7/27/2014 9:00 P.M. ET
Stephenson, Winker lead Reds' updated Top 20 list
Cincinnati's top two prospects also rank in Top 100 of Major Leagues
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
With the passing of the Draft signing deadline, teams have had a recent influx of talent into their farm systems, and with that, we've updated the Top 20 Prospects lists of all 30 teams.
To be on a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Check out all 30 team Top 20 lists and the Top 100 on Prospect Watch.
1. Robert Stephenson, RHP
Preseason rank: 1
MLB Top 100 rank: 21 (Preseason: 19)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 70 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 60
The Reds were cautious at first with Stephenson -- their 2011 first-rounder -- but they let him loose in 2013. He responded by pitching his way from Class A Dayton to Double-A Pensacola by the end of the year, moving him into the upper levels of Cincinnati's system.
Stephenson throws his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, and he can touch 100 mph. He also throws a big breaking ball and a solid changeup, giving him three pitches with the potential to be above-average offerings. Stephenson has smoothed out his delivery as a professional, leading to an improvement in his command. He throws all of his pitches for strikes, and he has an advanced understanding of his craft.
Stephenson combines the size, stuff and makeup to be a front-line starter in the Major Leagues.
2. Jesse Winker, OF
Preseason rank: 4
MLB Top 100 rank: 45 (Preseason: None)
Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 40 | Field: 45 | Overall: 55
Most conversations about Winker begin with his bat, and for good reason. He has the chance to hit his way to the big leagues.
Winker has already shown the ability to hit for average from the left side of the plate, with an advanced approach and a smooth left-handed swing. There's more power to come, and it should be noted that Winker had the same amount of home runs with Class A Dayton that Jay Bruce hit there, and Winker did it in fewer games. While he will never be known for his glovework, the Reds feel Winker has gotten a bad rap for his defense and that he is more than just a bat being hidden in left field.
That said, Winker's ability to swing the bat is his calling card, and he has the chance to develop into a run producer at the highest level.
3. Phil Ervin, OF
Preseason rank: 3
Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Ervin has always been slightly overlooked, from his stature at 5-foot-11 to having attended a smaller college in Samford. If his pro debut was any indication, he won't be underappreciated for long.
Ervin has done nothing but hit wherever he's gone, including his first pro summer. He has the chance to continue to hit for average, thanks to a solid approach and bat speed. That quick bat also generates a good amount of power, especially for someone Ervin's size. He dealt with an ankle issue for much of his Draft season, but his speed should make him a basestealing threat and allows him to play center field every day, at least for now. Ervin's bat profiles well at a corner spot if needed.
It's that bat that is the attraction with Ervin, and those offensive skills should help him hit his way up the ladder fairly quickly.
4. Michael Lorenzen, RHP
Preseason rank: 5
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
While at Cal State-Fullerton, Lorenzen was an everyday center fielder who closed on the mound. Now he's a pitcher only, and the Reds are developing him as a starter.
Lorenzen will be a bit of a project as a starter, but he has the arm strength and raw stuff to potentially get there. He can run his fastball up into the upper-90s in shorter stints, and it has good movement to it. Lorenzen's breaking ball has the chance to be average, and his previously seldom-used changeup could give him a viable third pitch. His outstanding athleticism -- he was a terrific defensive center fielder -- should help him learn to repeat his delivery and improve his overall command.
Joe Kelly of the Cardinals was a college closer and has developed into a solid starter, a path Cincinnati hopes Lorenzen takes, knowing he could be a lights-out closer if starting doesn't work out.
5. Nick Howard, RHP
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
A two-way player who had started in Virginia's weekend rotation as a sophomore, Howard served as the Cavaliers' closer this past season during their march to the College World Series. The Reds, in taking him No. 19 overall in the 2014 Draft, think he might have the chance to head back into a rotation.
As a starter, both at Virginia and in the Cape Cod League, Howard would throw his fastball in the 90-93 mph range, occasionally touching 94. In short relief, he's been up to 95-97 and has been touching 98 mph. Howard's mid-80s slider has tilt and bite when it's good, but it can get slurvy at times. He doesn't use his changeup much, and it's the development of that third pitch, along with refined fastball command, that will determine if the athletic Howard can start at the next level.
Cincinnati has had some success turning former college relievers into starters and getting them to the big leagues, so this process is worth watching.
6. Ben Lively, RHP
Preseason rank: 13
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
Lively's average stuff combined with plus deception have some thinking of him as the right-handed version of Tony Cingrani. The Reds can only hope this Central Florida product can follow the same quick path to Cincinnati.
None of Lively's pitches jump off the page, but he does have four of them that he can throw for strikes. His fastball can touch 93-94 mph, and his slider shows signs of being a potential above-average pitch, as well. Lively mixes in his curve and changeup well to keep hitters guessing. All of his stuff plays up because of his unusual delivery in which his arm stays hidden, making it tough for hitters to pick up the ball.
It only took Cingrani a year to make an impact in Cincy. Lively could be on a similar fast track.
