A Minors Obsession

The Billings and Arizona League rookie rosters

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.

Billings Mustangs

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.

23 thoughts on “The Billings and Arizona League rookie rosters

  1. Doug
    Thanks for the report. Always interesting to read about the prospects and see if they develop as hoped for.

  2. Any word on whether Scott Moss might sign? I went to the Florida Gators website to check on him. It looks like he will be a “red shirt Jr” next season with two seasons of eligibility remaining versus a straight up Sr. on his last go around

    • Nothing is going to happen until Florida is done playing in the college world series with Moss. Why Hendrix and Sansone haven’t signed is a mystery to me.

      • Duh! on me. I’ve been too occupied to actually sit down and watch any of the CWS and was thinking the Gators lost out. Must have had them crossed with Senzel and the Vols in my aging mind.

    • We might see some movement on this soon. UF plays Texas Tech tonight in the College World Series. Both are in the losers bracket. So if UF loses tonight, look for many of their drafted players to sign soon.

  3. Thanks Doug. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more about several of these guys as they move up through the system in the next couple of years.

  4. Does Senzel, and possibly Okey, since they are college guys get fast tracked to Dayton before end of July?? That way to give them 4-5 weeks at A level before the minor league seasons end. I’m sure they’ll go slower with Trammell.
    Santillan looks as if he’ll be in Dayton soon.

    • I believe I’ve read that Doug thinks Senzel will be out of Billings before the end of this season and that they likely won’t hold him back from advancing as far as AA over the course of 2017 if his performance merits. Don’t know about Okey.

  5. On the MLB side of things, it appears that Michael Lorenzen is currently in Cincinnati according to Twitter. Looks like he may join the team on Thursday and help the bullpen soon! I would think Peraza gets sent back down once we leave the AL and DH in Texas, but don’t know what roster move might happen to make room for Lorenzen (60-day DL).

    • Adelman to 60 day DL? That would be consistent with the Reds history of pitchers having a oblique or lat injury. Morris could be another 60 day DL prospect. I wouldn’t think either of those guys would bark much if at all at going to the 60 day list as they are probably both working on a split contract and being on the 60 day MLB DL assures them of making the full MLB minimum longer along with more MLB service time.

    • I am mildly surprised they will hold Lorenzen back to Thursday when they’ve had him on a routine of pitching every other day then extended him in back to back games Sat and Sun. However if your thought that he takes Peraza’s 25 man spot is correct, that too figures as a Reds set piece SOP. I suppose they’ve got somebody there in Cincy that can run him through a simulated game appearance to get his work in….

      • Winkler on the DL. Anyone heard the extent of his injury? IL player of the week Scott Schebler went 4 for 4 last night including three doubles and now batting .304. Where does he fit in if Jay Bruce isn’t traded?

      • If Lorenzen is in Cincinnati right now or yesterday, I don’t know why they would send him to Cincinnati only to then send him to Texas. I just assume he’s probably waiting for the team to return?

        On who they send down, I predict Peraza because I don’t think he is Super 2 Safe yet and so far the Reds have been holding firmly on service time and Super 2 issues this year. That and I’m pretty sure the last time they sent him down was right after an AL series and I have heard someone (Price?) say that Peraza is staying up til they don’t have 9 spots in the lineup for him. I would be totally fine with anyone else (Simon, Pacheco, 60 day dl options) making room for Lorenzen as well, I just don’t see Peraza staying up with the Reds for Super 2 concerns.

        • What I had read last week was that he would go to Cincy for “evaluation” then be reactivated assuming there were no issues. Figured that meant a morning or afternoon with Dr. Kremchek being poked, prodded, twisted, MRIed etc on Monday then they would send him on down to Tejas for action. Its not like they don’t always need a fresh (and this case hopefully very good) arm in the pen.

        • Pacheco isn’t doing much on his rehab. I think Peraza still has potential Super2 issues because of having 40+ days of MLB service time coming into this season.

  6. Thanks, Doug!

    Is it true that the Reds generally put their “good” prospects in Billings and AZL is left more for the “extreme long shots?” Seems that way, but wanted to ask before I made that assumption. I’ve followed the low minors very little before this season.

    • Not really true. Billings is usually for college guys and a top round high school guy that’s a position player – or guys that were in the AZL the year before.

      AZL is for less advanced college guys – these are usually your long shots, or high school guys/1st year international guys to the US.

  7. Saw the other Billings catcher Cassidy Brown play here in Nebraska this spring for Loyola. He was by far the most impressive guy on that team. Hit a couple of Home runs and seemed more than competent at catcher.

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