The minor league camp is just getting into full swing but the minor league rosters will not be set and finalized for a few weeks. The 25-man major league roster is nearly set, lacking just 2-3 relievers and 1-2 utility infielders. Nick Senzel will make the 25-man roster; it’s just a question of how soon.

Now is a good time to look at those prospects that we feel face particularly important seasons. Everyone will have individual opinions about which ones and why. Hunter Greene, Jonathan India and JT Friedl represent the three key 2019 Cincinnati Reds prospects for short term and long term impact. Those are my who.  Now for my why…

Hunter Greene

Hunter Greene was promoted to the Midwest League (A) Dragons for the 2018 season. He had a tough month in April (14.63 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 1.105 OPS) but also some bad luck (.708 BAbip). Although Greene maintained a high walk rate (6.75/9 innings), he also struck out a whopping 19.13/9 innings during April. The numbers indicate that Greene really suffered from the classic ‘hit ’em where they ain’t’ syndrome.  After April, Greene righted the ship (3.13 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .297 BAbip, 2.54 BB/9 innings and 10.74 BB/9 innings). Unfortunately his final 3 starts averaged only 2.2 IP. After his 7/26/18 start, Greene was shut down with a UCL sprain in his pitching elbow. The injury was treated with rest and rehab during the off season.

All reports have been rosy for Greene, who is expected to be fully ready for ST and the 2019 season. I look for Greene to begin the season at Florida State League (A+) Daytona. A strong early season should allay any fears regarding his elbow. This could also set the stage for a possible midseason promotion to Southern League (AA) Chattanooga.

I also look for the Reds development staff to closely monitor Greene’s innings pitched to allow a full season of starts during the 2019 season. With a lack of accumulated innings, I believe a 2021 major league appearance for Hunter Greene is a reasonable goal, but he could immediately step into a top-of-the-rotation role as early as 2021.

Jonathan India

Jonathan India played through the college world series last season after the rule 4 draft. He then headed to Appalachian League (rookie) Greeneville after just a short respite while negotiating his contract. He also played at Pioneer League (rookie) Billings and Midwest League (A) Dayton, totaling 44 games and 184 plate appearances. India struggled with his hit tool (.240 AVG), especially against right-handed pitchers (.211 AVG). To his credit, India maintained very good plate discipline (.380 OBP) and good power (.193 ISO). Physical and emotional fatigue could certainly have contributed to his struggles last season.

I look for India to begin the season back in Dayton with positive results. That could lead to a possible midseason promotion to Florida State League (A+) Daytona. After a token look at shortstop in 2018 and a fresh start to the season, I hope that the Reds development staff will continue with a serious look at key defensive positions for India, besides just second base and third base. Hopefully the Senzel lesson has yielded some positive impact regarding the organizational intent to establish more defensive flexibility for those athletic, high-upside hitting prospects.

India could join Greene at the Major League level in 2021, but with Eugenio Suarez and Senzel as likely fixtures for second base and third base, India may need a defensive position to play. The Reds likely have just one more top-ten rule 4 draft selection (2019) in their hip pocket. It is imperative that the Reds organization maximize all of their high draft choices from the 2015-2019 rule 4 drafts.

TJ Friedl

TJ Friedl’s saga represents a modern-day baseball fable. As a talented college player who slipped through the fingers of every MLB organization, Friedl fell in the Cincinnati Reds collective lap. Sheer luck provided a classic event of being in the right place, at the right time and under the right circumstances.

The Reds have a plethora of young outfield prospects headed by Taylor Trammell and Jose Siri. Of those young outfield prospects, only Friedl achieved any success in the upper minors. During 2018, Friedl hit .284/.381/.384, including a half season at AA where he hit .276/.359/.360. This takes on significant importance with an anticipated 60% turnover in the Reds outfield in 2020, including center field.

Friedl lacks power (career .118 ISO), but provides good contact (career 17.5% SO rate), very good on-base skills (career .374 OBP) and experience in center field with excellent speed but a below average arm. Without a starting outfield replacement, specifically center field, available for the 2020 season, the Reds must seek an external starting outfield replacement. Phillip Ervin could possibly fill a corner or utility outfield role. Scott Schebler could possibly fill a center, corner or utility outfielder role. Nick Senzel becomes the heir apparent at second base when Scooter Gennett becomes a free agent. Friedl could fill the vacancy in center with solid defense and speed at the top of the lineup combined with good on-base skills.

