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.


Cincinnati Reds

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.

21 Responses

  1. Dave Fleck

    Tom, who do you think goes to Greeneville? I ask since you added Billings at the end of your column.

    • Tom Diesman

      That’s a really tough question, especially right now. The expectation is that the rookie level Greeneville club will be used as a step stone between the Reds rookie level team in the AZL and the rookie level club in Billings. The league will not begin play until late June after the amateur draft, where many of it’s players will come from. Remember also that the Reds have two rookie level teams in the DSL (Dominican Summer League). It the past, the very young DSL players would typically feed the AZL Reds, along with most of the High School Players in the draft, and maybe a few of the College players drafted. The Billings team would be stocked with most of the College players drafted along with players being promoted from the AZL Reds. So it will be interesting to see how the Reds utilize the Greeneville team roster. Will more advanced DSL players be placed there instead of with the AZL Reds? Will the more advanced AZL players skip Greenville and be placed at Billings? Will the Greeneville team be a more even mix of High School and College draftees? One might also imagine that some players at a well stocked position could find themselves in Greeneville instead of AZL or Billings to more repetitions at their position. Also, you have to wonder if league factors, hiiter vs pitcher league might factor into the placement of some prospects.

      Rookie Level 2017 League Avg

      DOSL .241/.336/.326/.663 3.61 ERA
      AZL .256/.339/.380/.719 4.35 ERA
      Appalachian .262/.339/.392/.731 4.48 ERA
      Pioneer .293/.370/.457/.826 5.63 ERA

      There is a lot factors that could come into play and it will be very interesting to see what the Reds strategy is for how they stock the Greeneville roster this June.

  2. WVRedlegs

    Welcome back Tom. Look forward to your weekly reports. These minor league teams are starting to get stacked and well stocked. It will be interesting to see how the Reds divide up players between the 2 rookie level teams at Billings and the new team at Greeneville.
    The hurricanes last September helped give Pensacola a league co-championship last season after the championship round of their playoffs was washed out. Maybe some of that can rub off on Louisville this year as Bats fans are also getting restless about having winning baseball again in their town. Dayton and Daytona both look to have chances for their league playoffs.
    One week from today, Opening Day. It is almost here.
    Two weeks from today, Minor League Opening Day. Real baseball is just around the corner.

  3. TomN

    Tom, thank you for your articles. Question about Mahle and service time: Suppose the Reds have Mahle start the season with the Reds and when Finnegan is healthy, send Mahle back down to AAA. Would that have the same service time implications as if they had started him in AAA then moved him up to the Reds (assuming equivalent days). I am a rookie at understanding the service time concept.


    • Shchi Cossack

      Yes. It doesn’t matter when major league service time accumulates, just how much. Mahle could start the season in AAA or be optioned to AAA during the season, to accomplich the same thing, as long has he doesn’t accumulate more than 172 days of major league service time by the end of the season. He already has 36 days of major league service time, so he needs to accumulate less than 136 more days during this season. There are more than 172 days in a major league season, but 172 days of service time is deemed a full season. After 172, any additional days are not added, it just counts as 1 year.

    • The Duke

      He’d have to spend about 49-50 days in the minors this year in order to get that extra service year. He’d have to be down about half the year to avoid super 2. I’m not overly surprised the Reds are just rolling with it and putting him in the rotation.

  4. Eric the Red

    Whatever happened to the pitcher that was the “headline” in the deal that brought Duvall in as an afterthought? Hurt? Ineffective? Never had a chance and we tricked the Giants into giving us Duvall?

    • Optimist

      Keury Mella – he’s still there, and appeared in a few Reds games after a call up last season. Check the link to Doug’s list – you’ll see he’s dropped off the top 25 after 2 blah years in AA and AAA. Still, only 24 and if he rebounds this year may be a factor.

      • lwblogger2

        I’ll add that Doug thinks he projects more as a RP in MLB.

    • The Duke

      Control issues are what have held him back. Above average velo and a decent breaking ball, but not enough strikes.

  5. Scott Carter

    I was wondering what happened to Chris Oakey? I think he is a top 25 prospect still?

    • Shchi Cossack

      Okey’s prospect status took a significant hit in 2017 at A+ ball, after a solid, if unspectacular, 2016 season at A ball. Okey apparently had some physical issues during the season that probably contributed to his problems, but he slashed a paltry .185/.265/.249 at Daytona.

      • WVRedlegs

        Didn’t he break the hamate bone in his wrist early in the year and played all season with a broken bone in his wrist? That will sap the power and take your BA down. Hoping for a good rebound by Okey this year.

      • Shchi Cossack

        Yep, that’s how I remember it. I hope Okey and Stephenson have solid, healthy seasons in 2018. They need to be moving up the chain.

  6. Big56dog

    Can anyone elaborate on the service time considerations for Mahle? I thought I understood it- the month he spent last year is not a full year. If he makes opening day roster and plays all year it is only 1 year and he probably does not qualify as a Super 2.
    He may still qualify for Super 2 after 2019 if he does not miss a significant portion of this season?
    Even if he plays all 2018 and 2019 with the reds he would still only be at 2 years, correct?

    • Shchi Cossack

      It’s not about super 2 status with Mahle, it’s about gaining an additional (7th) year of team control. If Mahle makes the 25-man roster on opening day and stays on the 25-man roster for the entire season. the Reds will maintain control of his contract for 6 more seasons (thru 2023). Since Mahle already has 36 days of major league service time, if the Reds send Mahle to AAA to begin the season and keep him there long enough so he accumulate less than 136 more days of major league service time in 2018, the Reds will maintain control of his contract for 7 more seasons (thru 2024). In order to do that, Mahle would need to stay in AAA for 6-8 weeks.

      • Big56dog

        So doesn’t super 2 come in to play after this (say he gets 135 days this season), do they not have to manipulate his time in 2019 to avoid Super 2 prior to the 2020 season? Does this turn into laying him as a rookie in 2019 as opposed to a 1 year player? Seems petty

      • Big56dog

        Looked into it a bit more- is Super 2 solely for arbitration? I thought it had something to do about having so many days to be bumped up to 2 years after a year a lot of days. I would think the rate they are going Mahle might qualify but this would only mean 4 years of arbitration starting after 2020 season? as opposed to 3 years after same season with one less year of team control if they did manage service time better????

      • Shchi Cossack

        By George! I think you’ve got it my good man. Yes, super 2 is all about money and just money. Getting 3 years of arbitration rather than 4 years of arbitration. It doesn’t grant a team any more years of control. Managing service time to keep more than 172 days from accumulating is about getting an additional year of team control.

        If Mahle starts with the team on opening day, the Reds will lose out on a 7th year of team control , but Mahle won’t get close to super 2 status. If Mahle plays in AAA for 6 weeks, the Reds will gain an additional year of team control, but Mahle will blow past the super 2 cutoff and gain 4 years of arbitration rather than just 3 years of arbitration.