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Cincinnati Reds 2015 Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

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The prospect staff at Fake Teams continues their fantasy prospect rankings and system reviews with an in-depth look at the Cincinnati Reds.

Andy Lyons

Just like last year, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking an in-depth look at each major league organization, including our top 10 fantasy prospects, an overview of the organization's minor league system as a whole and potential opportunities for playing time in 2015. Our goal is to provide you with more information as you prepare for minor league drafts for dynasty and keeper leagues, as well as look at players that could potentially be worth watching during the spring, as they could be in line to potentially help your fantasy team. We will be reviewing two teams per week until we are through all 30 teams, and you can see the schedule of when your favorite team will be reviewed below. if we have already reviewed the team, a link to the post, along with the team's top prospect is noted.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore
(3/11)

Chicago
(2/11)

Houston
(1/14)

Atlanta
(12/10)

Chicago
(Bryant)

Arizona
(Bradley)

Boston
(3/14)

Cleveland
(2/14)

Los Angeles
(1/17)

Miami
(12/13)

Cincinnati
(Today)

Colorado
(Gray)

New York
(3/18)

Detroit
(2/18)

Oakland
(1/21)

New York
(12/17)

Milwaukee
(11/19)

Los Angeles
(Pederson)

Tampa Bay
(3/21)

Kansas City
(2/21)

Seattle
(1/24)

Philadelphia
(12/20)

Pittsburgh
(11/22)

San Diego
(Renfroe)

Toronto
(3/25)

Minnesota
(2/25)

Texas
(1/28)

Washington
(12/24)

St. Louis
(11/26)

San Francisco
(Crick)

Organizational Overview
by Jason Hunt

The Reds finished the 2013 season with 90 wins and a wild-card berth, but an exit in the wild card game ended up costing manager Dusty Baker his job only two days later. The Reds promoted Bryan Price to the job, who had been the pitching coach and was generally viewed as a smart hire for a team which would look to compete again in 2014. The offseason was relatively quiet, with just a trade of catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays (and David Holmberg coming in return) being the main move the team made to add a player. They did sign starter Homer Bailey to a six year contract extension, buying out five free agent years and solidifying the top of their rotation for that timeframe.

Injuries bit the Reds early and often, with relievers Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, and Jonathan Broxton all starting the season the disabled list along with starter Mat Latos and catcher Devin Mesoraco. They also saw significant time missed by Jay Bruce, Tony Cingrani, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Homer Bailey as the season went along, and the performance suffered from it. They finished the year with a 76-86 record, good for 4th in the NL Central.

The team appears to be at somewhat of a crossroads in terms of direction. There are some prospects who are on the cusp of arriving in the majors, with Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen both likely to arrive at some point during the 2015 season and Jesse Winker behind them in 2016. They spent $30 million on a seven-year deal with Cuban defector Raisel Iglesias, who could also arrive by 2016 as well. However, the question that the team needs to answer is whether they are just a couple minor acquisitions and some better luck from a health standpoint from being back in the middle of the division race, or if they need to move more towards a rebuilding effort.


2014 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time.

Billy Hamilton (AB), Kris Negron (AB), Jumbo Diaz (ST), Carlos Contreras (ST)

Major League Opportunities in 2015
by Jason Hunt

General manager Walt Jocketty noted that there is the possibility of a fire sale this offseason, and specifically that the team should probably either be all-in (and theoretically ready to make win-now moves) or all-out. This is a team that as currently constructed does not have a lot of places to make upgrades. There's a clear opening in left field after Ryan Ludwick was granted free agency, and could potentially go with current outfielder Chris Heisey or even potentially a prospect like Yorman Rodriguez or Jesse Winker. With Winker potentially ready by the 2016 season, a short-term free agent like Chris Denorfia could be a decent fit. The rotation is set with Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Leake, and one of Alfredo Simon or Tony Cingrani to fill out the final spot, but they could try to make an upgrade for that fifth spot.

