner than later. 


7. 3B Jonathan India | 24 | AA | 2022

Few prospects are as thoroughly blocked as Jonathan India, who hasn’t hit for power since being drafted 5th overall but still has upside thanks to plus plate skills and the promise of the juicy ball helping him access more in-game thump. He might have to switch positions but has the athleticism to play left field, where he would also be blocked by a high priced player in Nick Castellanos


8. 2B Tyler Callihan | 20 | R | 2024

A lot of people go to college for seven years, but big Tom Callihan’s second son Tyler didn’t go at all, signing up instead to play for the Reds after being selected 85th overall in 2019. He’s still a man in search of a position, but that should matter less to the Reds than most teams. They’ve tried him out at catcher, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him land at first base. At 6’1” 205 lbs, he’s a decent physical fit for the position and could then be allowed to focus on his plus-hit, plus-power profile from the left side. Underrated as a dynasty asset, I think. 


9. 2B Jose Acosta | 21 | R | 2023

Last we saw Jose Acosta, he was hitting around .400 and stealing 24 bases without getting caught. That was as a 19-year-old in the DSL, but he also hit .370 in a ten-game stretch against better pitching stateside in the Arizona Rookie League. It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll come back after losing a whole season of reps. My guess is he’ll be a little bigger than the 170 lbs at which he’s currently listed. I hope it’s good weight because his carrying tools are hit and speed, and I think the power would come late whether or not he hit the weights during the shutdown. 


10. 3B Rece Hinds | 20 | R | 2024

I’m writing a blurb about Rece’s baseball pieces on Halloween. The sweet centerpiece is power–70 or maybe even 80 raw depending who you’re asking. At 6’4” 215 lbs, he’s already built like a linebacker and still has room for just a bit more muscle as he ages. The hit tool and the glove are open questions, but the fact that he throws well is a very good sign for his overall athleticism and potential mastery of his immense physicality. I think he’s a pretty strong dynasty buy at the moment because if it comes together, it will happen in a hurry, and the outcomes will be too loud for his fantasy owners to sell. 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

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Harley Earl
Harley Earl
2 years ago

It really would have been nice to see Garcia just hit a little bit better this year. Instead, it’s hard to get excited about him for the future. Looks like the bat will need a good while to catch up, and that’s not good for fantasy. Hope he’s not another Buxton — all hype and no substance.

Worm Burner
Worm Burner
2 years ago

Good morning The Itch,

Do you have a top 5 or 10 of strictly brightest star potential without regard to position/team/estimated call-up date/etc

May be too much to ask, but I’m not holding you to it or looking for “friendly” wagers!
Just curious who you’d choose.

Thanks man, have a good one

Mike L
Mike L
2 years ago

I just traded away Giolito, Blackmon, and Sano to get Kelenic and Madrigal in a keeper forever. I have Beiber, Berrios, Castillo, and Urias as my main guys so I thought I could afford it to take a risk on a guy I believe to be the next big star in baseball. Hopefully Gilbert is there when I get a pick I need someone to fill those shoes in 2 or 3 years.

Mike L
Mike L
2 years ago

I’m in a dynasty hold all but have a team that is competitive now. That being said, I like to hold 2 or 3 really good prospects even with a 26 man roster. The 3 pitching prospects I’m torn between are Liberatore, Lodolo, and Gilbert. I would prefer whoever I draft to be pitching before next fall but I also want the best. I’ve seen your ranking but given the opportunity to pick from all 3 who do you take?

Johnny Rabb
Johnny Rabb
2 years ago

Good write-up, Itch. Could you rank future between T. Stephenson, Jeffers, William Contreras and Sam Huff. Also, do you rank Padres C Luis Campusano above those 3? Of course, if he doesn’t spend 10 years in the pokey for 1.5 oz of weed.