A Minors Obsession

Names to follow in Billings and Arizona this year

Last Monday the rookie level Billings Mustangs opened up their season and on Friday the even lower rookie level Arizona League Reds opened up their season. These two teams represent the lowest levels of minor league baseball in the United States (the Reds have two teams in the Dominican Republic as well). The majority of these two teams are made up of 2013 and 2014 draft picks, though there is a decent mix of international players as well. Now that we have our hands on the rosters for each team, let’s take a look at a few guys to watch for from each roster.

Billings Mustangs

Three Pitchers to Watch

Wyatt Strahan | RHSP | The Cincinnati Reds 3rd round draft pick in the 2014 draft comes out of USC where he was clocked as high as 97 MPH. He also brings in a very good breaking ball and a solid change up. His future may be in the bullpen, but for now he is starting and he brings a big arm to the Billings roster.

Jeremy Kivel | RHSP | Kivel brings the heat with the best of the best in the system with plus fastball velocity. He struck out 56 batters last year for the Arizona League Reds in 50.2 innings pitched. He is still rather new to pitching, but his big time arm puts another one in the Billings rotation to watch for.

Tyler Mahle | RHSP | Of all of the reports coming out of extended spring training, the most glowing were the ones on Tyler Mahle. While his raw stuff may not match up with the previously mentioned players, his stuff is of good quality. What Mahle stands out for is his advanced approach for his age and it showed up in his second start for Billings where he struck out eight batters without a walk in five innings.

Three Position Players to Watch

Aristides Aquino | OF | Last season was a bit of a breakout year for Aquino after spending two seasons in the Dominican Summer League struggling to use his raw tools at the plate. He is off to an outstanding start in 2014 with a .379 average, four doubles, a triple and two home runs in 29 at-bats.

Cory Thompson | SS | One of the top shortstop prospects in the system, Thompson is just 19-years-old. After hitting .266/.341/.340 in Arizona last season he is off to a good start in 2014, hitting .276/.344/.448 so far.

KJ Franklin | 3B/1B | The second round pick from last year has some of the best raw power in the entire system and put in a lot of work over the offseason to shed himself of nearly 30 pounds. He is off to a slow start in the first week. He has been splitting time between first and third base so far early in the season.

Arizona League Reds

Three Pitchers to Watch

Jacob Constante | LHSP | The Reds signed the left hander out of the Dominican Republic for $730,000 early in 2013 and sent him to the Dominican Summer League where he toyed with a mostly younger league. He made his first appearance last night for the Arizona League Reds with six strikeouts and no walks in three innings. One of the top left handed pitchers in the system, the 20-year-old is one of the bigger prospects on the team.

Mark Armstrong | RHSP | The third round pick in the 2013 draft only threw three innings last year. This season he has already thrown more, going for four innings in his first appearance where he walked one batter and struck out seven.

Tejay Antone | RHSP | Antone spent his first year in college at TCU but he transferred to Weatherford College for 2014 and impressed enough to be drafted in the fifth round by the Reds. He already shows three pitches, with two of them having above-average potential. The 20-year-old could perform very well in the league if he sticks around there, but also has a good enough arm to be considered a good prospect moving forward.

Three Position Players to Watch

Jose Siri | OF | The 18-year-old is coming off of a season where he hit .303/.363/.483 in the Dominican Summer League. It isn’t often that the Reds bring players over at this age, so it shows their confidence in him. He has some good speed and showed off good power last season.

Gavin LaValley | 3B | The fourth round pick in the 2014 draft shows off big time bat speed and plenty of power potential. The 19-year-old has put in a lot of work, getting in much better shape over the course of his high school career after being a very large freshman. He hit an incredible 54 home runs in high school in just 121 games.

Hector Vargas | SS/2B | One of the better middle infield prospects in the system, Vargas is stateside for the first time this year. As an 18-year-old last season he hit .327/.400/.389 for the Dominican Summer League Reds while playing shortstop. He walked more than he struck out and stole 21 bases.

 

11 thoughts on “Names to follow in Billings and Arizona this year

  1. Youtube Gavin LaValley. His power is off the charts, and it is not just pull power. Hope he can play ANY defense, looks like a right handed Ryan Howard.

  2. I’m excited to see what Vargas can do. If he’s quick through the system, he may find himself in need in a few years as Cozart and Phillips begin the “middle-infield-falling-off-a-cliff” routine.

  3. Reds need to start drafting, training, and trading for middle infield guys. That is an apparent void in our farm system. Cozart is all glove and phillips is aging and will need an heir to replace him at the next blink of an eye

    • Generally speaking, almost all teams have a problem with middle infield prospects. Zack Cozart was one of the 15 best shortstops on the planet last year. Think about that. The bar is very low, so to speak, and yet there isn’t some cavalry coming from the minors for a whole bunch of teams.

  4. I live in Provo, UT which borders Orem, UT which is home of the Orem Owlz who play in the same league as Billings! I was able to see the ‘Stangs pound the Owlz last summer. I can’t wait to see this year’s crop! Even if it’s rookie ball, I’m a Reds’ fan through and through! Go Mustangs!

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