The rookie league seasons have officially begun. The Billings Mustangs kicked off their season on Friday and now sit at 3-1 after four games. The Arizona League Reds are playing their first game of the season as I type this (it’s currently 12:35am – they are winning 7-3 in the 8th).
I thought that today would be a good introduction to the top prospects on each squad and guys to keep an eye on.
The Cincinnati Reds sent their first three draft picks from 2016 to begin their careers with the Mustangs. 1st rounder Nick Senzel, supplemental 1st rounder Taylor Trammell and 2nd round selection Chris Okey are the three top position prospects on the team. That’s not a big surprise given how high all three were picked in the most recent draft.
Third Baseman Nick Senzel has had a lot written about him, including at both my site and here at Redleg Nation. The quick recap for Senzel is that he’s likely, right along with Jesse Winker, the most advanced hitter in the farm system. He couples outstanding plate discipline with an ability to use the entire field from the right side of the plate. He’s average or better across the board when it comes to tools, with a plus hit tool and above-average raw power that he could tap into in the future.
Outfielder Taylor Trammell has also been covered both at my site and here at Redleg Nation. He’s a premiere athlete with quick-twitch actions. He brings plus-plus speed to the bases and in the outfield where he can cover tons of ground. His arm isn’t the greatest, but it will play in center field. He’s got a quick bat at the plate to work with, which gives him a chance to hit for both average and power in the future.
Catcher Chris Okey was arguably the top catcher in the 2016 draft. He was covered here at my site and here at Redleg Nation by Steve Mancuso. Nothing really jumps off of the page for Okey. At the same time, he doesn’t seem to have a weakness either. He’s a well rounded, if not spectacular player. At the catcher position he’s got a bat that could play above-average and his defense should be solid in all aspects.
On the mound there’s one guy that stands out above the rest of the group. 2015 2nd round pick Tony Santillan was tabbed as the opening night starter and dominated in 4.2 innings. He went on to strike out eight batters and walk just one, all while giving up just one run. He’s got two potentially plus offerings with his fastball and slider to go with a change up.
One more to keep an eye on: Montrell Marshall. The 20-year-old is the cousin of Brandon Phillips and has plenty of power potential in his bat. While he’s listed as a shortstop on the roster, he’s a first baseman at this point.
Arizona League Reds
The Arizona League Reds have a heavy international lean to the roster. Among the position players there is only one American born player on the active roster. Michael Beltre may be the top position prospect currently on the roster (catcher Jake Turnbull, who I had expected to be on the roster, is injured. He would have been the top guy had he been on the roster). He originally signed in 2013 and spent last season in Arizona, getting limited action after seemingly dealing with several minor injuries that kept him out for a few weeks over the season. He’s quite athletic and toolsy, but is still a bit raw when it comes to his skills.
Another guy to keep an eye on is 20-year-old outfielder Daniel Jimenez. The Venezuela native hit .337/.403/.500 last season for the Dominican Summer League Rojos. He had 27 extra-base hits and 15 steals in 67 games. It’s a big leap in competition from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona Rookie League, but he was arguably the top hitter from the Dominican for the Reds last year.
Infielder Edgar Herrera also played for the DSL Rojos in 2015. He hit .309/.367/.462 with 24 extra-base hits in 61 games. He split time between second and third base, but his error rate at third base compared to second likely suggests he doesn’t have the arm for third.
Francis Azcona was one of the Reds top international signings in 2012. He’s repeating the Arizona Rookie League, but is just 20-years-old this season. He only had 89 plate appearances last season, hitting .266/.341/.329 with nine walks and 18 strikeouts for the AZL Reds in 2015. He’s got tools to work with.
On the pitching side of things, 2016 3rd rounder Nick Hanson is the top guy to keep an eye on. I wrote more about him at my site, but the quick synopsis is that he’s got a good arm, up to 96 with his fastball and a good breaking ball. He’s also got a big pitchers frame, listed at 6′ 6″ and 205 lbs.
The opening night starter was 18-year-old Wennington Romero. The left hander dominated in the Dominican Summer League last season, posting a 2.13 ERA in 71.2 innings. He only walked nine batters and he struck out 82 while giving up just two home runs.
One more to keep an eye on: Jarrett Freeland. He was originally drafted by the Reds as a catcher, though at 6′ 7″ that plan was never going to work. Several teams preferred him as a pitcher with a mid-90’s fastball coming out of high school, but he underwent Tommy John surgery during his senior year. He played first base in 2014 for the Arizona League Reds, but missed the entire 2015 season. He’s now made the move to the mound and debuted as a pitcher on Monday night, throwing a hitless inning with a walk and 2 strikeouts.