The more interesting possibility is a tear down and fire sale, as the team could look to move players like Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, or Mike Leake, all of whom are free agents after the 2015 season. If they really wanted to get creative, they may even be able to move Jay Bruce (under contract through 2016, team option for 2017) and Aroldis Chapman (under team control through 2016). The question that Jocketty will need to answer for this is whether he can find the upgrades he needs to compete in an NL Central where there are not likely to be any pushovers in the next few years.


Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
by Jason Hunt

Our top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are based upon standard 5x5 fantasy baseball leagues, with a balancing of ceiling and present value. While we are having discussions regarding these lists as a collective group, the top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are finalized by the writer listed above. Players are no longer considered prospects once they exceed either 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days of service time in the Majors

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1. Robert Stephenson (RHP)

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
7 0 4.74 1.376 140
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
136.2 1.20 0.80 12.31% 23.29%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: Late 2015

Taken with the 27th pick in the loaded 1st round of the 2011 draft, Stephenson hit a bit of a speed bump in 2014 after tearing through the lower levels and reaching AA in 2013. He returned to AA for the 2014 season, and was a bit up-and-down from start to start. He struggled with his control at times, walking seven on at least three different occasions, but would also put it together in other starts (striking out more than a batter per inning in 10 of his 27 starts).

Stephenson features a three pitch mix which bodes well for his long-term ability to stay in the rotation. His fastball can touch the high-90s and even 100 at times, sits in the low-to-mid 90s, and is considered an elite offering. His curveball matches well with the fastball, as it shows sharp break and can be a strikeout offering both in and out of the zone. His changeup remains a work in progress, but is anticipated to be at least an average offering. His delivery is fairly clean and repeatable, although he struggled quite a bit in 2014 with both his command as well as his control.

The potential for a front-line starting pitcher is there if he can put together his command with the excellent repertoire he has already shown. There were reports that his velocity was down overall from the start of the season, so that is something to keep an eye on going into 2015. It's possible that Stephenson could return to AA to start the 2015 campaign, given the struggles he showed with his command at the level in 2014. If he pitches well in a return engagement, he could see AAA Louisville relatively early, and with that the possibility of a late-season callup.

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2. Jesse Winker (OF)

Photo Credit: Jerry Lai - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.287 57 15 57 5
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
341 0.399 0.518 15.84% 19.94%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 L L A+-AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

Drafted out of an Orlando high school in the 1st round of the 2012 draft, Winker reached AA this year after less than half a season at High-A Bakersfield. His season was impacted by a car accident in June, after which he tried to play through a wrist injury until being shut down in mid-July. The Reds did send him to the Arizona Fall League, where he has hit .359/.463/.594 with three home runs and a stolen base through 18 games so far.

Winker is one of the prospects out there who may be a bit underrated for fantasy purposes in comparison to his value to the Reds as a big league prospect. He is expected to be limited to left field defensively, which puts a bit more pressure on his bat for his real-life value. Reports on him from this year point to him being good enough out there to avoid having to move any further down the defensive spectrum, which does ease those concerns some.

At the plate, Winker has the potential to be a top 40 outfielder on a fairly regular basis. He should hit for a solid batting average, and has shown an excellent eye at the plate, with walk rates of at least 13% at each stop in the minors. He's also shown solid power as well, and appears that 20 home runs per season as a reasonable baseline. Add in the solid potential in runs and runs batted in that comes with those, and it isn't hard to see Winker making an impact for fantasy owners.

He appeared in just 21 games at the AA level in 2014, so a return to the level seems the most likely outcome to start the 2015 campaign. That said, there is a need for a left fielder in Cincinnati for next season, so a short-term signing to keep the position open for Winker in 2016 seems the most reasonable outcome. There was a lot of debate about whether to move Winker ahead of Stephenson in the rankings, and I honestly might view them as more of a 1/1A than a true 1/2 with a substantial difference.

