The Cincinnati Reds announced that they have invited 18 non-roster players to spring training for 2019. There are several top prospects that got invites, along with a few underrated players who could make a little bit of noise.
- Anthony Bass (RHP)
- Odrisamer Despaigne (RHP)
- Vladimir Gutierrez (RHP)
- Alex Powers (RHP)
- Tony Santillan (RHP
- Juan Graterol (C)
- Chris Okey (C)
- Tyler Stephenson (C)
- Christian Colon (IF)
- Alfredo Rodriguez (IF)
- Nick Senzel (IF/OF)
- Aristides Aquino (OF)
- TJ Friedl (OF)
- Brian O’Grady (OF)
- Jordan Patterson (OF)
- Taylor Trammell (OF)
- Mason Williams (OF)
- Kyle Wren (OF)
Three of the Cincinnati Reds top four prospects are on that list. Nick Senzel comes in at the top of the list, while Taylor Trammell is the Reds third ranked prospect, and Tony Santillan is the fourth ranked prospect in the organization. Sixth ranked Tyler Stephenson will be in camp to do some catching, and ninth ranked Vladimir Gutierrez also got an invitation.TJ Friedl rounds out the top 25 prospects who got an invitation to spring training – he cracked the list at #15.
Looking at the list there doesn’t seem to be a good chance for most of these players to break the roster with the big league club. Guys like Taylor Trammell and Tyler Stephenson haven’t played above A-ball. The odds that they jump into the Majors is slim-and-none, especially given what’s in front of them. But among the prospects themselves one guy stands out above the rest, while one guy may be overlooked if you aren’t well versed.
Nick Senzel is the teams top prospect and he has been since the day he was drafted. He was probably ready to play in the Major Leagues LAST April. As a second baseman/third baseman, there simply wasn’t a spot for him to play every day. There still isn’t a spot for him at either of those positions, but he’s spent his offseason learning to play the outfield in Goodyear at the Reds spring training complex. He’s played left and center in instructional league, and he’s been working in center field since completing his rehab from surgery to have bone spurs in his elbow removed.
If he’s going to break into the big leagues it would seem that right now it would have to be in center field. Things could change if Scooter Gennett is traded, or if there’s an injury that happens. But looking at things right now, center field is the opening there for the taking.
The fact that center field could be there for the taking brings us to outfielder TJ Friedl. He’s not the prospect that Nick Senzel is. But he’s a quality prospect who hit .284/.381/.384 between Advanced-A and Double-A last season. That came with 30 stolen bases, 66 walks, and 100 strikeouts in 570 plate appearances. And unlike many of the players that the Reds are considering as center field options, he undoubtedly can play center field defensively. It’s his natural position and one where he wouldn’t be stretched like Yasiel Puig or Scott Schebler (or maybe Nick Senzel – which has yet to be determined). While it seems unlikely that he’s the favorite to win the job, given how center field currently looks and the uncertainty with almost every candidate for the position, his odds are probably better than you would think with just a surface look.
When you look at the pitching, one arm stands out among them: Tony Santillan. He’s got the second best stuff in the farm system behind only Hunter Greene. But he’s also ahead of Greene right now in terms of readiness, having split his 2018 season between Advanced-A and Double-A. Santillan posted a 3.08 ERA between the two stops last year in 149.0 innings. He allowed just 13 home runs, walked just 38 batters, and struck out 134. Like Friedl, it’s unlikely that he breaks camp with the team – but given his stuff, there’s always a chance that it could happen. The Reds would probably prefer he gets more time in the minors, but with two plus pitches and control, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing to see at the end of March.
The Non-Top 25 Prospects with a chance
Brian O’Grady and Alex Powers aren’t going to be found on top prospect lists. But both of them performed well in the upper levels of the minor leagues in 2018. The right-handed relieving Powers picked up 18 saves for Double-A Pensacola. He posted a 2.34 ERA in 42.1 innings while giving up just 30 hits. He also struck out 55 batters with 11 walks. His profile is more that of a 6th/7th inning reliever. But he could be close to being ready to contribute in the Majors in that role.
Brian O’Grady could be an interesting fit as a utility player. He put up an OPS of .826 in Double-A last year in the first half. In the second half he was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. While there he was even better, hitting .306/.365/.563 in 42 games. He can play all three outfield spots, though he is stretched a bit in center. And he’s also got plenty of experience at first base. As a guy who could play a little bit of everywhere, he could bring some value. And he also has a little bit of speed and pop, so pinch running and hitting roles could be there, too.
And then there’s Mason Williams. Last year he came to spring training in a similar role as a non-roster invitee. He didn’t make the team out of spring training. What he did show enough to keep him on the mind of the team. He went to Triple-A Louisville and played well. With the Bats he hit .280/.341/.418 in 87 games. That led to him getting called up to Cincinnati in late July where he hit .293/.331/.398 the rest of the season, playing in 51 games. He can play center field and he’s got enough speed to be useful as a pinch runner off of the bench.