Welcome back Reds Fans! It’s the first week of the new major league season and today is both the opening day for the minor league season and the first installment of this years “This Week on the Farm” weekly column. There is not yet any minor league action to discuss, so let’s take a look at a couple of players from each of the minor league full season teams who might be considered Sleeper or Rebound candidates.
AAA Louisville Bats
Sleeper – SP Jackson Stephens
Jackson Stephens might be considered a sleeper since he’s coming off of two consecutive good seasons in (2.97 ERA at A+ in 2015 and 3.33 ERA in AA in 2016) and yet he is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the Reds top SP prospects. This is mostly due to the fact that all his pitches are pretty average. He’s found success by using all his pitches and throwing them for strikes. Stephens has been successful the last two seasons despite being about 2 years younger than league average. Stephens will be 23 this season and open the year in the AAA starting rotation. Continued success at AAA this season could eventually lead him to the back end of the Reds rotation if the high end prospects don’t perform as expected.
Rebound – OF/3B Tyler Goeddel
Newly acquired OF/3B Tyler Goeddel had a rough season in the big leagues last year as a Rule V pickup hitting only .192/.258/.291/.549 in 234 PA. He had hit a very solid .269/.349/.408/.757 in 479 PA at A+ in 2014 followed up by a pretty good .279/.350/.433/.783 in 533 PA at AA in 2015. I’d expect the 24 year old to rebound this season at AAA with some more consistent playing time at the level of minors he skipped over last season. It will also be interesting to see if the Reds get Goeddel any playing time back at 3B where he 293 G from 2012 – 2014 before being switched to the OF in 2015 at AA.
AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Sleeper – OF/1B Brian O’Grady
Brian O’Grady is a player who you may have never heard of. The versatile OF/1B can play all three OF positions and 1B. He has actually logged more time CF (40 % of his games) than any of the other three positions. He put up 16 SB last year and 25 SB the year before with a minor league total SB% of 83%. He’s got a little power, hitting 9 HR last year and 11 the year before, as well as 6 3B each of the last two seasons. He hit .235/.363/.394/.758 in 423 PA last year in A+ and .249/.360/.411/.771 in 466 PA the year before in A/A+ with two thirds of that coming at A Dayton (.835 OPS in 305 PA). Note his .360+ OBP each of the last two seasons that is propped by his minor league career 14.5 BB%. That brings us to the reasons you haven’t seen him on any of the Reds top prospects lists. The 25 year old has been about a year older than his league the last two years. He’s hit for a low BA (minor league total .246) and he has a minor league career 20.7 SO% (96 SO each of the last two seasons). O’Grady has an interesting blend of skills and will be challenged this year with the difficult jump to AA.
Rebound – 3B/1B Eric Jagielo
Eric Jagielo came to the Reds as the probably the second best prospect, behind Rookie Davis, in the Aroldis Chapman deal. In the two years before the Reds acquired him Jagielo hit .259/.354/.460/.813 in 359 PA at A+ and then .284/.347/.495/.842 in 248 PA at AA (his AA season was cut short by a knee injury). Unfortunately he never got on track for the Reds last season at AA hitting a dismal .205/.305/.310/.615 in 420 PA. He did maintain a good 10 BB% last season but his SO% jumped from 24% to 30% last season. I had a lot higher expectations from him last season and I suspect that the 25 year will rebound this season at the plate.
High A Daytona Tortugas
Sleeper – OF Daniel Sweet
Daniel Sweet started out his first season with the Reds hitting a torrid .333/.484/.565/1.049 in 92 PA at Rookie level Billings. The 22 year old LF struggled a bit after a promotion to A ball putting up a .243/.307/.407/.714 in 154 PA. He maintained a decent 8 BB% at A but his SO% jumped to 30. He hit 9 3B and stole 11 bases in his first half season of pro ball. He will need to cut his SO% down to be successful this season as he will be challenged with a promotion to A+.
Rebound – SP Jonathan Crawford
Jonathan Crawford came to the Reds along with Eugenio Suarez in the Alfredo Simon deal. Unfortunately he’s only pitched 17 games for the Reds over the 2015 and 2016 seasons since the trade due to shoulder issues. Crawford put up a 2.85 ERA in 123 IP allowing 93 H and 50 BB with 85 SO in A ball the season before the Reds obtained him. Hopefully his shoulder troubles are behind him and he can pick up where he left off on the mound at A+.
Low A Dayton Dragons
Sleeper – OF Michael Beltre
Michael Beltre hit .220/.273/.293/.565 as a 19 year old in 2015 in Rookie ball in Arizona. Then last year he burst out hitting .292/.380/.443/.824 in 122 PA in Rookie AZL and was then promoted to Rookie Billings league where he hit .309/.423/.531/.954 in 97 PA. He’ll be challenged this year with a promotion to full season ball at A Dayton. There he may find it hard to find playing time as their OF is stacked with prospects Trammel, Friedl, and Siri. Keep an eye on how this switch hitting OF fares in Dayton this year.
Rebound – 1B James Vasquez
James Vasquez was two years older than the average Rookie AZL player in 2015 when he hit .359/.415/.669/1.084 there in 164 PA. He was challenged with a promotion to A ball last year where he was again about 1.5 years older than the league and hit a disappointing .223/.295/.358/.653 in 529 PA. He did flash some power hitting 20 2B and 14 HR and maintained a decent 8 BB%. He’ll start out back in Dayton, but if he starts out quick as one would expect, he could get a bump up to Daytona soon to back fill there for Gavin LaValley who should not be in A+ for long this season.