Hot or Not: Cincinnati Reds Prospects Edition

Josh VanMeter photo credit - John Stewart, @jonance on Twitter

The minor league season is back and it’s time to switch gears from projections to analyzing prospect performances! The players have about a month of game action under their belts. I’m very excited to see how the season unfolds for those in my top 50 Reds prospects list, as well as to see which players outside the top 50 perform well enough to warrant making it into my mid-season update that will come out this summer.

Since the pre-season top 50 list was posted back in January, several prospects have left the Reds farm: Jeter Downs went to the Dodgers in the Puig/Kemp/Wood trade, Shed Long went to the Yankees (and then later the Mariners) in the Sonny Gray trade, and pitcher Tanner Rainey went to the Nationals for Tanner Roark. The great thing about these trades is that the Reds didn’t give up their best prospects and still noticeably improved their team, though they haven’t gotten off to such a great start. The major league team may be struggling, but not these prospects!

Taylor Trammell (OF, AA): in 85 plate appearances, the number two-ranked prospect in the Reds system is hitting .294/.424/.441 with 3 home runs and 4 walks. Trammell continues to roll right along, picking right up where he left off last year (.277/.375/.406, 25 SB, 8 HR, 12.6 BB%).

Josh VanMeter (2B, AAA): as I mentioned in my top 50 rankings, VanMeter struggled after moving up to AAA last year (.253/.309/.464, 5 SB, 11 HR, 7.7 BB%) after a strong stint at AA, but is kicking off 2019 in impressive fashion, slashing .345/.431/.678 with 4 home runs and 4 stolen bases and 12 walks in 103 plate appearances. Whether he can continue this is another question entirely. His BABIP currently .367 which suggests he is getting lucky and hitting over his head at the moment. That fact combined with a notable lack of consistent speed or home runs does put a limit on his fantasy value.

Packy Naughton (LHP, A+): You might have been expecting Vladimir Gutierrez or Tony Santillan in this spot, and to be sure they’re both off to good starts, but Naughton is a lefty who has flashed really high strikeout stuff and his walks have been decreasing since his debut in 2017, even with a high BABIP ranging from .325 to .405. So far this season, in 27.2 innings pitched, Packy’s only given up 9 earned runs (2.93 ERA). He has also racked up 30 strikeouts and only 4 walks. On the other hand, it is advanced A so the real test will be how that holds up at AA and AAA and I believe he will be moving up a level sooner rather than later. Whether he remains a starter in the future is a question mark for me. He has rather funky pitching mechanics, and I don’t know whether that is going to be an asset (as far as deception) or a liability (ability to repeat).

Alejo Lopez (2B, A+): I wasn’t very high on him from a fantasy prospective in my top 50 rankings because even though he hits well enough, he doesn’t have a track record of stolen bases or power for home runs, and I am very into multi-dimensional players. However, regardless of whether you’re in an AVG or OBP league, he should prove useful to bolster either of those stats, if not counting stats like HR or SB. He’s starting the year off hitting .330/.384/.429 with 4 stolen bases and 5 walks.

On the flip side of the coin, we have some Reds prospects that are struggling out of the gate:

Jose Siri (OF, AA): he’s in real danger of falling in my top 50 rankings; his strikeout woes continue, a not-so-good 32.2% in 87 plate appearances. The home runs and stolen bases won’t matter much if you can’t get on base to begin with.

Ibandel Isabel (1B, AA): Earlier this year I made the bold choice to place him inside my top 10, purely for his consistent power (crushed 36 home runs last year, 35 in Daytona which is a FSL record). The downside continues to be his strikeouts and paltry on-base numbers, only .322 OBP so far this year and that’s about what it was the entirety of last year. And to date, we’ve seen 7 home runs from him in 90 plate appearances so far this season, and he’s starting to pick up that pace.

Mike Siani (OF, A): I’m really excited about this guy. He has a cannon of an arm and excellent defensive skills. Add on top of that lots of speed for stolen bases. Though he’s swiped eight bags so far, he’s also not hitting well to start the season, a paltry .163/.280/.188 in 94 plate appearances. Based on what I’ve seen, I feel this slump is temporary and he’ll get going again before too long.

Rudie Verougstraete is the Cincinnati Reds correspondent at Prospects1500. He lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife Shelly who is the Washington Nationals correspondent. He has been an avid baseball fan since 2015, participates in multiple fantasy baseball leagues, and attends Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants AA affiliate) and Washington Nationals games whenever he can! His favorite baseball function is First Pitch Arizona, a fantasy baseball conference hosted by Baseball HQ every year just outside Phoenix.

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