I look for Friedl to improve his offense at AA early in the 2019 season followed by a midseason promotion to AAA with similar success.  Friedl may not provide a long-term solution in center. As a one-year, short-term option making league minimum, he could prove very valuable.

Now It’s Your Turn

Who are your key 2019 Cincinnati Reds prospects? Why do you view their success in 2019 as key elements to the short-term or long-term success of the Cincinnati Reds? There are no right or wrong answers, just your opinions and reasons. I’m anxious to hear from you.

27 Responses

  1. matthew hendley

    I don’t understand, while these prospects are very good, to good, there is no way any of them are reaching the Majors in 2019. Why then are they being regarded as important prospects for 2019?

    • Warren Leeman

      Ah, the key word is ‘prospects’. It’s kinda what the minor leagues are about…developing and progressing prospects to take over at the major league level.

      The Reds OF is set for 2019. Even with a trade or injury, the OF has depth and versatility. The issue is 2020, not 2019. The Reds will need a CF in 2020 and the first prospect on the list for 2020 is TJ Friedl. No one except Friedl appears on track to make the jump to the MLB level in 2020. After 2020, more prospects should be ready to make the leap, but the 2020 roster will have a hole in the OF that must be filled and Friedl’s development during 2019 will determine his readiness for 2020.

      The Reds SP is set for 2019, with depth replacements available. After 2019, two SP (Roark and Wood) will need replacements with an additional SP (DeSclafani) scheduled for FA after the 2020 season. The Reds can’t fill starting pitching positions by trading for one-year replacements indefinitely. By 2021, the Reds need a front-line SP and Greene was drafted to be that front-line SP, but he has something to prove from his 2018 performance to stay on track as a front-line SP prospect.

      India was a top 5 selection in the rule 4 draft. It’s about talent with India. While his introduction to baseball was moderately successful, it didn’t reach the elite results expected from a top 5 selection. This season he gets a clean slate and a chance to show what he can do at the professional level to justify the investment.

      • indydoug

        What about keeping Senzel in CF and re-signing Dietrich at 2B?

      • matthew hendley

        The first part is possible, but DD is a definite downgrade from Gennet. Might as well use the money for him.

  2. doofus

    Kyle Wright vs. Hunter Greene. I guess time will tell if Wright should have been the Red’s pick in the 1st round in 2017.

    • Big Ed

      No, you can’t use hindsight. When they made the choice, the Reds did not and could not know what the future would hold. I will say that, no matter which one has the better career.

      They should have taken Mike Trout in the 2009 draft instead of Mike Leake. But they didn’t. It is water under the bridge, just like the Hunter Greene pick, and there is no point in second-guessing it now.

  3. doofus

    Kyle Wright vs. Hunter Greene. Time will tell if the Red’s should have chosen Wright in the 1st round of 2017.

    Excuse me for what might be an additional post. On the original post I received a “duplicate post” notice. It was not a duplicate. Gremlins at work?

  4. doofus

    I have also thought Friedl will prove a useful player to help “bridge” CF.

  5. doofus

    Somewhat off topic: I believe that Ian Anderson will be a stud starting pitcher. I wish the Red’s would do something to fix their inability to find talented pitchers.

    • wizeman

      played flute for jethro tull. could fling it
      just saying

      • Warren Leeman

        +75 for the Jethro Tull reference from the Old Cossack!

  6. Show Triple Slash

    Friedl is an interesting choice; I wouldn’t have initially put him in the first three to discuss, but I understand it after reading your rationale above. Beyond the three above, I am particularly interested in the development of Tony Santillan and Vladimir Gutierrez, given the coming turnover in SP.