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3. Phil Ervin (OF)

Photo Credit: Melina Vastola - US Presswire
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.237 68 7 68 30
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
562 0.305 0.376 8.19% 19.57%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017

The top draft pick of the Reds in the 2013 draft, Ervin hit extremely well in his two stops during his draft year, Billings and Dayton. He needed wrist surgery after the season, and it appears that it may have had at least some impact on his performance in 2014. He still played the full season (132 games), but saw a major drop-off in his batting average, walk rate, and home run totals. The batting average wasn't a huge surprise, given an unsustainable BABIP in 2013 (over .360), and the walk rate was still a very respectable 8% on the season. The more concerning item were reports that he looked overmatched despite being a college hitter in Low-A, which hopefully will resolve in the future.

A year ago, Ervin was viewed as a potential impact bat across all five categories. While the performance in 2014 wasn't what anyone was really hoping for, I don't think that potential has changed all that much. He profiles long-term as a quality hitter, capable of providing 15-20 home runs along with 15-20 stolen bases on a regular basis. His walk total did drop in 2014, but should still provide good value in both batting average and on-base percentage. There were questions regarding his pitch recognition this season, but I wonder honestly if that may have been affected in part by the wrist injury. His defense can potentially keep him in center field, but it's more likely that he ends up in right field long-term.

It's possible that Ervin returns to Low-A to start the 2015 campaign, but more likely he heads to High-A Daytona. Ideally, he comes out and hits closer to how he did in 2013 than 2014, and shows that the wrist injury is no longer bothering him or his long-term outlook.

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4. Michael Lorenzen (RHP)

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
4 0 3.13 1.293 84
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
120.2 0.70 1.50 8.73% 16.67%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: Late 2015

No player in the Reds' system took a bigger step forward from last year than Lorenzen, the team's supplemental first round pick in 2013. He was a two-way player in college at Cal State Fullerton, but the Reds wanted him to pitch full time rather than head to the outfield, and it appears to have been the right decision. He pitched exclusively in relief in 2013 and reached AA before the end of the season, and returned to AA in 2014 for his transition to the starting rotation.

He features a four-pitch mix of a fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider, with his slider likely to be his best strikeout pitch long-term. The fastball, changeup, and slider all have the potential to be above-average pitches for Lorenzen, and he now looks like a lock to stay in the rotation long-term. In terms of fantasy potential, you're looking at a low-end mid-rotation type, capable of providing a lot of innings with a solid ERA and WHIP. His strikeout potential is there, but seems more likely to keep him from being a top 30 option.

A number of the questions surrounding Lorenzen's transition to the starting rotation have been at least quieted, if not answered outright. His repertoire appears ready for a long-term starting role, as reports on both his changeup and his overall control were much better than his professional debut. He was also able to throw 120 innings, and should be in line for another bump to that workload in 2015. He should head to AAA Louisville, and could be in line for a call up at some point in the season.

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5. Yorman Rodriguez (OF)

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.260 72 9 42 12
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
531 0.328 0.379 9.04% 24.29%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A+-AA-MLB
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (1 Option Left)
ETA to Majors: 2015

It's taken a long time to get to this point, but Rodriguez made his major league debut in September after signing out of Venezuela back in 2008. At the time, he received a record bonus for a player from Venezuela, $2.5 million. He's been plugging his way up the system despite consistently being at least three years younger than the average player at every stop in the minors. He did miss a couple weeks this year due to injuries, but the overall numbers look solid.

His calling card throughout the minors has been his raw power potential, but has struggled at times to tap into that with a less than stellar hit tool. He could be a 20-25 home run bat in the majors potentially if he can make enough contact, and the end of his season points to that being a possibility. His speed is considered above average, and should provide fantasy owners with double-digit stolen bases on a fairly regular basis. He has shown extended periods where he was able to put his skills together in-game, which helps to keep the dream alive in terms of being a potential four category contributor. He finished up his time in the minors with a strong August (.294/.408/.529, with four home runs, five steals, and a 29:20 K/BB rate in 27 games), earning himself a late-season callup.