7. Carlos Contreras, RHP
Preseason rank: 6
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 40 | Overall: 50
In 2012, Contreras started putting things together as a closer in Class A ball. In '13, he jumped on radar screens by reaching Double-A as a starter. In '14, Contreras reached the big leagues when the Reds needed bullpen help.
The '13 All-Star Futures Gamer has taken some time to develop, but Contreras is ready to contribute. Out of the bullpen, he'd get up into the upper-90s, but he was still 92-95 mph as a starter. Contreras has always had a very good changeup, but it's the development of his breaking ball that has allowed him to start. If that continues to improve, along with better command -- an issue thanks to a long arm swing -- he has the chance to stay in that role.
Even with Contreras' turn in the bullpen in 2014, he could return to a rotation in the future, depending on need, though his long-term role is yet to be determined.
8. Alex Blandino, SS
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
The second of the Reds' two first-round picks in the 2014 Draft, Blandino parlayed strong Cape Cod League performances and a decent junior season at Stanford to land at pick No. 29 overall.
Blandino has a quick bat and an ability to hit to all fields. He's displayed a solid approach at the plate, with good plate discipline. The infielder has shown extra-base pop, but there is some question over how much over-the-fence power he'll have in the future. The Reds sent Blandino out as a shortstop during his pro debut, and he does have the arm strength for the spot. He has the actions and hands to play third, but he could end up at second base if a team doesn't think he'll have the power profile needed to man the hot corner.
Stanford hitters have had a checkered track record at the next level, but Cincinnati feels Blandino has what it takes to play every day in a big league infield.
9. Nicholas Travieso, RHP
Preseason rank: 8
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Cincinnati has not shied away from drafting young high school arms and then being patient in their development. Travieso might take longer than some due to his previous lack of mound experience.
A Florida high school product who was a reliever until his senior year, Travieso does have a fresh arm, one that sat at 92-93 mph with his fastball in 2013. His slider has the chance to be average or better. Travieso still throws his changeup too hard, something he'll need to improve to remain in a rotation. He's very competitive with an edge on the mound.
If Travieso can get past the growing pains and learn how to bring the same stuff to the mound every fifth day, he has the chance to start, but he has the power stuff and the mean streak to succeed in short relief, as well.
10. Ismael Guillon, LHP
Preseason rank: 10
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 40 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
Guillon led the Midwest League in strikeouts in 2013. He also led that circuit in walks, a quick way to sum up what this young left-hander is about right now.
Guillon has big-time stuff from the left side, with a fastball that will touch the mid-90s. He has a well-above-average changeup to go along with that heater. Guillon's curveball is behind the other two pitches, but it has the chance to be a usable weapon. He needs to learn to trust his considerable stuff in the strike zone more, and when he commands that breaking ball, he's awfully tough to hit.
Guillon finished the 2013 season with a very strong August, something the Reds hope carries over as he continues to get work as a starter in '14. If his command doesn't improve, a career as a lefty power reliever could be in his future.
11. David Holmberg, LHP
Preseason rank: 7
Scouting grades: Fastball: 45 | Curveball: 45 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
While Cincinnati's Minor League system might be better known for power arms who might be best suited in the bullpen, Holmberg stands out as a polished pitcher who has a future as a starter.
The left-hander joined the Reds' organization in December 2013 as part of a three-team trade with the Rays and Diamondbacks, with Holmberg having made his big league debut the previous August. More command than pure stuff, he can throw four pitches for strikes. Holmberg's fastball is fringy, but he commands it to both sides of the plate. His slider is the better of his two breaking pitches, but it's his changeup that is his best pitch, a plus offering with a lot of fade.
Holmberg may not light up radar guns or have a high ceiling, but he's just about ready to fill a role as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
12. Daniel Corcino, RHP
Preseason rank: 11
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
After seeing the wheels fall off during his first trip to Triple-A in 2013, the Reds sent Corcino back to Double-A in 2014 in the hopes he could right the ship.
When Corcino has had success as a starter, his fastball was a tick above average, with good sink to it. His average slider would flash plus, with good bite and depth. Corcino's changeup was solid as well, thrown with deception and fade. He became too timid in 2013, and he didn't attack hitters like he had in the past. Corcino was guilty of throwing too many strikes at times, making him much more hittable. Cincinnati sent Corcino back to Double-A in 2014 to try and right the ship. Corcino's best role might end up in the bullpen, where his fastball gains a few ticks of velocity and his overall command wouldn't be as much of an issue.
13. Yorman Rodriguez, OF
Preseason rank: 9
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 65 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
If Rodriguez were an American amateur, he'd be in his junior year of college. That's important to note when analyzing where this toolsy outfielder's career has gone.
Sometimes labeled as a poor makeup player, it's true that Rodriguez did not respond well initially to life as a pro, especially after receiving a $2.5 million bonus to sign out of Venezuela. But sometimes, immaturity is confused with poor makeup, and it appears that Rodriguez might be figuring some of that out now. That would enable him to maximize his significant tools. Better strike-zone judgment will help Rodriguez's offensive game, but he has legitimate raw power to tap into. He runs well, and he has a strong arm in right field.
If the mature Rodriguez continues to show up, he still very much has the chance to reach his potential as a prototypical toolsy right fielder.