    • CFD3000

      Agree. Greene, Gutierrez and Santillan (and perhaps Mahle and Reed) are the prospects that will likely define the Reds rotation in 2020, 2021 and beyond, joining Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Their collective success will determine whether or not the Reds are perennial contenders. On the offensive side the Reds must develop or acquire at least a couple of potential all stars. Senzel, Winker and Suarez already have that potential. But who will join them? The window of opportunity for the Votto era can’t be open more than a few more years, and that may already be optimistic. The key to the future is whether or not these prospects ever reach their projected ceilings, and who the front office can bring in to fill holes that prospects cannot. That’s not news, but it’s certainly going to be exciting to see who steps up.

  7. rgslone

    Thanks, I enjoyed reading that. I’m with you on Friedl being the most likely prospect to be ready to man CF by 2020.

  8. andybado

    The continued development of Taylor Trammell and Tony Santillan are critical for the Reds. Trammell is a top 30 prospect in all of baseball and could be the answer to the center field question as early as mid-2020. He needs to have a good year to maintain his prospect status and move through the Reds system.

    Starting pitcher looks good this year, but next year and into the future there are open spots available. Alex Wood and Tanner Roark are likely to walk after this year. Santillan, who made it to AA last year and pitched well, could be in the conversation for the starting rotation next year if this year goes well.

    Both of these guys are great prospects that will be in the upper levels of the minors as 21-22 year olds. If the Reds decide to make a franchise altering trade, they are also likely to be at the center of it. Their continued development could help fill holes in the Reds roster soon or build their value as trade chips. If their development falters, it makes the rebuild that much harder.

  9. WVRedlegs

    Nice discussion Cossack.
    The Reds are not going to take the kid gloves off concerning Hunter Greene in 2019. Period. Exclamation point. The 2019 season will be another year to baby him along by the Reds. Pre-determined innings limitations will have Greene shut down by August. Especially after his elbow scare of last year. Greene had all of 68 innings pitched last year. I don’t see how the Reds will let Greene go past 110 IP’s in 2019. That in itself would be an increase of 42 IP’s, or almost a 62% increase. That is coming off a mild UCL tear and him still just pitching in his year 19 season. He won’t be 20 until August. If he goes through the 2019 season unscathed, they will turn him loose in 2020. No need to rush him. Too much already invested in him.
    Short term, and with 20/20 hindsight, it was a big mistake by the Reds to select Greene over the Braves Kyle Wright. Biiiiiiig mistake. Wright is going to be a stud starting in 2019. Greene shouldn’t see the Majors until 2022, and he is just a potential stud. Long term, Greene may end up being the better pick, maybe.
    India, in 2019, has to get his bat back to the way he was hitting last year at UF. He was solid with a solid plate approach. That will come. I think they will drop the SS experiment with India. I wish they would start to groom him for RF. He has the arm to be a superb RF, a combo of Jay Bruce and Paul O’Neill, but albeit a RH combo.
    Friedl will be an interesting pick to watch this season. He has quietly kept pace with Trammell and Siri so far. He has a chance to get to AAA before either.
    All 3 should have very interesting seasons to watch unfold.
    Now the 3 that are closest to the Majors and could possibly be of help to the Reds in 2019 are Santillan, Vlad Gutierrez, and either Herget, Aquino or Jesus Reyes. O’Grady could be a sleeper here too.

  10. matthew hendley

    Just going to leave these changes for the rules right here.

    Effective Immediately
    •There will be no trades after July 31. August trade waivers have been eliminated, though players can still be placed on and claimed from outright waivers, as they would throughout the rest of the year.
    •All-Star voting will still be conducted by fans online, but the top three players at each position, in each league, will now participate in an All-Star Election Day. The top three vote-getters at each position, in each league, (top six in the case of outfielders) will receive bonus payments.
    •The Home Run Derby will now come with $2.5MM of prize money, including a $1MM prize for the winner.
    •The maximum number of mound visits per game will be reduced from six to five.
    •Commercial breaks between innings are reduced to two minutes in length for all games.
    •The MLB and MLBPA will form a “Joint Committee” to discuss further issues and rule changes.