Long term, he's likely to be a corner outfielder with a ton of potential if he can continue to make enough contact to let his tools play up. He can be potentially a 20 HR/15 SB outfielder with a batting average that won't kill you, but despite reaching AA already, that remains a bit question. If he doesn't make enough contact, he probably still ends up as a fourth outfielder for a few years, but will have little fantasy value in that role. He has one option left, and will likely head to AAA Louisville to start the 2015 season. Realistically, we probably see him back in the majors by the end of 2015.

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6. Nick Howard (RHP)

Photo Credit: Bruce Thorson - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
2 0 3.74 1.16 23
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
33.2 1.10 1.15 8.09% 16.91%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017

The Reds' top draft pick in 2014, Howard was used exclusively as a reliever this past season at the University of Virginia, but was a starter in the past. After signing, the Reds limited his workload to 33 innings at Low-A, and has also thrown another 16 so far in the Arizona Fall League.

Howard has all the tools to be a mid-rotation starting pitcher for both the Reds and fantasy owners if he continues to develop. His repertoire consists of a fastball, changeup, and breaking ball (some reports say it is a curveball, others a slider). From that group, the fastball and breaking ball are his best pitches, and he has the potential for all of his pitches to develop into at least average offerings or better. With that said, it's not a guarantee that Howard will be able to stay as a starter, and if he doesn't, could end up as a high-leverage reliever at the back end of the bullpen.

The Reds could send Howard to either Low or High-A to start the 2015 season, and what he does could determine just how fast he moves through the system. He needs innings primarily, as he has thrown a total of just 86 innings this year and will need more to build towards a starting role in the majors. What he will be for fantasy remains an open question, but the Reds have a history of converting college relievers and making them into useful starting pitchers, so I'm inclined to lean in that direction for his long-term role.

7. Aristides Aquino (OF)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.292 48 16 64 21
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
307 0.342 0.577 4.89% 21.50%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 R R Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2019

For those of you looking for the toolsy prospect that could turn into a fantasy monster, Aquino is your man from this organization. Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2011, the Reds have brought Aquino along slowly, who has yet to make his full-season debut yet. He started to actualize the tools that made him an interesting prospect in 2014, finishing second in the Pioneer League with 16 home runs and second with 21 stolen bases.

The comps thrown around on Aquino are going to lead to a ton of helium, with Vladimir Guerrero's name being mentioned by Baseball America as a part of their Top 20 Pioneer League prospects (Aquino was the top prospect for them in the league). He has a ton of raw power, and while he stole 21 bases this year, is not expected to be a burner long term. The improvements he made at the plate this year, if carried forward in full-season ball next year, could lead to a top 40 outfielder long-term that provides a good batting average, above-average power production, and a few stolen bases each year.

2015 will be a big year for Aquino's prospect status, as he could be at the top of the list if he performs well at Low-A Dayton. He's an interesting name for deeper leagues right now, but could jump into the top 50 overall by the end of the year.

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8. Amir Garrett (LHP)

Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
7 0 3.64 1.245 127
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
133.1 0.70 1.32 9.09% 22.64%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R A
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

You're not seeing things, that is actually Amir Garrett. A 22nd round pick out of a Henderson, NV high school in 2011, Amir Garrett signed with the Reds for a $1 million bonus despite his late selection, and the Reds knew full well that he may take longer to develop given his commitment to play Division I basketball for St. John's. He pitched for two Reds' affiliates in both 2012 and 2013, albeit sparingly, and returned to school each year. He played the full season at Low-A Dayton, and has begun to show some of the potential that netted him that large bonus in the first place.