14. Tucker Barnhart, C
Preseason rank: 12
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 30 | Run: 30 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
Barnhart's profile, that of a defensive-oriented backstop, has everyone penciling him in as a career backup. It might be a mistake, though, to typecast him just yet.
There is little question Barnhart's work behind the plate will earn him a Major League gig. He can really catch and throw, having thrown out better than 40 percent of would-be basestealers in his career. Barnhart moves well behind the plate, and he is a natural leader with plus makeup. He's the kind of catcher who will grow on a big league pitching and coaching staff. A switch-hitter who's much better from the left side, Barnhart does have the ability to spray line drives to all fields, but he has no discernible power.
At worst, Barnhart is about ready to embark on a long career as a valuable backup. In the right spot, though, he could be a big league regular.
15. Jeremy Kivel, RHP
Preseason rank: 14
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
If you're a fan of high-ceilinged power arms, then Kivel might be the pitching prospect for you.
Kivel is an extremely athletic right-hander who used to be a kickboxer in high school, one the Reds gave a bonus well beyond pick value to sign, thanks to the savings they had for signing first-rounder Travieso at a discount. Kivel is still much more thrower than pitcher, but he has a very live fastball that can get up into the upper-90s. His slider has a chance to be a solid secondary pitch, though he overthrows it at times. Kivel also needs to learn how to soften his changeup. Once he learns that he doesn't have to throw everything hard, he could make progress.
Kivel is still young and a work in progress, but he has as much upside as anyone in the system.
16. Jon Moscot, RHP
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Moscot had an unusual first full season of pro ball in 2013, going 2-14 in the hitting-frinedly California League, yet he earned a promotion to Double-A. He finished well in the Southern League, and he led all Reds Minor League pitchers with 140 strikeouts and then continued to throw well at that level in '14.
Moscot mixes his three-pitch arsenal well, and he misses a good amount of bats despite having average stuff across the board. His fastball will touch 93 mph, and he adds in his slider and changeup nicely. Moscot is generally around the plate, having walked 2.9 per nine innings in 2013.
The Pepperdine product doesn't have a huge upside, but with his size and durability, Moscot could be a rotation workhorse in the future.
17. Sal Romano, RHP
Preseason rank: 15
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
When the Reds drafted Romano out of the Connecticut high school ranks in 2011 and gave him an over-slot deal to sign him away from Tennessee, they knew it might take a while for the big right-hander to figure things out.
So there was no sense of panic when Romano struggled with his first taste of full-season ball at age 19 in 2013. He still has a good chance to develop into a solid starting pitcher, with a fastball in the 91-94 mph range, a curve that can be a big breaking ball with bite and a feel for a changeup, though it's behind the other two pitches. Romano struggles to repeat his ability, and he will need to learn better balance to improve his command.
Romano is still figuring out both his body and his stuff. When he does that, the end result could be a part of a big league rotation.
18. Jackson Stephens, RHP
Preseason rank: 16
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
A multisport player in high school, Stephens is another athletic pitcher with upside in Cincinnati's Minor League system.
Though he was a two-way baseball player in Alabama, Stephens has an intriguing combination of pitchability and stuff, with more of the latter currently and more of the former to come. He has plenty of fastball, touching the mid-90s, though he'll sit in the 92-93 mph range. Stephens throws two breaking balls, and both have the chance to be Major League average, if not better. His changeup is behind the other three offerings, but in time, it could turn out to be a viable fourth pitch for the right-hander.
All Stephens needs is to keep pitching. With innings will come refinement and a good chance to shoot up this list in the future.
19. Amir Garrett, LHP
Preseason rank: 20
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
With Garrett's basketball odyssey perhaps over, Cincinnati is excited to see what this big left-hander can do with his focus solely on baseball.
The Reds signed Garrett knowing he would split time between college hoops and the Minors. After two years at St. John's and then a transfer to Cal State-Northridge, it appears Garrett might be turning his sights to the mound full-time. He has always had a big arm, firing fastballs up to 96 mph without much baseball experience. Garrett's secondary stuff is understandably inconsistent, but both his breaking ball and changeup show signs of being solid weapons. His athleticism should help him with his delivery and to improve his command and control.
Cincinnati was excited by Garrett's potential when the club gave him $1 million to sign in 2011. It looks like the Reds are about to get a true look at what he can become.
20. Chad Rogers, RHP
Preseason rank: 17
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
While Rogers has started throughout his professional career, he looks like he could impact the big league staff soon as a reliever, especially after an impressive turn out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League.
Because of his solid yet unspectacular stuff and his outstanding command, Rogers gets compared frequently to Reds reliever Sam LeCure. LeCure also was a starter during his climb up the system, and he has become a valuable part of Cincinnati's bullpen. Rogers throws a fastball that sits at 91 mph as a starter, with a ton of movement, and he might be able to crank it up a tick or two as a reliever. He complements the fastball with a short cutting slider and deceptive sinking changeup. Rogers is around the strike zone with all three pitches.
Rogers won't pitch high-leverage innings or close, but he's the type of reliable arm winning bullpens tend to have.