    Effective Beginning in 2020
    •The standard roster size in regular season games and postseason games will increase from 25 to 26 players. Beginning on Sept. 1, roster size will expand further to a 28-player maximum (as opposed to the current 40). A maximum number of pitchers will be designated by the Joint Committee. (Passan reported that the league has proposed no more than half a team’s players can be pitchers.)
    •Position players are only eligible to pitch in extra innings or when a team is leading or trailing by seven or more runs. Certain position players may be designated as “two-way players,” but to be eligible, they’ll need to have accrued at least 20 innings pitched and started 20 games as a position player/designated hitter in the current season or the preceding season (including at least three trips to the plate in each of those lineup appearances).
    •A pitcher must face at least three batters per appearance unless he is removed due to injury or the half-inning in which he is pitching ends before three batters have come to the plate.
    •The minimum length of stay for pitchers who are optioned to the minors or placed on the injured list will increase from 10 days to 15 days. This change is still “subject to input” from the newly formed Joint Committee.

    • WVRedlegs

      BAN THE DH !! IN BOTH LEAGUES !! 2020 !!

    • citizen54

      Am I read that that right? LOOGYs are going to be a thing of the past?

    • Matt WI

      I thought the 10 day DL (now IL) was a really good thing. Why go against increasing roster flexibility?

    • MK

      So if Lorenzen plays a few partial games in center and Ohtani plays this year only as a DH, might they be considered position players in 2020? I could see a Billy Martin type Manager arguing that point,

  11. Hotto4Votto

    “The Reds have a plethora of young outfield prospects headed by Taylor Trammell and Jose Siri. Of those young outfield prospects, only Friedl achieved any success in the upper minors.“

    This statement is inaccurate. Jose Siri has experienced success in in AA, in fact moreso than Friedl.

    Siri 2018 AA: 775 OPS, 115wRC+
    Friedl 2018 AA: 719 OPS 108wRC+.

    Southern League average OPS was 701 in 2018. Siri’s OPS was 74 points higher than league average. I’d say that’s experiencing success at that level. And while both are solid defenders and base runners, I believe Siri has the edge over Friedl there as well.

    • rgslone

      I certainly couldn’t agree with the proposition that Siri had more offensive success than Friedl in 2018. And the Reds would disagree with you also. Friedl was the Reds minor league hitter of the year in 2018. I don’t think that Siri wasn’t close to being that. In fact, Siri has been in the Reds system for 6 years, and the proof to date suggests he can’t get on base enough to play at the MLB level. Now, he won’t be 24 until July, so I’m not saying give up on him yet. But I do think the evidence to date suggests that Siri’s chances of being able to hit well enough to start for any MLB team interested in winning are not great.

      To each his own, as the saying goes; but personally, I’m not excited about Siri as a prospect going forward. Actually, I was hoping he had some trade value for pitching this offseason as the 2nd or 3rd piece of a deal as a “lottery ticket” type prospect.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Maybe you don’t agree but the stats provided don’t back up your assertion that Siri wasn’t better offensively (at AA). In fact they’re pretty clear that he was better offensively last season in AA than Friedl. That’s a fact not an opinion.

        As far as the Reds naming offensive players of the year…the great Steve Selsky and Aristides Aquino have also held that title. It’s a nice honor but doesn’t equate to being a better offensive player. While there’s overlap being the best hitter and better overall offensive player aren’t the same thing.

  12. Old-school

    Greene and India have big seasons upcoming simply because of their high draft/ top-prospect status.

    But, I’m looking at players who can succeed in the high minors of AA/AAA to become major league contributors in 2020.

    1.) Jose Siri – age 24, raw talent and speed and power and defense at a premium position. Does he break through and become an elite prospect? Or, is he plagued by poor plate discipline and high k% and just can’t put it together.

    2.).Tony Santillan- after 2-3 years, it’s actually Castillo and Mahle who emerged as starting pitchers over RS/Romano/Reed/Garret/Davis etc .
    Can Santillan dominate the upper minors in 2019 and move into the Rotation in 2020?

    3.) Tyler Stephenson. Hes 22 and a former top 15 pick. He starts in AA. Can he be the catcher of the future and succeed in AA this year?

    • andybado

      Stephenson is definitely one to watch. Barnhart is fine. He would be a really good backup catcher, but he probably isn’t an above average starting catcher. Catcher, along with CF and SP seem to be the biggest questions for the Reds over the next few years. Other than Stephenson, they don’t really have many options at C. His development is really important.