The Reds four full season minor league teams open play two weeks from now. The AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos, A+ Daytona Tortugas, and A Dayton Dragons all begin play on Thursday, April 5th. The AAA Louisville Bats start their season the following day on Friday, April 6th. I figured it would be best to not have this year’s first “This Week on the Farm” column lost in the mix of the festivities of the Reds Opening Day next Thursday. So I’ll start the year off with a preview today, take next week off, and then hopefully we’ll have all the rosters of the Reds four full season minor league teams to discuss on Minor League Opening Day.
For this week’s column I’d like to take a look at the Reds top prospects and discuss where we might expect to see them start out or spend most of the season. For the top prospect list, we are of course going to use the best list out there. That would be the one created by the guy who knows more than anyone about the Reds minor league system, Doug Gray. Doug’s “Post 2017 Season” top 25 Reds prospect list can be found here.
1 Nick Senzel 3B/SS/2B .321/.391/.514/.905 A+,AA
3 Tyler Mahle RHSP 2.06 ERA AA,AAA
5 Jesse Winker LF/RF .314/.395/.408/.803 AAA, .298/.375/.529/.904 MLB
While Nick Senzel will not be starting out the year with the Reds, most expect that he will continue to crush minor league pitching at the AAA level and get the call up to the Reds soon after the Reds have gained an additional year of his services. The big question is what position Senzel will play upon being recalled.
Tyler Mahle will most likely find himself in the same position as Senzel. The Reds most likely will send him down to AAA to begin the season in order to gain an additional year of his services. Mahle will then hopefully step into the Reds rotation for many years to come given that he continues to pitch the way he has last season and this spring.
Jesse Winker was just shy of getting enough playing time to lose his rookie status last year. Hopefully he will garner enough playing time this season and continue to play well enough to be a serious Rookie of the Year candidate.
AAA Louisville Bats
16 Jose Lopez RHSP 2.57 ERA A+,AA
17 Alex Blandino 2B/3B/SS .265/.382/.453/.835 AA,AAA
19 Jimmy Herget RHRP 2.90 ERA AA,AAA
21 Phillip Ervin OF .256/.328/.380/.709 AAA .259/.317/.448/.766 MLB
25 Zack Weiss RHRP 2.63 ERA A+,AA
Jose Lopez tossed just shy of 100 IP last season at AA Pensacola after being promoted from A+ Daytona. He’s deserving of a start at the AAA level this year, but could start back at AA since he is facing a numbers crunch with all of the starting pitchers that are ahead of him at AAA.
Alex Blandino placed himself back into prospect status with a strong season last year. He’d fighting two veterans for a backup IF position on the Reds roster this spring, but will most likely end up back at AAA Louisville to start the season.
Jimmy Herget made a good showing in spring training but it appears that he will begin the season in AAA this year. He will see some time in the Reds bullpen before the season is over if he continues his success there.
Phil Ervin is battling veteran Ben Revere for a role with the Reds as 5th OF. Odds are he starts the year back in AAA to get regular at bats until a spot on the Reds roster opens for him to provide him with some regular playing time. It would be nice to see Ervin put up some stronger numbers at the AAA level as well.
Zack Weiss returned last season from an injury and had a very good season. He also had a strong spring training. I’d expect Weiss to start the year at AAA and to see time with the Reds this season given he continues to pitch well.
AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos
8 Shed Long 2B .281/.358/.477/.834 A+,AA
10 Vladimir Gutierrez RHSP 4.46 ERA A+
18 Aristides Aquino OF .216/.282/.397/.678 AA
22 Gavin LaValley 1B .269/.318/.443/.761 A+,AA
23 Nick Longhi 1B/OF .266/.314/.410/.724 AA
24 Jesus Reyes RHSP 3.60 ERA A+,AA
Shed Long struggled a bit and was also dealing with an injury in his second half promotion to AA last season after a phenomenal first half season at A+. Look for him start the year back at AA and be a quick promotion to AAA this season if he starts hitting well at AA like most expect him to.
Vladimir Gutierrez struggled at times last year at A+ Daytona, but with loads of talent and some strong peripheral numbers, he should be starting the year out at AA Pensacola.
Aristides Aquino had a rough year last season at AA after a great season the year before in A+. He should start the year back in AA, but could be a quick promotion if he begins to show success against AA pitching.
Gavin LaValley had a breakout first half season at A+ Daytona last year. He also struggled after a promotion to AA Pensacola. He’ll start out back at AA and hope to show the power he showed last year at A+ again.
Nick Longhi was only with the Reds for about a week last year, after being acquired from the Red Sox for International Bonus Pool money, when he suffered an elbow injury that ended his season. He’ll start the year back at AA with hopes of impressing his new organization.
Jesus Reyes acquitted himself well in about 50 IP at AA after a promotion from A+ Daytona. With a logjam of SP at AAA Louisville, odds are that he will return to AA Pensacola to begin this season.
High A Daytona Tortugas
4 Taylor Trammell LF/CF .281/.368/.450/.819 A
6 Tyler Stephenson C .278/.374/.414/.787 A
7 Tony Santillan RHSP 3.38 ERA A
9 Jose Siri CF .293/.341/.530/.871 A
Taylor Trmmell had a great season at A Dayton last year and is slated to move up to A+ Daytona for this season. It would be nice to see Trammell get more time in CF as he moves up the ladder, but that may be tough as fellow CF prospect is on the same trajectory and is an outstanding defender.
Tyler Stephenson had his best season as a professional last season. Hopefully he can avoid the injury bug this season as he moves up to A+ Daytona. It will be interesting to see if he is sharing time at A+ with fellow catching prospect Chris Okey who struggled at A+ Daytona last season.
Tony Santillan pitched very well at A Dayton last year and will hope to do the same at A+ Daytona this coming season.
Jose Siri had a huge breakout season last year. His big challenge as he moves up to A+ Daytona will be to continue to improve on his BB and SO numbers.
Low A Dayton Dragons
2 Hunter Greene RHSP 12.46 ERA R Billings
11 Jeter Downs SS .267/.370/.424/.795 R Billings
12 Jose Garcia SS DNP, International Free Agent
13 Stuart Fairchild CF .304/.393/.412/.805 R Billings
14 Miles Gordon OF .319/.389/.530/.919 R Billings
15 Andy Sugilio OF .345/.390/.472/.862 R Billings
Hunter Greene by most accounts will pitch in Dayton this season. The big question here is how the Reds will manage his workload. Most estimate that he will get about 100 IP this year in his first full professional season.
Jeter Downs had a good season last year at R Billings and the talented SS prospect will make his first appearance in full season minor league baseball this year.
Jose Garcia was signed last year as an International Free Agent and has yet to play in the Reds organization. Doug Gray reports that the talented 20 year old SS prospect appears to be working out with the Dayton squad in spring training. It will be interesting to see how they divide the SS playing time between him and Jeter Downs if he does end up with Dayton to start the season.
Stuart Fairchild, Miles Gordon, and Andy Sugilio all played well for R Billings last season and should once again provide an OF full of prospects for the A Dayton club next season.
Rookie Billings Mustangs
20 Miguel Hernandez SS .299/.338/.402/.740 R DSL Rojos, R AZL Reds
Miguel Hernandez split time between the R DSL Rojos and the R AZL Reds last season and performed well at both stops. He will most likely man SS for the R Billings team this coming season.