Garrett struggled somewhat at the start of the season, but finished the season very strong, posting a 2.93 ERA with 66 strikeouts against 23 walks in 58 innings pitched. That also included a pair of starts where he struck out 10 and 12 batters, and five starts where he lasted at least 6 innings. He features a three-pitch repertoire consisting of a fastball, changeup, and curveball. He's extremely athletic, and has the potential to turn into a potentially elite pitcher down the line. He finally made the decision this August to forego basketball, and will concentrate completely on baseball going forward. He's a long way from the majors still, but is another player that could be at the top of this list in a year's time. He's likely to head to High-A Daytona for the 2015 season.

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9. Ben Lively (RHP)

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
13 0 3.04 1.119 171
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
151 0.80 0.68 8.55% 28.13%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R A+-AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

A 2013 4th round draft pick, Lively was sent to Bakersfield to start the year, and apparently was not aware that the southern half of the California League is a hitters' paradise that eats most pitching prospects alive. He went out and struck out 95 while allowing just 57 hits and 16 walks over 79 innings pitched there before a promotion to AA to finish out the second half of the season. He pitched well there also, but did see an uptick in his walk rate to nearly 12%.

Lively's performance would lead you to believe he should be higher up on this list, but reports on him point to this performance being a bit above what is expected long-term. He features four pitches (FB, CB, CH, SL), all of which have the potential to be at least average offerings in the majors. All of his pitches play up a little beyond their raw grades, as his delivery is extremely deceptive and he hides the ball a little longer than normal. He gets a ton of strikeouts now in part because of that deceptiveness, and that deceptiveness should continue to help him as he moves up.

It's possible that Lively could return to AA to start the 2015 season, or even potentially move up to AAA Louisville instead, with a late 2015/early 2016 ETA to the majors. He doesn't have the upside of some of the pitching prospects ahead of him on this list, but has a high floor and will likely pitch in a major league rotation on a regular basis. He profiles as a back-end starting pitcher, which should translate into a similar value (think top 60-70 starting pitcher most years) for fantasy owners.

10. Raisel Iglesias (RHP)

DID NOT PITCH IN 2014
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (2 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2016


Signed to a seven year, $27 million contract after defecting from Cuba, Iglesias did not pitch in the minors this year. Primarily a reliever in Serie Nacional, the Reds will work Iglesias toward a starting rotation role in the minors. He has pitched in the Arizona Fall League this season, with seven strikeouts, three walks, and one hit allowed over seven innings.

Iglesias is one of those prospects where it's not very clear to me what his long-term fantasy value is, primarily because the range of outcomes is so wide right now. If he pitches well out of the rotation in 2015, he's likely in the top 5 of the system based on early reports on his repertoire, and could potentially move quickly. He will still need to build up his workload, so if he goes that route we may not see him for a couple more seasons.

As of right now, more reports seem to have him pegged as a reliever long-term, which depresses his value to fantasy owners if he doesn't move into a closing role. The fact that he is on the 40-man roster already (and burning options) could lead him to be moved more quickly to return value, which also bodes toward a bullpen role. He seems like an interesting prospect overall, but that lack of clarity about his value to fantasy owners keeps him at the bottom of this list.

Other Interesting Prospects
by Jason Hunt

Alex Blandino (SS) - Blandino profiles as that prospect that is better for his real-life team than for fantasy owners. He has a solid approach at the plate, but it's not clear that he will provide home runs on a consistent basis. He is capable of providing solid batting average and on-base percentage, which when coupled with an expected move away from shortstop, profiles better as a deep league play.

Sal Romano (RHP) - Romano pitched much better in his second stint at Low-A Dayton, and while the numbers looked great, there are still things he will need to work on as he moves up. He has the potential to be an innings-eating back-end starter if it all clicks, and could be an interesting name in very deep dynasty formats.

Nick Travieso (RHP) - Travieso pitched better this year at Low-A Dayton, but there seem to be some mixed reports on whether he can start long term or if he is better suited for a relief role. If that ends up being the case, he's a more valuable real-life prospect than fantasy, as he doesn't really seem all that likely to be a closer candidate long-term.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects
Follow him on Twitter 

Brian Creagh is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter 

David Spracale is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter